Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Sick Servants in New Testament

In Christendom, healing in some circles is considered part of salvation achieved by Christ at the cross. To suffer illness or infirmity is often considered a blight on your faith or a question about your spirituality. In the three synoptic Gospels Jesus commissions His disciples to ‘go, teach all nations.’ Mark’s account is the only one which contains a commission to cast out devils, speak in new tongues, and when ‘playing’ with snakes not be affected when bitten or by poison and to heal.

Over the years various faith healers (so designated) have emphasised the power of God to heal all types of sicknesses and infirmities. They make it part of the work of Christ on the cross. Is this what the Bible reveals? Reading through the history of the disciples in Acts we find only twelve specific, clear cut healing episodes. There is the healing of the lame man (ch.3) demon possessed, paralysed and lame (ch.8)   Paul’s eyes opened (ch.9) bed ridden with palsy for eight years and raising of Dorcas (ch.9) man born a cripple (ch.14) girl with spirit of divination (ch.16) restoring Eutychus to life (ch.20) and Paul’s encounter with a viper (ch.28).

Throughout Acts the emphasis is on preaching Christ from the Judeo scriptures. The clarion call was ‘It is written.’ Even the healing miracles were opportunities to preach Christ and Calvary’s fulfilment of God’s promises. To turn the pages and look at the letters the apostles and others wrote presents us with some fascinating information. Only 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 talks about the ministry of those with the gift of healing. Greater details are not given and how wide spread such a ministry had isn’t mentioned. The other letter emphasising a healing ministry is from James. How different his words are. It is the privilege and responsibility of church Elders to pray for and anoint the sick. Included in this procedure is congregational prayer and mutual confession. Where were those with the gift of healing?

To play the blame game on the sick, weak and afflicted for not having enough faith is counterproductive. Why? Because you have to put the Apostle Paul into that group.  2 Corinthians 12:7-9 speaks of his thorn in the flesh the Lord wouldn’t remove. In Galatians 4:13-15 he writes about his infirmity, many consider eye problems. (Was this due to the appearance of the Lord on the Road to Damascus? Was it the result of his many thrashings by violent mobs? Did doctor Luke’s accompanying of Paul allow him to be the personal physician to the apostle?)

Within certain letters you come across faithful men who had experienced debilitating sickness, weakness and infirmities. Epaphroditus was without strength and near to death (Philippians 2:26-27). Trophimus was left behind because of his infirmities (2 Timothy 4:20). The advice Timothy received to help him with recurring health problems of the stomach was wine, not water, for medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 15:23). The pages of the New Testament hold more about the sufferings of the believers than the miracles performed on or by them. Consider the pressures under which they lived and served, the frequent persecutions and punishments meted out to them, is it any wonder they knew infirmities, weakness and illness.

The statement of 1 Peter 2:24 concerning the healing offered by the bruises (stripes) of Jesus will be considered next week. It will finish this particular series of studies. Until then I would like to close with the words of the apostle John in his third letter. ‘Beloved, concerning all things I pray you may prosper and be in good health …’

The word for health is where we get our word for hygiene. There are injunctions in the Scripture to holiness in lifestyle and being renewed in your mind. The word John used is mentioned in Luke 15:27, the story of the Prodigal son. After his return and at the party given by the father, the son is described as being ‘safe and sound.’ Undoubtedly, from his previous immorality and rebellion he would have had physical and mental issues. Despite such limitations his father looked upon him and encouraged him into good hygiene. We are all returned prodigals of some description. How good it is to know our Heavenly Father’s intention is for us to enjoy His hygiene permeating our life. His health manual is the Scriptures but we have to open its pages.

©Ray Hawkins September 2015.

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