Faith and Healing II
Bible Study 10 - Part 2 of 3
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them out of the dust of the earth. He created them out of physical matter, not spirit.
As such, He did not intend that they live forever in a physical body. His great gift to human beings, who would obey Him by keeping His law of love, was eternal life in a spirit-composed body. The down payment on eternal life is the Holy Spirit, which God puts into the minds of those who are willing to obey Him. This spirit enables physical human beings to think as God thinks, with an outgoing, outflowing concern for others and imparts the power to become more and more like God in thought, word, and deed.
Adam and Eve rejected this wonderful opportunity and instead decided to follow the example of Satan the devil in disobedience and rebellion against God and His way of life.
The result of this rebellion was that Adam and Eve, and their descendants voluntarily cut themselves off from God. Now their minds were antagonistic towards God and His way of life. From that point, man's nature became intrinsically evil. This led to the transgression of God's laws and commandments, which in turn made mankind sick in mind and body. This was the physical repercussion.
The transgression of God's commandments, His will, is sin (I Jn. 3:4). Thousands of years of sinning against God has weakened the human body. The breaking down of the body has resulted in sickness and disease.
The coming of Jesus Christ was intended to rectify this situation, as we see in I Peter 2:24 (NKJV), Christ ". . . Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed." Verse 25 continues, "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." How pertinent, since it was Jesus, the Messiah, who in fact did the creating of Adam and Eve!
Christ died on the stake to pay man's penalty for rebelling against God and His way of life. Only the sinless Creator's death could pay the penalty for the sins of all humans. In addition, because He created man as a physical being, Christ in His love and mercy allowed Himself to be scourged, slapped, and insulted so that our physical bodies could be healed from sickness and disease ". . . by [His] stripes you were healed."
When we repent, God forgives us because He knows we have seen how evil our nature is and we understand and appreciate that our loving Creator died to pay the penalty for us. The penalty being eternal death. Yet there are physical penalties to be paid in this life for a nature antagonistic to God. They come in the form of sickness and disease. Even though He created us out of physical material, God wants us to enjoy an abundant physical life, hail and healthy. As Christ said in John 10:10, ". . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This is just another example of God's love for us. Because of His scourging we have the opportunity to be made physically whole. Christ's torturous beating, not His death, paid these penalties.
In the Bible study Faith and Healing (Bible Study 10a) I emphasized the fact that God alone is our healer and that a prerequisite for healing (for a Church member) is faith.
God deals somewhat differently with Church members than He does with the rest of society. With us His goal is to develop holy righteous character. Character cannot be created instantaneously; it takes time. Consequently, if God feels an affliction is necessary for us to learn a lesson in character development, He may not heal us immediately. This is what happened in the case of Job. In Paul's case he explains in II Corinthians 12:7-9, why he was not healed,
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (NKJV [writer's emphasis throughout]).
It is interesting to note that both Job's and Paul's afflictions were caused by Satan, so any doctor examining them would not have been able to detect the influence of an evil spirit. Job was traumatized with boils from head to foot (Job 2:7), all that could have been seen was the physical evidence, boils.
Another example of demonic influence that appeared to the human eye as a deformity of the spine is found in Luke 13:10-16. In this example a woman had been bent over, unable to straighten up for eighteen years. Christ ". . . laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." In verse 16, Christ said specifically that she had been bound by Satan! In this case she did not ask to be healed and faith is not mentioned. Christ simply used His power to heal her and to underline to the people the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who regarded healing on the Sabbath as work.
Do these examples mean that all who are sick, are sick because Satan or his demons are directly involved? I don't believe so at least in regard to always being directly involved. Indirectly yes, in as much as Satan is the author of sin and sin leads to sickness. Christ allowed Himself to be scourged, so that those who believe in Him could be healed of sickness, as we see in I Peter 2:24, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-- by whose stripes you were healed" (NKJV). Remember, sin is defined as the breaking of God's law.
Another factor that supports that contention that sickness is not always due to Satan's direct influence, is the inclusion in the Bible of God's dietary laws.
When God engineered the human body, He designed it to operate on specific fuel sources. Just as diesel fuel will ruin a gasoline engine and vice-versa, so pork and shellfish will have a detrimental effect on the human body. A medical doctor, who subscribed to God's dietary laws said that human beings ingesting swine's flesh was the equivalent of putting high-octane aircraft fuel into a Model T Ford!
Thousands of years of ignoring the dietary laws have left this last generation in a very weakened and degenerate state.
Another major cause of illness is stress. At its core, stress is caused by the incessant breaking of God's decalogue. People cannot relax. They push and strive for material goals, often climbing over the backs of others to reach the top of the ladder, while fighting off those who want to topple them from their perch and they become stressed out. If, or when, they reach the top, they find that the physical objects they strove so hard for bring no lasting happiness!
Deep down I believe men know that God exists, but since they want to control their own destinies, they don't really want to find out about Him or His requirements, since intuitively they perceive they would have to change their ways. People hate change, so they, as it were, push God off into a corner and go on searching for happiness through the five physical senses. The resultant stress changes the chemistry in their bodies, which even impacts negatively on their digestive system retarding the nutritional value of what they eat.
The breaking of the seventh and tenth commandments has led to millions of men and women being infected with sexually transmitted diseases, which are often passed on to the next generation in the womb.
This is the society out of which God's people are called. We are all battling the sins of the fathers, plus the sins we ourselves committed in ignorance before God called us.
So we are degenerate, and because we are degenerate we have a high probability of becoming sick or diseased within the three-score and ten years allotted to us in this world. Yet to put things in perspective, it is always important to remember the purpose for God calling us is to give us the gift of eternal life. Do we have faith in that? Yes we need God's faith for physical healing, but God did not call us to live forever in a physical body. All of our tests and trials are intended to prepare us to be confident at the time of death. Confident that we will awake and rise to meet Christ with a new, perfect, imperishable body, never subject to sickness or disease.
In the meantime remember that this is God's goal for us. To reach this goal we are to grow in love and in unity. Many times those in our midst who are sick help us to achieve that very goal. Our concern for them, our sympathy and empathy for the physical and emotional stress they are undergoing draws us closer together and creates an increasingly close-knit family, that God approves of and in fact demands.
Debilitating sickness certainly helps us to focus on God and our relationship with Him. A serious illness gives us an opportunity to reflect on how fleeting the human existence is and how grateful to God we should be for His gift of eternal life and how much we need His forgiveness.
Of course, not all sickness comes upon us to teach us a specific lesson. Lessons of course can be learned, but we may be sick simply because our immune system has become too weak. King David in his last years suffered from poor circulation, probably caused by overtaxing his body during numerous military campaigns in extreme weather conditions.
Since only God can heal in a miraculous way by forgiving physical sin and removing its penalty, is there any place for the modern medical fraternity? What can doctors do? Is it a sin to use the services of a doctor? What about non-medical doctors, such as herbalists?
First, understand, in respect to medical doctors, they can often deal with the effects of a disease. For example with cancer they provide three options: surgery to cut out the tumors; radiation to burn out the cancerous areas; and chemotherapy to stop the growth of cancer, and hopefully to reduce the size of the tumors. Even if they are successful in getting rid of the signs of cancer they have neither healed nor cured. They have simply removed the effects, not the cause. The cause is sin and only God can forgive sin. These methods of treatment also stress the body, especially when an operation is involved. Often the body is weakened as a result, which allows the cancer to spread faster. Even when a doctor sets a broken bone, he does not heal it. The bone heals itself, because God designed it to do so.
Non-medical doctors will try to strengthen the body using special diets, including herbs. Their job is made more difficult as much of the nutritional value of food has been diminished because the soil does not get a sabbatical rest and the plants are sprayed with various chemicals. In addition the processing of products to make them ready for the supermarkets depletes much of the food's nutrients.
Nevertheless, the herbal/dietary approach to strengthening the body, so it can throw off sickness, seems sensible. Yet here again we are dealing with effects not cause. If it were possible to strengthen the body, the effects of sickness would in time disappear, but the cause of sickness would remain. The cause is six thousand years of breaking God's laws both spiritual and physical. The wages, or what one gets paid for sinning, is death. From the moment we are born, we are on the road to physical death. Sin just speeds up the journey. On the other hand eternal life is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23).
The connection of sin with sickness seems to have been understood by the people of Christ's time. In John 9, Christ and his disciples passed a man who was blind from birth, that is, he was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus, ". . . who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn. 9:2, NKJV). The word sinned is hamartano and it means to wander from the law of God. The disciples wanted to know if some specific breaking of God's law by the man or his parents caused him to be born blind. Not in this case said Jesus, ". . . but that the works of God should be revealed in him" (Jn. 9:3, NKJV).
The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Obviously then like all humans, both the man and his parents had sinned. But his blindness was not attributable to any specific breaking of the law, but was allowed to demonstrate God's power. Note verse 32, "Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind" (NKJV).
In John 5, we find another example of healing, this time of a lame man. In this situation after he had been healed, Christ warned him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (Jn. 5:14, NKJV). Again the word sin is hamartano. In this case it is referring to the specific violation of God's law that caused this man to become lame thirty-eight years previously. The account does not specify what the violation was, but since he was lame, it could have been caused by a violent altercation.
Our third example in this connection is to be found in James 5:15, "And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins [hamartia (noun)], he will be forgiven" (NKJV). If is followed here by the subjunctive mood expressing a hypothetical but possible condition, contingent on circumstances which the future will show. We might put it this way and "since he has probably committed sins, he will be forgiven." But what kind of sins? It doesn't say, but the Greek word is the most comprehensive term for moral wrong. The word translated sick here in verse 15, is kamno, which relates to illness caused by overwork accompanied by weariness of mind.
A different word for sick is used in verse 14. Here the word astheneo is used and it means weak and feeble.
Putting it all together then, sickness in the form of weakness or feebleness can result from overwork and the accompanying weariness of mind. But where does sin enter the equation? Not putting God first, being too busy to pray and study perhaps? No longer being God centered? Is that sin? Yes! Whatever becomes more important than God in our lives becomes idolatry and leads to a moral decline.
Sin causes sickness, sometimes in very specific ways, but also and perhaps more often in unspecific ways. In general, as noted earlier, it has been with the human family since Eve and Adam decided to experiment with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Sickness and sin entered our world hand in hand. Thus it would seem that a repentant attitude should accompany requests for healing. Remember every time we call to be anointed, we remind our Father in heaven what His Son had to endure so that we could be healed. Coming in a humble, thankful, and appreciative manner, recognizing how great God's love is for us, can only make a positive impact upon both God and Christ.
The minister's duty is to pray with positive conviction over the sick, remembering that God has promised to heal and that God is as good as His word. James describes the nature of a successful prayer in the latter part of verse 16 of James 5 ". . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (NKJV).
Both the sick and the elder coming to anoint the sick must be wholehearted and calmly confident that God will follow through on His promises. "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. . . . " (II Chron. 16:9, NIV). This verse was given in the context of King Asa of Judah's decision not to seek God when he became diseased in his feet.
Asa had turned away from putting his trust in God and had entered into a mutual assistance pact with Syria against Israel, even though God had directly assisted him earlier in defeating a huge host of Ethiopians.
Now note what Asa did when he was afflicted in his feet, "And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign" (II Chron. 16:12-13, NKJV). Now the problem here was not with the doctors, but with Asa. Remember doctors cannot heal, only God can do that. Doctors in ancient times fell into the same categories we find today in the medical profession and in the herbalist/holistic field with various charlatans thrown in for good measure, again, just like today.
It is not a sin to use a doctor, but it might be dangerous to your health to help get rid of the effects of say cancer. It would be sin to believe and trust them to heal the cause of your sickness, only God can do that.
In the case of King Hezekiah, we have an interesting example of God healing the king, and of Isaiah giving directions to remove the effects of the illness.
In II Kings 20, God told Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance in verse 3 is a good example of how to get positive results from God. "'Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.' And Hezekiah wept bitterly" (NKJV). Almost immediately God healed him. Now note verse 7, "Then Isaiah said, 'Take a lump of figs.' So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered" (NKJV). Probably the lump of figs was intended to draw out the poison that was the visible effect of his sickness. The poultice did not heal him. God did that by removing the cause.
I believe we in God's Church have over-reacted in a negative way against the entire medical profession, because we thought we had to make a choice between them and God. This is not the case, as I hope this study shows.
Doctors are like mechanics, in that some are better than others. The same goes for chiropractors, herbalists, iridologists, and others. Since medical doctors can only treat the effects of sickness basically in three ways, surgery, drugs, or radiation, you have to decide if that is the course you want to take to remove the visible effects of your illness. Again, the medical profession often has problems making accurate diagnosis, which of itself is obviously very dangerous. Going the natural route, so to speak, can also be dangerous if the diagnosis is faulty and the source and quality of the products is suspect.
I know from personal experience that God at times works through medical doctors. In the late 1980's, I was called to anoint a young man whose heart valves were leaking. He had been born with the problem and had undergone a number of operations through the years to resolve the situation. Now he was undergoing another surgical procedure. The surgeon and his team had been working on the young man from early morning. When I arrived it was about 6:00 p.m.. I duly anointed the young man on the operating table and then went home. Next morning I returned to the hospital to find him up and alert. The valves were no longer leaking. While I was at the hospital, the chief surgeon asked me to come into his office. He expressed gratitude for the anointing, which he said was accompanied by a surge of energy that pervaded his entire team. He also mentioned that a novel idea had come into his mind to stop the bleeding. He attributed it all to God! Of course, God could have healed the young man at home, but I was called to anoint him at the hospital where surgeons had been operating on him for twelve hours. God gave the doctors the energy and means to stop the bleeding in this repair surgery, but it was God who healed. It was God who dealt with the cause and restored the body's ability to knit together and restore itself. It is worth remembering that Luke was described as the beloved physician (Col. 4:14) and that this team of doctors was dedicated to saving this young man's life. There is nothing intrinsically evil about the medical profession, but they have their limitations. God has no limitations.
Remember, Jesus Christ was the member of the God family who actually created mankind. Later He died for us, so that we would have the opportunity to be reconciled to the Father, which in turn opened the way for eternal life. In addition, His broken body was substituted for our broken bodies, broken as a result of sin and sinning. In Their mercy They have made it part of Their plan to restore to physical health those who love them and put their trust in Them, so that even as physical creatures we can enjoy the bodies They engineered.
In our thankfulness, let us try to do all we can to maintain our bodies through the best possible diet and appropriate exercise for which our bodies were designed. Just remember the real goal is eternal life. This should be our main focus and that involves Christ living His life in us (Col. 3:4). Salvation is God's rescue of the entire person. Healing is His complete repair of that person and is part of His covenant or agreement with those who obey Him.
Note I: Excerpts from William L. Coleman's, Today's Handbook of Bible Times & Customs, pages 63-69:
The Practice of Medicine: - The medical community in Palestine included highly trained physicians, as well as magicians and charlatans. Thus a patient in need of help could receive anything from first-class assistance to a magic potion or absolute poison. This explains why doctors receive mixed reviews in the New Testament [nothing has changed it seems!]
Local Doctors: - Some people appreciated doctors and paid them respect. Others considered physicians the worst crooks in creation.
Medical Fees: - Writers in the Talmud expressed mixed feelings about fees. On one hand they condemned the profession for charging outlandishly; on the other hand they warned against using a doctor who charged too little.
Medical Schools: - Extensive training was available . . . the most famous medical school of the time was in Alexandria, Egypt . . . Doctors at the school offered specialized instruction for various diseases . . . many of their remedies are practical and useful even today . . . including treatment for ten possible injuries to the brain, etc. Broken bones were set and a special adhesive plaster cast was applied. Skeletons show evidence of well-healed fractures. Castor oil was prescribed as a laxative and many herbs were recommended to cure ailments. Egyptian knowledge though unsophisticated in light of modern western medicine, was advanced for its time. It laid the foundations of our modern medical methods.
A license was required to practice medicine in Palestine . . . In Israel, Rabbis often doubled as Physicians. This practice had its roots in the Old Testament use of priests as physicians. A medical practitioner was expected to be in the temple to care for the priests during this era. Many specialists resided in and around Jerusalem during the time of Christ. We know there were general physicians, mental therapists, dentists, gynecologists and obstetricians. There were also many occultists who claimed to heal.
Note II: The Hebrew word for physician is raphah and it essentially means healer. The Hebrew word is derived from a root that means to darn, mend, repair, and pacify; to stick together.
Note III: When God designed the physical human body He created it perfectly . . . yet, being physical it was not intended to last forever.
God also understood that man would follow Satan into a sinful existence that would result in the body being stressed in ways that would prematurely lead to its decline into sickness and disease. The fact that we as the human race have survived for six thousand years attests to the marvelous ability God displayed in engineering His creation. Let's do all we can to care for the physical house that God has given us to contain His Holy Spirit.
Note IV: The following are the seven laws of radiant health, as listed by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong:
Fresh air and sunshine
Cleanliness and proper elimination
Avoidance of bodily injury
Other Important Articles:
Faith and Healing II
God's Church, Worldwide