1. What a miracle is not
a. Corporate Miracles (the children of Israel)
b. Individual Miracles (in the ministry of Jesus)
2. What a miracle is
a. It is a demonstration of the Sovereignty of God
b. It is an encouragement to respond positively to the Gospel
3. The Source and Solution of Sickness
I noted within the teaching notes of the subject ‘Jubilee’ that a separate study needed to be completed entitled ‘Healing’ in order to fully explain how the release and rest of God has been achieved when we think of the healing that comes to people who are sick.
It may be one thing to experience God’s healing power, but quite another to be able to understand how it is that Jesus paid the price on the cross that secures freedom from sickness.
These notes (which hopefully answer that question) rely quite heavily on previous notes in this series and it’s to them that I shall direct the reader as and when necessary to save duplicating teaching here. Healing’s solution is rooted deeply in the work of Christ already covered.
But, we must start by looking at what a miracle both is and isn’t - not what makes a work of God a ‘miracle’ but what a miracle is supposed to achieve and what it’s wrongly supposed to achieve or is evidence of.
From here, we’ll go on to consider the three sources of sickness and see how each one of the root causes has been dealt with by Christ on the cross.
1. What a miracle is not
NB - For the purpose of this study, the word ‘miracle’ will be used to denote all the concepts that are described by words such as ‘healing’, ‘deliverance’, ‘signs’ and ‘wonders’. Though each of these words undoubtedly means something slightly different from the others, they’re usually accompanied by an event that we would accurately label as a ‘miracle’.
Firstly, then, a miracle is not definitive evidence of a change in a person’s heart. That is to say, when God does a miraculous healing in the life of an individual, it’s confined to the physical world and to the physical area in which it’s needed but a change of heart from being a rebellious human being to an obedient one before God depends not upon a miracle being performed but upon a change of the will of man following the conviction of sin in that person’s life (see the notes on ‘Repentance’).
Time and time again, churches have staged ‘crusades’ and ‘evangelistic outreaches’ and have called upon the services of men and women who are reputed to have a ‘healing ministry’ (I type ‘reputed’ because the quoted phrase doesn’t appear in Scripture, the nearest one comes to it is the ‘gifts of healings’ in I Cor 12:28. All believers have the ability to heal if God gives them that ability - even if it’s only for one specific time during their lives) and have seen miraculous signs and wonders be demonstrated in their midst in the lives normally of unbelieving men and women who have then never returned to the fellowship in question or who never respond to the preaching and appeal of the Gospel.
Some have struggled to understand this response but it’s quite a normal one - miracles don’t effect a change in a person’s heart automatically. For a person to decide to follow after God and to lay their lives down to do His desires rather than their own there must be a will change in that individual which cannot be brought about by a physical healing.
To understand this, we need only to look at the evidence of Scripture both in the OT (and I have quoted just one lengthy example to demonstrate corporate miracles) and then, more extensively, in the New (each one being an example of an individual, personal miracle).
a. Corporate Miracles (the children of Israel)
It was an easy thing for God to get Israel out of Egypt (that is, the physical nation out of another physical nation) - quite another to get Egypt out of Israel (to get the ways and attitudes of Egypt out of the heart of the people of Israel).
Though God multiplied the signs and wonders that the Israelites saw in their midst to deliver them and provide for them, still they murmured and complained that God wasn’t being fair and that they were suffering unnecessarily.
Consider the way God demonstrated His power to the Israelites and how this never once brought about a change in their hearts.
i. They murmured
The children of Israel murmured when things looked as if they were going wrong for them. You could, perhaps, excuse them for this - after all, it had been years since they’d seen God move in any real power in their midst and their knowledge of God would have probably been confined to the stories that they told each other of the patriarchs such as Abraham and Joseph and of how God dealt with them.
God did a miracle
Exodus chapters 6-12
So God did great signs and wonders and brought them out of Egypt. Surely, then, the Israelites would have learnt that God can be trusted to watch out for their best interests in future situations when things were to get a little tough.
ii. They murmured
They murmured again when things went wrong and they were surrounded by the Egyptian army. Though they had seen God deliver them through miraculous signs and wonders, they still hadn’t had a change of heart to trust Him. So, again...
God did a miracle
He opened up the Red Sea and caused them to walk through on dry land, but the pursuing Egyptian army perished in the waters as they came back upon them. Now what more miraculous sign could God have done that would have changed their hearts to be obedient to Him from that time onwards?
But still their hearts weren’t changed.
iii. They murmured
The water was bitter so they murmured again.
God did a miracle
And God did another miracle - but still no change.
iv. They murmured
The Israelites grew hungry and murmured.
God did a miracle
So God performed another great miracle and fed them with manna.
v. And they murmured
But there was still no change. The next time that they thirsted for water, they murmured again. Even though God had already done this miracle before - as if to show us that it wasn’t the different needs that was causing them to murmur (that is, the reason for their murmuring was not that they hadn’t experienced God’s provision for water so they couldn’t trust Him - they had already seen God give them water), but their dogged refusal to make themselves change.
God did yet another miracle
God caused water to come from the rock and satisfy them (if I’d’ve been in God’s place, my patience would have been wearing just a little bit thin by now...). Then came the giving of the Law and, if law was able to change the way a person is, then they would surely have found that their previous way of living had been imperfect and chosen to turn it round to obey the Law’s requirements. But they were still the same because the Law made nothing perfect (Heb 7:19).
vi. So they murmured
When they received the spies report of Canaan, they murmured against Moses.
God did a miracle
This time God’s great miracle was against the Israelites - but still they weren’t changed!
vii. And still they murmured
They murmured when they had no water - repeat miracle number three. You’d’ve thought the Israelites would have been getting the hang of this by now, wouldn’t you? But still they aren’t able to trust God to provide water for them.
God does a miracle
Moses got it wrong this time - perhaps part of the problem was that he was getting just as weary with the Israelites’ grumblings as God was but he went ‘too far’ by disobeying the Word which God had plainly commanded him.
In all these things (and the catalogue of instances is fairly lengthy), Israel wasn’t changed and ‘Egypt’ (the traits of the world) remained in Israel.
Signs, wonders and great miracles do not change what’s inside a person and neither will deliverance out of a situation - a change of heart only comes about when an individual man or woman decides that they will change.
A miracle, therefore, is not evidence that there has been a change of heart in the individual who receives it. Neither does a miracle bring about a change of heart in the recipient.
b. Individual Miracles (in the ministry of Jesus)
Just in case we think that the reason that there was no individual change of heart that effected a change in the entire nation in the above example from the OT is because we’re viewing the corporate ‘soul’ of a group of people and that it’s not relevant, here are some examples in the life of Jesus where miracles were performed on individuals and yet there was still no change of heart in the ones receiving the miracle.
i. Mark 1:40-45
A leper came to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord over his leprosy (v.40) so Jesus healed him (v.41-42). Then He gave him specific orders concerning what He wanted him to do, demonstrating to the leper that He also wanted to be Lord of his life (v.43-44) but, instead, the ex-leper decided that he wanted to do what he wanted, not what Jesus wanted.
There are many people who want Jesus to be Lord over certain areas of their lives but not others. The leper here demonstrates that phenomenon, wanting Jesus to be Lord over his sickness but not Lord over his life.
We often think that the work of the Lord couldn’t be kept quiet and even go on to think that the leper did the ministry of Christ a favour by spreading it abroad. But the consequence of the leper’s disobedience was that Jesus was no longer able to enter the cities to rest because He was being hounded for miracles to be done (v.45).
ii. Mark 5:1-20
The Decapolis was an area that was founded upon ten cities scattered almost entirely to the east of the then land of Israel in the area of Galilee. It covered an area that was larger than the land of Israel occupied by the Romans in the time of Christ and was predominantly Greek.
Jesus healed the demoniac by casting out the demons into a herd of swine (v.13-15) and then gave him specific instructions concerning what he was to do next (v.19 Cp Luke 8:39a) but, instead, he wouldn’t do what Jesus wanted him to do and proclaimed the work of Christ throughout the entire Decapolis, not just his home town (Luke 8:39b).
iii. Matthew 9:27-31
Jesus gave sight to two blind men who were following Him and shouting after Him (v.27-29) and then gave them instruction not to make Him known (v.30) but, yet again, the recipients of the healing found that they felt they had to disobey Jesus’ command to them and went away proclaiming what Jesus had done for them everywhere (v.31).
The two blind men were quite willing to surrender their blindness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ but they still wanted to exercise their own freewill in other areas of their lives.
iv. Mark 7:31-37
A deaf man with a speech impediment was healed (v.32-35) and He gave orders that the witnesses were to tell no one about what had happened (v.36a) but they went out and proclaimed it (v.36b).
The illuminative point of this incident is that the Scriptures record for us the fact that the more Jesus forbade the people not to make the miracles known, the more they disregarded His will and proclaimed them openly.
Seeing the sovereignty of God coming to us in just one area of our lives and being established (that is, something such as healing a sickness) is not what it means to be ‘born again’ or ‘converted’ - but experiencing His sovereignty having its effect in every are of our lives is.
We know that Jesus went to the cross in the Father’s will, but the animosity of the Jewish leaders directed towards Jesus was stirred up in part because the people were coming to Him and they were jealous that their popularity was waning (as even Pilate perceived - Mtw 27:18). Had the multitudes been obedient to Jesus’ voice, the day of crucifixion could have been delayed.
v. Luke 8:49-56
Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead by Jesus (v.54-55) and He ordered them to tell no one (v.56) but the report concerning the incident went throughout the entire district (Mtw 9:26 - though perhaps we can be excused for seeing the people behind this as being the mourners rather than Jairus).
In all these circumstances quoted, we see that the recipients or witnesses of the miracles remained selfish at heart, unchanged and only desiring to do whatever pleased them.
They all came to Jesus to lose something that they didn’t want, but they didn’t want to lose what would have given them an eternal gain (Mtw 10:39).
Concluding, then, miracles done do not bring about a change of heart as they’re being performed - it isn’t part of the package that comes along with the demonstration of Jesus’ sovereignty. Neither do miracles demonstrate to us that a person has had a change of heart towards obeying the will of God.
2. What a miracle is
If a miracle isn’t a guaranteed demonstration of a person’s change of heart towards God (that is, a proof of an individual being ‘converted’), what, then , is it’s purpose?
There are two specific answers.
a. It is a demonstration of the Sovereignty of God
When God’s Kingdom ‘comes’, it means in effect that God is getting His will done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ (Mtw 6:10).
When Jesus heals, it’s God getting His will done in one small area of an individual’s life, in one small area of the universe.
Therefore, Jesus says concerning the miracles that He was performing in the Israelites’ midst (Mtw 12:28) that
‘...it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons...the Kingdom of God has come upon you’
and, sending the seventy out into the places where He was about to go, He commanded them (Luke 10:9)
‘...heal the sick...and say...“the Kingdom of God has come near to you”’
Miracles are a demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.
God’s purpose for His Church is that it proclaims the Sovereignty and all-sufficiency of Christ not just in these sorts of areas but in every situation that arises - not in word only (I Cor 2:4-5, Rom 15:18-19) but demonstrating it over the entire Creation, thus including sovereignty over sickness, disease and demon possession and oppression.
The Church is to get God’s will done in every area that’s in rebellion to what He originally created it to be, thus fulfilling the command of Jesus to actively ‘seek the Kingdom’ (Mtw 6:33). Legislation won’t bring in the Kingdom because Law is powerless to effect a change in people’s hearts - even though we like to think of our fellowships being run in good order and make up rules and regulations to order our conduct as we meet together, the will of God is more than this.
It’s about establishing God’s will rather than simply proclaiming what it is - it’s saying to the lame
‘stand up on your feet’
‘it’s not God’s will for you to be lame’
That’s quite frightening, I know, but it does mean that we need to change our attitude when we get into areas that aren’t bowing down to the will of God and realise that it’s up to us to bring about His will, not simply to declare what that will is.
A healing may bring about the establishment of Jesus’ sovereignty over illness, but ‘salvation’, ‘being saved’ or ‘being converted’ is the reality of God’s sovereignty over an individual’s life, the submission of an individual’s will to the reign of God throughout their entire experience. Many may bring about the sovereignty of God in healing without knowing Christ and, therefore, without being ‘saved’, so that the demonstration of healing is not an evidence of a person’s salvation (Mtw 7:21-23).
b. It is an encouragement to respond positively to the Gospel
Part of the christian message is that Jesus has been raised to the right hand of the Father in Heaven and that all things are now in subjection to His will (see the study on the ‘Ascension’) but to have the commission from Christ to preach this, there necessarily needs to be a demonstration of those words that men and women may see the reality of them.
Therefore, we read in Mark 16:20 that, after Jesus had ascended into Heaven
‘...[the believers] went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it...’
and the writer to the Hebrews (Heb 2:3-4) insists that the message of the Gospel
‘...was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles...’
The word of the Gospel (that Jesus is exalted as Lord over all Creation) is to be accompanied by evidence of it and the signs and wonders are an integral part of the proclamation of the Gospel - not an optional extra.
In both Mtw 10:7-8 and Luke 9:2, we see Jesus seamlessly bringing together both the proclamation of the good news and the healing of the sick as He tells His followers to go out and do as He had been doing - that commission hasn’t changed simply because the message hasn’t changed.
Frightening as that may be to all of us who proclaim the Truth of the Gospel, it is, nevertheless, the way that God has chosen to declare the Gospel in to the world - by proclamation and demonstration.
The areas in which Jesus performed most of His miraculous signs received a word of condemnation from Him because ‘they did not repent’ (Mtw 11:20-24). Miracles are an encouragement to men and women to be obedient to the demands of Jesus upon their lives through an understanding of the Gospel. If there’s no heart/will change after the demonstration of the Kingdom of God by the work of the Holy Spirit, the people receive a greater condemnation before God than if there’d been none. To see with one’s own eyes the Sovereignty of God and yet to harden one’s heart against submission is worse than to never have seen.
Notice that it was Jesus’ mission (Mark 1:38) to
‘...preach...for that is why I came out’
The miracles were a supernatural confirmation of what He was proclaiming in word even though the people who were searching for Him (Mark 1:37) were doing so not because they were desperate to hear His teaching but because they wanted to be healed. In this case, the demonstration of the Sovereignty of God had become more important to them than knowing how God wanted them to order their lives before Him.
But a miracle occurs to confirm the spoken word and encourages submission to Jesus Christ - but it will also leave behind the greater condemnation for those who shun its witness. Therefore a miracle causes division and there can be no sitting on the fence when such things occur - either a person will turn himself over to the Sovereignty of God or turn himself against it.
3. The Source and Solution of Sickness
Having now seen the reason for the demonstration of the Sovereignty of God in miraculous events, we need to consider the three sources of sickness and how each one finds its solution in the cross of Christ.
The ‘solutions’ will be little more than references to the previous subjects in the series of studies that we’ve been considering (if you’ve read them there will be little or no point going over the same subjects again) which the reader can reference easily enough.
‘Healing’ is reliant upon the cross of Christ if it’s to have it’s full effect. There’s little or no point in God demonstrating His Sovereignty over illness if the root cause of that sickness is allowed to remain in the person’s life for it will quickly return and the work of God will be undermined.
Therefore, when God heals, there should be more to the work than simply a removal of the illness even though that may not always be apparent.
These three sources of sickness will be labelled ‘sin, satan and self’ as an aid to memory - even though we’ll explain the labels a little more fully as we encounter them.
Sickness can be a judgment of God upon a person’s sin or it can be the result of a person’s sin without the source being God (we will, however, be concentrating on the former of these points).
God bringing sickness to someone is not a doctrine particularly in vogue today because of an unbalanced view of the Love of God (see here) and, where it’s plainly spoken of in Scripture, excuse is often made for the phraseology that occurs so that we don’t have to accept the simple and obvious meaning.
But, nevertheless, the concept is a Scriptural one and worthy to be accepted fully - God visits sickness upon individuals (and sometimes even entire nations) as a response to committed sin that goes unconfessed.
Though I normally switch off when reading study notes that seem to just quote Scripture to support their teaching, it seems necessary to do just that here seeing as many who approach these notes may not feel happy that sickness can be a work of the judgment of God visited upon a person’s sin.
So, Deut 28:58-61 states
‘If you are not careful to do all the words of this Law...the Lord will bring on you...every sickness and every affliction...’
Passages such as this are variously interpreted when the statement we began this section with is denied. By ‘the Lord will bring’ it’s often thought that God is simply standing back and allowing sickness to descend upon the nation (or an individual), that God isn’t so much ‘doing it’ as ‘allowing it’ but the meaning of the passage is plain. Others understand the phrase to mean that the sickness is a consequence of their own actions (as AIDS is seen to be virtually the same - more like an occupational hazard rather than a definite work of God) but, again, it’s difficult to read this in to the passage unless we start from the assumption that our interpretation must be correct and make it fit into whatever passage that appears to flow against it (this type of reasoning also smacks of ‘evolution’).
Another Scripture to consider is II Sam 12:15-18 which announces that
‘...YHWH struck the child...and it became sick...the child died...’
The Lord inflicted an illness upon the child of the sinful union between David and Bathsheba and, despite all David’s intercession, the child died - God wouldn’t heal. I overheard a radio program recently in which one of the characters said that the great christian dilemma was how God could allow children to suffer - whether that be as a result of natural sickness or through persecution in some foreign land.
But, here at least, is one cause of why it happens - man’s sin followed by the judgment of God. That God visited sickness as a judgment upon the sin of David there can be no doubt but, had David not sinned, there would have been no judgment.
The prophet Amos noted (Amos 4:10)
‘I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt...’
as words of YHWH of Hosts to His people Israel so that they might turn back to Him - but they didn’t repent. Although sickness may be a judgment upon sin, it may also be a warning to turn from the way of life that’s displeasing to God and so be delivered from the sickness.
Again, II Chr 21:18-20 observes that
‘...YHWH smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease...’
referring to Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, of whom it’s said (II Chr 21:20) that he died
‘...with no one’s regret’
This passage is worthy of note for we aren’t told directly that God was judging the man’s sin through the sickness that was visited upon him. Nevertheless, we’re told that many other calamities were a result of him having forsaken the Lord (II Chr 21:8-10) and it’s the best understanding of the incident.
Because of Miriam’s sin before the Lord against Moses (and it should be pointed out that God would have been equally displeased with Aaron but the reason for Him withholding His hand against him may have been that Aaron would have been rendered unclean and unable to perform his duties as the mediator between God and Israel), He struck her down with leprosy for a time (Num 12:9-14). It was only Moses’ intercession for her that persuaded the Lord to heal her. Again, the leprosy was a work of God upon sin.
What’s also often said is that, whereas the OT demonstrated the anger and judgment of God directed towards sin, the NT shows us a loving God who’s willing to forgive and heal - even regardless of human individual responsibility. This very alien concept has gone a great way to nullifying the concept of both the anger and judgment of God and of elevating a concept of the Love of God that is, again, quite different to that which we find in Scripture’s pages. But, if we were in any doubt as to the reality of God’s judgment of sin and His visitation of sickness upon individuals in the NT, a read of these following passages should prove to us that it’s equally NT theology as it is OT.
Acts 12:20-23 records that
‘...immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory...’
In a passage that’s paralleled in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities 19:343-350), we learn that God judged king Herod with a disease that led on to his death because he received the glory upon himself that it wasn’t fitting for any to receive except God.
Many have seen in this passage ‘ancient superstition’ raising its head - that, because Herod did what was considered to be a ‘sin’ and he also became ill, that it was presumed that it must be a judgment of God upon him. We, on the other hand, being far more enlightened and intelligent realise, of course, that it was just a coincidence. But that’s not what the Scripture says! And to make Luke say something that he plainly isn’t throws doubt upon many other passages that we could view with ‘superstitious’ overtones.
I Cor 11:27-32 also associates illness with sin. Paul links illness, weakness and even death with the taking of communion when the ‘body’ is not being ‘discerned’, when it’s being drunk and eaten in an ‘unworthy manner’. And it specifically ties in with ‘judgment’ that’s labelled as being of ‘the Lord’ and a result of God’s mercy so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
When I first started trying to come to terms with this passage, my ‘traditional’ church interpretation was that it must refer to the unsaved participating in the communion emblems - after all, didn’t the leader warn everyone each time it was celebrated that it meant that? But, upon closer consideration, I noticed that it talked of the judgment being visited upon us so that we might not perish. The trouble was that the believers were going ahead and eating and drinking out of the abundance that they’d brought to the meal without discerning the plight of those brothers who were less well off than themselves and who had little or nothing to eat. The message of the Gospel was that Christ, though rich (being God), gave away all that He had in order to make us rich - but by the believers’ selfish lifestyle they were treading the work into the ground and were disregarding the Truth of the Gospel - therefore God judged them.
In Mark 2:5-11, Jesus said two things to the paralytic who was being lowered in through the roof, both of which related to his illness. He said
‘your sins are forgiven’
‘rise, take up your bed and walk’
The forgiveness of his sins was a necessary first step in order that he might be healed because his sickness was sin-related. The Bible stops short of saying that this sickness was a judgment of God upon the person’s sin and we shouldn’t conclude that it must have been - it’s quite possible that the reason for his incapacity was that, while sinning, he became as he was (perhaps he was burgling a house and fell to the ground, damaging himself irreparably?). Whatever, it was important that Jesus made known to him that the reason for his sickness was forgiven and that, as a consequence, he could receive healing.
There was also a man who had been ill for 38 years and who was healed by Jesus (John 5:5)and who met up with Him a little later on. Jesus said to him (John 5:14)
‘...sin no more that nothing worse befall you’
Even if ‘sin’ hadn’t been related to what he’d been healed of, it’s definite that Jesus was speaking of a worse condition that he may find himself in if he continued to live in ‘sin’. The intention of Jesus was to make the man realise that sickness can’t be attributed just to consequential forces but that there’s a definite correlation between what we do and what we receive in our own experience.
In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit by saying that they’d sold a piece of land for less than they had done and were slain by Him in judgment. I can’t really see how this can be taken any other way than the direct action of God against sin (or would we conclude that it was just a coincidence that both should die of a heart attack when confronted by Peter?), that they’d done what was abominable to God so that He slew them in a moment.
Sin, then, produces sickness - either as a judgment of God upon sin or because the sin committed naturally leads to it. But in this section we’ve been aiming at proving the former statement rather than the latter.
Just about any of the teaching notes in the contents list from ‘Repentance’ onwards. That sin has been dealt with in the cross is one of the major foundation stones of the doctrine of the cross.
But we’ve also been thinking about the judgment of God that falls upon the sin and that subject is dealt with specifically in ‘Propitiation’ and ‘Justification/Righteousness’.
Jesus has taken upon Himself the punishment that every person’s sin deserved, experiencing the outpouring of the judgment of God upon the cross so that the solution to sickness and disease might be secured.
Sickness can be a work of satan in the form of a demonic (or ‘evil’) spirit that either oppresses or possesses the individual.
So we read in Luke 13:10-17 that the woman who Jesus healed in the synagogue one sabbath had been
‘...bound for eighteen years...’
by satan even though the way that Jesus healed the woman is not in keeping with the normal phenomena that occur at other times of demon expulsion. Jesus simply says
‘...you are freed from your infirmity’
and the woman was made straight. We could read more in to this than we should but it certainly does appear as if this incident is about satanic oppression rather than possession or, even, about a work of the evil one at some point eighteen years previous that had left its scars upon its victim. Whatever the exact reason for the infirmity, the source is definitely satan and it isn’t tied up with anything that the woman did that was displeasing to God.
Mark 9:14-29 (Pp Mtw 17:14-18) shows us the ‘classic’ case of demon possession where the evil spirit is manifesting the incapacity through a child in the form of epilepsy (but, we hasten to add, it doesn’t follow that all forms of epilepsy are the result of the presence of an evil spirit!).
This evil spirit had frequently caused the boy to collapse and to exhibit classic epileptic symptoms (Mark 9:17-18) but Jesus commands the spirit to come out of him (Mark 9:25) which it obeys after demonstrating its hold one final time through the child as it leaves. This latter example is definitely ‘possession’.
However, Job’s experience is a different example where we’re looking at a work of satan that has on going effects but which appears to be neither demon oppression nor possession.
We see that in Job 2:4-7 it’s plainly satan who inflicts Job with boils but his disappearance in the rest of the story is probably indicative of a one-off work. Job, however, thinks that what he’s now experiencing is the work of YHWH (Job 2:10), that somehow God has decided that His will for him must be to suffer, even going so far as to conclude the taking away of his possessions must also be an activity of God (Job 2:21).
But it’s evident that what befell Job was not a judgment of God upon Job’s sin but a work of satan - and that it took place because God was going to defeat the power of satan through His servant when he wouldn’t bow to sin but remained steadfast in his commitment to God even through his time of suffering.
So, concluding, sickness and infirmity may be a result of a direct work of satan whether we think of it as a one-off work that has lifetime consequences or as the on-going expression of demon possession or oppression.
See the subject ‘Creation/Restoration of Creation’ part 2 section 3 (Man - created to rule) and ‘Ascension’.
In Christ, man has received authority - not just over satan and his dominion but over the entire Creation - to be exercised in accordance with the will of God. There’s no need for either methodology or technique, only an authoritative word that removes the influence of satan and brings healing into the situation.
‘Self’ is a bit of a deceptive label but, to keep in with the list being alliterate, it seemed like the nearest word to the meaning! By ‘self’ we mean that sickness can be a result of the Fall of mankind. Because the Creation is in bondage to decay (Rom 8:21), sickness can be a natural consequence of this phenomenon.
Of course, when the Creation is set free from this bondage then sickness shall be ultimately banished from the earth.
People get ill, very simply, because people get ill.
In ancient times, civilisations didn’t know conclusively of the existence of microscopic particles that could transmit illness and disease from one to another - even though God gave specific instructions concerning quarantine regulations in the Law to protect His people from the possibility of plague sweeping through the nation (in, for instance, the regulations concerning all types of skin disorders - also known as ‘leprosy’).
It’s difficult to see how these bacteria and viruses could be a part of God’s original intention for His Creation and, though the Bible is silent on this issue, it seems fair to speculate (and to do no more than that) that these have either come about as a result of sin coming in to the world or that what was created as beneficial has now become a threat to existence.
But, certainly, the Bible says that illness is a part of man’s lot now that there’s sin in the world even though God has the authority and power to heal.
So, we find in II Kings 13:14 that
‘...Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die...’
Not because he was being judged by God because of unconfessed sin, neither because satan had afflicted him with a disease from which there was no cure, but he got ill because he did. As a consequence, he died.
Again, in the NT, we see illness and incapacity in the lives of many individuals simply because ‘it’s there’. The Rabbis taught that illness was a result of sin so a man born blind presented some interesting theological problems (John 9:1-3) - Did the man sin in his mother’s womb? Or did the mother sin while she was carrying him and so affect him before birth? Or could the sexual union be responsible for the ‘imperfect’ existence of the man?
Therefore the disciples ask Jesus a direct question (knowing that Jesus had given answers concerning everything else that had troubled them) so as to resolve the problem in their own minds. Jesus’ answer to their question
‘...who sinned, this man or his parents...?’
‘Neither - this man was born blind and God wants to heal him’
Jesus stops short of saying that God has made him blind in order that He may heal him and ties down his incapacity to neither individual sin (for he doesn’t forgive the sin in order to bring healing to the man) nor the work of satan (for he doesn’t rebuke the demonic influence in order that he might receive the healing). The man is born blind simply because that’s the way it happened - but God is going to get glory through the naturally occurring event because He’s about to heal him.
In Mtw 8:14-15 we read that Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. The Scripture doesn’t say that she lay sick as a consequence of her sin, neither that she lay sick because she was being oppressed by an evil spirit but that she was ill simply because she’d caught a bug and so didn’t have the ability to serve them. Therefore, Jesus’ rebukes the illness and it leaves her (Luke 4:39 - this is also prime evidence of the depth of God’s love in that He chooses to heal mothers-in-law - only kidding!)
Illness, therefore, is a result of the fall of man and not part of God’s original intention for His Creation. Many times when Jesus ministered during His three and a half years of preaching the Gospel, He came across illnesses that were neither a result of the activity of satan nor of the judgment by God of a person’s sin.
See the subject entitled ‘Ascension’
Because man has been raised with Christ into Heaven itself then we share His rule and authority over all things - and this includes sickness and disease.
We have shown, I believe conclusively, that the three sources of sickness and incapacity have been dealt with by Christ in His work on the cross and through the resurrection and ascension into Heaven. I don’t believe that there can be any doubt about what the Bible teaches us here and, as you approach the Scriptures, you should be able to affirm that this is the sum total of the matter.
However, that there is still sickness about - and, more especially, that there’s still sickness about within the Church who know that God can heal - is perplexing. Even further, that people who attend fellowships that believe in Divine Healing (as opposed to the ones who think that God stopped healing after the NT Church had preached the Gospel and attempted to reach the world for Christ) and who receive prayer to be healed still go unaffected and are not healed.
So, we need to try and find an answer to the question
‘Why doesn’t everyone receive healing?’
where I’m specifically thinking about the people who believe that God heals and who have been prayed with by people who equally believe that God heals.
Firstly, there may be a need to identify the type of sickness that’s being prayed for. As we’ve seen above, when Jesus encountered sickness that was a result of sin, He spoke forgiveness to the person as part of the healing process (and this is certainly a ministry of the believers - John 20:23) and, when He encountered a demonic sickness, He rebuked the spirit in order to bring wholeness to the individual.
But, having said that, there are people who are unaware of any specific thing that God may be calling them to repent of and who know that their sickness is not a result of demonic influence and yet they don’t get healed.
Secondly, we may question as to whether faith is required in the recipient or the pray-er in order that healing may be received or given. But I’ve personally witnessed a non-believer be healed from a fused vertebra who’d come up to the front of a meeting to be prayed for with the specific intention of demonstrating to his wife that the series of meetings were false! And I’ve also experienced God heal through many people who’ve not believed that God was going to heal the people who had come to them.
Although the presence of faith shouldn’t be minimised in the healing process (where ‘faith’ comes through an initial word from God - see on ‘Faith’), we can’t conclude that it has to be present before healing can be both bestowed or received.
To give a personal example - why was it that when both my wife and our pet hamster had a cold one day that laying hands on my wife didn’t bring healing but that laying hands on the hamster (which, incidentally, is not a very easy thing to do) healed him instantly?! Did the hamster have faith but my wife didn’t?!
So faith, though important, is not vitally necessary.
We need to remember here that healing is a sovereign work of God (Heb 2:4) and that Jesus healed individuals in the midst of multitudes of sick people (John 5:2-5) just as the disciples did after Him (Acts 3:2 - there would have been many alms seekers that would have been laid at the gate of the Temple).
If it’s a decision of God to choose who He’ll heal and who He won’t, then it’s important that, as His followers, we hear from God as to what He wants to do in the situation - initially, it might not be to bring healing.
Even though all known sins may have been repented of, all demonic influence have been bound and all natural causes of illness have been come against in prayer (however legalistic that sentence sounds), the individual may not be healed because of God’s purpose or because He has a time for the healing which isn’t the time in which we stand.
Certainly, a person who hasn’t received healing shouldn’t feel condemned and neither should a person feel guilty who prays for healing but doesn’t see it in the person prayed for. Sometimes we just cannot be certain why a person remains sick - but they do.