In last week’s post called “Is it God’s Will to Heal?” I examined a number of Scriptures which I believe supported the idea that it is God’s will to heal us. While that remains my view, I don’t want to put across a one-sided view, avoiding all the other Scriptures which may contradict my point, and want to tackle those Bible verses today.
In all of this, I urge you to search out the Bible for yourself. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s, study the Bible for yourself and make up your own mind.
The Source of Sickness
Last time, I spoke of Jesus’ ministry and the massive amount of time He spent healing the sick.
In Acts, we read a summary of Jesus’ ministry:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, he went around doing good and healing everyone who was oppressed by the Devil.
Acts 10:38 (ISV)
From this summary, we not only learn that Jesus went about doing good, and healing everyone who was oppressed, but also who they were oppressed by – the devil.
Likewise, when we read of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” we discover its source also:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)
I want to explore Paul’s thorn in greater detail in a future post, so won’t say a great deal here. It is certainly a Scripture that many use to support the idea of God sometimes refusing to heal. Paul’s thorn was “in the flesh” so clearly in the body right? Well, i’m not so sure about that, but as I say, we’ll pick that up in a future post.
For now though, I want to point out that Paul’s thorn, be it physical or not, was a messenger of Satan. It was not a servant of God, nor inspired by Him – it was from the devil.
This is really important because we cannot have faith to be healed if we in some part believe that it is God who made us sick.
Let’s have a look at some further verses used to dispute this.
I’ve heard teaching about Paul’s eyesight, and wanted to discuss it here. Some scholars claim that Paul had some form of eye condition, demonstrated by the below verses.
What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
Galatians 4:15 (ESV)
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Galatians 6:11 (ESV)
The argument is that if Paul – the great apostle himself – was struck with an eye condition, then who are we to say that God wants us well?
While the above verses can be interpretted like that, I think there is another alternative. Only you can decide which you think is right.
Firstly, Galatians 4:15 where Paul said the Galatians would have given him their eyes if they were able. Clearly, this shows that Paul had some kind of affliction with his eyes. I’m not denying that sickness attacks us at times, and being in a battle with sickness is not something you should feel condemned over.
Scholars suggest that this eye affliction was caused by some ancient eye disease not uncommon at the time. But what about this:
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
Acts 14:19-20 (ESV)
Just prior to moving on to Galatia (Derbe is a province of Galatia), Paul was stoned outside the city of Antioch. If he was not dead, then those who stoned him certainly believed he was. It may even be that he was raised to life after suffering this execution attempt.
How badly hurt must Paul have been? Even if raised to new life, his body would still need time to recover. God’s healing power can work instantly, but does not always. Is it not more likely that this attempted stoning was the cause of Paul’s eye problems than an ancient disease?
Scholars point at the other verse, Galatians 6:11 to show that Paul had to write in “large letters” because his sight was so bad. Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps it was the stoning rather than the sickness that caused this? But actually, the word “large” here is – pelikos – meaning volume or magnitude. And the word “letter” – gramma – meaning document, note or letter. Together these just mean a large letter, a long note, or substantial document. It does not mean large individual characters!
(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
1 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)
The wine-lovers favourite verse…!
Again, this verse is often used to suggest that if Timothy had stomach problems then clearly God doesn’t always want us well. It feels something of a weak argument to me in this case.
If you were travelling somewhere with low water quality, I might give you similar advice. Likewise, if you were sensitive to certain foods or even allergic, it would be prudent to avoid those things. I think that’s just good sense!
Maybe in this case, Timothy was so firmly convinced that it is indeed God’s will to heal, that he was deliberately drinking the water to prove the point? That is mere speculation of course, but no more so than using this verse to deny God’s will to heal.
The Old Testament
I absolutely love the Old Testament. I know many find it hard to handle, and indeed it takes some study, but it is the Bible Jesus would have read (in a manner of speaking) and without it, the New Testament would be rather thin and meaningless.
When it comes to healing and sickness, we need to properly understand the Old Testament. There are certain occasions when God inflicted sickness on people, that cannot and should not be denied. But we must understand the context first.
Some may deny that God inflicted sickness in the Old Testament, instead using words like “allowed” or “permitted” sickness. While in some cases that is probably true, there are other places where you need to bend or downright change the text to make that so – I cannot condone that at all.
In the space I have remaining, I cannot give you a detailed survey of the Old Testament and its contribution to the subject of healing. Much confusion can be cleared up by understanding the difference between the Law and Grace.
Deuteronomy 28 sets out the blessings and the curses of obeying the Law. Obey the Law, you get blessed, disobey the Law, you get cursed. Simple right? Well not exactly. Israel had made the bold claim that they could do all that God had commanded, and so He introduced the Law (see Exodus 19). This was to demonstrate to them that they were not able to fulfil all aspects of the Law, and that they needed a Saviour.
Listed under the curses, we see things like:
The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. 28 The Lord will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, 29 and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness…
Deuteronomy 28:27-29a (ESV)
Sickness is a curse. Plain and simple. For those living under the Law, they would be cursed with sickness when they broke the Law. Many of us Christians today believe this still applies.
Galatians 3:13 tells us:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Galatians 3:13 (ESV)
Jesus took on the curse for us. We could not fulfil the Law and so Jesus did so on our behalf. The curses of Deuteronomy 28 no longer apply to us because Christ became the curse for us.
If good works could not earn us the blessing, then our mistakes now can’t take it away either. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Christ.
Most of the sickness we read about in the Old Testament is a direct result of disobedience, and the curse of the Law. Without a Saviour to stand in the gap, people had to face the consequences of their own actions. Even then, God’s grace is still abundently clear in His patience in dealing with the nation of Israel.
Other examples of the curse of sickness can be found in the Old Testament:
- Miriam’s Leprosy (Numbers 12)
- David’s census (1 Chronicles 21)
- Hezekiah’s sickness and subsequent recovery (2 Kings 20)
- Elisha’s servant – Gehazi (2 Kings 5)
We could go on, but all of these examples are as a direct result of disobedience leading to punishment. Jesus took that punishment for us, so we would not have to. God bore the pain on His own shoulders to free us from its curse.
The Old Testament may be difficult in places, but is also full of examples of healing too.
- Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)
- Elisha healing the Shumanite woman’sson (1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 4)
- The First Healing in the Bible, that of Abimilech (Genesis 20)
Again, I point out that I cannot do a complete study in this one blog post. I am simply trying to point out some of the common arguments against healing, and hopefully giving you an alternative view.
As I try to say often, don’t take my word for it! Seek this out for yourself. Study the Bible and find out what it says. If you come up with something different to me, that’s fine, as long as you can support your view from the text. Bear with those who don’t agree.
My point in this series is to help you to understand that it is God’s will to heal. Last time I drew your attention to Scriptures which support this, and I’ve tried (in this post) to address some of the other verses which may appear to go against that view.
Next time we will tackle Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh, as I think there is some confusion about this and it is often cited as a reason for God not wanting to heal.
In the meantime, pray about these Scriptures and talk to God about it. I pray you receive and stand in good health this week.