In the last post, Why was this man born blind?, we examined two New Testament passages that are commonly misused to imply that God’s will is sometimes sickness. Today we are looking at two more such passages.
“I Left Trophimus Sick At Miletus”
2 Timothy 4:20 (NIV) Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.
Paul failed to get Trophimus healed in Miletus. Is this basis to doubt the many explicitly clear promises of scripture such as “…don’t forget any of his benefits…he heals all your diseases…” and “Surely our sicknesses he hath borne, And our pains — he hath carried them” One of God’s names in scripture is “The Lord Your Healer,” revealing God’s very nature. So is Trophimus’ sickness reason to imagine that God is only who He is some of the time and not all of the time?
First, let me ask two questions:
1) Paul talked about being transformed from one degree of glory to another as we behold the Lord. Was Paul also being transformed from glory to glory, or had he arrived?
2) Paul talked about the church growing up in all things into the full measure of the stature of Christ. Had Paul himself grown up into the full measure of the stature of Christ?
The answer should be obvious! Of course not!
Is Paul the image of the invisible God, or is Jesus?
Did not the other apostles fail to heal a boy of epilepsy when it was God’s will and when Jesus healed the boy in Matthew 17:14-21? Do we question God’s will to heal because of the other apostles’ failure to heal an epileptic boy, whom Jesus then healed?
If not, it is completely unreasonable to question the revelation of God through Jesus, who healed everyone who came to him and everyone who touched him, because Paul failed to leave Epaphroditus well.
However, further examination of this story also reveals that it is another testimony of divine healing. Paul talked about the same thing in Philippians, and gave a little more detail:
Philippians 2:25-27 (NIV) But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
The context makes it clear that God “had mercy” on Epaphroditus by healing him.
What did sick and suffering people often cry out to Jesus?
Matthew 9:27 (NIV) As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
Of all those who cried out to him for mercy, Jesus didn’t turn a single one of them down. A study of the word “mercy” in scripture often shows the context of physical healing. And this connects us to even more promises of scripture. (This is a point made in the classic book “Christ The Healer.”
Psalm 86:5 (NIV) For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
How much mercy does God have? It’s abundant? Who is it for? For ALL who call on his name!
“Jesus Didn’t Heal Everybody At The Pool Of Bethesda”
I’ve sometimes heard people make the objection “Jesus didn’t heal everybody at the pool of Bethesda. There were many sick people there, but he only healed one.” Is that true? Let’s read the story again:
John 5:1-9 (NIV) Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Where does scripture say that Jesus only healed one invalid?
I have often shared testimonies from a time when I ministered healing to one or two dozen people. Many people were healed, but there was one testimony that really stood out for some reason. For example, various people were healed on one of my visits to Ocean City, MD. The ones I remember were the lady who was furious when I said Jesus’ name, and the lady who was an alcoholic and started screaming when her swollen feet shrank. Why would anybody assume that these were the only people healed just because they were the stories I shared?
So why would we assume Jesus didn’t heal anybody else at the Pool of Bethesda just because scripture tells us a story of someone Jesus did heal? Scripture says that if we were to record all Jesus’ works, the whole world could not contain the books. (I believe this is partly because it is including Jesus’ works through his body, the church.)
The gospels contain many general statements about Jesus healing multitudes of people, including “everybody who touched him.” It also shares some unique stories that stand out from the others and contain a lesson.
One of the unique things about the story of healing at the Pool of Bethesda was that this time, Jesus was the one who approached the sick person. In many other stories, they came to Jesus. We also see that this particular man’s sickness was related to his own sin. (Not everybody’s sickness is.) Jesus approached an unrepentant man who was sick, healed, him, and later told him to stop sinning. He didn’t tell him “repent, and I will heal you.” Scripture shares this story, not because it was the only one, but because there is a teaching and an example contained in it.
Friends, these “objections” to God’s will concerning healing may sound so reasonable at first. I remember when I thought it was reasonable to think that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a sickness. But after I heard Joe McIntyre speak on it, I thought “When you put it that way, it’s pretty stupid to imagine that Paul’s thorn was a sickness.”
Likewise, these four other New Testament “objections to healing” that we’ve discussed may have once seemed reasonable to me. But as I write about them now, I think “Boy is it stupid to set this silly logic up against clear promises of scripture such as ‘Surely, he (Jesus) carried our pains and bore our sicknesses.'” Absurdly, three of these so-called “objections” are stories of divine healing with twisted logic applied to them to arrive at the conclusion that God says “no” to healing some people. The other is advice meant to help Timothy stay well and avoid stomach bugs from bad water.
In our next post, we will answer the argument that says Paul brought the gospel to the Galatians because of a sickness.