Is It Christ’s Will To Heal Our Bodies To-Day?
The World Is Sick
Is it Christ’s will to heal our bodies of sickness and disease and weakness to-day? He can, of course He has the power Is He willing to do it? Does He think it wise to? Is it part of His plan for us at the present time . There is need enough surely, so far as that goes. And surely that must go far with God. The race is sick to-day. Oh! there is more health than disease, more strength than weakness, more life than death. This is true. Yet the race is sick and diseased. That fact pushes its ugly self in at every turn. And there is a science of bodily healing to day. It is quite modern. It was non-existent up until recent decades. It is a real science, properly so called. It is based on actual knowledge of the human body, and of substances found in nature, and of their action on the body. It is based upon a vast accumulation of experience, and of skill. It is accurately called a science, really a rare combination of science and of art, acquired skill in action. Of course, there arc poor preachers, and poor lawyers, and poor physicians. The personal equation affects things enormously here, as everywhere. There is confessedly a vast amount of guesswork and of experimenting, at human expense of pain and suffering, and worse. Yet there is a real science of healing. There is a not-good professional pride here, as in all professional circles. And, say it very gently, that certainly doesn’t help any one. And there is an unhappy tendency, sharply marked and growing, toward a commercialism in all the noble professions. Yet the fact stands out blessedly that there is a science of bodily healing. And its gracious ministrations among men, through the years, in actual healing, and in relieving, is clear beyond words to describe or imagination to picture. It’s a striking fact that some of the most prominent leaders in this notable science have shown certain distinct tendencies, away from drugs and the knife, and toward advice about the intelligent care of the body. A long list might be given of quotations from the most eminent of physicians, in highest position, in England and America and the Continent, against the use of drugs, and concerning the actual injuries inflicted by guesswork and experiment. These quotations magnify the place of nature in healing, through means, aside from remedies, and often overcoming the drugs given. There is an emphasis by these leaders on intelligence in selection of foods, a wise obedience to bodily laws, and on the distinct bearing of the mental and spirit mood and attitude on bodily conditions. And, it should be noted with strong emphasis, that, quite apart from any direct action on God ‘s part, one’s mental attitude has incalculable influence on the body. It affects the bodily conditions greatly at all times, and in disease and times of crisis it is pretty apt to be the decisive factor. Fear, the fear that’s afraid, opens the door to disease. It actually creates poisons in one’s body. A simple heart-trust in God, and His goodness, with the confident atmosphere that he longs with it, actually creates healthy conditions in the body. I am not speaking now of the numerous imaginary ills, but of actual physical conditions. Yet, notwithstanding the science of healing, the fact stands out at every corner, pathetically, tragically, that the world is sick, bodily ill. A recent article in a prominent daily, based on carefully compiled statistics, gathered through a period of years, estimated that between two and three millions are continually ill. If such figures could be gathered, clearly enough those actually disturbed by bodily ills run into many, many millions. And this was only for the United States. Is it God’s will to heal our bodies to-day? There’s surely need enough. And He can do it. Will He? Does He want to? Is it in His heart and purpose to do it? May I put the result of many years of study, and of observation in many nations, and of experience, into a single sentence? Then we can dig up and put together a few of the facts that are the underpinning of that sentence. And the simple sentence is this: it is God’s first will for every man that he shall be pure in heart, strong and noble in purpose, gentle in human contact, happy in circumstances, at peace in his inner spirit, and strong and well in body.
A Blessed Healing Trail
Now, we are talking about God’s attitude in this matter. And so we naturally turn to God’s Book. It is striking to find out how the other book, the Book of Life, tallies up with, and illustrates, this written book, as of course it would, for the Book of God is a part of the Book of Life. It grew up out of human life. These are our two chief books of study here. It is striking to look, at once, at the original Eden picture of life. For that was God’s own, unhurt by any after touch. There man was in perfect health of body and spirit, living in happy unbroken contact with his God-chosen helpmate, in a garden. There was fulness of life, perfect health, and such a thing as weakness or disease or death quite unknown. The story of Job stands as a sentinel-teacher at the opening of this old Book of God. It stands at the outpost to guard and point the way. It is clearly the earliest of these books in its writing. It is devoted to the sorest question of human life that is, human suffering, and God’s solution. We usually miss that “and.” There are two parts to the story, Job’s suffering, and the outcome. We have been fed up on the first part, the suffering. The second part, the outcome, has been strangely ignored. Yet it is the bigger part, by all odds. There is suffering indeed, in family, in circumstances, and then in body of a very grievous sort. Then the healing touch comes. And all is changed. Even the ash-heap becomes fragrant now, for it was the gateway to a new life of the spirit, and so to bodily health and vigour, and all else that came. Job’s story is put at the very gateway of God’s Book, with this stirring message: it is God’s will to heal the inner heart and life, and the body. Now note that this blessed trail of healing runs through the older pages of the book unbroken. The teaching trail and the healing trail persist throughout side by side. It is a three-fold healing, protection from actual disease just at hand, the continuance of health and vigour through the unseen touch of God, and the positive healing where disease had actually gotten in. From Eve’s recognition that it was through that touch of her body that weakness was overcome, and she was able to go through what has become the severest bodily test of life, through Abimelech’s experience, and Sarah’s, and Rebekah’s, and Rachel’s, and Moses’ leproused hand, and Miriam’s leproused body, the story runs. And the remarkable experience of the Hebrew people, in Egyptian slavery and as they were being freed, in closest touch with contagious epidemics, reveals the unseen touch of God plainly there, giving unusual bodily vigour under sore physical stress, and protecting from disease. There’s an outstanding bit at the beginning of the training of the new messenger nation. Israel was to become the world’s teacher-nation. And as they enter their long session of schooling special emphasis is laid on God’s eager willingness to heal. It comes first in the flush of the tremendous Red Sea deliverance, when they were peculiarly sensitive to impressions. In the tense plea that they keep in full touch with their Deliverer comes this: “I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26). There was the triple healing, protection from, the touch of continuous health, the actual healing where disease had gotten in. Then under the hush and awe of the lone Mountain, all aflame with the presence of their wondrous God, in the midst of a yearning plea to them to keep in touch with Him, this word rings out: “I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall none cast her young, nor be barren in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.” So the trail persists. Solomon remembers it in the great temple prayer. There’s Elijah and the widow’s only son, and Elisha with another mother’s son, and with Naaman, and Hezekiah’s never-to-be-forgotten story. There’s Asa’s failure to ask for needed healing, with the implied criticism, and Nebuchadnezzar’s recovery from insanity by direct touch, and Jonah’s grateful experience with that shady palm, and his remarkable preservation inside the huge fish. David’s heart repeatedly rings out the same music in a sweetly rhythmic monotone. One bit in particular stands out for the fulness and richness of its tone. Let me paraphrase it to make the meaning in David’s mind a bit closer home. Listen: “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases; Who keepeth thee from going down to the grave before thy full span of life is run out; Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy matured years (when mental and spirit depression is apt to come) with the renewal of vigour until thou art as eager in spirit as an eagle soaring through the vast aerial heights” (Psalm 103: 1-5) There are five things named. The first is spiritual. The fourth refers to the outer circumstances of one’s life. The other three have distinctly to do with bodily health and vigour. There’s a choice bit from the pen of the wisest man before he became the stupidest of moral fools. The revision gives this, “a tranquil heart is the life of the flesh.” Literally it reads: “the life of the body is a quiet heart.” Our psychological friends would find much here for their side of things. The processes of grace are fascinating. Full touch with God gives the quiet heart that passeth mere mental understanding, and that in turn acts directly on all the bodily functions. And the trail runs eagerly ahead into the future glories never out of the Hebrew vision. The coming Messiah-King is to bring these physical blessings, along with all others. Isaiah’s exultant song of the coming day (in chapter 35) may be taken as an index to the long list. The blind and the deaf, the lame and the dumb, will know all these disabilities completely gone. Rare Ezekiel’s remarkable river, from trickling beginnings to flood, carried exuberant physical life and healing everywhere. And the leaves of the trees it fed would be a healing potion for all. The whole of these older pages makes one rhythmic answer to our question. They reveal plainly and graphically God’s attitude. He not only can heal, but it is His eager wish to do so. His love outruns His power. And always there’s the eager reaching through bodily healing to the deeper, the richer, the spirit healing. The disciplinary side of suffering is plain. It’s a wooing process. Through these silent pleadings and teachings of suffering God reaches in for the deeper.
The Gospels and Acts
But there’s another bit of this old Book that concerns us people living now, most intimately. These older pages reveal the one unchanging God. He is ever the same. But there’s a book of illustrations of this same God which belongs peculiarly to us. It is distinctively the Church book of the Bible. I refer, of course, to the Book of Acts, with the Epistles woven in, and the Revelation knot on the end. In the Gospels Christ reveals the heart of the Father. He gives the meaning vividly of these Old Testament pages. The Acts continues the story, for all the peoples, of all the world, who come into living touch of heart with Christ. Acts is the sequel to the Gospels. The Gospels are sample pages of the coming Kingdom time, Acts sample pages of the Church time. Each covers a generation of time. In the Gospels the King is pleading for acceptance. His ministry is an eloquent plea. In all He does, He is saying, “this is a bit of what the Kingdom is like.” But the King is rejected, and goes voluntarily to the Cross to give His life out for men, and for their sins. Then something new comes in. It is never spoken of in the Old Testament. It fills in the interregnum until the King shall bring in the Kingdom. The messenger-nation fails. Now, a new group is formed to be God’s new messenger to the race. It is called the Church, the “taken-out” group. It is formed of all believers in Christ, both Jew and non-Jew, by the Holy Spirit’s presence. There’s a natural contrast or comparison between the Gospels and the Acts. The Gospels are Kingdom pages; the Acts the Church book. Acts runs through a generation of time, roughly thirty-three years. Then it breaks abruptly off, as though each generation of the Church should carry on the story, until Christ comes for the next step in His racial program. In the Gospels healing has the foremost place in Christ’s activity. But it does not come into prominence until Christ’s rejection by the leaders is quite clear. There’s over a year of waiting for national acceptance. Then Christ’s official herald is imprisoned. That means Christ’s own rejection. Now, Christ turns to Galilee, unofficial Galilee, despised by the cultured Jerusalem leaders. He begins preaching and teaching and healing the crowds, and training the inner group of disciples. When the national rejection of His Messiah ship is quite clear He turns to the personal side of the Messiah’s work. Healing now takes the prominent place. It is through healing that He first gets the great thronging crowds. In the Acts healing has a distinct place, but on the whole not as prominent a place as in the Gospels. It becomes one feature only of the gracious ministry described, and of the power experienced. It is one feature. It is quite distinct in itself. Yet it becomes one feature with the others. There are five summaries. These indicate that vast crowds experienced healing. All sorts of cases were included, great power clearly in action, and a deep abiding spiritual effect on the people. There are eight individual instances of healing. One would be classed as acute. One was the supernatural protection from a deadly viper. Six are incorrigible incurables: twice lameness from birth, one of forty years standing; once long-standing palsy; twice the dead are brought back to life; and possibly Paul’s recovery from stoning would be included with this last item. There are two outstanding centres of healing activity, Jerusalem the Jew centre, and Ephesus the Galilean or non-Jewish centre. The Jerusalem activity is at the beginning, and the Ephesus activity distinctly toward the close, of the Acts period. At Jerusalem great crowds are healed, great healing power is in evidence, and great spiritual blessing is connected with the healing. At Ephesus the activity runs through two full years. The power in evidence is quite unusual, to a very marked degree. And the spiritual power in men’s lives is quite pronounced. Ephesus was the strategic center of Asia Minor. The message preached, and the power revealed there, went out to all parts of Asia Minor, and across the seas in every direction. It is striking to mark that healing has greater prominence in the record, in the space given it, at the beginning of Acts. Practically it tallies with the story of the Gospels. It continues a distinct part of the activity clear to the abrupt ending of the Acts. But one is conscious that it becomes one feature with others. The absorbing thing here is the preaching of the crucified risen Christ. The healing becomes one manifestation with others of the power of the risen Christ. Yet, there is no suggestion of the lessening of the power in healing, nor of minimising its place. For it is toward the close of the Acts period that the unusual story comes of the young man who fell down dead out of the window at Troas, and is restored to life. And the outstanding Ephesus campaign is likewise toward the close. It is merely a shift of proportionate emphasis.
The Epistles fit into the pages of Acts, and are most intelligently read and understood as they are read in that way. They run side by side with Acts, with Revelation coming a bit later as the knot on the end of the whole. Corinth becomes the strategic centre of European activity, as Ephesus is the strategic centre of the Asiatic. And as Ephesus had a special message of healing activity, Corinth sends out a special message of healing teaching. Much space is given to the active ministry of the whole group of disciples in Corinth. It was clearly an active church centre, with the power of the Holy Spirit distinctly marked. Distinct prominence is given to teaching about healing. Clearly healing was a blessed commonplace in the experience of these Corinthian Christians. And many among them had marked power in this regard in ministering to those in bodily suffering. Healing is spoken of as one of the nine or more special gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was one of the gifts. There were other gifts. It was given to some, but not to all. Here is the same sense of proportionate emphasis as in the Book of Acts. It was a blessed gift, one of several. Paul is putting special emphasis on poise in teaching, keeping things well balanced, in due proportion. Toward the close of this Acts-Paul period there are distinct touches of some not healed. Paul’s thorn comes in here. These will come in for treatment in the story of “God’s School of Suffering,” touching the disciplinary side of suffering. The thing to mark just now is that they in no way change or affect the main teaching about healing. They simply give light to keep things in poise. From of old, a common teaching has been that miracles ceased long ago, and are not to be expected. And this is quoted regarding healing. This Book of Acts, with the interwoven Epistles, gives the clear answer. The interwoven Acts and Epistles make up the Church book, indicating what is meant to be the blessed commonplace clear to the end of the Church period. From the outer non-Jewish world, where these letters mostly take us, there is a quiet turn back to things at the Jew centre. The first Bishop of Jerusalem reveals the custom and the teaching that continued in the old mother Church. There was plainly no lessening of the teaching there, nor of the blessed experience (James 5:13-15). Then the circle of this wondrous old twin-book of God swings back to the starting point. There ‘s a garden at both ends, Genesis and Revelation. God’s ideal persists clear to the end, and becomes real, actual. The tree of life has become a grove of trees. The garden has become a garden-city. All the fine simplicity of the country and the garden is coupled with all the fine true culture for which the city characteristically stands. And here is the same winsome touch regarding our bodies. Sickness and pain, tears and death, mourning and crying, these are gone, clean worn out. The trees of life bear monthly harvests, and their leaves, like Ezekiel’s, are for healing (Revelation 21:4; 22: 1-2).
The Answer of the Book
All this is simply giving us a picture of God, a portrait in oil, in warm living colours. And that is the one point of the question we’re talking about. What sort of a God is He? What is He willing to do? It is not a question of power, but of His willingness, His purpose. Not can He but will He? The picture in the Old Testament is quite enough to answer the question. The warmer living colours of a Man actually living in touch, underscores the answer in bright red colouring. The tenderness, the sympathetic heart, the eagerness of God, takes hold of one’s heart with a grip as His Only-Begotten actually becomes one of us. And so we come back to that sentence put in at the first. It is God’s first will that we should be pure in heart, gripped by a nobly strong purpose, poised in our understanding of things, humanly gentle in our personal contacts, at sweet peace within, content in circumstances, and, hearty and healthy in our bodies. But note that word “first,” God’s first will. That’s a doorway into God’s schoolroom. Christ does heal to-day. It is His eager will to do so, and to do it now. One may reach out his hand. and have what he needs of this sort, now as he is reading, so far as God’s side is concerned. If there be any delay, it need not be longer than it takes for a man to come into simple full touch of heart and life. In healing Christ is thinking of two things, always two. The first presses in most with us, if we ‘re needing it, maybe needing it sorely. The second is really the thing of greater meaning. Christ wants to heal our bodies. He wants to heal our spirits, our lives, our very selves. He wants to do the first, but in such a way as to include the greater thing, the second. The first is delayed sometimes, often times, until we are willing for the second, too. But the length of the delay is fixed by us. Christ eagerly reaches out to do both for each of us now. There is one exception to be noted in all this teaching. We are never promised immunity from bodily death. There are the three instances in the Gospels of the dead restored, and two, possibly a third, in the Acts. Yet, the plain teaching throughout does not include this. A bit of the promise definitely made is, that through the touch of Christ on the body, the full span of natural life will be filled out. So far as death itself is concerned, the resurrection of our bodies at some future day is plainly taught for those believers who do not live until Christ’s return. The teaching does not go beyond these two items.