Friday, July 20, 2007


There is a civil discussion taking place here at Peter's place. If you cannot be civil, do not go. But out of that discussion, I personally have stumbled onto something I would like to probe a little further. As pastors, we frequently use the "sick" as illustrations. By sick, our reference is to the blind, the lame, the maimed, the deaf, the leper, the bleeding, the fevered, the demoniacally possessed and the dead though I am sure that list is not exhaustive but you do get the point do you not? In our preaching rhetoric, we use such people as illustrations of what man is in his "lost" condition. Depending on one's total theology, that may not be such a useful or consistent idea. A single case to discuss, of many I would assume, is this: the blind man of John 9.

The discussion at Peter's place is all about the intricacies of ability and inability to come to Jesus on one's own. Please understand from the beginning, while I DO NOT believe in salvation apart from faith in Christ, I believe that when Jesus draws men, it is their responsibility to come to him though some will obviously refuse to do such.

Concerning ability to come to Jesus and the blind man now. In verses 39-41, Jesus uses blindness "in general" as a discussion about salvation. I do not believe he was referring to the pharisees "ability" but rather their "willingness" when he used that illustration. Here is why.

Chapter nine verses two and three begin the scenario and I believe they provide the ONLY true context under which too understand Jesus' admonition to the pharisees later in the chapter. Notice, it WAS NOT due to sin that the man was born blind. It was neither parental sin NOR personal sin. What was the reason the man was born blind? So "that the works of God should be made manifest in him." IF sin makes a man totally UNABLE to RESPOND to Jesus, there are two problems with using this passage to illustrate this. First, the man was not blind due to sin, Jesus said so. Secondly, while the man was still blind, he was told to go and wash and he did. Even blind, he had the ability to respond to Jesus' commands. But this is blindness. What about other healings that are used as references of the "sick"/sinner. What about the lame? Some were brought to Jesus by friends. Does this illustrate that one's "inability" to come to Jesus is overcome by the ability of others? While I do not think so, it does make a tempting use for evangelism does it not? Lepers approached Jesus. The bleeding woman reached out and touched Jesus on her own. Back to my point, if we are going to use the healing miracles of Jesus, then at the least, we are able to say that there are varying degrees of ability of "sick" people to come to Jesus and for those who cannot come on their own, we have a responsibility to see that they do get to Jesus or that we get Jesus to them.

Back to the chapter nine of John for a moment now. In verses 39-41 were Jesus addresses the Pharisees, was he addressing their willingness or their ability? I believe it is the former. It was their pride that said they could see when they knew they could not. Jesus said, "but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." In fact, in light of all of this, had they been blind, Jesus says, "ye should have no sin".

Now back to my main point that I am open for discussion and batting ideas around on. If we are going to use Jesus' physical healings to illustrate inability, we are going to fail miserably. The miracles of Jesus address people, sick none-the-less, but people who have varying degrees of ability to approach him. I believe that at the least, it should cause us to stop and consider that our theology may be inconsistent with our rhetoric.

Please do not tell me I need to read this book or that book or any other book but the Bible. Guys and gals, while I do not need to reinvent the wheel every time I get in my truck, there are times when a complete understanding of how the wheel operates is necessary for me in order to keep my truck operating correctly. We have minds. God intends for us to use them and learn from Him and to grow in wisdom and knowledge and grace. Knowledge puffs up and I think that is because we ourselves do not go through the learning processes of these other great men of faith when we simply read their writings and regurgitate them elsewhere. A baby penguin lives on regurgitation, but there comes a point where he has to learn to eat for himself. That is what I am challenging you to do as you stop and read here today. Quotes from the great men of faith are great, as long as we do not accept them just because they are from the great men. Need I remind you that while we title them great, they are still, just men.

Finally, I do not believe that any of the sick had the ability to heal themselves. Only Jesus could and did heal them. But I do not believe that the miracles were meant to address the ability of the people to come to Jesus. Consequently, I do not believe that any man has the ability to save himself, but I do believe that Jesus was lifted up and that He does draw all men to himself and that the only reason someone then would not be healed of the bite of sin is because they are unwilling to look to Jesus. Not because they cannot, but because they will not.

Grace to you


Blessed mommy and wife said...

Ok, have read and re-read to think. :) I'm thinking, and let me know if i am right or not, that the healings were to give us examples of the faith and to give God the glory. Also to show us that if we have the faith we can be "healed" from the sin in our life and turn it and ourselves over to God and walk in His ways. Trust and believe in Him (you had to believe in who Jesus was to be healed) and have eternal life. Am I making sense and is this correct?

Luke said...

Hey Kim,
Glad you stopped in to help me with this. Yes and you thought I was just going to give out answers. This whole thing for is something I am still striving to understand and I am hoping that human interaction not to mention personal prayer and study will lead me to a better understanding of this issue. I was taught at college as well as seminary that the miracles were meant to be authenticate who Jesus was. Mind you that in this discussion it is relevant that one of those teaching me was of the calvinistic theology. What I am struggling with then is using the miracles as examples of lost sinners because in varying cases, there are varying degrees of sickness. Some could walk/crawl to Jesus while others had to be carried to Jesus. However, in any of these instances, all Jesus really had to do was speak the word and healing would take place whether the sick were present or not.

So yes, I believe the healings were to give glory to God and show examples of faith. It just seems that the faith to be healed was a little different than the faith to salvation in some instances. For example, in John 4:46-53, the nobleman apparently in faith went back to his son believing that Jesus had healed him and yet in verse 53, we see the belief moving to something greater and it would seem that it was the salvation of his whole family including himself.

Also, consider this, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus made the statement, "Thy faith...". It seems to me to speak pretty clearly that while "faith" is not a work, it is definitely something that Jesus expected to see the people have. And nowhere can I find that Jesus said, "the faith that God gave you made you whole", rather it was "THY(emphasis mine) faith hath made thee whole". So yes, I agree that if they had faith, they could be healed. Here's the biggie, was everyone that was healed though, saved? Luke 17:17-19 might just be such an illustration. That during Jesus' earthly ministry, there were people who were physically healed who were not spiritually saved at the moment. And if that is the case, we(mostly preachers) are wrong to use healings as a picture of what we are as sinners from the point of ability. Certainly, the blind man could not "heal" himself. Certainly, the Nobleman could not "heal" his son. Certainly, the lepers could not heal themselves. But it seems to me that inability to remedy one's situation does not necessarily exclude the ability of one to believe and exercise faith if that be the case concerning miracles.

My conclusion, I think, because I'm still wading through this is: while I do not have the "ability" to save myself, I did have the "ability" to look to Jesus, to respond to Jesus but this in no way means, I saved me. Jesus saved me.

Finally, in regards to your last question. I do not think everybody believed in who Jesus was to be healed, some did not even know who it was who healed them until later. But in order to experience the "healing" of salvation, yes, I would most certainly say that someone needs to believe in who Jesus was/is in order to have eternal life.

Having said all of this, am I making sense to you?

marc willett said...

Ok here is an example that I found and I don't know if I am way off base or if this makes any sense. In John 11: 25 where Jesus is going to raise Lazarus and told Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die..." This was the ultimate type of physical sickness, I think. He is using sickness, blindness, and death to bring others to him thru their healing. They are healed and would essentially, or at least I think, would believe on Jesus. Wasn't that a huge part of his ministry going around healing? Also, there are also varying types or stages of sickness and there are varying stages of faith, so I guess Jesus was meeting them where they were. Not sure. Let me know what you think.

Luke said...

Good to hear from you. You raise a very interesting idea with the raising of Lazarus. I hope to comment on that when I've given it more thought.

As to the fact that all who were healed became saved is probably not accurate. We definitely have reason to say that all that ate manna in the wilderness were not people of faith yet they all benefited from God's blessing. So at present, my assumption is, based upon the 9 lepers who did not return, that not everyone who was physically healed was spiritually healed.

It is accurate to say that Jesus met many people of many "levels" of faith and it is also accurate that he started with them at that point. He responded to the individual and the situation as each was appropriate.

Boy, you have really got me thinking on ole Lazarus, that may help greatly.

Thanks a bunch and blessings today.

selahV said...

Luke: hello there, I was thinking just the other day, that each and every healing and miracle was for a specific purpose. If not, why wouldn't Jesus have just healed everyone? Faith played the major role, many miracles were not performed because of lack of faith.

God gives the faith, man must exercise it. God gives us the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, gentleness, etc. But man must practice it. God gives us armor, but man must put it on.

When I think of salvation, I think of Jesus' example in the prodigal son. He wanted his inheritance, he squandered it, and he "came to himself" and went back to his Father. He made the motions to go back. He could have wallowed in the pigpen forever. It was up to him to repent and return.

Great great post, Luke. selahV

Luke said...

Okay, back to Lazarus and John 11. Having considered this further, I am going to make the statement that Jesus uses this situation purposefully to teach truths ABOUT salvation but not as a picture OF salvation. Therefore, I do not see Lazarus' coming back to life as a picture of a person being saved but rather it demonstrates the power of Jesus over death for those who die believing in him.

Luke said...

The passage you referred to where Jesus did not do much due to unbelief has always given me pause. For example, Mark 6:5-6 "And he could do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief." What has always seemed inconsistent to me is that belief has been claimed by some to be a gift from God. If that is the case, that belief is a gift, then why would Jesus have marveled at the lack of it since he certainly would have known they were not given any? I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I am not looking for a fight with others when I make that statement. It is just something that seems illogical to me. Kind of like if I new my son did not have money for a burger and he asked me for money for a burger, I would marvel that he did not have money, knowing full well as I have already stated that he does not have the ability to pay. Just does not make sense to me why I would marvel knowing what I already knew.

I really like the part of the prodigal son where he came to his senses. Stubbornness and pride would be that which would keep someone from leaving that pig pen. But to me, the greatest part, is when he was accepted back as a son and not a servant.

Thank you for coming by and helping me to wade through this learning curve. Thinking back on Seminary, I guess I might approach it differently now than I did then. But I just have the sneaky suspicion that the way we as Southern Baptists approach seminary seems to be to herd as many through the gates as we can, rather than engaging each individual in an in depth manner. Perhaps the role of seminary is just to prepare the student for the individual tools needed for the in depth study, but it sure would have been nice in class to have been able to sit and study and interact with some of these things in greater detail.

Good to hear from you as always and I hope that hubby is improving daily.

peter lumpkins said...


You are welcome. I thought the post well written and most challenging. Continue!

Faith always. With that, I am...


marc said...

Bro. Luke,
Mark 6:5-6 "And he could do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. I was wondering about this when I read it and want to ask the question. Did this sorta limit Jesus' power (although I believe He could do anything) or He "could do no might work" to prove a point about their faith. This all said, I still believe that Jesus can do anything but I think that faith plays a major role in it as well. Also look at the disciples when they tried to cast out the demons and they couldn't. Did they have enough faith? Matthew 17:20 says "...If you have faith as a mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain..." (sometimes I feel like that is all I have) Iguess what I am saying it all boils down to faith and believing in Jesus' power. I think that He knew and read their hearts. Sorta feels like I went on a ramble but hope this helps us both.

Blessed mommy and wife said...

We were reading this morning and something hit me regarding the healing miracles of Jesus. We were reading Mark 2 and 3. Anyway, couldn't the healing be not that salvation was brought to those who were healed but used as teaching to the pharisees'. If you read through some of the healings it wasn't just in healing but he used it to show how we are so consumed with "obeying" that we fail to see that it is by faith we are sasved and made whole. If we live by faith and through the leading of the Holy Spirit we will be obeying and doing as God wants because we are doing it out of love and not out of what is required which I think is what Jesus was trying to show the pharisees', saducees', etc. He just used the healing in certain situations to do so because when he healed them it was on a Sabbath or by telling them their sins were forgiven, etc. I could be way off but it was a thought.

Luke said...

That passage from Mark is a most interesting passage. We are really quick to defend Jesus' power because we think if we do not, we'll have a weak Jesus. And we both know that is not the case. It seems that not doing any great work in the presence of lack of faith during his ministry was a self-imposed limitation. Jesus did not run around arbitrarily trying to clear out the hospitals and medical clinics. His miracles were with purpose. It would be a fair statement to say that all of them surely testified that "God came near", but his miracles were not meant to draw people to himself. In fact, he rebuked some for seeking him just to see a sign. Never-the-less, our desire to uphold the power of Jesus should not overrule what the text puts forth and that seems to be, that Jesus has self-imposed the restriction that faith be present. With the disciples trying to cast out demons, consider that he told them that that kind did not come out except by prayer and fasting after he had chided them for their unbelief. Seems to be a connection between belief/faith and prayer and fasting. Good thoughts Marc. I appreciate them. Giving me a lot to consider.

Luke said...

You, like Marc, have raised some relevant thoughts. It is obvious that Jesus did some of the miracles simply to provoke a teaching moment. The Pharisees had turned the Sabbath into a day of bondage, Jesus healed on the Sabbath to illustrate that it was a great day to do good. Now when Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven, I bet you would have heard a collective gasp. But his point was, which is easier to say, be forgiven or arise and walk. That miracle was used to demonstrate that he had BOTH the power to heal AND to forgive. It would also seem that on occasion, certain healings reversed the effects of personal sin thus Jesus' admonition to go your way and sin no more. Again, you've given me much to consider.

And quite actually, you and Marc are "off base" sometimes.;) I could not pass up the opportunity.

Luke said...

To all,
Much has been placed on the table to consider and yet I still, at the moment, stand by my original thought that the miracle of the blind, while providing opportunity to talk about salvation, did not in and of itself illustrate salvation. And while Lazarus' being raised from the dead can provide an opportunity to talk about salvation, its purpose was to illustrate the Resurrection. If we use either one of these as direct teachings on what happens during salvation or as leading to our salvation, our illustrations will run amuck.

To consider:
Jesus' miracles:
1. Eradicated suffering.
2. Educated his followers.
3. Provoked some to faith.
4. Provoked some to fury.
5. Validated Jesus' Ministry.
6. Brought Glory to God.
Any More???