What About Them?
Today I want to talk about those persons in scripture (post cross, part of the church) that either didn't receive healing, were helped by "natural" means or progressed in sickness before God simply "had mercy on them." Our texts today for your reference are Philippians 2:25-27, 1 Timothy 5:23, 2 Timothy 4:20.
(If you're an avid student of the scripture you'll notice that I left off the Apostle Paul and his "thorn in the flesh." I did this intentionally. Although there is an excellent debate as to what Paul was dealing with it is my firm belief that Paul's thorn wasn't a sickness, nor was it a secret sin but rather the relentless persecution of his faith. I will make this case in a later blog for any of you who are interested.)
First up we have Epaphroditus: Paul's brother in Christ, a fellow soldier, and co-worker. According to Paul, Epaphroditus was sent back to the church in Philippi as a comfort to them. Why? Well, he had been sick, to the point of death, and consequently, his very own people were worried.
Now all that we expressly see from the text is that this man was sick. What we can infer is that the sickness lasted long enough for word to reach Philippi which caused them great distress. Never once do we hear that Paul laid hands on him for his healing or that Epaphroditus sought healing paid for on the cross. Now, I know full well that this is an argument from silence. Maybe Paul did pray, maybe Epaphroditus did believe his healing was guaranteed, but these too are arguments from silence.
What is not, is that Paul says to the people, "but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow." God had mercy. No mention of faith. Paul himself believed that the mercy of God spared him from sorrow.
Question: Why is it not a valid belief to put one's trust in the mercy of God? It would seem this is the most authentic way to trust God. Why, if Paul believed in healing, would he have been driven to sorrow?
Second, we have a more well-known character in Timothy. Both commended and commissioned by Paul; Timothy was the recipient of that infamous line, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness." (BTW this is not an idea that says young people should be automatically respected and should be indignant if people look down on them.) Timothy is a man of faith, entrusted with great responsibility. However, the scripture declares that he has "many ailments."
Ailments (ἀσθένεια) a word that means sicknesses. The bible says Timothy had "many." So, if our healing was guaranteed in the atonement then why would Paul (don't miss the weight of the one giving the instruction) why would the Apostle Paul prescribe a human means to fix the problem?
Question: Is it not within God's will to use human means for healing? Why would the Apostle Paul not just stand firm in that Timothy needed to have more faith?
Lastly, we have Trophimus. 2 Timothy 4:20 says, "Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus." The word sick here is the same exact Greek word used in all of our texts today. It merely means "sickness." Why would Paul leave someone sick? Are we making yet another argument from silence that Paul did this because this person mustn't have had real faith?
Question: Why don't we have an NT writer making the appeal that healing is guaranteed in the atonement?
In conclusion, it appears that there are people in the scripture that continued with sicknesses. Some were even prescribed human methods as a means of help. James, the brother of Jesus, said that "the prayer of faith will heal the sick," did no one pray for these men? James also says that we are to "pray for each other that we MAY be healed" and that "the prayer of a righteous man availeth MUCH.
Should we pray for healing? Yes! No one is rejecting this idea (save a few cessationists or hyper-Calvinists). Should we pray expecting? Yes! Why? God told us to expect. Not because He said it was a guarantee in this life. (I know this needs explaining and I will in a future post.)
Tomorrow we're going to talk about faith. Whose faith is required for healing? Is it the healer? Is it the healed? Is it someone else? Does God take an average of those present? I hope you'll join me as the answer to these questions will reinforce today's blog.