THE GIFTS OF HEALING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:9
6-19-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Gifts of Healing. In this very long series of sermons on the Holy Spirit, we are in a series in the series, preaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Four places in the Bible does the apostle Paul list the gifts of the Spirit. He does so in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans [Romans 12:6-8]; he enumerates two different lists in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30]; and he presents a list in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11]. When we add these gifts of the Spirit together they number thirty; but when we remove those that are repeated there are left about nineteen different separate gifts of the Spirit.
In our preaching on the gifts of the Spirit, the first sermon included the basic gifts for evangelization and instruction: the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, and the teacher [Ephesians 4:11]. In the second sermon there were presented the precious ministering gifts of the Spirit; those gifts that bless, and sanctify, and make sweet the fellowship and communion of God’s congregation—wisdom, knowledge [1 Corinthians 12:8]; mercy, compassion, comfort [Romans 12:8]. Then there remains the four sign gifts, the gift of miracles, the gifts of healing, the gift of speaking in tongues, and the gift of interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:9-10].
Last Sunday morning the sermon concerned the gift of miracles [1 Corinthians 12:10], and today the sermon is on the gifts of healing [1 Corinthians 12:9]. It is a sorrow, a disappointment to my heart, that I cannot encompass the message in one sermon even though they have given me fifty minutes in which to preach. I cannot possibly do it in one message. So the sermon is divided into two parts. It ought not to be, because all of it ought to be presented at one time, but it cannot be done. So the first half of the sermon will be presented now and the next half will be presented next Sunday. Then following will be a message on the gift of speaking in tongues, and the next message on the gift of interpretation of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:10]. Now, the gifts of healing [1 Corinthians 12:9].
In three different places in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul names the gifts of healing:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge…
To another faith…to another the gifts of healing…
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
[1 Corinthians 12:8-10]
In that list of nine he names the gifts of healing [1 Corinthians 12:9]. When I turn the page, in the twenty-eighth verse, in another list, “God hath set some in the church apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles,” then, “gifts of healings” [1 Corinthians 12: 28].
Then in the thirtieth verse he mentions it again, “Have all the gifts of healing?” [1 Corinthians 12:30]. Three times they are named here and always in an identical Greek phrase: charismata iamaton. And both words are plural: “gifts of healings,” plural—charismata, a charismatic gift, a grace gift from God of healings, plural because there are different kinds of diseases and different kinds of healings. One can be sick in his body, one can also be sick in his mind, and one can yet be sick in his soul. So there are gifts, plural, charismata; grace gifts of healings, plural, iamaton, healings.
When we come to speak of a subject like this, we are touching every life, every family, every home. All of us live in a world of illness, and infirmity, and age, and death. In my beginning ministry as a teenager as the pastor of a little country church, my remembrance of the first appeal made to me was from one of the finest men, a godly deacon and his wife. Their little two year old, flaxen haired, baby daughter had diphtheria. And when I began to preach if one had a severe case of pneumonia it almost always meant death. If one had typhoid fever or scarlet fever, or if one had diphtheria, it almost always meant death. There were no antibiotics known in that day. And this little child had diphtheria. And the deacon and his wife said to me, so very young a pastor, “O dear pastor, get on your knees and tell God we will do anything if God will save our little girl. We will give Him ourselves. We will give Him all that we have, everything, if God will but save our little girl.” And those appeals have never ceased through the years of my ministry.
This last week the wife of an illustrious pastor of the First Baptist Church of a city in Louisiana wrote me this letter:
Dear Dr. Criswell, I’d like to give you a tremendous challenge to your faith in Jesus Christ. My husband is sick here in a Shreveport hospital. There are no medical answers and the time is urgent. You have great faith and have seen physical and spiritual miracles. If you believe,
and then she cites these Scriptures and many more:
as I know you do, please pray in Jesus name for my husband’s healing. We are not expecting this healing because he is a preacher. My husband would say that he is the least of God’s children. But we trust God for a miracle because of His love, mercy, power, and willingness to heal. Thank you for praying. I know you’re so busy, but I’d like to hear from you. Any promise that you claim for his healing will be helpful; or any suggestion on prayer. We want God to get glory to His name.
It is right, and it is correct, and it is spiritually and scripturally appropriate that we take these appeals for life and for healing unto God, for it is only God who can heal [Deuteronomy 32:39].
Do you believe in divine healing? There is no other kind. The surgeon can cut, or saw, or sew and the physician can diagnose and prescribe, but only God can heal. And for us to take our sicknesses and our infirmities to God in supplication and in prayer is right and scripturally correct. One of the most beautiful presentations of the character of the Person of the Godhead is that His name is “I am the Lord that healeth thee” [Exodus 15:26]. It is interesting to see that all three Persons of the Godhead are presented as healers, great physicians.
In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, in the story of the bitterness of the people of Israel at Marah where they had nothing but poisoned water to drink [Exodus 15:23-24], the Lord said to Moses, “Take a tree,” a picture of the cross, “take a tree and cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet [Exodus 15:25]. And as the Lord spake to the people, He said,” and this closes the story, “For I am Jehovah Rapha, I am the Lord that healeth thee” [Exodus 15:26].
That same picture of a great physician is presented of the second Person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus;
When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed…and He cast out the evil spirits…and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he speaks of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, like this, “For if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” [Romans 8: 11]. He did not say the Spirit will also quicken your dead bodies. But “the Spirit will quicken your mortal bodies”; these bodies in which God’s Holy Spirit dwells [Romans 8:11].
It is right for us to appeal to God for healing. I haven’t time to enumerate the stories of the prayers of the saints who have searched the mind of God for healing and have been answered from heaven. Abraham prayed for Abimelech; and God healed him [Genesis 20: 17]. Moses prayed for his sister Miriam, who became leprous, and God healed her [Numbers 12:10-15]. One of the most dramatic of all of the stories in the Bible is in the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah when God sent the prophet to King Hezekiah to say to him, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” [Isaiah 38:1]. And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and wept, and prayed [Isaiah 38:2]. And God turned Isaiah back and sent him to Hezekiah with these words, “Thus saith the Lord, I have seen thy tears, and I have heard thy prayers; and I will add to thy life fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:4-5].
Nor have I time to recount the appeals that were made to our blessed Savior and He answered them, every one. He cleansed the leper [Matthew 8:2-3, Mark 1:40-41]. He opened the eyes of the blind [John 9:1-7, 32]. He unstopped deaf ears [Matthew 11:5, Mark 7:32-35]. He healed the sick as they made appeal unto Him [Matthew 4:23-24, 12:15, Luke 6:19]. It is right. It is correct. It is scripturally apropos for us to take to God our infirmities and our sicknesses.
Last month, the men of the church had their annual sports awards banquet, and we had a great company of our youngsters there. They invited the strongest man in the world to be the speaker for the hour. At the World Olympics, he was acclaimed the strongest man in the world. And as I watched him I could well believe it. Through two inches of solid board he took a nail and with his bare hand he thrust that nail through those two solid inches of board. If I hadn’t been there to see that I would have said to the man who told me about it, “You are out of your mind.” I don’t see such a thing done, but he did it! And that fellow got underneath a table—and I don’t know how many people were on that table, I would say forty if I could count Tiny Goss for ten or fifteen, he was on that table—and that man lifted that table up.
Strongest man in the world, and do you know how he began his testimony to those youngsters? He said, “When I was four years old I was given up to die. I had what the doctors said was a terminal illness.” And in those days—and those days included the days of my beginning ministry—when there was a death in the family they brought the casket to the home and the neighbors and friends came to weep with the sorrowing family. They made arrangements in the home to bring the casket in which that four year old boy would lie in death. And that strongest man said, “My godly grandfather went to his pastor and laid upon the heart of the pastor that he pray for my life and my recovery.” And that man said that in answer to the prayer of the pastor, he was healed immediately and was well the next day. That’s how he began his testimony. That is right and that is scripturally correct. It is right for us to take our sicknesses and our infirmities to God and believe that God can heal us.
But, but when we turn to the gifts of healing and to professional divine healers who purport to posses those gifts, those charismata of healing, you enter an all together different world. These sermons are all built upon one another in the series, and last Sunday’s sermon was on the gift of miracles [1 Corinthians 12:10, 28]. There is a vast difference between God’s miracles and one who possesses the gift of miracles. God works miracles. He is a miracle working God. One of the signs inevitably and always of God’s presence is miracle.
But for a man to have the gift of miracles is in another world. God heals. God healed yesterday. God heals today. God is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that heals us [Exodus 15:26]. But for a man to have the gift of healings is something altogether different. For the gift of healings is a sign gift. It’s a miracle gift [1 Corinthians 12:9, 28]. It’s a wonder gift. And the semeion, the sign, and the teras, the wonder, and the dunamis, the power, the miracle are signs of authentication, and of corroboration, and of substantiation. And in the days when there was no Bible New Testament, and when we had no written Word to which we could appeal, men were accredited by God as the emissaries from heaven with a divine message by the sign by which God set them apart.
For example, the Lord Jesus in the Pentecostal sermon in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter says, “You men of Israel, hear Jesus of Nazareth, a Man appointed, approved, designated of God by miracles and wonders and signs” [Acts 2:22]. The gift of miracles, of healings was upon the Lord God Christ. It was a sign of His messiahship. They were credentials of His deity [Acts 2:22]. It is no less the same with the apostles. Before the Bible New Testament was written, God gave the gift of signs, the gift of miracles, of healings to the apostles: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants,” these apostles praying, “that with all boldness we may speak by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy Child Jesus” [Acts 4:29-30]. The miracle of signs and wonders was a designation and authentication that this man, this apostle is an emissary from heaven with God’s message [John 3:2].
When I turn the page, I read from the pen of the apostle Paul as he writes to the church at Corinth:
In nothing am I behind the chiefest apostles, though I am nothing.
Truly the signs of an apostle were among you, wrought among you by me in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
[2 Corinthians 12:11-12]
Dunameis, miracles; the sign of an apostle. There was no New Testament. There was no authority to whom to appeal. There was no word from God about what the church should do, except as God spake that word through an emissary from the courts of heaven, and God gave credentials to that emissary. God corroborated the work of that emissary by the sign, the gift of miracles, the gift of healings [1Corinthians 12:9-10; 12:28].
You find that same presentation in the Book of Hebrews, written by a man who belonged to a second generation. He had not seen those signs. He had not seen those wonders. He had not seen those miracles. He was a second generation Christian. And he wrote of that great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [Hebrews 2:3]. He was a second generation. “That message of Christ was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” [Hebrews 2:3-4]. The gift of miracles and the gift of healings is a sign gift from God that these men and these speakers are the emissaries of heaven. They have—and this is their confirmation—the authority to speak and to do for God.
When the office passed away, the sign passed away. When the New Testament was written, we did not appeal to a man anymore. We appeal to the living, God-breathed, inspired Word of the Almighty [2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21]. Consequently, the sign is not needed, and it passed away. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua you read while the children of Israel were in the wilderness they ate manna from heaven. But when they came into the land of Canaan and ate the corn of the land, the manna ceased [Joshua 5:11-12]. It was no longer needed. So it is with the sign, with the gift. These gifts were upon those people to corroborate, and authenticate, and substantiate in the day when they had no Bible New Testament. No way to go by but for God to authenticate the message. Then, when the message was delivered and the apostles had written it down, there was no longer any need for the sign, and it passed away. The gift ceased. It had served its purpose [1 Corinthians 13:10].
But oh, what we enter in today in the proliferation of these who are purporting to be divine healers with the gifts of healing! I copied this article this week. The article makes the assertion that in Britain alone the number of spirit healers belonging to the National Federation of Spirit Healers is in the region of four thousand. And the number of people who claim to be spirit healers is increasing all over the world. Hundreds of thousands claim to have been cured by them.
In the lengthy article the case is told of a healer who all his life has been guided by a voice. He claims this healing power has come from God. He smokes cigars. He does not go to church. He believes that God does not need the trappings of any religion, and he goes down to the pub—that’s the English word for the drinking bar—he goes down to the pub after a day’s work. Yet the reported healings from him are numerous and remarkable. And I can understand that. Eighty-five percent of all of the sick in the world will get well anyway. And when he heals them, he’s got fifteen percent to account for and he says, “Well they didn’t have the faith.” It’s a sure fire thing. You can’t miss. I could have the thing myself on any street corner and eighty-five percent of the people I purported to heal would get well. And the fifteen percent that didn’t, I could say, “Well, you just don’t have the faith.” You couldn’t miss. It is the surest fire racket in this earth. There’s none like it, none like it.
Here’s a letter I received yesterday:
Send now a small apron to be prayed over by the party. The apron that you send to be prayed over will be returned to you. Be sure to enclose a properly stamped envelope addressed back to you. Send a photo picture or snapshot of yourself, or of anyone who is in need of prayer. We will lay hands upon these pictures and ask God to meet every need. Your generous gifts and faithful pledges are needed. Read God’s Bible promises for your healing as you pay your vows to the Lord. Surely every Bible believing Christian can vow to give a hundred dollars, some can give a thousand. I will be looking for your letter—
And in parenthesis I’d add, “and for your money”—
Yours in God’s miracle revival…
I have felt ever since I was first introduced to such a thing that if there were such a thing as gifts of divine healing, the last thing in the world that ought to be done with it is to prostitute it for money. To feed upon the miseries, and the agonies, and the tragedies, and sorrows of human illness is of all things to me most despicable, and unnamable, and impossible. To use it for money, to say, “I have the gifts of healing,” and then prostitute it for money; Jesus never did that. Paul never did that. No man of God could ever find it in his soul to enrich himself by a heavenly gift preying on human misery.
We must go on. I haven’t time to speak of all these things. Now you must bear in mind, and I’m going to repeat it, there is a great difference between the miracles that God works always and the gift of miracles. There is a great difference between healing, God’s healing, and the gifts of healing. God heals and God works miracles, but the gift of healing is in an all together different category.
Now in the time that remains I want to say some things about you, you who are sick. There are a great many of you. There are literally thousands of you who in hospitals—in all this area of North Texas, for this service is fed through cables to all these little cities like Tyler and Greenville, all around—there are literally thousands of you who are sick, either at home or in the hospital, who are listening and watching this service. I want to say some things to you that the purported divine healer avows. But they bring sorrow and agony to your heart.
One: they avow that it is the will of God that no one ever be sick. They avow that all sickness is to be healed and that it is God’s will that you be well. So listening to that avowal, it is God’s will that none ever be sick but that all of the sick be well. But you are sick. Why are you sick when God wills that all be made well and that we never be sick? Yet you are sick; why? The answer is found in the false doctrine. It is not true. It is not so.
In the Bible, 1 Timothy 5:23: “Drink no longer water,” Paul writes to his son in the ministry, Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, “but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” Alcohol is so vital in the practice of medicine. I suppose it would be almost impossible to practice medicine without the use of alcohol in some way. It’s a sterilizer. It’s a solution for the carrying of medicines. It’s used in a thousand ways. And Timothy was such a teetotaler that even though he was sick, he wouldn’t touch the stuff.
Like B. H. Carroll, like my father, like other people by the multitudes; they’d just die before they would take anything that pertained to liquor. And Paul says, “That is not right, Timothy. That is not correct. To use alcohol for medicinal purposes is altogether in order. So you pull away from that drinking water alone. Use a little medicinal alcohol for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23]. This is God’s pastor, Timothy at Ephesus, who is sick. And he is sick, and he is sick, and he is sick; often he is sick. Yet God is supposed never to allow illness among God’s people.
I turn over the page. This is Paul’s last letter to Timothy. In the fourth chapter, in the twentieth verse, “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick” [2 Timothy 4:20]. Why didn’t Paul heal him? Even the apostles had not the gifts of healing indiscriminately. Those gifts were sovereignly bestowed by the Holy Spirit. And a man is healed only in that miraculous way in the elective choice and purpose of God. And the apostle could not heal by choice. He did not have the gift to use indiscriminately. The miraculous intervention from heaven was for the purpose of signing, of authentication, of corroboration. And when Paul left Ephesus, he left Trophimus sick! [2 Timothy 4:20].
We must hasten. Second thing: they say that Jesus healed all of the sick. My friend, Jesus no more healed all the sick than He raised all the dead. Now He raised some among the dead. Three we are described: the widow’s son of Nain [Luke 7:14-15]; the daughter of Jairus [Luke 8:41-42, 51-55], Lazarus [John 11:43-44]. And He must have raised others, but they were few compared to the cemeteries and the cities of the saints. There were uncounted multitudes who were ill. And when Jesus entered into a city or a village, time and again you will read in the Bible, “And they brought unto Him those that were ill and He healed them all” [Matthew 4:24, 12:15, Luke 4:40], that’s right.
But oh, my brother, that is not all there is to the story! I choose just one incident: when Jesus came to the pool of Bethesda. On the porches of Bethesda there lay a multitude—and the Bible used the word “multitude”—there lay a multitude of impotent people, sick people waiting for the moving of the water [John 5:2-3]. For whoever first went into the moving of the water was healed [John 5:4]. And every one of those who were there on the porches of Bethesda believed in divine healing and were waiting for the heavenly miracle [John 5:2-4].
And in that multitude on the porches of Bethesda, the Lord healed how many? He healed one. He healed one [John 5:5-9]. And He walked away and left all of the rest who were yet ill. The Lord healed. It was a sign. It was an authentication. It was a credential of His deity and His messiahship. And the Lord healed because of His compassion; touched with the feeling of our infirmities, of our sicknesses [Hebrews 4:14-16]. But it is not true that the Lord healed all of the sick.
Third: and they say, that the atonement of Christ not only included our sins but the atonement of Christ also included our sicknesses and our infirmities [Hebrews 4:15-16]. Yet you who listen to me who are sick, yet you are Christians. You have been saved. You have been born again [John 3:3,7]. And if the atonement carries away not only our sins but our sicknesses, then why are you, a Christian, why are you sick? It is true that doctrinal statement that they make: The atonement takes away all of the curse by which Satan brought death, and woe, and disease into this earth. Disease is a repercussion from the presence of sin [Romans 5:12]. And the atonement is universal. It applies to the creation. This whole universe will be recreated [Revelation 21:1-5]. It applies to our spirits. We shall be regenerated and new people [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It applies to our bodies. We shall have new bodies [1 Corinthians 15:44]. The atonement is universal, and efficacious, and powerful to the remaking of all that Satan has destroyed. But, but, we do not see as yet the full fruit and results of the atoning grace of the Son of God. It is not yet seen.
For example, the earth is still cursed [Genesis 3:17-18]. There are deserts and waste places in it. For example, the woman still groans and travails in childbirth [Genesis 3:16]. For example, the man still has to live by the sweat of his brow [Genesis 3:19], by toil and work. For example, our bodies still grow old and age and die. And for example, the drag of sin is still with us, and the illnesses, and the infirmities to which we are subject. It is true that Christ has forgiven our sins, and the Spirit has regenerated our souls [Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13].
But the full gift, and result, and riches of the atonement of Christ is not yet possessed by us. We still sin. As the seventh chapter of Romans says, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” [Romans 7:24] And we shall not be wholly possessed and redeemed until God shall raise from the graves these bodies that decay and turn back into the dust of the ground [1 Thessalonians 4: 14-17].
Fourth: and last, and we must hasten. And they say, and they say that our illness and our infirmity is a sign of our disobedience to God. And that if we get right with God, we will not be sick or infirm anymore. This week from a tract, I cut out this pericope, “I don’t care how many times you have been prayed for; it is God’s will that you have a well body. Friend of mine, will you obey God? When you make up your mind to obey God, you will be healed.” This tract—fifty cents for one hundred; two dollars for five hundred; three dollars for one thousand—“When you make up your mind to obey God, you will be healed. And you are sick because,” they avow, “you are disobedient to God. And if you will get right with God and if you will obey God, you will be healed.” But you are sick. And that would bring to your heart and all of our hearts an agonizing search, “O God, what have I done? What have I done? What have I done?”
Let us turn to the immutable and inspired Word. Is that right? Is that correct? Our sins are seen in our sicknesses. And our infirmities and illnesses are due to our disobedience to God and our transgressions. Is that right? I turn first to Job. It was God Himself who said, “That is the best man in the whole earth” [Job 1:8, 2:3]. And when Satan afflicted Job, he sat in an ash heap [Job 2:8] and was comforted when the dogs came and licked his sores [Lazarus, Luke 16:21]. That reminds me of the twenty-first chapter of the Book of John; when God, Jesus, said to Simon Peter, “You shall die by the outstretched hands,” that is he should die by crucifixion, “and this spake the Lord saying by what death he should glorify God” [John 21:18-19]. Simon Peter should suffer and die the most agonizing death in the world to glorify God. And Job was like that. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. And when finally he was stricken with boils from the top of his head to the sole of his feet and he sat in an ash heap [Job 2:7-8], he cried, “Though the Lord slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. His comforters said he was a vile sinner [Job 4:7-9, 8:20, 11:14-15, 22:4]. That’s why he suffered. That’s what these men say. But God didn’t say that. God said, “He is the best man in the whole world” [Job 1:8, 2:3].
I turn in the Book of Daniel, verse 27, chapter 8, when Daniel saw those visions. “And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days” [Daniel 8:27]. The abundance of the revelation was too much for him and his physical frame could not bear the glory. And he fainted and was sick because he was a vile sinner? I turn the page. In the ninth chapter of the Book of John:
And as they passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
And Jesus replied, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
I turn the page. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, “And when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, for the glory of God” [John 11:4]. I turn the page to Epaphroditus. As Paul writes the Philippian letter, Epaphroditus was from Philippi. And the people at Philippi were distressed because they heard that Epaphroditus was so sick, so sick [Philippians 2:26]. And Paul describes why he was sick: “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” [Philippians 2:30]. Philippi was so far away in Macedonia, and Rome was on a peninsula across the sea. And the people of Philippi could not help Paul. So Epaphroditus gave himself so to the work of God that he became ill and almost died [Philippians 2:3].
Let’s take a moment for one other: “And because of the abundance of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” [2 Corinthians 12:7]. Says “a thorn in the flesh,” but I agree with them, that could mean anything. Anything could be figuratively a thorn in the flesh. But when Paul describes it, you listen to him:
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
But God said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, in my sicknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in sicknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in distresses…for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:8-10]
Because he was vile? Because he was disobedient to God?
Sometimes illness is due to that. A man has syphilis, or a child is born blind because of the derelictions of her mother, or a drunkard’s son is in the depths of squalor as he grows up as a child; I can understand that. But to avow that the illnesses of God’s saints is due to their disobedience, and if they’d get right with God their illnesses would be healed, is not, it is not in anywise a reflection of the elective, sovereign choice and purpose of God for our lives. And sometimes illnesses come, and infirmities come, and sorrows come, and necessities come, in order that in them we might glorify God. Spare me one minute more and I’ll stop.
When I come to see you, when I come to see you and you are well, and affluent, and prosperous, and everything’s going your way, when I come to see you and you are happy, and glad, and you’re singing songs, my brother, an infidel could sing songs like that. I want to come to see you when the baby is sick and dies. I want to come to see you when distresses and sorrows multiply and crush your heart in the dust of the ground. I want to knock at your door in the dark and evil day. And then let’s see if you can sing songs in the night. That glorifies God. Anybody can be happy, and glad, and sing when the whole world goes their way. But it takes a Christian, it takes a child of God to say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord [Job 1:21]. And though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. It takes a Christian to say with the apostle Paul, “I therefore glory in my infirmities, and in my sicknesses, and in my sorrows; for when I am weak, then am I strong [2 Corinthians 12:10], for God says, My strength is made perfect in your weakness” [2 Corinthians 12:9].
This is the message of God’s Book concerning our sicknesses. They have a purpose in the elective sovereign choice of God. And to receive them from His hands is to be in all things blessed in the faith. Why, my brother if heaven is a place where there are no more tears, what would it be like to be in heaven if you’d never cried? If heaven is a place where there’s no more pain, what would it mean to somebody who had never agonized? If heaven is a place where there are no more death, what would it be to somebody who’d never stood by an open grave and saw one that you loved like life itself laid beneath the sod? That’s God.
Now we shall pick it up there next Sunday morning, and deliver the second part of the message. Now Lee Roy, let us sing our song of appeal. And while we sing our invitation hymn, somebody you, give yourself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. Come. “Pastor, today I take the Lord as my Savior and here I am [Ephesians 2:8-10]. Here I come. I open my heart to the blessed Jesus.” A couple you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a family you, to come, I cannot say the word. As the Spirit of the Lord shall make appeal to your heart, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. In the balcony round, you on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am pastor, I make it now.” Do it. Do it while we stand and while we sing.
GIFTS OF HEALING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28, 30
A. Three places in twelfth chapter Paul names the gifts of healing
B. Charismata iamaton – plural, “gifts of healings”
C. Discussion touches every life, family, homeII. Observations
A. It is right, correct and spiritually appropriate that we turn to God for healing
1. All healing is divine healing
2. We have scriptural right to look to God for healing(Exodus 15:26, Matthew 8:2-3, 16-17, Romans 8:2, 10-11, Genesis 20:7, Numbers 12:14, Isaiah 38:5)
3. Testimony of healing from Paul Anderson
B. Professional divine healers with this “gifts of healing” are something else
1. A distinction between miracles of God and “the gift of miracles”
2. The gift a sign gift to corroborate, authenticate, before Bible written(Acts 2:22, 4:29-30, 2 Corinthians 12:11-12, Hebrews 2:4)
a. Not necessary when office of apostle passed away(Joshua 5:11-12)
3. Modern increase of professional divine healers phenomenal
A. That God wills that we never be sick
1. Timothy, Trophimus(1 Timothy 5:23-24, 2 Timothy 4:20)
2. Apostles did not have gifts of healing indiscriminately
B. That Christ healed all who were sick
1. True, repeated occasions when the Lord “healed all” – but that’s not the whole story(Matthew 9:35, 10:1, 12:14, 14:14, 27:52-53, Luke 5:15-16, 6:17-19, John 5:1-9)
C. That the atonement of Christ included also all our illnesses
1. True that since disease entered by sin, its true remedy must be found in redemptive work of Christ
a. All the benefits of atonement not immediately realized(Romans 7:24)
D. That illness is a sign of disobedience to God
1. Scripture says otherwise(Job 1:8, 21, 13:15, John 9:1-3,11:4,21:19, Daniel 8:26-27, Philippians 2:27-30, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
2. Our illnesses have a purpose in the elective sovereign choice of God