Monday, October 15, 2012

The First Healing in the Bible

NOTE:  An updated version of this post is available on my new website.  It is located here:

When studying the bible, you can find some great truths if you examine the passages where a subject is first mentioned.  That concept is the basis for this article.  We are going to look at the first time divine healing is mentioned in the bible  It is found in Genesis chapter 20.  Here's a link to it on YouVersion.

Here is a brief summary of the story, along with a little background.

  • Abraham is married to Sarah.
  • Sarah is a very attractive woman.
  • Abraham is afraid of someone harming him in order to take his wife.
  • On several occasions, he asks Sarah to lie and say she is his sister.  

In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah journey to a city named Gerar.  The king of this city is named Abimilech.  Abimilech finds out about Sarah somehow, and he takes her to be in his harem.

Before Abimilech is able to have relations with Sarah, God warns him in a dream that she is Abraham's wife.  God makes it clear that it is in Abimilech's best interest to return her to her husband Abraham, because some bad stuff is going to happen if he doesn't.  In fact, he's going to die, and the women in his land are no longer able to have children

So, Abimilech returns Sarah to Abraham.  Then Abraham prays for healing for Abimilech and everybody else, and God heals them all.

That's it for the summary.  At first glance, it is a strange story that does not go the way most of think it should go.  I want to identify some principles based on this story that carry on throughout the bible and on into the present day.

1 - God works through flawed people.

Abraham is the one at fault here...he lied and caused this whole problem.  Yet, Abraham is the first person that God works through to demonstrate healing power.  This shows us that our ability to avoid sin is not a factor is whether or not we get to operate in divine healing.  Sin does not stop God's power.  God is bigger than our sin.

Sin is bad, don't get me wrong.  But, don't fall for the temptation to think that God won't use you because you aren't good enough.  Divine healing is based on God's divine goodness, not your human goodness.   This is huge, and it is the main point I want to get across in this article. Don't just read past this fact.  Let it take root.  God works through flawed people because that's all He has to choose from.

2 - The person that is ministering healing may be in need of a miracle as well.

At this time, Abraham and Sarah were childless.  They were not able to have children.  But, part of the healing that God ministered in this story was restoring the ability of the women in Gerar to conceive.

If you are fighting some kind of physical condition, don't let that be a roadblock that keeps you from stepping out in faith and ministering to others.  100% perfect health is not a prerequisite to be used in divine healing.  Don't disqualify yourself, and don't disqualify others, just because you (or they) are currently in a struggle with a sickness.

3 - Although the healing may be instant, the physical evidence may show up later.

Part of the healing that took place in this story was the restoration of the ability of the women to conceive.  Because of the nature of the healing, it would be a while before they could tell for sure what happened.  They were totally healed immediately, but they would have no physical evidence until they became pregnant.

Sometimes an action is required on the part of the "patient" in order to fully demonstrate the complete healing.  In this case, each woman would have to have relations with her husband, and then some time would have to pass before they would have some kind of physical proof that the healing was real.

4 - God does things differently than we do.  

I think most of us would expect some kind of punishment for Abraham.  It seems like the wrong guy is getting in trouble (Abimilech).  Now, he is not innocent either, according to our modern moral standards, but it seems like Abraham's dishonesty is the the real cause of all the trouble.  If he would have been truthful, then maybe this whole situation could have been avoided.

But, if you go back a few years in Abraham's history, back to Genesis 12, you will find that God made a promise to him.  God said "I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you."  God is simply keeping His promise here.  This promise wasn't conditional on Abraham's moral behavior.  It was based on the fact that Abraham believed what God said.

This is much like the promise we have from God.  If we will believe the gospel of Jesus, then He will not count any of our sins against us (past, present, or future), He will adopt us into His own family, give us eternal life, and make us a co-heir with Jesus.  And just like the promise to Abraham, this is not dependent on our ability or inability to keep a code of ethics.  It is dependent on whether or not we believe what God said about His Son.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Foolish Galatians

Galatians 3:1-5
1 - O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
2 - This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 - Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
4 - Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 - Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians is a letter that was written to some people that had become Christians as a result of Paul's preaching in their town.  When Paul first came to these people, he told them the good news about Jesus.  Jesus had paid the price for their sins, and now God was offering eternal life to them.  They believed the message, accepted the offer, and were born into God's family and kingdom.

From the context of the entire letter, it is apparent that they also had seen some demonstrations of the supernatural power of God.  And not only had they seen God's power in operation, they were beginning to operate in this power themselves.

At some point, Paul moved on to the next town and some religious leaders came in here behind him and started trying to put additional requirements on these people.  These new believers were being told that they had to keep the rules and regulations of Judaism (a.k.a "works of the law") in order to be in right standing with God.

When Paul found out about this, he wrote this letter that we call "Galatians."  In this letter, he is very upset, and uses some very strong  language.  He is urging these new believers to reject this false teaching.

We get great benefit from being able to read this letter, because there are some very powerful truths contained in the arguments that Paul set forth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

1 - A person's entry into God's kingdom has nothing to do with any religious activities.

These people simply believed the message Paul brought to them.  That's it.  They weren't keeping the Sabbath, going to church, praying, paying tithes, reading the bible, or anything like that.  They didn't even have a bible because there weren't any bibles yet.  There weren't even any churches there yet.  They probably didn't even know about most of that stuff.  They just believed what Paul said about Jesus.  God was extending peace to these people through an offer that is almost too good to be true.  If they would believe this message about Jesus, God would adopt them as sons and welcome them into His eternal kingdom.

2 - Operating in the power of God is not enhanced by keeping religious rules or traditions.  In fact, it can be hindered by that stuff.

God works through people that exercise faith...people that take Him at His word.  He doesn't require us to be perfect in our behavior and obedience as a prerequisite   Jesus already took care of all prerequisites on our behalf.  We just need to believe it.  Check it out...

2 Corinthians 5:21
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him 

You see, Jesus has already made amends for all of our failures and shortcomings.  Our failure to meet the standards has already been dealt with once for all time.  So, we are no longer viewed by God as sinners who are trying to get better.  We are viewed by Him in the same way He views Jesus....totally righteous.

With that in mind, take a fresh look at this phrase again from Galatians chapter 3, verse 5. It is a very amazing statement:

He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

God supplies the Spirit to us and works miracles among us as we act in faith.  This is not limited by a person's maturity level, nor is it limited by a person's ability to avoid sin.  It is limited by unbelief.  As far as I have been able to understand, the only thing that can limit God operating in power through us is unbelief.

Unbelief comes in many forms.  Here are a few of the most powerful ways that we can be drawn into unbelief.

1 - Trying to work to earn the right or privilege to operate in the power of God is actually a form of unbelief.  The very act of trying to earn it shows that you don't believe it is freely given.  Ouch.

2 - Trusting in human religious tradition rather than in God is also a form of unbelief.  Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
  • If you are part of an organization that believes that miracles were only for the days of the original apostles, then you will will be tempted to agree with that, and you can find yourself in unbelief towards the power of God working in you or in others today.  
  • If you believe that miracles are done through the pastor or the priest or any other title, but not through those without a religious title, then you will also be in unbelief towards the power of God working through you.  
  • If you believe God doesn't heal people that have sin in their life, then you will be in unbelief towards the "gifts" of healings.  You will disqualify people based on their addictions, habits, behaviors, sexual preferences, and etc.  You will be trusting in man's ability to perform rather than God's grace to give freely to those in need, and draw them to Himself through His love and kindness.  That is unbelief.
Our main enemy, most of the time, is not the devil, and it is not sin.  It is unbelief.  As Jesus said, all things are possible to him to believes.  We need to believe, and let this foolishness loosen its grip on us.