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The Gift of (Supernatural) Healing Along With Medical Help (Acts 28)

November 27, 2013 4 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of Paul” series, an interesting observation regarding the events on Malta in Acts 28:

Verses 8 and 9 describe two sets of healing.  In the first case, Paul laid his hands on Publius’ father and healed him – an apostolic sign, miraculous healing.  The next sentence describes how “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.”  Dr. Johnson here notes that the Greek words used for healing differ: the first word simply means “to heal” with no particular connotations, thus something supernatural.  But the word in verse 9 is different: therapeuo, from which comes our English words therapy and therapeutic:  healing through the use of medicine.  We also consider who was there:  Paul the apostle, and also Luke the physician.

As S. Lewis Johnson notes, we cannot be absolutely certain, but this text gives at least a “strong possibility” of an instance where the “gift of healing” was used alongside ordinary means of medical help.  Even during the apostolic age, and with the apostle Paul present (though later in his ministry), God still used the natural means of healing as He continues to use the ordinary means of accomplishing His purposes.

There are people who have, unfortunately, thought that the Scriptures taught that they must depend only on supernatural means for healing.  But there seems to be evidence here, not only that the apostles did perform supernatural acts of healing, but that it was perfectly harmonious for medical attention to be given, when available, and when it might be useful.  In fact Paul wrote to Timothy, you know, and said, “Take a little wine for your often infirmity’s sake.”

When Was the Apostle Paul Converted? (The Three Components of Faith)

November 22, 2013 3 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s series through the life of the apostle Paul, comes the question “when was Paul converted? On the Damascus Road, or in Damascus?”

Faith includes three components:  knowledge, assent to that knowledge, and personal trust.  Notitia asensus, fiducia are the three latin terms used by theologians to describe this.

Paul’s conversion can be considered as similar to the question of when other biblical people were saved:  was Abraham saved when he was called out to follow the Lord to another land, or was he saved later, when the Lord took him out and showed him the stars – that “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

The chances are the salvation of Abraham and the salvation of Paul has some similarity, and also possibly are similar to our own experience.  That is sometimes salvation takes place outwardly in stages, in the sense that the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit leads us on to a climatic relationship at which salvation occurs.  It’s not easy to answer this question.

As to Paul’s specific conversion experience:

I am inclined to think that when the apostle was on the Damascus Road that a certain significant transformation took place in him.  He came to understand there that Jesus of Nazareth was a heavenly being, who could speak to him still as a divine being; and he (Paul) called Him Lord; and no doubt that produced this tremendous revolution within Paul’s thinking, and he had to go back over all that he had been taught from the beginning, and all the things that he had wrongly understood, and now try to put them all together.  Later on he spent some time in Arabia, and possibly that was further straightening out of the vast knowledge that he had of Jewish and Rabbinic things and squaring them with his Christian experience.

Within the three aspects of saving faith, the following is possible concerning Paul’s conversion:

1)      Knowledge – acquired on the Damascus Road, that Jesus is the Lord.

2)      As he later arrived in Damascus and at the house on Straight Street: further assent to the knowledge he had.

3)      Finally, when Ananias speaks to him and explains to him that he too has been the object of the sovereign working of God bringing him to Paul, and that he was the Lord’s messenger to tell Paul certain things about him, and his ministry:  it all came together at this point, and Paul came to personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ – though he had been the object of efficacious grace, which had brought him to this point.

Saving Faith Includes Those Who Believe Because They Do See (John 20:29)

November 19, 2013 3 comments

A recent conversation briefly addressed the question of how, from the post-trib premillennial perspective, the millennial kingdom will be populated with living saints.  The answer includes what the scriptures say related to the Second Advent; many people (having experienced the Great Tribulation and seeing His return at the end), during the time interval between Christ’s return and the establishment of the kingdom, will repent and turn to the Lord.  We see this mentioned in the scriptures in reference to the people of Israel, as for instance Zechariah 12:7-10, that they will see Him and “mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child” plus other indications regarding the Gentiles alive at the Second Coming.

One person considering this answer, responded “how can such people have faith?” when they can see Christ in His glory and vengeance —  surely that would be similar to the people at the Great White Throne judgment seeing Christ in His judgment and their own condemnation.

But consider the following in the details:   one obvious difference is that the people at the Great White Throne have already died, their eternal condition made permanent, and then resurrected — while the people who see Christ at His Return (before the millennial period) are still living.  We can also consider other scriptures, though, regarding the question of people who came to belief after seeing the risen Christ, and here we see several such examples.

“Doubting” Thomas did not believe until he saw the resurrected Christ.  The same was true of all the apostles; the others had seen the Lord the week before, but even they were rebuked by Christ for their hardness in unbelief and refusing to believe what other witnesses had told them. The account of Christ with Thomas includes a special blessing for the rest of us:  “you believe because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Jesus’ human brothers (later children of Joseph and Mary) likewise did not believe until after they saw the resurrected Christ.

The Apostle Paul is an even clearer case: one who was actively working against the Lord and persecuting His saints, who yet believed on the Lord Jesus when he saw Him on the Damascus Road.

The point here is that saving faith is not restricted to only those people who believe without having seen (though that is how most people, including every believer since the generation that experience the First Coming, has experienced it).  The early Old Testament believers (those who saw the ‘Angel of the Lord’ the pre-incarnate Christ)  in Old Testament times, as well as those who saw the Risen, Glorified Christ before they believed, did come to believe at a point in their lives, with the added experience of actually seeing Him.  We have an extra blessing given to us, as those who have not seen and yet believe.  But God has also brought into the one people of God some who did see and believe – and He will again do so at His Second Coming.

The Four Living Creatures in Ezekiel and Revelation (B.W. Newton observations)

November 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Benjamin Wills Newton, in “Thoughts on the Apocalypse,” (Works of Benjamin Wills Newton, volume 14) provides some interesting thoughts concerning the Cherubim mentioned in Ezekiel and again in Revelation.

The cherubim, or “living creatures,” in Revelation 4 symbolize one aspect of the redeemed:  the power “which the Church is to exercise in the hour of its glory.”  Newton notes that the cherubim join in with the elders (Revelation 5:8-10) in saying “Thou hast redeemed US unto God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Note: some translations use the third person ‘people’ instead. Yet their golden bowls are also said to be the prayers of the saints.)  The cherubim, as with the 24 elders, also act as priests in intercessory prayers.  We may find some difficulty, perhaps, in attaching symbols so different as those of the elders and of the cherubim to the same body — the Church: but it is a difficulty necessarily consequent on the blessed truth, that the Church is “the fulness of him who filleth all in all.”

Why the Four Living Creatures in Ezekiel are with the wheels (But no wheels in the Revelation vision)

What can be more significant of the resistless course of almighty power? These terrible wheels, combining the movements of four, without losing the unity of one — each one advancing swift as the lightning, in its straightforward course, not to be resisted by any strength or checked by any impediment — each going upon its sides and yet none revolving — moving at once northward and south ward and eastward and westward, and yet being but as one wheel — nowhere absent but everywhere present in the perfectness of undivided action, afford the mysterious, but fitting, symbol of the omnipotent agency of the power of Him before whom “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say unto him, ‘What doest thou?'”

In the Revelation, however, the cherubim are not, as in Ezekiel, acting in the earth. In Ezekiel, they were seen below the firmament of crystal; but in the Revelation they are withdrawn from the earth into the presence of the throne, within the sea of crystal; and this, because of Israel’s sin. “I will go and retire into my place, till they acknowledge their offence.”

But the deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, the deliverance of Elisha when multitudes of unseen hosts surrounded him, the destruction of Sennacherib, and many other like interventions of the omnipotence of God, are proofs of what this power was able to effect, and what it once did effect, on behalf of Israel and Jerusalem. But the vision of this power was shown to Ezekiel, only that he might bear witness to its withdrawal. He saw it gradually depart, until at last it was hidden in heaven; and accordingly, in the Revelation, we find it there; but no wheels were seen, only cherubim, and they in rest, save only toward God; for their agency in the earth has for the present ceased; nor will it be restored until the order of the millennium begins.

The beasts of prophecy are to be contrasted from the living creatures, as we consider the difference between the government by the Gentile powers and the future government of God:

When the beasts of Daniel were permitted to establish themselves in the earth, and to tread down Jerusalem, that holy and blessed agency represented by the living creatures of Ezekiel and the Revelation was withdrawn from the earth; and as soon as those beasts have fulfilled their course, the “living creatures” will return. One of the great objects of the Revelation is to contrast the condition of the earth whilst under the last great “beast,” with its condition when it shall be again brought under the heavenly agency of the cherubim.

What is ‘the Apostasy’ Mentioned in 2 Thess. 2:3?

November 6, 2013 7 comments

In discussions of futurist eschatology, sometimes questions come up regarding the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, as to what is meant by the term ‘apostasy’:

For that day will not come unless the apostasy (translated ‘rebellion’ in ESV) comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.  (HCSB, note on ESV difference)

At least a few pre-trib teachers have put forth the idea that “the apostasy” (also sometimes translated “the departure”) really means the rapture itself.  More credible, scholarly sources dismiss that idea as eisegesis, something being read into the text.

Among historic (classic) premillennialists, the common view was simply that this is describing general and increasing apostasy:  apostasy both of Israel and the visible church (as also brought out in the reference to religious Babylon in Revelation 17), including with reference to the Roman Catholic church.  Certainly general apostasy of the church is taught in other New Testament passages, as for instance 2 Peter 2 and 1 Timothy 4.  But something else may be intended in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The weakness of the ‘general apostasy’ idea is that Paul is telling of specific events that must precede the Coming of the Lord.  If all that is meant is general apostasy, the Christian church has been experiencing this since the first century, and thus “the apostasy” has no specific prophetic meaning, since every generation of Christendom has observed increasing apostasy and the continuing breakdown of the visible church.  John MacArthur (as in this sermon) correctly recognizes that Paul must be referring to something specific here in this text, something beyond just general increasing apostasy including even the apostasy of the Catholic church.  After considering the problems with the general apostasy view, MacArthur equates the first phrase “the apostasy or rebellion” with the very next clause “and the man of lawlessness is revealed,” so that “the apostasy” is the event connected to the man of lawlessness, the act of his sitting in the temple, when he is revealed.

This interpretation at least recognizes that Paul is talking about something specific here – and yet this view makes the first clause redundant, saying the same thing as the second part; thus, both “the apostasy” and “the man of lawlessness is revealed” refer to the exact same event, spelled out more clearly in the second clause.

Another idea, which makes better sense of a specific apostasy and yet more than what the second part says, was brought out in Marv Rosenthal’s publication several years back (I don’t know if the original source is available online), a synopsis and excerpts of which are included in this blog article.  The “apostasy” or “rebellion” is the “covenant with death” that Israel makes with the antichrist at the beginning of the 70th week.

The word apostasy is used only twice in the entire New Testament; therefore, how it is used becomes exceedingly important.  Dr. Luke used the word apostasy in describing an important occasion in the Book of Acts when the apostle Paul met with the Jewish elders at Jerusalem.

Many Jews had accepted Christ, but they continued to adhere to the Mosaic Law (Acts 21:20).  They wanted to believe in Jesus but within the confines of Old Testament Judaism.  They did not understand the implications of the new covenant instituted by Jesus (Matthew 26:26-29).

Speaking of those recent Jewish believers, the elders in Jerusalem said to Paul, “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake [“forsake” is the translation of apostasia meaning to “fall away” or “utterly abandon”] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs” (Acts 21:21).  Here, then, is one of the only two times the apostasy is used in the Bible.  And it is used in the context of the apostle Paul being repudiated for supposedly asking Jews to totally abandon their Jewish culture, custom, and faith.  Of course, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Rosenthal also looks at an extra-biblical source, I Maccabees, regarding the typical figure Antiochus Epiphanes and the term translated apostasy:

 1 Maccabees 2:15 The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice.

Rosenthal observes here:

This covenant, which many of the Jews entered into with Antiochus Epiphanes, prefigures the covenant which many from among Israel will enter into with the Antichrist in a soon-coming day.  The prophet Daniel spoke of that covenant in this way: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease” (Daniel 9:27).

The circumstances surrounding Antiochus Epiphanes, his defilement of the Temple, and the apostasy of many of the Jewish people are among of the most conspicuous events in Jewish history.  It would, therefore, be appropriate and natural to use the same term (apostasy) concerning the same people (the Jews) regarding an event to occur at the same place (the Temple at Jerusalem) in describing a future day when many of the Jews will totally abandon the God of their fathers and the messianic hope in the same way they did in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, only to embrace a heathen religion and a false messiah.

The full article includes much more detail concerning this whole issue, good reading for anyone interested in reading more about it.

The Priests that Became Obedient to the Faith (S. Lewis Johnson Speculation)

November 1, 2013 2 comments

My recent Bible genre reading has included several references to lepers and leprosy.  In one day’s reading: the ten lepers healed in Luke 17:11-19, Leviticus 14 (the cleansing for the leper); and the four lepers (who were not healed) in Samaria in 2 Kings 7.  This reminds me of a little-noticed statement (also in my recent readings) in Acts 6:7, “and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  In the context (Acts 6), the apostles have performed many great miracles of healing, as recorded for instance in Acts 5:12-16 : Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. … And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

S. Lewis Johnson engaged in a little speculation concerning this point: what was it about the priests, that they became obedient to the faith?  Here we consider the significance of the great miracles that took place in Jesus’ gospel ministry and then continued (“what Jesus began to do and teach”) through the apostles’ ministry in the book of Acts.  Dr. Johnson’s observation here:

How is it, do you think, that the priests are especially singled out for faith?  In the Old Testament, in the Levitical prescriptions, two chapters are devoted to the way in which Israel should take care of the lepers.  Now remember, when the preaching of the gospel is to take place, Isaiah said, lepers are going to be healed.  And then, our Lord Jesus, when He comes on the scene, lepers are healed by Him.  It was a Messianic sign; that is, that He was the Messiah.  He was fulfilling what Isaiah set out in the Old Testament.

Now, it was said in the Old Testament that a certain prescribed ritual was to take place, when a leper was cleansed.  He was to bring a certain kind of offering; I cannot go into detail.  The only thing unusual about it, if you want to look at it in chapter 14 of the Book of Leviticus, it had to do with two birds.  He had to bring this prescribed ritual and there was a prescribed ritual for which the priest was to go; and then, the priest was to pronounce the individual clean who had been cleansed of leprosy.   [Now, remember: For fifteen hundred years before the time of our Lord, no leper, so far as the record is concerned, had been healed in Israel.  Naaman had been healed, but he was a Syrian.  Miriam, back in the earliest days, had leprosy.  No other person had been healed.]  Now, here, the apostles come on the scene, our Lord comes on the scene, and the lepers are being healed.  And so, what do they do?  Well, they go to the priests and they say, ‘We’ve been healed.  Isn’t there something in the Law about a ceremony we are to carry out?’   And the priests say, ‘the professors in our theological seminary didn’t tell us anything about that.’  They didn’t know what to do.  So, they had to do what a young preacher has to do when somebody comes and says, ‘Will you marry us next Wednesday?’  And he’s never married anybody before.  He rushes off and asks an older preacher, ‘What in the world shall I do?  What kind of ceremony can I give?’  And he is feverishly preparing for his marriage ceremony, which he’s never carried out.

So these priests — and in the course of these people who are streaming to the priests — they discover this in the Old Testament.  They discover also that the Messiah was said to be one who would heal leprosy.  And, during the course of these lepers coming to the priests, many of those priests are brought to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They recognize that this is really the Messianic ministry, and so ‘a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.’