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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.”

J.C. Ryle: The Faith of Simeon and Anna

October 6, 2011 Comments off

The words of old Simeon, let us remember, will yet receive a fuller accomplishment. The “light” which he saw by faith, as he held the child Jesus in his arms, shall yet shine so brightly that all the nations of the Gentile world shall see it. The “glory” of that Jesus whom Israel crucified, shall one day be revealed so clearly to the scattered Jews, that they shall look on Him whom they pierced, and repent, and be converted. The day shall come when the veil shall be taken from the heart of Israel, and all shall “glory in the Lord.” (Isaiah. 45:25.) For that day let us wait, and watch, and pray. If Christ be the light and glory of our souls, that day cannot come too soon.

Faith, we shall always find, is the universal character of God’s elect. These men and women here described, dwelling in the midst of a wicked city, walked by faith, and not by sight. They were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets, that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil. For such a Redeemer they waited patiently. For such a victory they earnestly longed.

Let us learn a lesson from these good people. If they, with so few helps and so many discouragements, lived such a life of faith, how much more ought we with a finished Bible and a full Gospel. Let us strive, like them, to walk by faith and look forward. The second advent of Christ is yet to come. The complete “redemption” of this earth from sin, and Satan, and the curse, is yet to take place. Let us declare plainly by our lives and conduct, that for this second advent we look and long. We may be sure that the highest style of Christianity even now, is to “wait for redemption,” and to love the Lord’s appearing. (Rom. 8:23; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

Modified Horner Bible Reading Plan: Recent Bible Readings

July 14, 2010 Comments off

My recent Bible readings, in my modified Horner Bible Reading Plan, have included some interesting passages from Luke, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 2 Samuel, Job, and Ecclesiastes.  Among the readings are these highlights:

Luke 9 shows an interesting contrast:  three incidents (verses 46, 49, and 54) that show the disciples’ increasing attitude of greatness and superiority, all in the same chapter that also includes Jesus predicting, twice (verses 22 and 44), His soon death.

Now that I’m catching up to the readings covered in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series,  I notice several things he pointed out regarding these texts.  Luke 12:16-21, the parable of the rich man storing up treasure for himself, really does fit well with another recent reading, 1 Samuel 25 (link:   my previous blog), and the character Nabal.

2 Samuel 4:10 (a chapter SLJ skipped) provides additional confirmation to the truth of the incident in 2 Samuel 1, for here David tells the two men who killed Ish-Bosheth that the previous man (the Amelekite) was killed because he “thought he was bringing good news” — and “That was the reward I gave him for his news!”  Clearly by this time David knew the truth of the matter, and thus speaks as he does here in chapter 4.

1 Corinthians goes well with some great teaching from J.C. Ryle’s “Practical Religion” (chapter on Love).  1 Corinthians 7:15 ends with the sentence, “God has called us to live in peace” — as Ryle pointed out, this is one of the expressions of love.  Ryle’s discussion of the differences between faith, hope, and love, comes from another recent reading, 1 Corinthians 13:13. (“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”)  Faith is only for us (not God) and will be swallowed up in sight, and hope will change to certainty when we reach our destination, in the presence of God.

Job, Ecclesiastes, and 1-2 Corinthians provide some interesting contrasts.  Ecclesiastes especially has great words of wisdom, yet chapter 1 also expresses the emptiness of wisdom and knowledge by themselves — in agreement with 1 Corinthians 13.  Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 expresses the physical, human perspective of lost man, regarding the fate of man and animal.  But contrast that with the wonderful words of life from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:39, in which he writes about the resurrection, noting that not all flesh is the same but that men have one kind of flesh and animals another.

Job 19:25-26, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;” fits well with 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Paul’s words about how we long to leave our “earthly tent” and be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 is a great verse to keep man in his proper place, to caution those who would try to reconcile scripture according to modern ideas of “science” and claim that the world is billions of years old:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

How true that still is — man cannot discover the matter of creation on his own, apart from God’s special revelation to us.  All we can know about eternity, from creation to the future end of the world, comes from God alone — and all the compromise and accommodation to try to “fit” God’s word to our own ideas is utter foolishness.

Another verse in Ecclesiastes, 10:16, sets forth the general rule regarding nations and their rulers:  “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child.”  S. Lewis Johnson referred to that truth in his exposition of the Davidic covenant in the prophets, pointing out the contrasting exception in Isaiah 9:6-7, the wonderful prophecy about the child to come, a child that shall rule and reign.

Some other great passages to remember and meditate on:
2 Cor. 4:16-17 — “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

and

Ecclesiastes 7:10, 14, and 16-18

Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology

February 12, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been reading through Luke’s Gospel lately, up through chapter 19 today, and have noticed quite a few eschatological references.  At the same time I’ve noticed a few blog postings also in connection with these chapters.

As I read through Luke 17 I noted the commonly cited verse where Jesus says that the kingdom is spiritual and among you.  The verses immediately after this statement talk about the signs of His second coming.  Over at Dr. Reluctant’s blog, the latest posting addresses this very issue — “Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (17)“.

In reading through Luke 19 today, I also noted the kingdom references in Jesus’ parable about the minas and the servants (Luke 19:11-27).  Jesus tells the parable to the people as they approach Jerusalem, because “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”  The main feature of the parable is the three servants and what they did with their minas.  But notice verse 15, which states that He did (later) receive the kingdom:  “He was made king, however, and returned home.”

Here I am reminded of a common practice among amillennialists and preterists:  expounding theology from a parable.  They do this with some parables, such as the Matthew 13 parable about the wheat and the tares and the harvesting angels, or the sheep and the goats parable in Matthew 25, to try to prove their idea of a simple, one event resurrection and judgement of everyone.  As many dispensationalists point out, using parables to such extent, is problematic — an approach that fails to consider the full context of the parable and its context and relationship to other passages of scripture, both other passages nearby in the text as well as other parts of scripture.  But if they really want to use parables to affirm a particular theological position, why not use the one in Luke 19:11-27?  That passage is very clearly talking about the future kingdom of God.  Just as in Acts 1:6-7, Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking the question but simply tells them it’s not for them to know the times or dates, so here in Luke 19, Jesus does not rebuke the kingdom idea itself but again emphasizes that it will come at a future time.  If the kingdom of God was really just a spiritual kingdom now, Jesus had plenty of opportunity, both in Luke 19 and Acts 1, to explain otherwise.  Similarly, if the kingdom is only spiritual and among us as said in Luke 17:20-21, then why bother adding the rest of that chapter?

Which brings me to a third interesting passage, though I admit I scanned over it at first and didn’t catch the significance right away.  Immediately after the Luke 17 passage comes the parable about the widow and the unjust judge — Luke 18:1-8.  The significant verse is the last one, where Jesus states “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Yesterday’s post at the “World and Church Trends” prophecy website, “When Jesus comes will there be faith on the earth? Yes, no and then yes!”   takes this very passage, notes the importance of verse 8:  “The major mystery that remains in this passage is why does Jesus ask if there will be faith on the earth when He comes?” and concludes that it’s a reference to the pre-wrath rapture: the rapture will remove all the believers, then during the Great Tribulation many more people will come to faith in Christ, and then when Jesus comes to Earth at the end He will find those believers.

While I agree with the basic sequencing of the Second Coming events, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Luke 18:8 is referencing the rapture.  Yet the matter intrigued me enough to look up what John MacArthur had to say about this parable, from his Luke series.  His sermon on this text, “Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return” does not propose the rapture idea, but does point out the very eschatological focus of the parable, noting its placement immediately after Luke 17, and the statement in verse 8.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?” Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the Rapture. We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but two thousand years have passed by, believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates, evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.” He will come but part of the means of that coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a Kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. “When you pray, pray like this. Our Father who art in heaven, Thy Kingdom come.” This is Kingdom pray…praying. This is praying for the Kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say, the key to the parable hangs at the front door, we know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, “even so, come Lord Jesus. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

MacArthur then points out the importance of Christ’s Second Coming as part of a Christian world view.  He’s right, understanding the future events and our blessed Hope makes such a difference in how we act in this world.  MacArthur:

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.

I suspect he was referring to the same group as http://www.worldview.org, a popular teaching and training site with worldview curriculum.  At any rate, I googled their site for several specific key terms related to the Second Coming (Second Coming, Rapture, Great Tribulation, Day of the Lord, Christ’s Return, return, rewards, Israel, etc.) and likewise found nothing.

The shallow teacher, who misses the significance of a proper worldview regarding how it all ends, comes up with very general teachings that might do well enough for superficial followers content to do a few minutes of devotional reading each day, but it does not satisfy the believer who earnestly studies God’s word as a great treasure.  That shallow view says that Luke 18:1-8 is about persistence in prayer, as in prayer for our daily, temporal needs of this life.  The same type of teaching, though, also says that the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is about our love for the brethren, how we treat fellow believers (same as taught in 1 John), and that Ezekiel 36-37 is (only) talking about spiritual regeneration.

Lessons from Acts: The Life of Stephen

December 17, 2009 2 comments

In my study through the book of Acts, S. Lewis Johnson points out a lot of interesting things. The last few messages have dealt with the short life of Stephen: Acts 6 and Acts 7.

Johnson discusses and speculates concerning the relationship between Stephen and Saul of Tarsus; one of the sermons for this part is even titled “The Paul Before Paul.” The text tells us that Saul was there giving approval to Stephen’s death, and that those who stoned Stephen laid their coats at Saul’s feet. Yet Acts 6 also tells us that the Jews tried arguing against Stephen, though unsuccessfully. It is very likely that the apostle Paul was one of those leading Jewish debaters trying to defeat Stephen in such arguments. Paul was also a Hellenistic Jew, hanging out in the Hellenistic syngagogues as Stephen was, and by Paul’s own later admission he had been a leader, unequalled and advancing far beyond the understanding of other Jews of his age. So, SLJ points out, it was very likely that Saul of Tarsus was the point man for the events of Acts 6; none of the other Jews could defeat Stephen, so they called on Saul to do so. The apostle Paul had been schooled by the Pharisee Gamaliel, yet it’s very likely that he learned more from Stephen.

In reference to Acts 7, Stephen’s speech to the Jews, Johnson notes something I’ve heard a few times before: that the New Testament does not give us the example of expository preaching, verse-by-verse through a Bible book. That fact is interesting, very different from the common advice today to preach sequentially through a text–and I certainly do enjoy the expository preaching “book series” sermons. Yet as SLJ points out, the sermons given in Acts are more of an overview of God’s redemptive work and God’s purposes throughout Israel’s history. From browsing the MP3 titles on the websites (Believers Chapel and the SLJ Institute), I have noticed that S. Lewis Johnson also preached several non-expository, non-sequential, doctrinal overview series — for instance, “Basic Bible Doctrines,” “God’s Plan for the Ages,” “The Divine Purpose”, and “The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy.” I am considering one of these series for my next lesson plans (after this Acts series), and this encourages me toward that idea.

SLJ notes some of the distinctives of Stephen’s speech, and briefly notes one I had heard previously: that Stephen especially points out the incidents that occurred in locations outside of Israel, to show that God is present in many places outside of Israel. He does not make more of it than is warranted (such as one preacher who tried to justify Church Replacement theology from this text), but notes it as it relates to Stephen’s purposes in the speech: God’s sovereignty over the people in all locations and times, and that throughout all of these experiences outside the land, the Israelites had persistently rebelled against their leaders including Joseph and Moses. Stephen’s speech also emphasizes that for God the tabernacle was the only thing commanded; the temple was thought of by men, not something commanded by God.

Now to the end of Acts 7: Stephen sees Jesus “standing” at the right hand of God. Elsewhere we are told in the Bible that Jesus is “sitting” at the right hand of God; of course He isn’t chained there, as though He cannot get up. SLJ pictures the “standing” as Jesus’ special gift to Stephen, that Stephen sees before his death that Jesus is especially greeting him, Stephen, as the first martyr of the Christian Church.

Stephen was apparently a young man, one of many since that time who burned brightly for a time–and to us their early death seems a great loss. Surely such a gifted man as Stephen would have been of great benefit to the early church. Yet God has His purposes when He takes such men at a young age. We really don’t know the time of our death, and we cannot take for granted a long life from God. S. Lewis Johnson relates that many times in his seminary classes, he would tell his young students that he would go to heaven before they would, and admit his enjoyment about it (that he would be in heaven before they). Yet, he now observed that it turned out that he was still here (he was 69 when he did the Acts series in late 1984), and some of those seminary students had already died and gone to heaven before he did; he mentioned that one of his students had died 25 years ago. So indeed basic things, such as normal life span, do not always work out as we suppose they will.

Interestingly enough, I must confess that I have recently had similar joyous thoughts. Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I am thankful that, if the Lord tarries in His return, I will go to be with Jesus that much sooner than the younger believers I know, and consider this as one advantage of being older–that many fewer years left dealing with this evil world. So here too I can better appreciate SLJ’s later words of wisdom. I really cannot say with certainty that I will go to heaven before the twenty-something believer. SLJ must have had similar thoughts as I, when he was in his forties (twenty five years before the Acts series), and I can take heart that such thoughts are at least somewhat common for my age.

The Stephen-series within the book of Acts is a nice look at this part of Acts, at the great life of Stephen, who died a harsh death but with great reward. He lived well, died well, and he has been remembered throughout the centuries even to our time.