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We’ll start in the Gospel of John, chapter 5. On a Sabbath associated with an unspecified Jewish feast, Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (vv. 5-9). Verse 14: Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The Lord’s exhortation to the newly healed man clearly indicates that his paralysis of 38 years was because of sin. Was this unique to this paralytic?
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 2, Jesus told a different paralytic that his sins are forgiven. To the teachers of the law who were thinking that He was blaspheming, Jesus said, Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk?” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins… He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. (vv. 8-12)
Most of us have probably heard and even read this story numerous times, marveling at the Lord’s healing. But have we apprehended His linking of sin with disease? Reread the passage under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ponder what He is revealing. (This might take a while! It is so contrary to our worldview….)
Five verses later in the same chapter of the Gospel of Mark, some Pharisees noted Jesus was eating with “sinners.” Jesus told them It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (v 17) (Luke adds the words to repentance in his account – Luke 5:31-32).
This back-to-back dual account is not given only in one, nor just in two, but is provided in all three of the synoptic gospels. The Holy Spirit led all three writers (Jews Matthew and Mark, and the Gentile physician, Luke) to put these two passages linking sin and disease back-to-back. Here in the gospels God not only gives us two witnesses, if you will, that disease is linked to sin, but He does this three-fold! Despite this, we don’t readily apprehend His message linking disease with sin because it is so contrary to our culture and the understanding of modern medicine!
Now then, in the Gospel of John 9:1-2, Jesus and His disciples see a man blind from birth. Have you ever thought it odd that the disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Many of us likely recall His response to their question, though (we will return and discuss this unusual case in Part 6).
Instead, let’s address part of why His disciples readily associated disease with sin while we do not. Notably, we have likely not only heard these Scriptures, but we’ve likely held our own copies of God’s word in our hands and read it time and time again, still not readily associating disease with sin as they did upon simply hearing the word and occasionally reading from the scrolls in the synagogue.
The reason the disciples linked the man’s disease with sin was because they were Jews living ~2000 years ago; they knew from their forefathers and through the Scriptures that, with the singularly described exception of Job, God’s word reveals disease to be a consequence of sin. These first century Jews had physicians amidst them, but they had a completely different mindset about the cause of disease than we have in our modern Western culture.
As a recently retired physician who specialized in anatomic and clinical pathology and subspecialized in hematopathology (diagnosis of diseases of the blood), I remind you that even our phenomenal twenty-first century knowledge and application of medical science does not surpass or overrule or negate one letter of God’s word on anything, including disease and healing. God’s word is truth eternally – absolutely nothing can withstand it.
Most of us are off the mark on this point when it comes to reconciling scientific and medical knowledge with God’s word. We are unknowingly led astray, reasoning wrongly that God’s word is archaic in some instances, and that our modern thinking is accurate. Paul’s exhortation in the Epistle to the Colossians applies: See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (2:8). Take a moment to discern whether this applies to you as well…
In our spirit, we the redeemed know with the mind of Christ that the error is in our worldly mindset, and not in God’s word, for His word is truth (John 17:17). Thank God, He has given His beloved children divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4b-6). Sanctification, the renewal of our minds, involves breaking down strongholds as well as building up in truth. The sinful nature always resists being broken down; when we feel irritation and fear, it is what remains of our fallen nature resisting the Holy Spirit’s blessed work of sanctification.
Victory is always ours in Christ as we (1) KNOW His word (and this entails memorization) (2) BELIEVE it as the Lord lovingly tests us with physical evidence to the contrary (that is, we walk by faith and not by sight), and (3) APPREHEND it as we repeatedly apply it in accordance with the Holy Spirit.
The truth is that both natural and supernatural realms exist: Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:6). Furthermore, the natural realm is superseded by the supernatural realm: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible. (Hebrews 11:3). Science is our study of the natural realm created by God. He has ensured that it is incapable of addressing the supernatural realm so that no one may boast before Him (see 1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
The natural causes of diseases and their functioning are discovered and described by medical science, and are referred to as the etiology and pathophysiology of disease. They are subject to the scientific method of investigation. We twenty-first century Westerners are about to learn that disease has supernatural causes and functioning also. The supernatural causes are discerned spiritually (divinely revealed), and neither they nor miraculous healings are subject to the scientific method of investigation.
So, the God-fearing Jews in fact knew something about disease millenia ago that our modern mindset has actually kept us from apprehending.
Members of the Body of Christ, are we ready to receive the washing of the word?
The main Old Testament Scriptures addressing the supernatural (spiritual) causes of disease are in the Pentateuch, Job, and the Psalms and Proverbs. We will cover only the key passages in some detail in our study. For those whose interest is piqued, many references to the Scriptures addressing disease are listed in Part VII to serve as a springboard for deeper independent study.
We will begin our Old Testament study not where disease is first mentioned (Genesis 12:17, which is in the context of sin), but where God starts elaborating on its cause.
link to Part II