Does Scripture put God on the hook to heal everybody all the time? (2)

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: Thank you for responding to my previous question. Reading your response was like a breath of fresh air. You asked about the scriptures my friend used. Here they are: Psalms 119:60; 138:2, Matthew 8:10-13; 9:22; 13:58; 15:28; 21:22, Mark 11:22-24, John 14:12-14, James 6:1-7.

Answer: Hello again, friend. Thank you for sending me those verses. Let me say that I am impressed: she had more than I expected! However, there were no surprises; the passages were more or less the ones I expected. As such, my stand on healing-on-command has not changed. I do, however, have some additional observations.

I examined these verses carefully, and I reaffirm my stand: none of them has more explanatory power than the story of God refusing to heal the apostle Paul. True, they say what they say…  but they cannot be teaching that everyone who applies enough faith to their petition will be healed. A quick reading and an appeal to epistemology show that such a conclusion is not warranted by any of the verses.

Compare this to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. This passage gives us warrant to teach that, although how God handles healing is affected by one’s faith, that’s not the only factor. Sometimes he doesn’t heal... and that “failure” is not a failure of faith. God has determined that withholding healing under some circumstances will do more to advance his kingdom objectives than if he granted that the healing.

As to the verses then, even though Jesus told the woman, “Your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:22) — and even though he told another that her daughter was healed because of her faith (Matthew 15:28) — and even though Matthew told us that many were not healed because their faith was inadequate (Matthew 13:58) — these accounts do not change that fact that God refused to heal Paul… a high-profile believer who (arguably) had more perfect faith and a better knowledge of God than anyone in the Bible! God did not fail Paul here. He made him more Christlike!

The principle at work here is that the clearest passage has more epistemological weight than any less clear passage. This means that poetic passages like Psalm 119:160 and Psalm 138:2 have less weight than passages of historical narrative or those that teach doctrine directly. A good example of the latter is how Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches about faith and works.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 has the same power and clarity as Ephesians 2:8-10. It teaches that God refused to heal Paul — and he refused to heal Paul despite his making repeated earnest petitions for relief. The problem for your friend is no amount of poetry can stop this passage from saying what it says. So, her citations from the Psalms — although glorious and full of promise — are poetic — and therefore, less definitive in propositional content than 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

Note also that the Psalm references are about God’s word, not healing. Your friend had connected these to God’s purported guarantee about healing — but again, that’s a stretch. You need a few steps to apply these verses legitimately to healing — and there is no epistemological warrant to do so. As such, they fall under the apostle Paul’s hermeneutical ax.

So, does 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 put an end to the idea that God will heal us? No. It teaches that he heals people according to his will, not according to their spiritual horsepower, purity or persistence. And what is the outfall of such a teaching? Although many passages testify that the petitioner’s level of faith comes into play, it doesn’t trump God’s will for that person. If God wants you to have a malady, you will not be healed — no matter what other passages seem to say! And — and this is a huge “and” — if you are not healed, it is not your fault! It is not because you have defective faith.

The Bible has 66 books totaling 788,280 words, written by forty different authors at different locations and different times through the millennia. As such, some of its verses are bound to oppose other of its verses — especially on the surface… and especially if taken out of context. But there is a more basic issue at work when we approach the Bible: God used the common language of common people to communicate uncommon things in Scripture — and that language has rules. A person cannot connect things willy-nilly... that is, she cannot connect things without warrant and say, “That is what the Bible teaches.” This is what your friend is doing with her teaching on faith.

Thank you again for taking the time to pursue God’s truth.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210315 Does Scripture put God on the hook to heal everybody all the time? (2)). 

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