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Commentary Life

Jesus Healed Body and Soul

It struck me this week reading Luke 9 that everywhere Jesus went, as he taught people about God and his kingdom, that he also met physical needs.

Sometimes it was giving food. Sometimes healing. Sometimes exorcism. Sometimes physical touch. Sometimes simple friendship around the table.

I’ve always known this of course, but perhaps because of the social and cultural moment we’re in, it hit me differently.

It was Luke 9:11 this time. “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

He healed those who needed healing.

We never see Jesus saying, “Oh, you need physical help? Well my real ministry is preaching the gospel.” He never once retorts, “Oh, you need a tender touch? Well, I only came to tell you about God, not show him to you.”

No, Jesus came to tell and show who God was and what he was up to.

To Jesus, healing body and soul went hand-in-hand.

He’d forgive your sin. Then he’d tell you to stand up and walk for the first time.

Jesus brought God’s kingdom. And to Jesus, the kingdom of God meant freedom (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). Freedom was God’s gift to humanity. And physical healing was a demonstration of spiritual healing that could not be seen. Physical healing was a precursor of the great and final healing and restoration that would come on the last Day.

It was a signpost of that day when there would be no more need for physical healing.

Of course, Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Israel. He still doesn’t. The kingdom has come and also is yet to come.

It’s hard for us to comprehend this and deal with the tension, but we must.

Especially in our churches and ministries. And as we deal with the tension, the way Jesus ministered should also inform our priorities. As we preach the gospel and teach and train, are we also actively seeking to bring real, tangible, physical healing to the hurting, sick, oppressed, broken, and forgotten? This can mean anything from providing food and backpacks to helping groups and communities overcome and breakdown injustices.

This isn’t a social gospel. It’s not a liberal agenda.

It’s the exact thing Jesus did.

I can hear an objection and it sounds like this, “But Paul!”

Most Christian (particularly evangelical) ministries love Paul because of his (seemingly) propositional and theological approach to ministry.

As in, if we follow Paul, we just get to bypass the kind of ministry Jesus did. We’ll just focus on the spiritual and leave the physical to the hospitals and private schools and soup kitchens.

But remember it was Paul who said, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).

It’s clear Paul’s ministry was to expand the gospel’s reach around the Roman Empire where it had no presence. His letters don’t expound a full theology or practice of serving the poor, but they weren’t designed to do that. Instead, it’s sprinkled in, like in Galatians 2. And it’s clear Paul’s ministry, at least in some sense, imitated Jesus’.

Jesus didn’t have a “preaching ministry” and a “healing ministry.” He didn’t emphasize one over the other. He sought to bring God’s healing and freedom to men and women, from the inside-out.

If he is truly our Master and our model, then shouldn’t we seek to follow him in his methods?

Categories
Theology

The Mystery of the Kingdom

George Ladd, in The Gospel of the Kingdomwrites about the mystery of the Kingdom of God (mystery meaning that something was hidden for a time is now revealed):

This is the mystery of the Kingdom: that the Kingdom of God has come among men and yet men can reject it. The Kingdom will not experience uniform success. Not all will receive it. This was a staggering thing to one who knew only the Old Testament. When God’s Kingdom comes, it will come with power. Who can resist it? Who can withstand God? But precisely this is the mystery of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is here, but it can be rejected. One day God will indeed manifest HIs mighty power to purge the earth of wickedness, sin and evil; but not now. God’s Kingdom is working among men, but God will not compel them to bow before it. They must receive it; the response must come from a willing heart and a submissive will.

God is still dealing with us in this same way. God will not drive you into His Kingdom. It is not the business of those who are called to the ministry of the Word to speak with authoritarian compulsion. We speak as emissaries of God, but we plead and do not demand, we persuade and do not drive. We implore men to open their hearts that the Word of His Kingdom may have its fruitage in their lives. But men can reject it. They can spurn the Gospel of the Kingdom. They can scorn the preacher of the Word; and he is helpless.

– George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdompp. 56-57.

Categories
Theology

This I Believe: Last Things

Last Things
I believe in the personal, glorious, visible, and bodily return of Jesus Christ with his holy angels when he will exercise his role as Judge, and his kingdom will be established. I believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal, conscious punishment in hell and the just to life and eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth.

Matt. 16:27; Mark 14:62; John 5:25-29; 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:12-58; Eph. 1:12; Phil. 3:20; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:1; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; Rev. 20:1-22:5

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Theology

Neither Rosy Optimists nor Despairing Pessimists

George Eldon Ladd, in The Gospel of the Kingdom, writes about the proper Christian attitude as the world continues toward its end. He says that Christians should have a healthy “biblical realism” rather than dogged optimism or pessimism.

We are not rosy optimists, expecting the gospel to conquer the world and establish the Kingdom of God. Neither are we to be despairing pessimists who feel that our task is hopeless in the face of the evil of This Age. We are realists—biblical realists. While we recognize the terrible power of evil, we also continue in the mission of worldwide evangelization. As we continue that mission, we should expect to see victories revealing God’s Kingdom. But when Christ returns in glory he will accomplish the last and greatest victory.

Christ has already conquered through his gospel—and we share in that victory—and he will one day bring final victory when he returns. Nevertheless, in this age creation will groan and evil will wax and wane. I think this is especially important for us Westerners to remember in light of the upcoming election. No matter who is elected, the Kingdom of God will not come with them, nor will a tunnel of blacker darkness.

We serve a sovereign God and we do not secure victories in elections or legislation but through gospel-advancement to the ends of the earth. Therefore, in spite of any prosperity or catastrophe, the Christian never builds false assurances or loses hope in this age because our blessed hope is the return of our dearest Lord Jesus. At that time, and at that time only, will he make all things new and all the sad things untrue.

Categories
Life Theology

Discipleship and Image

It is clear from the Bible that all people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Yet by nature and choice, man has fallen and now carries in himself a broken image (Gen. 3; Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:9-20, et al.). The image of God in man is broken because of his sin nature and consequent sins. This implies that people do not simply do sins they are sinners. Their identity comes before action.

The gospel gives sinners a new identity. This new identity is “disciple.” This new gospel identity motivates disciples to action. What is required for a person to receive this new identity? Repentance and belief in Jesus (Mark 1:15). In other words, people are commanded to abandon old allegiances and follow Jesus. At the foundation, this is a gift of God’s sovereign grace; also, by God’s design, man is responsible to respond to this grace. This continues to be the case as the Christian life progresses. Therefore, the abandoning of old allegiances and striving to follow Jesus is not a one-time event; it is a grace-driven, faith-fueled, disciplined, continual effort to the end.

With all of this in mind, someone recently said to me, “Disciples are created in the image of God, yet fallen, redeemed, and choosing to learn.” For the most part, this is a quality statement that teaches us at least three things. Those who have professed faith in Christ and have therefore become disciples are:

  • Made in God’s image. All people are made in God’s image, however, unlike the rest of humanity, Jesus’ disciples are being renewed and one day they will be fully restored into God’s image (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 John 3:2).
  • Fallen and Redeemed. Disciples must not forget that they are sinful and do not move on from the gospel. It is the gospel that saves them, keeps saving them, and will ultimately save them on the last day. Disciples are thus always dependent on the finished work of Christ and his continuing work through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This reminds a disciple that he is not yet perfect and (Phil. 3:12-16) and that he must trust God to work in him (Phil. 2:12-13).
  • Choosing to Learn. Disciples must willfully and continually follow Jesus. Discipleship is an act of the will. Disciples are not made or matured by accident. A disciple must “count the cost” (Luke 14:25-30) and work hard (1 Cor. 15:10; cf. Phil. 2:12). Nevertheless, the disciple knows that he is not alone in his journey. It is the grace of God that upholds, sustains, and equips him to finish his course as a faithful servant (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 2:13; Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 1:5; Jude 24-25).

The last bullet brings up the question, “What are disciples learning?” Honesty, probably too much to remember! In all seriousness, however, they learn what it means to be remade into the image of God. In Jesus’ words, they are learning how to: love God and people (Matt. 22:37-40; Mark 12:28-33); serve God rather than other masters (Matt. 6:24); deny themselves and follow Jesus (Matt. 10:38-39; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23; 14:27); do the will of the Father (Matt. 12:50); treasure God above all things (Matt. 13:44); and be true worshipers (John 4:21-24). In Paul’s words, disciples are learning how to: walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26); renew their minds (Rom. 12:2); put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14); put off the old self and put on the new self (Rom. 8:12-13; Col. 3:5-17); live by faith in the Son of God (Rom. 4; Gal. 3-4; Phil. 3-4).

It is not small task to be a disciple. But once you count the cost, you will realize there is no greater joy in all the world to follow Jesus, your Master.