JAMES 5:14–15“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”
Commentary from the sermon “‘If Anyone Is Sick…’ — Part Two” by Alistair Begg:
“It’s not probable to assume that James envisages that everyone who is anointed and prayed for in this way will be automatically healed.
“Now, the reason we say that is because when we read the rest of the Bible, when we read the rest of the New Testament, it is clear in the Scriptures that God doesn’t always will the healing of the believer. … We can go to a variety of passages, but probably the locus classicus is surely Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 12, when he asked the Lord three times for this thorn in the flesh to be removed from him, and the answer of God is clearly ‘It is not in my will, Paul, to heal you of this condition.’ In fact, He tells him quite straightforwardly that his strength will be made perfect in Paul’s weakness, because, says God to His servant, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’
“So, while clearly understanding that it is not always God’s intention to heal, we also have to say with affirmation that God can and God does heal, that He chooses to do so in answer to prayer, and we might say so in relationship to this procedure that he has laid down primarily. In other words, it is not in the New Testament as a fiction. It is not there to tease us or to trouble us. It is there in order that we might wrestle with it, that we might apply it, and that we might face the implications of it.”
1 CORINTHIANS 12:28“God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”
Commentary from the sermon “‘Now Concerning Spiritual Gifts…’ — Part Three” by Alistair Begg:
“Coming to this gift [of healing], which is one of the most volatile of the list of gifts in the minds of some people, it’s necessary for me to dip into an area that needs to be addressed and to which we’ll return, certainly when we come to chapter 14. And it centers on the question as to whether this gift and other spectacular gifts are still present in the church today or whether these miraculous occurrences were actually signs of the apostles; they were given for a specific period of time in order to authenticate the ministry of the apostles in the establishing of the church. That’s the question; that is a very important question that needs to be addressed. And along with it this question: When we read here concerning the gifts of healing that were manifest in the New Testament church at this time, are we to believe that what is spoken of today in terms of healing ministry, in terms of gifts possessed by individuals whereby they are apparently able to heal—are we legitimate in assuming that those present-day professions are identical with the New Testament instruction provided for us here?
“In order to answer that question, there are a couple of things we need to note. First of all, the healings that marked the ministry of Jesus and of the apostles was direct. They were able to heal by their words or by their touch. They spoke or they touched, and people were healed. The healing was an instant healing. The healings were not simply psychosomatic, but they were organic, many of them, such as wasted and crippled limbs being restored as well as functional and symptomatic things being addressed. The healings of Jesus and the apostles lasted. There is no record in the New Testament of any relapse in relationship to healings. So, their healings were direct, they were specific, they were by word, they were by touch, they had immediate impact, people were immediately and apparently healed, and there was no apparent relapse.
“Now, for those of us who’ve lived and moved in charismatic circles, we need to be honest enough to say that that is very, very different from what is mostly spoken of today in relationship to the gifts of healing. Most of those expressions cannot be squared with the outline that I’ve just given you in terms of apostolic ministry. That, loved ones, does not mean that we no longer have the privilege of asking God for healing. We do. And God does heal and may choose to heal to accomplish His purpose and His glory. But I do not believe that individuals possess gifts of healing as per the abilities of the apostles in the first century, whatever their profession may be. …
“Some people choose to be exceptionally dogmatic concerning this. Others are helpfully or unhelpfully vague. But you should understand that there is a very great difference between the view which says that all the gifts of the New Testament were operative, went into abeyance, and all of a sudden, lately, in the resurgence of interest in the Spirit’s ministry in the last thirty years by means of the charismatic movement, have once again been unleashed upon the church. They were gone, and God has blessed them to the church.
“That view is very different from the view which says, ‘No, there were certain signs of the apostolic church which were there to authenticate their ministry and to lay foundation, and that even as you read the Acts of the Apostles, you discover that those events are beginning to dwindle before you come to the conclusion of the book of Acts in the founding of the church. And by the time you get into the New Testament epistles themselves, there is largely no mention of them whatsoever.’’’
LUKE 4:31–37“He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’ And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!’ And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.”
Commentary from the sermon “All in a Day’s Work” by Alistair Begg:
“Look at the reaction of the people in verse 36: they were all ‘amazed,’ and they ‘said to one another, “What is this teaching?”’ Isn’t that interesting? … We might have anticipated that they would say something else, that this would be a diversion from the teaching—that they would see, if you like, His healings and His exorcisms as something over and apart from the teaching of the Word of God. But no, they understand that there is a direct correlation between the proclamation of God’s truth and the power of God displayed in these dramatic ways. ‘What is this teaching?’ they said. ‘With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’ …
“Now, this is what Luke is establishing, you see. People are asking, ‘Who is this Jesus?’ as they’re asking today. Is Jesus just one of the other religious teachers on the planet? Is this just somebody who came and adds His ten cents, as it were, to the opportunities of religious experience? No! This is God come on earth. How would we know that it is God? How would we know that He is the King? Because He exercises His kingly rule. Where? Everywhere! Over what? Over everything! And people said, ‘I’ve been coming to this synagogue for a while, but I never heard one of these sermons in my life!’
“Now, it’s interesting that while the people wondered, in verses 36 and 37, and they were essentially saying ‘Who is this?’ the demons were in no doubt about who He is. Because as James tells us, the demons believe, and they shudder (2:19). The hosts of hell understand who Jesus is. They have an orthodox view of the Bible, if you like. They have an orthodox view of the Trinity. And they know that only destruction awaits them.”
MARK 5:25–29, 34“There was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. … And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’”
Commentary from the sermon “One Woman’s Faith” by Alistair Begg:
“This lady’s touch was not simply the touch of a finger; it was the touch of faith. … There were plenty of people that bumped into Jesus on that occasion, presumably. If it was simply the chance to touch Him or bump up against Him, then all kinds of people would be out reporting healings, as if somehow or another He had magical powers that just emanated from Him, and if you came within His force—you know, like in the Star Wars or something like that—that you would inevitably become the beneficiary of whatever it was. It wasn’t that. Lots of people were in proximity to Jesus. They laughed at Him. They said, ‘Get out of here.’ They took offense at His words.
“… Well, her faith—it had a little bit of superstition in it, didn’t it? Yeah. In fact, I would say her faith was at least tinged with a little magic—ideas which bordered on magic. And it would seem that Jesus calls her out of the crowd, wants to see her, in order that they might have this encounter so that He might explain to her, as she has told Him the whole truth, that her cure was not because she touched Him, but her cure was because she trusted Him. She was cured not by her touch but by her trust. Oh, ultimately, she was cured by God’s benevolent power. But God’s benevolent power did not operate in a vacuum, did not operate absent her desire to work her way through the crowd, to come up behind Jesus, to touch Him—in this mixture, I say to you again, of belief and faith and superstition.
“But what does Jesus do? Does He throw her out because her faith is inadequate? Does He suggest to her that she must come back again when she has understood everything perfectly? No, He accepts her faith for what it is. And then her experience of Christ is faith seeking understanding. And He teaches her in this moment, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. There’s no magic in My clothes. And many people have rubbed up against Me and bumped Me in the days that have passed. But when you touched Me—and I didn’t know who you were—but when you touched Me, a transaction took place.’ Because her touch had brought together two elements: faith and Jesus. …
“Spurgeon, remarking on this, puts it in this way: ‘Here is the [great] marvel of it; little as was her knowledge, great as was her unbelief, and astounding as was her misconception of [her] Lord, yet her faith, because it was real faith, saved her.’”
JOHN 11:38–40“Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’”
Commentary from the sermon “The Raising of Lazarus” by Alistair Begg:
“And in true Johannine fashion, John summarizes a number of statements in this one—40: ‘Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’’’ You take that phrase, you go back through John’s Gospel looking for that exact statement, you can’t find it. Why? Because it isn’t there. So one of two things are true: either Jesus is restating a previously unrecorded statement, or else John, as he likes to do, is taking similar statements, merging them, and giving the absolute essence of what Christ was saying in a multitude of things. And if you take together John 11 up until you reach this point, Christ has certainly been saying this.
“Now, it’s very, very important—I can’t tell you how important it is—that we grasp what Jesus is saying and what He is not saying.
“And first of all, I want to tell you what He is not saying … that the miracle is conditional upon the exercise of Martha or Mary’s faith. And some teach that He is—that what He is saying is ‘If you believed, you would see the miracle,’ so that your faith is the faith that makes miracles happen. And I can give you book after book after book and TV program and radio broadcast, again and again and again, which pumps out to the American populace that very notion: that if you have enough faith, you can see miracles. If you have enough faith, you can make things happen. And what it does is it exalts man, and it diminishes God. And it makes God the puppet of man, whereby man makes and manipulates God to do that which he wants God to do. …
“So what is He saying? Well, let me tell you: Jesus is saying the miracle is going to take place, and believer and unbeliever alike is going to see it. What is about to happen to Lazarus will become apparent to the crowd. But only the believers will see its real significance. Only the believers will see that God is glorified in all of this. ‘If you focus on the corpse, all you will see is a living body coming out. But if, Martha and Mary, you keep your eyes on Me, you will see My glory.’”
JOHN 14:12–14“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Commentary from the sermon “Great and Precious Promises” by Alistair Begg:
“When we read in Acts of the signs and wonders, the miracles performed by people other than Jesus, we discover them to be God-given proof of their apostolic authority.
“‘Well,’ says somebody, ‘that’s fair enough. If the expression of our faith in Jesus is that we continue then with the purposes of redemption, what about what it says in the second half of the verse: “You will do even greater things than these”?’ …
“Now, when we’ve read the Gospel records, we’ve seen even in John’s Gospel that a large part of the work of Jesus has been in miraculous signs performed amongst the Jews. We saw even last time that these signs were evidential in their nature, as Jesus says in John 14:11: ‘If you can’t believe in Me just because of what I say, then at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves’ (paraphrased). So, the works of miraculous healing, etc., have been performed in order that they might set forward God’s ultimate purpose in drawing men and women to Himself. Jesus has done all these tremendous things, and He now says those who have faith in Him will do ‘even greater things than these.’
“I believe that what Jesus is clearly speaking about here is the shift that is about to take place from the miraculous, in terms of the physical realm of healing, into the more tremendous, miraculous wonder of drawing men and women to Himself in repentance and in faith. The ‘greater’ obviously cannot refer to power, because mere men and women cannot do more powerful things than Jesus, even with the Spirit of God. It does not refer to essence, but rather, it refers to extent.
“And if you’re tempted to wonder about this, think it through. Every occultist and every crazy cult and every strange notion which has ebbed across the pages of history has been able, to a great degree, to duplicate most of the miraculous activity which has drawn attention to Christianity. So people have said, ‘That’s nothing. That’s nothing at all. Look over here. Those people have done miracles.’ And they have. ‘Look over here. These people have spoken ecstatic utterances.’ And they have. ‘Listen to this and observe this. Can’t you see that all you’re claiming is just duplicated time and again in many different places?’ And we would have to be honest and say, ‘Yes, in point of fact, irrespective of origin, we can see that that is true, bar one thing: it is Christianity alone, it is Jesus alone who is able to reach into a man or a woman’s life and make them brand-new.’ It is only the power of the Spirit which can transform and draw that individual who was once rebellious and couldn’t care less and said, ‘I hate it all, and I can’t stand it.’ That’s no great challenge, really, to God. …
“I’ve got news for you: the great wonder of God’s purposes, even as revealed here in verse 12, is that He is still, by His Spirit, drawing the unlikely, drawing the unwilling, drawing the disinterested to Himself.”
MARK 1:29–34“He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
Commentary from the sermon “A Day in the Life of Jesus — Part Two” by Alistair Begg:
“There is no funny business in this. It is not like contemporary attempts at healing, where people make all these elaborate claims and it takes forever to find out whether it is verifiable or not—‘You’ll have to come back next Sunday,’ or ‘Perhaps he’s gone behind the curtain and he’ll come out later, or maybe not at all,’ or whatever it might be. But you never have that with Jesus. Jesus goes in, He confronts the condition, He reaches out His hand, He touches the woman, He lifts her up, He brings her back, and the indication of the immediacy of the transformation is found in the fact that ‘she began to wait [up]on them.’ … In other words, she’s restored to do that which she was happy to do and which she customarily did.
“And there is, I suggest, in that little scene a cameo of what Christ’s kingly rule meant and means. Because what has taken place in her life is a restoration, right? She was restored. Her sickness had set her aside. Her sickness had meant that she was no longer able to do what she loved to do. Jesus then comes, and in a demonstration of His power, He makes the lady whole, and He makes the lady healthy. And I think that Mark wants us to see—those of us who have eyes to see—that in this little cameo, there is a sort of microcosmic indication of what is ultimately going to happen in the kingship of Christ.
“… Ultimately, what happens in Jesus is that He takes all that is disfigured, all that is debilitating, all that hinders and hampers, and He transforms it, and He restores those whom He redeems to wholeness and to health. He will one day wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be a time when there is no more death. It’s virtually impossible to imagine, isn’t it? And no more mourning and no more crying and no more pain. (See Rev. 21:4.) …
“Someone says, ‘Well, wait a minute. There’s a lot of crying. There’s a lot of mourning. There’s a lot of pain. Where are we in the scheme of things?’ Well, hold on. Be patient. Even if we suffered for our entire lives, it would be a moment in comparison to eternity. Indeed, some of our church family do suffer, and they do live with debilitating illness, and they do wish that things were different, and they wish they were different tonight by nine o’clock, without a question. And what we have to say is that somehow, in the mystery of God’s providence, He has chosen this pathway for us, in order that in the midst of these trials we may learn something of Him and something of ourselves that we cannot and could not learn in any other way.”