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Appendix on James 5:14-16 Pt 4-The Dispensationalists

Arthur PinkFourth, there is the grotesque idea of the Dispensationalists. These is a class of men who pose as being exceptionally enlightened, and under the guise of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” arbitrarily partition the Scriptures, affirming “this is not for us,” “that does not pertain to this present era of Grace,” “that relates to the Tribulation period,” “this will be fulfilled in the Millennium.” Because the opening verse of James reads, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greetings,” these robbers of God’s children declare this epistle is “entirely Jewish;” as well might they reason that the first epistle of Paul is designed only for Papists because it is addressed “To all that be in Rome” (Romans 1:1). The epistle of James belongs to all the “beloved brethren,” to all born-again souls (1:16, 18). It is surely striking that the very passage we are here considering (5:14-16) comes right between a reference to Job (a Gentile) who endured patiently his affliction and found the Lord to be “pitiful and of tender mercy” (v. 11) and to Elijah who is described as “a man subject to like passions as we are” yet mighty in prayer (v. 17)—as though the Spirit was anticipating and refuting this mad notion.

Now where such widely-different interpretations are given of a passage, it usually follows that the true one lies somewhere between two extremes, and such we believe is the case here. We are very loathe to regard our passage as being an obsolete one, that it refers to something which pertained only to the apostolic age and relates not at all to us. When referring to the Papish travesty of this “anointing with oil” Thomas Goodwin said, “The Reformed churches seeing that such a sacrament could not be and this must needs be a perversion of it, did justly reject it, only in rejecting it (as in some other things) they went too far, even denying it to have that use of restoring the sick as a seal of the promise, and an indefinite means to convey that blessing which God in mercy hath appointed it to be.” We are strongly inclined to agree with this eminent Puritan that the churches which grew out of the Reformation went too far when they set aside this passage as containing Divine directions to be followed by Gospel churches throughout this Christian era. Such a sweeping conclusion needs qualifying.

The knotty point to be settled is, how far and at which points is this qualification to be made? Personally we believe the general principle and promise of the passage holds good for all generations seasons of great spiritual declension and deadness only excepted. In normal times it is the privilege of the saint—when seriously ill, or suffering great pain, and not on every light occasion—to send for the “elders” (pastors, ministers) of the local Gospel church to which he belongs, for they who preach God’s Word to him should surely be the fittest to spread his case before Him: cf. Job 42:8. They are to pray over him, commending him to the mercy of God and seeking recovery for him if that be according to the Divine will: whether or not the “anointing with oil” should accompany the praying is a detail on which we are not prepared to dogmatize; but where the sick one desires it, his request should be complied with. The kind of oil is not specified, though most likely olive oil was used in the first century.

It should be pointed out that those promises of God which relate to temporal and eternal mercies are quite different from those pertaining to spiritual and eternal things, the former being general and indefinite and not unconditional and absolute as are many of the latter, and therefore as God reserves to Himself the freedom to make them good when, as, and to whom He pleases, we must ask in full submission to His sovereign pleasure. To illustrate: if I am starting out on a journey I ask God to preserve me from all harm and danger if that be His holy will (Romans 1:10), but I make no such proviso when I request Him to deliver me from those who assault my soul (2 Timothy 4:18). Thus “the prayer of faith” here is not a definite expectation that God will heal, but a peaceful assurance that He will do that which is most for His glory and the sick one good. That the promise of <590515>James 5:15 is an indefinite and not an absolute one is clear from this consideration: if it were not so, he could continually claim the promise and so never die— the “and IF he have committed sins” further confirms the indefiniteness of what is here in view.

Some are likely to object against what has been pointed out in the last paragraph and say, But faith must have a foundation to rest upon, and it has none other than the Word of God: if then there be here no definite promise to lay hold of and plead before God, the “prayer of faith” is impossible, for there is no assurance the sick one will be healed. That may sound very plausible and pious, yet it is wrong. There is a faith of reliance and submission as well as a faith of expectation. There is no higher, no stronger, no grander faith than one which has such confidence in the wisdom and goodness of God as leads me to present my case to Him and say “Do as seemeth Thee good.” It is always a help when we can plead a promise, but God is greater than all His promises and where some specific need or emergency be not covered by some express promise, faith may count upon the mercy and power of God Himself— this is what Abraham did: Hebrews 11:19!

Personally we greatly fear that there are very few “elders” now left on earth whom it would be any good to send for in an emergency: only those living close to God and blessed with strong faith would be of any use. This is a day of “small things,” nevertheless the Lord remains unchanged and ready to show Himself strong on behalf of those who walk uprightly. Though there be no spiritual elders available, yet God is accessible; seek unto Him, and if He grants you the “prayer of faith” then healing is certain either by natural means or by supernatural intervention. “The Lord is undoubtedly present with His people to assist them in all ages, and when necessary He heals their diseases as much as He did in ancient times; but He does not display those miraculous powers or dispense miracles by the hands of apostles, because that gift was only of temporary duration” (Calvin)

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (v. 16). Here the scope of our passage is widened: in verse 13 the afflicted or tried one is to pray for himself, in verse 14 the ministers are to pray for the one seriously sick, now fellow-Christians are to pray for each other. But first they are bidden to confess their faults one to another, which does not mean revealing the secrets of their hearts or acquainting their brethren with that which is suited only for the ear of God: but cases where they have tempted or injured one another or consented to the same evil act—tattling, for example. A mutual acknowledgement of those faults which cause coldness and estrangement, exciting one another to repentance for the same, promotes the spirit of prayer and fellowship, The “healing” here is also wider, referring primarily to that of the soul (Psalm 41:4) and breaches (Hebrews 12:13), being the term used in 1 Peter 2:24, yet also includes removal of physical chastisements.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

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Appendix on James 5:14-16 Pt 2-Reformers and Puritans

Arthur PinkSecond, the position generally taken by the Reformers and Puritans, was, that this anointing the sick with oil was not designed as a sacrament, they being but two in number: baptism and the Lord’s supper. They pointed out that so far from this being a standing rite, the apostles themselves seldom used oil in the healing of the sick: they wrought cures by a touch (Acts 3:7), by their shadow (Acts 5:15), by handkerchiefs (Acts 19:12), by laying on of hands (Acts 28:8), by word of mouth (Acts 9:34).
Nor does it appear that they were permitted to employ this gift indiscriminately, no not even among brethren in Christ dear to them, or why should Paul leave Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Timothy 4:20) or sorrow so much over the illness of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:27)? In this too God exercised His sovereignty. But what is more to the point, this supernatural endowment was only of brief duration:

“But that grace of healing has disappeared, like all other miraculous powers, which the Lord was pleased to exhibit for a time, that He might render the power of the Gospel, which was then new, the object of admiration forever” (Calvin).

A list of the “charismata” or supernatural gifts which obtained during th apostolic period is found in 1 Corinthians 12:

“to another faith, by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (vv. 9, 10.).

They were designed chiefly for the authenticating of Christianity and to confirm it in heathen countries. Their purpose, then, was only a temporary one, and as soon as the canon of Scripture was closed they were withdrawn. As 1 Corinthians 13 plainly intimates “whether there be prophecies (inspired messages from God) they shall fail (to be given any more); whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be (supernatural) knowledge, it shall vanish away” (v. 8). It was the view of Matthew Henry, Thomas Manton, John Owen, and in fact nearly all of the Puritan divines, that James 5:14, 15 refers to the exercise of one of those supernatural gifts which the church enjoyed only in the first century.

Among the leading arguments advanced in support of this contention are the following. First, the “anointing with oil” clearly appears to look back to Mark 6:13 where we are told of the twelve, they “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” Second, the positive promise of healing, verse 15, seems to be an unconditional and general one, as though no exceptions, no cases of failure, were to be looked for. Third, “healing” was certainly one of the miraculous gifts specified in 1 Corinthians 12. Moreover, it hardly seems likely that the “faith” here mentioned is an ordinary one: though whether it differed in kind or only in degree is not easy to determine. There was the “faith of miracles”—either to work them or the expectation of them on the part of those who were the beneficiaries, as is clear from Matthew 21:24; Mark 11:24; 1 Corinthians 13:2. The “anointing with oil’’ after the praying over the sick is regarded as a seal or pledge of the certainty of healing or recovery.

On the other side, we find such a deeply-taught man and so able an expositor as Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) insisting on the contrary. He pointed out, first, that James 5:14 is quite different from Mark 6:13, for here the anointing with oil is joined with prayer, whereas prayer is not mentioned there, but only the miraculous gift. Second, the ones to be sent for were not specified as men endowed with the gift of healing, but the “elders,” and there is nothing to show that all of them possessed that gift. The “elders” were standing officers who were to continue. Third, the ones to be healed are the “sick” or infirm, but extraordinary healing would have extended further—to the blind, the deaf and dumb, and would have reached to unbelievers instead of being restricted to church members: cf. 1 Corinthians 14:22. Fourth, the means commanded: oil and prayer on all such occasions, whereas the extraordinary gift of healing was not so confined, but was frequently effected without any means at all, by mere
word of mouth.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Trusting God in believing that he is allowing the sickness for his glory

Arthur Pink“According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29)

is most pertinent unto our present inquiry. God is pledged to honor faith wherever He finds it: never does He fail those who trust Him fully; no, not when they count upon Him working a miracle, as many can testify. But what is the “faith” here spoken of? It is one which rests upon the sure Word of God. It is one which is made up of two chief elements expectation and submission. There are some who suppose those two things are subversive of each other, that the attitude of not my will but Thine be done makes real expectation impossible. But that is wrong, through a mistaken conception of what spiritual expectation consists of. Let it first be said that where there is not first genuine resignation there can be no true expectation. Spiritual submission is spreading my case before the Lord and asking Him to deal with it as He sees best, and if I count upon His wisdom and goodness, that is the exercise of faith; and if I have confidence that He will do so, that is the expectation of faith—the expectation not that He will grant what my carnal nature desires, but that He will give what is most for His glory and my highest good; anything other than that is not faith but presumption.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Some illnesses are the results of sinful living

April 15, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkBut suppose upon careful reflection we are unable to trace our present ill health to any physical neglect or folly, then what are we to do? Seek to ascertain the moral cause thereof. “Let us search and try our ways” (Lamentations 3:40), making an honest endeavor to find out what it is which has grieved the Spirit. If conscience be allowed to do her work the probability is we shall soon be made aware that there is an Achan in our camp, an Achan which must be dealt with unsparingly if we are to enjoy the smile of the Lord again. If we have set up some idol it must be thrown down; if we have indulged some lust it must be mortified: if we have entered a forbidden path it must be forsaken: if we have willfully departed from some path of duty it must be returned unto, otherwise “some worse thing” is likely to come upon us. All known sins must be judged, mourned over, confessed in detail unto God:

 

“I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

 

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Keeping the Sabbath aides one’s health

March 25, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkOne of the basic laws of health is the Sabbatic statute.

 

“The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27),

 

for his good, because he needed it. It was made for man that he might be a man, something more than a beast of burden or a human treadmill. His body needs it as truly as does his soul. This has been unmistakably demonstrated in this country. When France collapsed and the British Isles faced the most desperate crisis of their long history, the government foolishly ordered that those in the coal mines and munitions factories must work seven days a week, but they soon learned that the workmen produced less than they did in six days—they could not stand up to the additional strain.

By resting from manual toil on the Sabbath man is enabled to recuperate his strength for the labors of the week lying ahead, yet that cannot be accomplished by attending one meeting after another on that day, nor by exhausting one’s strength through lengthy walks to and from the services—moving the tent nearer the altar is the remedy—still less by profaning the Sabbath in carnal “recreation.” Another Divine precept which promotes health is, “he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). Side by side with the speeding tempo of modern life we behold the multiplying nervous disorders, and those who are murdered or maimed on the highway. For many years we have avoided motor cars, buses and trains whenever the distance to be covered was not too great to walk, not using them more than two or three times in a twelve-month. Rushing around, hurrying and scurrying hither and thither, is not only injurious but a violation of the Divine rule:

 

“He that hasteth with his feet sinneth” (Proverbs 19:2) —which means exactly what it says.

“Take therefore no anxious thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34).

 

How good health is promoted by obedience to this precept scarcely needs pointing out. It is carking care and worry which disturbs the mind, affects circulation, impairs digestion, and prevents restful sleep. If the Christian would cast all his care on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) what freedom from anxiety would be his.

 

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

—physically as well as spiritually. What a tome to a wearied body and tired mind it is to delight ourselves in the Lord:

 

“a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17: 22).

 

“My son, attend to My words… for they are life unto those that find them and health to all his flesh” (Proverbs 4:20, 22):

 

do we really believe this?

 

“Fear the Lord and depart from evil: it shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones” (Proverbs 3:7, 8).

 

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Because Ministers fail to preach on certain subjects, many fall victim to religious fads

PinkHaving exposed the cardinal errors promulgated by the “Divine healing” cults, we turn now to the positive side of the subject. And there is pressing need to do so, for the pulpit has failed grievously here as in so many other directions. Of old God complained,

 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6),

 

and history has repeated itself. It was prophesied,

 

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11),

 

and that fearful prediction is now in course of fulfillment. In the vast majority of places rank error rather than the Truth is being given out, and even in the few remaining centers of orthodoxy the preacher confines himself to such a narrow compass that his people are scarcely any better indoctrinated at the end of the year than they were at the beginning: there is no longer a bringing forth of “things new” as well as “things old” (Matthew 13:52). How many of our readers, we wonder, ever heard a sermon on their duties and privileges in connection with sickness! Very, very few we fear. Little wonder that so many ill-informed members of “evangelical churches” fall such easy victims to modern religious fads.

It is no sufficient reply for preachers to say, We have far weightier and more essential themes to expound. True, the salvation of the soul is immeasurably greater than the healing of the body, nevertheless the Scriptures have much to say concerning the body, and it is to our very great loss if we ignore or remain ignorant about the same. Is it of no moment at all whether the Christian be healthy or sickly? Has our loving heavenly Father left His children without any instruction concerning the laws of health? And when they fall ill is their situation no better than that of the unbelieving world? Must they too lean upon the arm of flesh when sickness overtakes them, and seek the help of a doctor—often an infidel? The Lord is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1): does that mean nothing more than that the saint must, in every instance, seek grace from Him to patiently endure his afflictions? God has promised to supply “all the need” of His people (Philippians 4:19): does that include nothing better than drugs and medicines, such as the Christ-rejector has access to, when I am ill? These are not questions to be lightly dismissed, but prayerfully pondered in the light of Holy Writ.

If the Divine healing cults have gone to one extreme, that of unbalanced fanaticism, have not most of the Lord’s people in this matter gone to the opposite extreme—that of unbelieving stoicism or fatalistic inertia? Is not the attitude of only too many something like this? O well, man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward, so as I cannot expect immunity from physical sufferings, hence I must take what remedies I can for relief, and then make the best of a bad job; or, since this be my appointed lot, I must endeavor to bear it as patiently as I can. Of course when pain is acute they cry unto the Lord and beg Him to ease their anguish, just as Pharaoh did when God’s sore plagues were upon his land. And when Christians pray for recovery, how many of them really do so with the expectation of its being granted? how many know where to turn for a pertinent promise and then plead the same prevailingly? Yet some of them feel they are living beneath their privileges as sons and daughters of the Almighty, and when they hear or read what is advanced by the “faith healing” people wonder how much of it is true and how much false.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Sickness finds its cause in Eden, not necessarily a result of one’s transgressions

February 18, 2014 3 comments

Arthur PinkIf it were true that Christ made atonement for our sicknesses as well as our sins, then it would follow that all bodily disorders are the immediate consequence of some iniquity. We say, “immediate consequence,” for of course it is readily granted that all the ills which man is heir to are so many effects and results of the great transgression of our first parents. It is only reasonable to conclude that had sin never entered this world suffering in any form had been unknown here, for we know that in Heaven the absence of the former ensures the absence of the latter. Thus there is a vital difference between saying that a physical disorder which occasions great discomfort and pain finds its remote cause in the tragedy of Eden, and affirming that it is the direct result of the person’s own wrong doing, as most of the “Divine healing” cults insist. Our Lord’s reply to His disciples in John 9:2, 3 expressly forbids any such sweeping conclusion. There is much suffering, especially among children, which is due to ignorant and innocent breaking of natural laws rather than to violation of the Moral Law. Moreover, if this contention of “Divine healing” were valid, we should be obliged to conclude that every sickness severed the soul from communion with God, which is falsified by the experiences of many of the saintliest persons who ever trod this earth.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?