Monday, October 29, 2012

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

"And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?  The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath." 
John 5:5-9

Christ's compassion on the needs of others is an ever present reminder of God's life-giving character.  God's nature is to relieve the oppressed, comfort the downtrodden, loose the prisoners, heal the sick, and restore men.  A Christian must emulate this character.  An unconcerned believer is a spiritually sick believer.  Christ never turned a blind eye to people's needs.  Thirty-eight years is a long time to be crippled.  At this point, everyone would have given up hope for the man's recovery apart from a miracle.  Jesus says, "Wilt thou be made whole?"  This question can certainly be viewed in a physical context, but viewing it in a spiritual context is not doing any injustice to the Scriptures.  "Wilt thou be made spiritually whole?"  The Scriptures have born witness to many generations of God's love toward mankind.  He has offered life through belief in His Son and the message rings throughout the ages, "Wilt thou be made whole?"  But many do not wish to be made whole.  Too many people love their sin too much to flee to God.  Jesus said concerning unbelieving people, " will not come to Me...."  People lie sick in their sin, pining away in their degradation and still find it in their hearts to say No to God.  Had this man asked Christ for forgiveness of sins his wish would have been granted as fast as that of the penitent woman spoken of in Luke chapter seven; however, this man asks for neither physical nor spiritual healing but dwells upon all the obstacles to his healing.  Doubtless, to some degree he must have been greatly discouraged having observed for many years someone else stepping down into the healing waters.  His address of Sir is the same word translated many other places as Lord.  Here, the title is not used in recognition of Christ's position but rather as a common address of respect.  Christ does not leave him in that state despite his ignorance, discouragement and lack of faith but says to him, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."  The tense of these commands is different.  The first two commands are a one time, point in time action, and the third command has the idea of commencement followed by continuous action.  The idea is this, "Rise at once and take up your bed at once and begin walking and keep on walking."  Christ speaks with divine authority as He clearly demonstrates His superiority over even the angel-touched waters.  God the Father had sent a greater Healer than an angel; He had sent His only Son.  No delay is seen between the command and the healing.  A common trait of false prophets who masquerade as healers is their need to have "time" to heal.  This is due to the fact that they are liars and have no God-given power to heal.  Christ gave the command, and immediately the deed was done.  The Scripture adds, "...and the same day was the Sabbath."  As Christ stated in Matthew 12:12, " is lawful to do well on the Sabbath....", thus fulfilling God's law of love for Him and neighbor. 

Though many who were healed never thanked Christ or gave God glory, Jesus did not hold back from doing good to all people.  A lack of gratitude or recognition would deter most from seeking the welfare of others, but God's nature is not so, because He has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Righteousness Revealed

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:
for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one
that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from
faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." 
Romans 1:16-17

Romans chapters one through three lay out very clearly that all men, the heathen, the hypocrite, and the Hebrew (religious) are without excuse before God. So that God might show the exceeding riches of His grace in Christ Jesus, He must first show all men that they are equally condemned.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." This word for power is the source of our English word dynamite. The holy Gospel of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ is exceeding powerful. It requires no pomp, programs, or pride to make it effective. The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. Christians profess that they believe in the power of the gospel to change people but yet they find it necessary to water it down, change it, mingle it with entertainment, and twist and distort it in order to "win" people. This is wickedness. The Holy Gospel is the only thing upon which God has placed His blessing unto salvation, and this Gospel is open to all men, both Jew and Gentile. The Jew is as much a target of God's grace today as he has ever been. May no Gentile fail to share God's grace with the precious soul of a lost Jew.

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." People all over the world and down through the ages have sought to appropriate by many different works the righteousness that pleases God; however, God's righteousness is the only thing that can make a person fit to enter heaven, and this righteousness is not obtained outside of humble faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the One Who died for the sins of all mankind, the spotless Lamb of God. The phrase from faith to faith is literally out from faith and into faith. Salvation is obtained through faith. Faith is the foundation upon which a relationship with God is built; however, faith does not end there. Faith is also the foundation upon which fellowship with God is built. The Christian life is one long experience of faith. Out of faith in Christ Jesus the child of God is born and this leads into a lifelong walk of faith in that same Christ. One might put it this way, From faith of salvation and into the faith of sanctification. " it is written, The just shall live by faith." As it is written! What a statement of Divine preservation of God's Word! The tense of this verb expresses, at the minimum, this thought, It has been written, therefore it is written and always shall be! One's mind instantly rushes to verses such as Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand forever." So what has been written? ...The just shall live by faith (the just one out from faith he shall live). This statement is taken from Habakkuk 2:4 where God told the frustrated prophet, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Two types of people roam the earth today; those who serve their pride and those who humbly bow to God in faith. God's righteousness, blessing, and eternal forgiveness are obtained by no other means than humble faith in His Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Christ is the sinless Lamb, only He has met God's standard; therefore, man must cease from his own futile attempts to obtain righteousness and humbly submit to the righteousness of God, which is freely offered to all through faith in Jesus Christ. And, so God's righteousness is revealed to all who will accept it by faith, as the wise preacher put it, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding."

Monday, October 8, 2012

House of Mercy

"After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."  John 5:1-4

The identification of this particular feast cannot be determined for certain.  It may have been a feast which was not commanded by God (Lev.23), but rather was held by tradition.  The Passover is mentioned again in chapter six, so whatever the occasion, it was near that time or before it. 

The Bible says that "Jesus went up to Jerusalem."  The Bible often speaks of people traveling "up" to Jerusalem because this city is situated higher than the surrounding country. 

The mercy and love of God is seen throughout these verses.  Why should Christ choose to return to Jerusalem after the rejection that He had already faced?  Only the long suffering nature of God could motivate such action.  The pool of water here mentioned is Bethesda which means house of mercy.  On the crowded steps of these porches lay numerous sick folks seeking relief from their affliction.  Even in the midst of an apostate nation such as this, God's mercy toward men shines forth as He commands one of His many angels to touch these waters with health and healing, thus providing a small haven of relief for those in need.  The fact that they could not go to the religious leaders and find help is both surprising and at the same time not surprising.  The prideful cloak of religiosity is never truly helpful to anyone.  From a distance it appears fair, but it is a tattered and torn garment which deserves only to be at once discarded.  These people lay on the porch of the pool known as the house of mercy in order to avail themselves of the mercy and love of God.  Even with the massive and ornate temple standing on the hill in the distance, the only place where one could find real physical relief was a small, humble pool of water that God had decided to touch. 

NOTE:  The critical text completely eliminates verse four.  Critically minded individuals whose hearts are racked with disbelief discount the legitimacy of such an account as "an angel troubling the water," claiming that such an event is too odd and out of place.  One need not give in to such blatant disbelief.  Is the Holy One of Israel who created the universe in six days incapable of troubling a small pool of water so that people might find relief in the middle of a tormented and oppressive society?  I think not.