Monday, 23 January 2017
For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Philippians 2:27
Speaking of Epaphroditus still, Paul notes that “he was sick almost unto death.” Whatever affliction he had, it was so severe that those around him had all but given him up for dead. It is a striking comment coming from an apostle, isn’t it. Paul, like the other apostles, had healed many. Both he and Peter had called the dead to life by the power of Christ, and yet there is no hint of this in him now. Instead, he had been unable to heal him as is evidenced by the later words of this verse.
Epaphroditus had a life-threatening affliction, but good news came when “God had mercy on him.” He was, in fact, restored to health by the providence of God. Whatever afflicted him took its course and he was finally restored to vigor. Paul then notes that this mercy extended not only to him, “but on me also.”
The tenderness of the words shows his love for both Epaphroditus and those in Philippi. His heart would have been broken over the death of the beloved brother and in his inability to restore him to them. Should that not have been the case, Paul says, “…lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
From this statement, it is evident that Paul had nothing to do with the healing. If he could have gone up and claimed healing over Epaphroditus, these words could not be included in the letter. Further, they add a touch of confirmation that this letter is genuine and not written by any other than Paul. Otherwise, a miraculous healing would have been noted. The use of the accusative in this verse gives the sense of motion. “Sorrow upon sorrow” mentally provides the image of wave after wave of sorrow coming upon him.
The importance of this verse, and several others in the New Testament (such as Paul’s telling Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach problems, and etc.) demonstrate as clearly as can be seen, that the healing claims of the Charismatic movement are to be rejected as false. It is God who heals, not false teachers who wave their hands over others and supposedly restore them to health. Their deceitfulness is an affront to the truth of God which is found in Scripture. Even the apostles only healed on certain occasions, and only in order to substantiate their apostolic authority. These gifts ended with the termination of the apostolic age.
Now, Christians are to pray for healing of others, but are never to act in a presumptuous and sinful manner by claiming healing. Such notions are to be rejected by those who hold faithfully to God’s word, and to the notion of God’s sovereignty over all things, including the affliction of his people.
Life application: Doctrine matters.
Heavenly Father, You alone are the great Physician. Help us to never sinfully and presumptuously claim anything in Your name. Rather, when we, or those around us, are afflicted, give us the right sense to petition You for healing, and to wait on Your sovereign hand to respond. Should You withhold Your healing, it is because You are God. Keep us from rudely claiming that which belongs to You alone. Instead, may our faith remain through sickness or health, life or death. To Your glory alone. Amen.