Summary: When we see that the New Testament concept of salvation includes deliverance from sickness as well as sin, we will cease to limit it to only one aspect of our being.
When Jesus preached in the synagogue of His home town of
Nazareth, the people were skeptical of His claims, and His power.
Jesus said to them in Luke 4:23 you will surely say unto me this
proverb, physician, heal thyself." Criticism of the physician is of
ancient origin, and had become a proverb in the time of Christ. In
spite of all the modern advances in their effectiveness, they are still
objects of criticism. This is so because people are just naturally
critical and skeptical, and also because doctors, like everyone else,
are subject to sin, and to mistakes, ignorance and indifference.
A nervous patient said to her doctor, "I feel like killing myself.
What shall I do?" The doctor said, "Just leave that to me." Another
doctor said to his patient, "Your left leg is swollen, but I wouldn't
worry much about it." The patient responded, "If your left leg was
swollen I wouldn't worry much about it either." There are volumes
of humorous and serious criticism against the physician that goes
back to ancient times. Much of it is valid. But we must also see that
Jesus put His stamp of approval on the ministry of the physician.
When He was asked why He ate with and associated with sinners He
replied, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are
sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Jesus said the sick need a physician, and He implied that their
ministry of making men whole is a kin to His own ministry
enough to use it as an illustration.
This statement of Jesus is recorded in all three of the synoptic
Gospels, and reveals to us how Jesus related His ministry to the
physician. Jesus ministered to man's sickness and his sin, because
the two are directly related. He delivered men from sickness by His
ministry in life, and He delivered them from sin by His ministry in
death. God's plan of salvation included the whole man-body, soul,
and spirit. Since all three are related and inseparable in life, Jesus
could not atone for sin without affecting all three. Sin is the general
cause of all sickness, and the specific of much sickness. It follows
then that deliverance from sin will also be a deliverance from
sickness. You cannot eliminate a cause, and not eliminate the effects.
If I prevent a man from drinking and becoming an alcoholic, I also
prevent him from dying of the liver disease that he would likely die
from. By preventing the cause I prevent the effect.
When Jesus redeems and releases a sinner from the power of sin
he also delivers him from the effects of sin. This means that the
Christian is one who is delivered by his salvation from the great
number of sicknesses which are directly related to personal sin.
Examples would be such things as syphilis, dope addiction,
alcoholism, and many others. Christians still sin, however, and so
they still suffer the effects of those sins that they cling to. Much
sickness is still related to personal sin, and so there are still many
things that Christians can suffer in their bodies and minds do to
some weakness in themselves. Christians, for example, died along
with non-Christians in the great plagues brought on by poor sewage
disposal. Christians still catch all the contagious diseases through no
personal sin of their own. Whatever the case, whether the sickness is
the result of personal sin, or whether one is the victim of
circumstances, James says the church is to minister to their need.
James does just what Jesus did. He relates the victory over sin,
and the victory over sickness by using the same word to describe
them both. To be cured from an illness is one aspect of salvation.
Salvation means to be made whole, and to be kept sound, and this
includes the whole man. The word James uses here for being saved
from sickness is the same Greek word used for salvation from sin. It
is the same word used in Matt. 1:21, "For he shall save his people
from their sins." It is the same word used in Matt. 18:11, "For the
son of man is come to save that which was lost." When Paul spoke of
Jesus coming into the world to save sinners, and when he spoke of his
desire to use all means to save some, he used this same word. James
uses the word in 1:21 and 5:20 for the saving of the soul.
There is no way to escape the conclusion that to be delivered from
sickness is a part of the whole experience of salvation which Jesus
provided for His people. Jesus is no half-Savior. He does not save
men in part only. He saves the whole man of body, soul, and spirit.