Speaking the Truth in Love

If Paul Couldn’t Do It …

Jesus and his apostles worked astounding miracles. They cured leprosy, opened deaf ears and blind eyes, caused the lame to walk, and even raised the dead. Though plainly unable to perform signs of this sort, modern faith healers claim to have the same power working within them. But when pressed for evidence, they fail to produce it.

This failure is sometimes excused on the basis of certain references in Paul’s letters. It’s suggested that he occasionally failed in his attempts to heal the sick. Paul encouraged Timothy to “no longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). Why didn’t Paul heal his young friend instead of suggesting a natural remedy? And why didn’t he heal Trophimus instead of leaving him “ill at Miletus” (2 Tim. 4:20)? And why didn’t Paul heal Epaphroditus, the Philippian who “nearly died” while tending the imprisoned apostle in Rome (Phil. 2:30)? In each case, it is explained, the answer is the same: Paul didn’t heal because he couldn’t. The Spirit moves at his own discretion. Therefore, modern healers shouldn’t be expected to heal every time either.

This argument pits the silence of the scriptures against what is specifically known. God performed such “extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul” that work “aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them” (Acts 19:11-12). The Bible reader who feels no need to class himself with the apostles can easily see that Paul sometimes “failed” to heal the sick because he didn’t always try. The primary purpose of miraculous signs was to create faith in unbelievers (John 20:30-31; Heb. 2:1-4), not to meet the medical needs of mature believers such as Timothy, Trophimus, and Epaphroditus.

Share This