Dead Preaching

Last month I seen a cartoon circling social media making fun of California’s ban on plastic straws. The cartoon depicted a scene from an urban area all too common these days. It showed people who were homeless living in tents and dumpsters. Coming from the left is a well dressed politician proclaiming his gospel. He said, “Good news! Plastic straws are banned!” The goal of the cartoon was to point out that of all the possible issues society could fix banning plastic straws should come after we help people who live on the streets. Banning plastic straws is a good idea. But, it doesn’t help the person living in the dumpster.

But, I wasn’t thinking plastic straws when I saw this cartoon. I was thinking about the gospel that church folk preach. The politician in the cartoon could just as well had been a well dressed preacher saying, “Good news! Jesus has saved you for heaven, if you only believe.” The point being while we preach, “heaven” people are living in hell on earth.
Now, I am not saying heaven is not part of the gospel. It very much is. And we can give comfort to dying believers, and their loved ones, that heaven waits for them. Heaven is a hope we can give to those in need. But, it is not the only thing we need give them.

James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (Jame 2:15-16). If we only preach and say, “Believe and heaven awaits!” while we see people in need what good is that? Preaching God’s love and mercy without showing God’s love and mercy is dead preaching.

I’ve written about this before. Some preachers today believe the mission of the Church is strictly preaching for salvation of souls. But this leaves a huge hole in their faith, and in their preaching.

The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to save the whole person, not just get them into heaven. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). The Greek word for salvation here can be rendered, “rescue, salvation, health, wholeness and restoration to the original state and condition.” It is for the whole person, healed of the sickness of sin, rescued from the slavery of evil, made whole into a new creation!

If we have hope in the next life only we are a people most to be pitied.

Faith Healing a False Gospel?

Jesus Healing the Paralytic

A headline on Twitter caught me off guard the other day: “David Platt calls out ‘false gospel’ of faith healing; forgiveness of sins is the real Good News.” It would seem at first glance Platt and I are reading a different Bible. Jesus’ ministry was full of healings. People being healed is a sign that he was the Messiah, that God’s kingdom was breaking into this present age. The age to come is breaking forth.

At The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference Platt preached from Mark 2:1-12. Ironically this is the very passage I thought about when I first saw the headline. It is the story of Jesus healing the paralytic who’s friends lowered him down through a roof to see Jesus. Looking at the man Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes and Pharisees begin to question to themselves how one who is not God can forgive sins. But, Jesus showing that he could forgive sin heals the paralytic.

Platt claims, though the man had two urgent needs, healing and forgiveness, the two needs are not equal. He says, “This man’s spiritual need was ultimate. More important than even his physical paralysis was his spiritual malice… this man was a sinner, which meant that his ultimate need was not healing from God, but holiness before God.” This is why Jesus did not first heal the man but forgave him his sins.

But, the message of this passage is not we need forgiveness of sins. The message is that Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Jesus knowing his audience has scribes and Pharisees in it (See Lk. 5:21) first said to the man that his sins were forgiven. He knew the Pharisees would question it. It was believed then sickness and disease were a result of sin. Even Jesus’ own disciples thought this (John 9:1ff). If Jesus was to prove he has the power to forgive sins, in the eyes of these scribes and Pharisees he’d have to heal the sickness.

Which is easier to say after all? “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Be healed”?

Your particular sin may not have caused your sickness. But, sickness and disease is a result of sin in the world. If Jesus can forgive sin, save us from our sin, then why is it a “false gospel” to say you can be healed by Jesus? After all, healing is a significant part of the atonement (Is. 53:5).

Platt said, ““The Gospel is not going to Africa and saying ‘trust in Jesus and your HIV/AIDS will be gone. The Gospel is not going to America and saying ‘trust in Jesus and your cancer will be gone.’” This I agree with Platt. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not “believe and be physically healed”, but, “believe and be forgiven.” However, to disassociate healing from the gospel all together is not how the Bible portrays the work of Jesus, his ministry, or the ministry of the Church after his ascension. By our saving faith we are healed, either in this age or the age to come. What is there to hope for if we are not ever healed?

Another pastor quoted in the article is Kevin DeYoung. He said the key to Jesus’ ministry is not to “transform social structures,” but to proclaim the good news. He says, “There is not a single example of Jesus going into a town with the purpose of healing or casting out demons… The reason He came out to public ministry was to preach.”

Excuse me Kevin, have you read the gospel of Luke? Because this is what the gospel of Luke is all about.

Both Platt and DeYoung miss the point of Jesus ministry. He himself told us what his ministry is all about in Luke 4:18-19.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus came to preach? Yes, to preach good news to the poor. And if Jesus did not come to “transform social structures” then how is forgiveness of sins good news to the poor? Especially since people in all social classes has access to this same forgiveness? Also, Jesus was to deliver people, heal people, and set people free. Many want to over-spiritualize this passage. But, how does Jesus fulfill his God given mission? In the real world, during his earthly ministry.

Jesus did go about casting out demons (Luke 4:31-37) setting free the captive.

Jesus did go about healing (Luke 4:38) including the blind.

Jesus preached against the leaders of his day for not considering the poor, and for keeping people from experiencing God (Luke 11:37-54), proclaiming liberty to the oppressed.

Yes, Jesus was sent to preach the gospel, but he was also sent to bring “the good news of the kingdom of God” too (Luke 8:1). He preached the good news AND brought about the kingdom of God by healing, casting out demons, and proclaiming liberty to those oppressed.