The Greater Gift

Acts 3:1-10

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

I recently listened to a mega-church pastor, as is my custom to see how far the masses are being led astray, and he spoke about this text, sort of, without ever mentioning this text. He was talking about life, and it’s seasons and to expect increase and favor that God wants to show us, that is, expect healings. Rather than use an actual passage from the New Testament, he told story after unverifiable story about healing and increase, blessing and favor, outside of the Biblical text. The question is, why didn’t he use this text, why did he use unverifiable testimony and other verified information that’s much less of a miracle than today’s text?

Technology is ever increasing at an exponential rate in these days. Luckily, some fairly dead technology still exists, for the sake of my argument. CD, DVDs and blue rays still exist and their packaging is still difficult to open, though it has become slightly easier. Bags of potato chips are as difficult to open as always. What about a jar of pickles, have you ever had trouble opening up a jar of pickles? Picture all of these blessings we have, CDs, chips and pickles. Think back, have you ever complained about the difficulty with opening them at times? Now imagine how difficult it would have been with one hand tied behind your back. Now picture the difficulty with both hands tied behind your back. Now, picture how difficult it would be to earn a living in the first century, being lame from before birth.

There are around 500,000 people in the United States who struggle with cerebral palsy, and to widely varying degrees. From the one who walks with a slight limp and talks with a slight lisp, to the quadriplegic who can’t do the essential things in life, such as feeding oneself. We don’t know whether or not the lame begger in today’s text had cerebral palsy but it is very plausible that he did. Whatever his ailment, we are told that he had it from before birth. 500,000 out of 320,000,000 is not that large a number, percentage wise. But if you are the one surviving with cerebral palsy,  it’s not about percentages.

On the other hand, over three times as many people were diagnosed with cancer in the United States last year alone, and that number is down quite a bit from several years ago, even as the population increased. 56% of people diagnosed with cancer in the United States 5 years ago are still alive today. While cancer is a common killer, no one has ever died directly from cerebral palsy. Nevertheless, one with cerebral palsy has a much shorter life expectancy than most, because while the CP does not kill, the side effects can. Because of the damage done to their brain, muscles don’t work as they should, therefore things such as respiratory failure and heart problems are common for those suffering with CP. Nevertheless, the current death rate for cerebral palsy and cancer is 100%. In fact, the death rate for everyone remains at 100%, except for those alive at Jesus’ coming, but even they will be changed. We live in imperfect, temporary tents.

Why then didn’t this mega-church pastor tell the story of the healing of the man who was lame since birth from the book of Acts in the Bible? It should  be the perfect prose to promote the promise of prosperity. Instead of using the Bible, of which he promises to teach at the beginning of each of his messages, he used contemporary tales of healings, including the frequently mentioned story of his mother beating cancer. I am afraid that the answer is as diabolical as it is simple; he knows no one will be cured from cerebral palsy, at least not through him. And ultimately,  we all die eventually. But that’s not the most diabolical part.

Notice the context; “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, ‘Look at us!’ And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!’

Faith healing is another dogmatic distraction that divides the church. I have had many arguments with the brethren concerning “faith healing.” And Scripturally, I have not lost one argument yet. Though it seems as though I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut, I do. One man came to me and said that he had prayed over a woman for her cancer to disappear and that the cancer did disappear. Doubtful, I said, “if that’s true, praise the Lord; you didn’t ask for money, did you?” He said that he certainly did not ask for money and for me, there was no point in arguing. Because the Lord can heal whenever, wherever and whomever he wills, I will not argue against that.

Nevertheless, when a young woman came to me and said that she witnessed numerous faith healings by one man, including the deaf hearing, I argued with her. “No you didn’t,” I said. However, she persisted to insist, “yes I did, how can you say I didn’t when I was there and you were not?” “Simple, Scripturally,” I said. I asked what I always ask, knowing the answer. “Did the faith healer ask for money?” “Yes, but…” The conversation should have been over at this point but we simply don’t know our Bibles. We only know what we have been taught by the likes of these mega-church pastors. The reason that the health, wealth and happiness preachers can’t touch today’s text in its context, is because they will be exposed for who they are. She had no idea if these people were, in fact, deaf. The same is not true about the tale told in today’s text, but we’ll get back to this. What she did know, and her discernment bells should have gone off in her head, is that the faith healer made money that day, a lot of money, off of poor people. God simply doesn’t operate in this way.

When Jesus charged his disciples with healings and the like, in Matthew 10, he told them to not take anything with them and to give it all away for free. “And Peter, along with John, [two apostles charged by Jesus; “freely you have received, freely give.”] fixed his gaze upon him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” Can you imagine a prominent, mega-church pastor proclaiming, “I have no money, but what I do have I freely give to you?” I’m afraid that it gets worse for the mega-church pastors.

See if you can picture the following taking place in a mega-church meeting for faith healing: “And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” The people knew the man, though I am sure some doubted, the context is clear; they knew the man. They knew that for years he would beg. They knew he was lame from his mother’s womb. If he was faking it, it was the greatest fake out of all time. He was carried in and sat that for years, begging. It’s a verifiable miracle, unlike the unknown deaf man hearing, which was unverifiable.

“But Russell P, I have seen this. I saw a man born lame, walking after a faith healer layed his hands on him.” While I was not there, I would have a few questions which correlate to the context of today’s text. Had you witnessed the man begging for money over many years, not being able to walk, having to be carried? Did he leap to his feet and walk immediately without any assistance, like the lame beggar did? And as always, did the faith healer get paid. Better still, did the faith healer already have money?

To those who think that I don’t believe in miraculous healing, I absolutely do, because I consider the context. Jesus healed thousands. Paul raised a young man from the dead; we will get to that, Lord willing. And certainly because of today’s text and others in the book of Acts. Nevertheless, the reasons why I find “faith healings” today to be doubly dubious is also based upon these texts. No one ever asked to be paid, those who wanted to buy this power were denied and Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.”

In order to combat claims made in our culture and climate, we use the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics where; Context is king, Author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels preconceived notions and presuppositions. We need to read and study the Bible for ourselves. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. And we have many wolves in sheep’s clothing that lead hundreds of thousands astray, because we love their promises better than the promises of persecution prescribed by the Bible. These mega-church pastors don’t consider the context but rather rip verses out of context, claiming that the Lord has spoken to them directly. Here, we consider the context. I admit 100% that I have no special insight into the word of God. Ironically, that’s why I believe that you can trust me. Not my words, but God’s words, found in the Bible, not in my missives and especially not from the mouths of false teachers claiming special insight.

Therefore we notice that the lame beggar, who has been this way from his mother’s womb, was expecting something from Peter and John, charity and more specifically, money. The lame beggar was hoping for and expecting a gift from Peter and John. Notice; “And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, ‘Look at us!’ And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.”

But the gift he expected was not the gift he received. “But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!’ And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”

No money was exchanged and the lame beggar was not there expecting to be healed. I realize that this scenario is only one of many in the Bible but certain principles apply to all. Foremost is that healing is never a business transaction. I also find it incredibly ironic that both Peter and John, wrote books, Biblical books, better books than any modern mega-church pastor could ever pen. Books from the most high, with the highest authority; written for free. At the risk of being contentious, what are our favorite books, and why? Books about blood moons and healings, pre-tribulation rapture and systematic theology, line our libraries but the truth is only solidly found in one book, written for free, at the risk of life and limb. Last week I listened to my former (yet still current in many ways) pastor’s sermon on an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians. Before he read the chapter he reminded the congregation that the next five minutes would be the best part of the sermon. While his task of helping the congregation to understand the Scripture and apply it is important, ultimately it is the Scripture that has the highest authority. Everything I write, I write so that we will consider the context.

Frankly, I have grown weary of arguing against the dogmatic dispensationalists. Nevertheless, thousands upon thousands tune in to their radio and television programs to hear the dogmatic dispensationalists dismiss any opinion on eschatology other than their own. While preaching to perceive the context, they don’t consider the context themselves. They are unable to make their argument without the following from 2 Timothy 3: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”

They then claim, “this was written to the church.” Problem; this was written to Timothy. Notice; “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” It would be difficult for Paul to be any more specific concerning the recipient of his letter. Paul is telling Timothy, specifically, to be on gaurd against the apostates. Does history repeat itself? Are we also to be on gaurd? Of course. But to claim that this passage was written to the 21st century church is absolutely absurd–be on gaurd.

The other passage the dogmatic dispensationalists need is found in 1 Thessalonians 4; “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” The dogmatic dispensationalists preach a pre-tribulational rapture, based on this text, but rip it out of the total context. The dogmatic dispensationalists claim, “we are gone, we won’t know who the Antichrist is.” While there are many problems with this statement, let’s look at the most glaring.

Paul writes two letters to the Thessalonians. In both he addresses a false letter sent to them, claiming that the day of the Lord had already come. Paul writes, in part, to comfort them,  and tell them that this was not the case. His greatest argument is found in his second letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes; “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”

The dogmatic dispensationalist claims, “this is the Antichrist.” One, out of many, problems; if the “Antichrist” comes first, how could they be gone? The dogmatic dispensationalists argue that the church has been raptured before the man of lawlessness is revealed, on the one hand. Yet on the other hand, Paul comforted the Thessalonians, telling them that the rapture could not have taken place because the apostasy and the man of lawlessness had not yet been revealed. Which is it? This is why context is king and dogma is dubious. Completely corrupted is the concept of the “Day of the Lord,” due to dubious dogmatic doctrines. Nevertheless, we are not here today to discuss dubious details about dogmatic dispensationalism, but to dig deeper into the diabolical dogma of the health, wealth and happiness, false gospel, derived from today’s context. However, examination of examples enlightens us as to how dubious dogma develops; we don’t consider the context, aspirations of the author, genre, examples nor do we divide rightly. Rather, we buy books, begging for others to do our homework for us.

We have all been affected by cancer. Each one of us has lost a loved one to this deadly disease. Yet the converse is also true. Each one of us has a loved one spared, passed over, had their life extended, though diagnosed with this deadly disease. The question is not whether or not a faith healer healed one’s cancer, the question is, did God? I am one of the few, relatively speaking, who has a sibling struggling with cerebral palsy. I’m am sure that the Lord will heal him, but most likely it will not be in this current state of life, where mortality reigns. The problem with the mega-church pastors is that they are, more than Satan, focused on the here and now–on earthly thinking, where moth and rust destroy. Like the lame beggar, they are expecting a temporary hand out. They tell us to expect more though; miracles, healings and increase, favor and blessing from God in the form of a “good life” here in our temporary tents. I am reminded of what Jesus said to Paul when Paul prayed for the thorn in his flesh to be taken away, thrice, in its context, of course. Paul saw things; was “raptured,” actually, of which no mortal man had ever seen. Paul goes on to explain; “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment and discipline me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Surely Paul had seen enough to be able to keep himself humble, hadn’t he? Jesus revealed his own glory and accomplishments to Paul, surely Paul understood that he was a mere messenger. But this is not how the Lord saw it. The greater gift for Paul was not to be healed–imagine that. True spiritual maturity comes from considering the context. The greater gift for the lame beggar was not money but healing. The greater gift for Paul was not healing but for the thorn in his flesh to remain. The greater gift for Hezekiah, and all of Judah, would have been for him to die and to not have been healed. Because after Hezekiah begged the Lord to be healed, the Lord acquiesced, and during his extended life, to him was born the worst king of Judah.

The Lord chose to glorify himself through Peter and John’s interaction with the lame beggar by way of healing. A verifiable healing, where a man  known to many as being lame from before birth, leaped to his feet at the command from Peter. But we must remember that Jesus didn’t prophecy or promise this man’s healing specifically.  Rather he promised healings in general. I believe the same to still ring true. We are promised that Jesus will meet our needs, the problem is we don’t know what our needs are. Nevertheless, our biggest need was taken care of on the cross. Ultimately, this is what the context of the Bible is all about, our need for, and the sacrifice of, the Savior. That’s the ultimate healing.

Therefore, as the dogmatic dispensationalists look for a pre-tribulational rapture, and as the mega-church pastors look for earthly healing and earthly increase, that is, lining their pockets, let us remember what Peter, the one through whom God healed the lame beggar, wrote. “We are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” We dwell in temporary tents but look forward to the New Heaven and Earth, where these temporary tents are remade, in perfection and incorruptible. The greater gift for the lame beggar was healing but the greatest gift that surpasses any other gift, whether healing, blessing, increase or favor is found in the cross of Christ; salvation for the sinful soul.

 

 

7 thoughts on “The Greater Gift

  1. So, what verses did the 1st century church have? The NT lay four centuries into the future, the OT in the Temple, where they were despised. They only had His Spirit.

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      1. Studied that a decade ago. They knew Jesus, had His Spirit. Nothing more, really. We are too dogmatic about esp the NT. How many Christians really know Jesus, despite having Bibles? All know Paul, but not Jesus.

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      2. Either or both. It isn’t necessary to dissect Christianity to find what was going on. Ample reading existed a decade ago and was accessible even at the tip of Africa. A practical approach was helpful when I did my bit of self study.

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      3. The Apostles certainly spoke through the Holy Spirit; and wrote. They had the OT, revealed to them in fullness, and had revelation through Jesus. All were eyewitnesses. Hebrews 1:1+2. The early church had the writing’s–more than we have. Paul wrote at least one missing letter to the Corinthians and Peter wrote; “regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.”

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      4. Exactly what I said. The NT didn’t exist back then. Through their Jewish upbringing, they would know the OT even from memory. But they relied on His Spirit mostly.

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