It is only natural that the Apostle Paul should have great
affection for Luke. Ever since teaming up with Paul at the time the Lord directed him to
go into Macedonia, Luke has pretty much been Pauls constant companion. As the saying
goes, they have been through thick and thin together, including the tempestuous ship
voyage to Rome recorded in Acts 27. Little wonder, therefore, when Paul makes mention of
Luke in his epistles, he often does so in a way that conveys not only great love, but
great consolation as well. This, in particular, is done when Paul writes about enduring
the most arduous situations. A prime example of this is found in II Timothy 4. Few words
are so expressive of Pauls aching heart over the capitulation of many, and at the
same time so expressive of his great consolation over the selfless, uncompromising loyalty
of one, than those five words in II Timothy 4:11 "Only Luke is with me."
It is a gross understatement to say that Lukes loyalty meant much to Paul. It was an
exceeding great comfort to him. One which could be matched only by Timothys own
coming to be with him.
Though Paul highly valued Lukes
almost constant companionship, his unflagging loyalty, and the like, there is one
particular way in which Paul loved Luke that is often times overlooked. In Colossians 4
Paul expresses this by referring to Luke in a very special way.
14 Luke, the
beloved physician, and Demas greet you. (Colossians 4:14)
Paul calls Luke "the beloved physician." But this is much more
than simply an acknowledgment of his profession in order to identify him. Paul does not
say, Luke, the physician, but "Luke, the beloved physician."
Hence, Paul is expressing his appreciation for Luke as a physician; a medical doctor. Yet,
in truth, he is expressing much more than that. By calling Luke "the beloved physician,"
Paul is declaring that he "loved" Luke as a physician; he highly valued and
esteemed Luke as a physician, needing his medical skills and benefiting from them.
Why would it be that the Apostle Paul would value Luke as a physician?
Why would he need to benefit from Lukes medical skills? Is not this the man who,
being the Apostle that he was, wrought on a regular basis "mighty signs and wonders,
by the power of the Spirit of God," including miraculous physical healing? Sure it
is! Is not this the man of whom it is written in Acts 19,
11 And God
wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
12 So that
from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases
departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)
Was it not Paul who "felt no harm" on the island of
when the venomous viper "fastened on his hand" and "he should have swollen,
or fallen down dead suddenly"? Yes, it was!
Why then would he have need of a physician? In view of who he was and
"the power of the Spirit of God" manifestly working through him, it seems most
unusual that Paul would express his appreciation for Luke as a physician.
The solution to this puzzle lies in recognizing the significance of
where it is in Pauls epistles that we find him making this declaration. Notice that
he does not say this about Luke in Romans, I or II Corinthians, or Galatians. These are
epistles Paul wrote when, as described in I Corinthians 12-14, a number of time-limited
operations of God were in effect. Nor is Pauls statement about Luke recorded in the
book of Acts as something he said about Luke during that same period of time. Instead,
Paul declares this about Luke in Colossians, one of his later epistles. What is so
significant about this is that Colossians was written at the time when two of those
particular time-limited operations of God had successfully been accomplished.
Consequently, the temporary validating function of miraculous signs and wonders associated
with them were no longer needed, and they had ceased.
These two particular time-limited operations were the Divine validation
of Pauls special Gentile Apostleship, and the special testimony of Gods grace
given to Israel outside of their land. During the opening stage to this dispensation of
grace when these two operations were being performed, numerous sign-type evidences were
given by God attesting to their reality, including miraculous physical healings. However
once they were successfully accomplished, there remained no further need for the sign-type
attestation. For not only had God given adequate testimony to validate these two matters,
but more importantly He had replaced the sign-type attestation with the greatest form of
attestation God ever gives for the validity and reality of anything i.e. putting it
into His written word.
With their temporary validating role fulfilled, performing miraculous
physical healings ceased to be an operation of God in this dispensation. Consequently, in
Pauls later epistles not only is their function not mentioned, but instead being
sick, needing a physician, and taking medicine, is set forth as the norm for us.
To better understand and appreciate this, lets briefly consider
the role given to miraculous physical healings.
The Natural Place for Miraculous Physical
It is in Gods program with Israel that signs, wonders, and
miracles, (including physical healings), have their natural place. This, in particular, is
because God had made a covenant with Israel to do such things among them. For example, in
Exodus 34 God declared to Moses,
10 And he
said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not
been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all thy people among which thou art
shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with
thee. (Exodus 34:10)
On the basis of this covenant Israel could not only expect God to do
"marvels" among them and for them to "see the work of the LORD" in
their very midst, but the performing of such marvels even served as signs to Israel
regarding how they fared in Gods program with them. In view of this, for example,
Israel could read the signs of their national circumstances, compare them with what God
set forth to them in Leviticus 26, and know just how they stood with God. In connection
with this, particular times of national distress would have them crying out with
Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen
us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of,
Or with Asaph,
9 We see not
OUR SIGNS: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that
knoweth how long. (Psalm 74:9)
Hence, the overall issue of signs, wonders, and miracles, is clearly not
only a natural part of Gods program with Israel, it is also integral to it.
Miraculous physical healings were a special part of the covenant of
marvels God had with Israel. As Jehovah-ropheka, ("I am the LORD that healeth
thee"), God would put this aspect of His "Jehovah-ness" into effect for
Israel, healing both their land and their physical infirmities. This was particularly
evident during the climactic stage in Israels program, as set forth in the Gospel
accounts and the opening chapters of the book of Acts. At that time, with the Lord in the
land and the "last days" of Israels time schedule in effect, miraculous
physical healings abounded. This was especially so because physical healings were one of
the two hallmark signs of the kingdom (1), and as such they validated the fact that the kingdom of
heaven truly was "at hand," just as began to be proclaimed to Israel beginning
with John the Baptist. Hence, as the Gospel accounts describe, the Lord went about
"preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all
manner of disease among the people." (Matthew 4:23) In so doing He was
"preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1)
The miraculous physical healings that were performed by the Lord, His 12
apostles, and others of the remnant of Israel during that time were signs of the kingdom
and "signs of the times," (Matthew 16:1-4). They were the "powers of the
world to come" that Israel tasted during that time, (Hebrews 6:4-5).
The Great Dispensational Change
When events in Israels program had advanced on to the point that
God was ready "to shew his wrath, and to make his power known" and thereby bring
in the kingdom, something completely unexpected happened. Instead of commencing His day of
wrath as anticipated, God suspended His program with Israel and brought in this present
dispensation of His longsuffering and grace to the Gentiles in which we live today.
Raising up the Apostle Paul as a brand new apostle, God revealed to him "the mystery
of Christ" that He had kept "hid in himself" since before the world began.
With the suspension of Israels program, the signs of the kingdom
ceased to be given to them. Instead, God gave evidence particularly designed to manifest
the great dispensational change He had made.
The Temporary Role of Miracles in this
In accordance with bringing in this new and unprophesied dispensation of
His grace to the Gentiles, God began performing a number of operations that both confirmed
the reality of what He was doing, and also provided for the partial-knowledge situation in
existence at that time. Of the operations that confirmed the reality of what He was doing,
both the validation of Pauls special Gentile Apostleship and the special testimony
of Gods grace given to Israel outside their land involved the use of miracles,
including physical healings.
In Romans 15, for example, the Apostle Paul describes the validating
role belonging to miracles in his ministry.
Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting
you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,
16 That I
should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God,
that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy
17 I have
therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things that pertain to God.
18 For I
will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make
the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and
round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:15-19)
Through the testimony of such "mighty signs and wonders" God
unquestionably validated Pauls special Gentile Apostleship and message. He made it
evident beyond a shadow of a doubt that His program now involved the "offering up of
However, it was actually Gods operation of giving Israel a special
testimony of His grace outside of their land that made specific use of miraculous physical
healings. Yet, not just any kind of physical healing, but a particular set of specified
healings that were very significant to Israel.
The "Gifts of Healings"
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He began to educate them in the
meaning of His "Jehovah-ness" and grace. At that time, as part of that
education, He spoke to them very pointedly about the diseases of Egypt.
26 And said,
If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which
is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep his statutes, I
will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am
the LORD that healeth thee. (Exodus 15:26)
These specific diseases were to have a special role in Israels
education. As they learned the hard way the meaning, necessity, and application of
Gods "Jehovah-ness" and grace, these diseases would come into play. In
view of Israels failure to comply with the Law contract, these diseases of Egypt
were brought upon them, just as called for in Deuteronomy 28.
27 The LORD
will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with
the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
59 Then the
LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great
plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.
he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they
shall cleave unto thee. (Deuteronomy 28: 27, 59-60)
As Deuteronomy 28 testifies, these diseases (of which Israel could not
be healed except by the grace of Gods "Jehovah-ness") would be especially
experienced by Israel outside their land.
It was the healing of these specific diseases that God used as a sign to
Israel outside of their land when He testified to them of His grace at the beginning of
this dispensation. These are the particular miraculous healings performed by members of
the body of Christ to whom was given "the gifts of healings" cited by Paul in I
Corinthians 12 and 13. In Jewish population centers outside of their land, like Corinth,
the testimony of Gods "Jehovah-ness" and grace to Israel was validated
before their eyes by those with "the gifts of healings."(2)
By such healings,
along with other signs like tongues (3) that were also used in this particular
operation, God gave testimony of His grace to His nation outside their land.
However this particular operation of God, like all the gift-supported
operations of God cited by Paul in I Corinthians 12-14, was time-limited. It, and the
others, ceased when it was replaced with Gods "more excellent" testimony
His completed written word.
Your Physical Health in this Dispensation
In Romans 8:18ff, the Apostle Paul makes it clear to us that for as long
as this dispensation of Gods longsuffering and grace is in effect, we are subject to
"the sufferings of this present time." With the suspension of Israels
program, the "bondage of corruption" continues in effect. This means, therefore,
that we not only can, but will, experience sufferings in our lives. And especially so will
be this be the case with our physical health.
In fact, to put it bluntly, because of the "bondage of
corruption," the status of our physical health is going to constantly vary. We are
going to be in and out of sicknesses and infirmities. Moreover, as the dispensation of
grace continues on, the frequency of experiencing sicknesses, weaknesses, painfulness, and
the like, will increase. Indeed, if this dispensation continues on long enough, our health
will deteriorate to the point that our bodies will succumb to the "bondage of
corruption" and we will die.
In view of this, 3 particular verses in Pauls later epistles set
forth issues that are very instructive to us. The first one is the issue with which we
began this article.
Colossians 4:14 "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas
greet you." As it was with the Apostle Paul, so does it need to be with
us. Find yourself a "beloved physician." You are going to need one.
I Timothy 5:23 "Drink no longer water, but use a little
wine for thy stomachs sake and thine often infirmities." As with
Timothy, take your medicine.(4)
II Timothy 4:20 "Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus
have I left at Miletum sick." As with Trophimus, recognize that it may be
that there is nothing any physician, or any medicine, can do for you. Indeed, the time
will come when that will be the case.(5)
In view of the "sufferings of this present time," our physical
health will often have us groaning and travailing in pain. There is, however, a permanent
healing for our bodies to which we eagerly look forward. Its "the redemption of
our body" at our rapture/resurrection. At that time, when God ends this dispensation,
we will put on either incorruption or immortality "in a moment, in the twinkling of
an eye, at the last trump." Yet until then, for as long as we are in these mortal
bodies, we will need to benefit from a "beloved physician."
1.The other hallmark sign
of the kingdom is casting the unclean spirits out of Israels land.
2. It is instructive to
note that "the gifts of healings" is not only described by Paul in the plural,
but he cites it as distinct from "miracles" in general. The one possessing this
gift at this time, had a specified set of healings to graciously give to ones to whom it
had been told that they had diseases of which they could not be healed except by
Gods gracious gift.
3. Cf. I Corinthians
4. It was more than
likely Luke himself who prescribed this medicine for Timothy.
5. In citing these 3
verses, the situation concerning Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30 is not being
overlooked. The things pertaining to Epaphroditus, and Gods mercy on him, will be
considered in a future article of The Enjoy The Bible Quarterly .