Which is Easier?

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Luke 5:22-23)

Biblical theology – not just theology that is biblical, but that approach to interpretation that is called biblical theology – interprets the text of Scripture in the context of God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. This is appropriate, but in the hands of unbelief it becomes an excuse to neutralize what the individual passages actually assert, because one can always – illegitimately, of course – appeal to the overarching purpose of redemption to destroy the narrower significance of a text.

One recent book on biblical theology describes an incident in which the author was speaking to some children at church. He taught on a biblical account of miracle healing and practically bullied a child into confessing that the miracle was not the point of the text, but that it was really about some broader concern regarding Christ and his work of redemption. However, to that sick man in the text, healing was very much the point, and Jesus did not tell him that the healing was not the point, but he granted him the healing, so that he thought it was enough of a point to do it for the man. And to a sick man who reads the Bible today, healing is also very much the point, even if it is not the only point or the most important point.

When there is a larger point to be grasped from a text, what is stated by the text does not suddenly become a non-issue. When Jesus talked about sparrows, his main point was not about sparrows, but what he said about the sparrows remains true to this day, so much so that we could make an independent point out of it. We can make the point that God regulates the lives of sparrows without mentioning what this implies about his relationship with us, because that point about sparrows is true by itself and can stand by itself (Matthew 10:29). If a biblical account of miracle healing advances a larger point about Jesus Christ, the passage is still intelligible in itself. It is still about the miracle healing, and miracle healing is still a legitimate topic that can be discussed on the basis of the text.

Although it may take churches and seminaries several years to exorcise basic reading comprehension out of a person, these institutions are persistent and successful in making people unlearn intellectual skills so that they could accept total nonsense. Indeed, it is strange that when the Bible refers to healing of the body and salvation of the soul as if they are bundled together and as if they fulfill the same prophecies (Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24; James 5:15-16), the preachers and theologians wish to separate them and even spiritualize the healing of the body into the salvation of the soul, and then force healing to be absorbed into salvation. And when the Bible refers to conversion to Christ and reception of the Spirit as distinct blessings and events, the preachers and theologians wish to combine them and force the reception of the Spirit to be absorbed into conversion.

They keep separate what the Bible bundles together, so that they could disguise their opposition to the healing power of God, and they bundle together what the Bible keeps separate, so that they could disguise their opposition to the fullness of the Spirit. Then, with the tools of their scholarship, they bully and shame people into going along with their theological and ecclesiastical program. Even little children are not spared. They would not be allowed to run to Christ for all his blessings. Their faith to receive the Christ of the Gospels and to receive the Spirit of the Acts will not be tolerated. Whatever it takes, their faith will be educated out of them.

Against all of this, if you will cling to Christ alone, you will find liberty in him from the doctrines of men and from the pressure to conform to unbelief and tradition. As for how we should answer them, which is easier: to say, “Turn from your unbelief,” or to say, “May your unbelief burn with you”? But so that all would know where unbelief leads, let us say, “Turn from your unbelief, lest you burn with it.”