Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

I had always been taught that the church is the bride of Christ, but hearing some different opinions and theories about it made me realize that I didn’t really know if what I believed was really the truth or how I could back it up with solid Scriptures. The first Scripture I found didn’t say what I thought it might say.

Revelation 21:9-10 says “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride , the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

This totally messed with what I believed; I had to find more scripture to see if this was true or what this really meant. Is New Jerusalem really the bride of Christ? And what does this mean? Where did the bride of Christ being the church even come from?

Revelation 21:2, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

Revelation 19:6-9, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ‘ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

Isaiah 62:4-5, “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (The word “sons” can also be translated “Builder”.)

Isaiah 54:4-6, “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.”

Matthew 22:11-14, “But when the king came in to see th guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. ‘Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’”

Hebrews 13:14, “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”

Galatians 4:24-26, “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.”

Hebrews 12:22-24, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

From these Scriptures we can see that the bride of Christ is clearly New Jerusalem. The last cite from Hebrews tells us who will be in New Jerusalem. It tells us that the angels, the church of the firstborn, God, spirits of righteous men, and Jesus will all be in New Jerusalem. You can take this to mean that along with the city, we will also be part of the bride of Christ. They will be with God, as Revelation 21:3 says:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

It is this closeness that is like marriage, the closeness and relationship between husband and wife is like the relationship and closeness we will have with God as part of His bride. His bride will be the city of New Jerusalem and all the things in it, and part of that is “the church of the firstborn” which we know to be Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Colossians 1:15-18, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Revelation 1:5, “and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

So because we are His church, we will be part of His bride. It’s still hard to comprehend, the idea of God being married to New Jerusalem. What would make God want to marry New Jerusalem and everything within? How does this relate to us in a way we can understand it?

Matthew 22:29-32, “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’”

1 Corinthians 7:8-9,”Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Romans 7:2, “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.”

1 Corinthians 7:33-36, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lords affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way with undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

1 Corinthians 7:1,”Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.”

1 Corinthians 7:28, “But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

1 Timothy 4:1-3, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have ben seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”

1 Peter 3:1-7, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Titus 2:4-8, “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Colossians 3:18-19, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”

Ephesians 5:22-30, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.”

These verses together tell us that we won’t be married to the people we marry here on earth on the other side of resurrection because the law of marriage is only in effect until “death do us part”, and that despite our marital status we are still part of the church of Christ. We are to still honor marriages here on earth, even though we are part of the bride of Christ, and do our best to keep our focus on God and pleasing Him. Ultimately, marriage displays the type of relationship Christ has with His church. We are to show love to our spouse just as Christ did to the Church and the Church does to Christ. Christ displayed His love for us (His Church) already in dying for us. His relationship with us is as a husband to his wife, the love and intimacy that He shares with us and the way He knows our hearts is just like that of a marriage relationship. It makes sense that His bride would be New Jerusalem when you take into account what He has done for His bride already and how He loves her as a whole. He wants to be close to us, to His people and His angels, this is why New Jerusalem is His bride.

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Why do people need Jesus?  Why do you need Jesus?  Don’t answer with only an inspirational quote like, “He is my hope.” That is hard to recite when it all hits the fan. Also, don’t preach to others here, but really just talk about you and JC for a minute.  Think on this for a while and then share your thoughts.”

Wow… This site (click here) is awesome. It really puts things out there to think about, and I’m glad I came across something like this. I like taking things seriously, and this really challenged me personally.

I need Jesus, not because of what He did and not because I believe in something He said. I need Jesus because the reality of the situation is that, although I fail to grasp the simplest of things at times, in all things I find truth compelling and none more compelling than what I find in Him. I desire truth. The world I see and the world He describes are so different, yet only in perspective and not function or definition, and my heart is longing for that which He describes. I want an adventure, I want a battle, something to fight for and the ability to do it. I want a real truth, powerful and solid and firm and unmoving regardless of my own opinions and experiences. I want a challenge, something to push me and bend me and send me far beyond my limits at times. I want a pure and fiery romance, or at least something to be passionate about to the point my heart burns itself completely as fuel for the flame. Nothing in this world satisfies these desires and cravings in my soul completely. Nothing in this world matches up. I can find this or that in the world, I can make this or that happen in my lifetime, but every path I take ends up feeling meaningless and uninspiring if it’s something I’m making come true instead of just being true. I want something greater because I find myself no longer able to accept all this world has to offer me and I am forced, no, determined to seek more. I am well aware this costs me my life and everything I could ever gain, that it costs me my freedom of choice and my ease of existence nearly all the time, but it rids me of all meaningless things and I gain those desires of my heart that this world can never satisfy. For me? That’s convincing enough that I need Jesus. Then I find out that I’ve sinned, so I no longer have the opportunity to chase the things of God and am denied the right to live according to my deepest desires, and the only way to fix it is passing through a narrow gate we know as Jesus? So you’re telling me the very One I need is now something I need even more? I’m taking that shot and you can keep your religion and worldly values to yourself. I just need Jesus.

(I used NIV for all the scripture references)

 

The Bible speaks a lot on the body, soul, and spirit of a human for it being the words of the living God. God didn’t hide our nature from us; He makes it very clear with His words what we are. In Hebrews 4:12 it says “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Which shows just how specific God was in choosing His words, and that if used correctly we can even divide the difference between the soul and spirit using them. But this poses the question, what exactly does the Bible say about the body, soul, and spirit?

Let’s start by taking a look at where the nature of our human body is mentioned in Scripture. In Matthew 10:28 Christ, giving the twelve their marching orders, says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Showing that our body is mortal and that our soul is not naturally mortal but can be destroyed. Again in 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 Paul, talking about the different bodies and splendors God has given to different things, he talks about our mortality and our resurrection into glorified bodies “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” From this we can take that our bodies are all temporary shells for something more permanent, and eventually we will be transformed or clothed into something immortal, as verse 52 in the same chapter states, “- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

What then, does our body contain? In Deuteronomy 6:5 there was a command given, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” So we can assume that we have a heart and a soul, things that cannot be seen physically but still part of us. This command is in the Bible in several other places as well, sometimes without “strength” as in Joshua 22:5, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” And similar to this is Deuteronomy 30:6, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” However, this command is never given without mention of both heart and soul, even in the New Testament. In Matthew 22:37 it says “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

So then, since we know we must have a soul and a heart, what are they? Let’s start by exploring the soul. In Psalms the author wrote about his soul having desires and emotions, such as having joy, boasting and praising God. It is almost as if it were a means of relating what is in your spirit through your body to the world. In Psalms 34:2 he says “My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” As well as in Psalm 103:1 which says “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” And Psalms 42:1 “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” In Psalms 63:8 it says “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” And Psalms 94:19 says “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

What is the heart? In Psalms, again, the author wrote quite a bit about his heart. In Psalms 34:18 he writes “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” In Psalms 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” And later in verse 17 of the same chapter, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” In Isaiah 57:15-16 it says “For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me – the breath of man that I have created.” We find in Ezekiel 11:19-20 the same message, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” And the exact same thing again in Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” In each of these verses it is clear that the heart and spirit are similar things, if not the one and the same, and that the Lord will be close to those who are brokenhearted or broken spirited and will revive or renew them. Not only this, but we find a definition for the spirit or heart of a man as the very breath that God created in us that it talks about in Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  It is the very center of life in a man, who we are at our very core.

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 it says “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” This can help us to relate what we can see to what we don’t, our spirit, just like our body, can be affected by our surroundings. In 1 Corinthians 5:3 (“Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit.”), Philippians 2:2 (“then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”), 1 Peter 3:4 (“Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”), and Luke 1:80 (“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”) the authors write about the state of their spirit or of other’s spirits rather than what the spirit is. This shows that it is an active part of who we are, not just a life-source, but something at the very core of who we are. In 2 Kings 2:9 Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.” And he was granted this later when he saw Elijah leave, showing that the very core of who we are can be changed and influenced by other people and by God.

In conclusion, I will give an analogy to explain what I find that scripture says about the body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit and soul is one thing, but two distinct parts that can only really be correctly divided by the Word of God and by God himself. I like to think of it as if they were parts of an atom, our spirit is our protons and our heart is our neutrons, the very core of who we are and what we are made of. Although it can be changed and made into something completely different, this will rarely happen and will make a significant impact on what we are when it does. Our soul is our electrons, the emotions that constantly move about and connect us with other people and with God as well as our thoughts and desires. Our soul is one with our spirit, though they are two different things, and cannot be separated from one another. As our spirit is renewed so our soul will be as well, and as our soul changes and moves our spirit also will shift and grow. Our body right now is but a shell, the empty space surrounding the atom, and though it may change or die our spirit and soul remain intact and unchanged. The things that make us so different from one another are important to nature, with just one of us removed something great would be missing. We need to stay true to the purpose God has called us uniquely to as well as the mission God has called all of us to as His people. I find it appropriate to end this as Paul ended his epistle in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

 

EDIT: Just to clarify the first paragraph because I worded it weird… God’s Word talks about our nature more than it has to, and I found that surprising. Hebrews 4:12 – Not that we can divide soul and spirit (because they are essentially one thing) 😛 But that it can if used correctly pierce the soul and spirit to the point where it separates just as the parallel given says ” it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”… WE cannot divide them, the Word of God can however look into the very nature of man and give us clarity.

“Will homosexuals be found in the kingdom of God?” At first I thought this question was very political and didn’t have much to do with my faith, but a second look at the question and I saw that it wasn’t about sexual orientation or homosexual behavior. The heart of the question revolves around the kingdom of God and what will be found in this kingdom. In both the beginnings and ending of the Bible and everywhere throughout God is constantly talking about His kingdom.

Revelation 1:4-6, “John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Exodus 19:3-6 “Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’”

Mark 1:14-15 “after John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

But what makes up this kingdom? What sets people apart to be part of God’s kingdom? Malachi 3:1-4, prophesying about Christ’s coming, says, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.” And Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” And in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about the righteous receiving an inheritance and a kingdom while everyone else will be cast out.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ‘Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ ‘They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’”

This picture of a separation between God’s kingdom and the rest of the world is echoed many times in Jesus’ parables, for instance Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” And Matthew 13:40-43, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him here.” And Matthew 22:11-14, “’But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. ‘Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’”
To be part of God’s kingdom, we must be righteous and put others above ourselves out of genuine love. Romans 12:9-10, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” However, we know that (Romans 3:23) “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” which would separate us from God’s kingdom forever if it weren’t for Romans 3:24, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

From the same book, in Romans 14:12-18 we see more at work than just salvation. “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” This again gives us the idea that we need to love others and that we need to stand in God’s righteousness to be found in His kingdom.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul is addressing an issue in the church between believers and confronting them about the lawsuits they have with one another. He says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” And he expresses this same idea in other books as well, for example in Ephesians 5:1-11 after talking about how we should conduct ourselves and how we are to live as children of light he writes, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, bur now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” And in Galatians 5:16-25 after talking about how believers should treat one another Paul writes, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

If we go back to 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 we see that Paul urges us to honor God with our bodies, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” If we are to consider ourselves part of God’s kingdom, although we were brought here by His grace, we must make our faith in Him evident by our works (James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”) and how we live our lives on a day to day basis. We cannot consider ourselves having a part in His kingdom if we continue to hold in part our old ways and refuse Him as He sanctifies us. In 1 Peter 1:13-15 Peter tells us, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

In Romans 10:5-7, Paul is talking to the Romans about the law and grace, “Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is to bring Christ down) ‘or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” He goes on, in verses 8-13 to say how it is by faith that we are saved. It is a delicate balance; we need to have faith and be holy, to make our faith evident by works and our works authenticated by faith. We already know in our hearts what we’ve done wrong and who we once were before we met Christ, Paul does a very good job of listing all the characteristics of sinful nature and of those outside of the kingdom of God. I want you to read this carefully when I say this, because it may come across as offensive or judgmental and I don’t mean it that way. Scripture is clear that the sexually immoral, prostitutes, and homosexuals will not be in the kingdom of God, but that homosexuals and sexually immoral people can still be saved by faith and the people are loved by God just as much as anyone else (Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”)

Just because a person has homosexual attraction or has been in or is in a homosexual relationship does not mean that they cannot be saved, however to be saved they must be born again and (as seen in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”) transformed by the renewing of their minds just like everyone else. No different than a thief or swindler or anyone else, to be in the kingdom of God there must be a change in their life that brings them closer to the image of Christ and their faith must be evident by works. Politics has nothing to do with this, and I’m not saying this to be judgmental against homosexuals, this is simply what I found in the above scriptures. What I cannot find in Scripture is that God hates homosexuals, what I can find is God hates sin and homosexuality is sinful by nature because it is not Christ’s nature and to be like Christ is our goal. (Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”)

(All Scripture references are from the NIV, feel free to look them up in a version of your choice.)

The question “Why did God create us?” excited me when I heard the essay topic, it’s a deep question and I thought I had an easy answer. Turning to Genesis 1:26-31 where God gives man a purpose for his life I thought I would find an answer easily, maybe thinking that God would have put somewhere inside the first words He ever spoke to mankind the reason for which we were created? Genesis 1:26-31 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of lie in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.”
Initially it looks as though we were originally created to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” In Genesis 2:15-25 it goes into more detail about the instructions given to man, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
These two scriptures from Genesis alone would be enough to prove that we were created for a purpose, that we are to obey God’s commands and do as He guides us and to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. I went searching for more, there had to be something better and deeper than this than to just have been made to live and listen that God would have created us for. Why would He create us simply to obey Him? Scripture after scripture gives the same commands though. For instance, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” And what God commands is simply to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. “(Matthew 22:37)
I looked for another reason as to why He would have created us and stumbled upon Romans 9:17, where Paul is talking about how we can’t twist God’s arm into giving us mercy and that just because some were Jews didn’t mean that some were given mercy and others not but that He gives mercy as He chooses and that we are all on equal footing he quotes Exodus 9:16, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” And in Esther 4:14, Mordecai talking to Esther and explaining how God could use her to save Israel says, “For if you remain silent as this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Showing that each of us might have a unique purpose that God has given us aside from simply obeying His commands, but this doesn’t give us an answer as to why He created us at all. He was free to write any story for the world that He would please and He chose this one, before time He had these plans for us and by no means did He have to create us to fulfill these plans. It was all His choice.
As I was praying and looking for a reason as to why God created us, it seemed impossible to find. And then I found a verse, Amos 4:13, in which God was identifying Himself to Israel who had rejected Him. It reads, “He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.” This spurred an interesting concept, what if God created us simply because He is Creator? It wasn’t because He needed or wanted anything, but just because in His being He is Creator. I looked to other books and verses to shed light on this. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones of powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” It says in Colossians 1:16, and again in John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” The Bible shows that everything was created by God and for Him, the He is creator. Even the very first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 identifies Him as Creator. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And in Hebrews 11:3, again, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” In Isaiah 40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” And Genesis 14:19 Melchizedek met with Abram “and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” If we go back to Ecclesiastes 12:1, even there it says “Remember your Creator in the days of your youthe, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’ –“ In Deuteronomy 32:6 (Is this the way you repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?”), Matthew 19:4-5 (Jesus quoting Genesis 2:24, “Haven’t you read’, he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?”), and Romans 1:25 (“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.”) we find the same thing, God being recognized and identified as Creator in different circumstances and times by different authors. God is to be identified as Creator; it isn’t just something He did, it is part of who He is. In and of Himself, God is Creator God and needs no other reason to create us than that. Put simply, because God is Creator, He created. God chose to create us because He is a Creator.
We can take this truth, that God is Creator God, and apply it to what we found earlier in Scripture as well. Because God is Creator God, He creates purpose for us, His creation, and no one can tell Him how He should create it. He wrote the story of time and the universe before it was, He wrote each of our parts in this grand story of His creativity as a Creator. God created something for us to do, He created guidelines for us, He created the greatest love story ever recorded on His own with Himself as the main character, and us as His lover against all odds spanning the lengths of time and depths of many hearts. He created a fierce battle in which He deals the final blow and sets His bride free from captivity. He created imagination and ingenuity and knows its dimensions and where it will go and places people in its path to change history. He created because He is Creator. Also because He is creator, He can create things that are new, He has never stopped creating. In Psalms 51:10, David cries out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Followed by Psalms 108:1, “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” We see a prayer answered, and a steadfast heart created. God answers prayer, God is for you, and He wants to make us new. In Ephesians 2:14-18 talking to the Gentiles and Jews about their being part of God’s Kingdom through Christ it reads, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” God isn’t just in the business of creating, but also creating new things and recreating the old. God made the church from broken people, both Jews and Gentiles (both those near and far from Him.) People that were once against each other now came along side each other as one body for one purpose because He made a new creation from them. Again in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul gives us the idea of being new creations because of Christ, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” And in Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” No matter how corrupt or broken we become, we serve a Creator God who can and will by His nature make everything new. Thank God we were not just simply created to obey Him, but that He created us because of who He is and not what we are.

The question, “Why doesn’t God always heal as He promised He would?” requires more than an answer. I think it’s necessary to first go back and lay a foundation of answers to the questions “Does God heal?” and “Does God promise to heal?” before we can answer this accurately. Let’s start with the most basic question, “Does God heal?”
Psalms 103:1-5, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sin and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalms 147:1-3, “Praise the Lord. How good is it to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Job 5:17-18, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”
2 Kings 2:19-22, “The men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’ ‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.”
Hosea 11:1-4, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”
Luke 6:6-11, “On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and sad to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’ He looked around at them all, and then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.”
Matthew 4:23-25, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”
Mathew 8:14-17, “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseased.’”
Acts 4:8-12, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
No matter where you turn the page to, and no matter how you read it, I think Scripture makes it blatantly obvious that God heals. God not only heals our bodies, sin, and infirmities but also our environment and those close to us as well as those far off and groups of people as a whole. This, however, only draws more attention on our second question, “Does God promise to heal?”
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a time for healing, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
God identifies Himself as the God who heals in Exodus 15:22-26, “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”
Jeremiah 30:12-17 displays God as just, merciful, and protective of His people and that He will heal them even though their own sin and guilt brought them where they are, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. I have struck you as an enemy would and punish you as would the cruel, because your guilt is so great and your sins so many. Why do you cry out over your wound, your pain that has no cure? Because of your great guilt and many sins I have done these things to you. ‘But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds.’”
Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”
2 Chronicles 7:11-14, “When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace, the Lord appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Jeremiah 33:2-9, “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it – the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the men I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness. ‘Nethertheless, I will bring heath and healing to it; I will heal my people and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’”
We can clearly see that God promises over and over again to Israel that He will heal them. I would dare to say that when “His people” really are His people He will heal them of not just their afflictions, but also their sin and their land and bring to them more than they deserve. However, God is not limited to healing only His people, by His grace and mercy He heals as He chooses and as He is welcomed to do as He pleases. We’ve only looked at Old Testament cites so far about promises, but is there any place in the New Testament where God promises us that He will heal? What does the New Testament say about healing today?
In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 we see that God gives gifts of healing along with other gifts for us to use, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.”
1 Peter 2:18-25, “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” This shows that we have ultimately been set free even in suffering, and have been ultimately healed even if we receive beatings for doing right.
Hebrews 12:7-13 gives us a similar idea, that in our suffering and hardship there is something being accomplished and that we will see benefit and healing come from it whether it is our own or someone else’s, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
James gives us instructions about prayer and of what to do in our circumstances in James 5:13-18, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” Notice it doesn’t say “and this might happen”, it says “will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”
We get a glimpse of future healing and restoration in Revelation 22:1-5, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” And again just before this in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
So, why doesn’t God always heal as He promised He would? I feel like we’ve gotten our answer through the Scripture already, and it’s not an easy answer to take. We can take Scripture as it is or we can ignore the part(s) we don’t like, that is our choice, but if we look at Scripture as it is I am convinced of this: Although He can heal us and has promised to heal us (and will faithfully fulfill His promise), God isn’t required to heal us on this side of eternity. If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer we want is “Why doesn’t God always heal now as He promised He would?” but the reality is He never did promise that. We can be sure of our healing and of everything being made right, and Scripture tells us that He will never put on us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”) And that He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”). It never promises us instantaneous healing or relief, though it may come that way. All I can say now is that it’s a matter of faith, can you still trust God if He doesn’t heal you now? It’s hard to believe that it will work out for the best for us to remain the way we are, but He truly knows best and wants the best for us. I’m going to choose to trust His decision whatever that may be, as my friend Paul says, “Either God’s God or He’s not.”

EDIT:
Paul (the author of most of the New Testament Paul, not my friend Paul.) put what I’m trying to say really rather nicely in Romans 8 and 9. I’d encourage you to read them as whole chapters if not the whole book, but if you don’t have the time, check out Romans 8:18-27 which tells us about our future glory and how even in our suffering our glory is on its way and 9:14-29 which tells us about God’s mercy and soverienty. It’s not just about healing and how we are not healed, but about trusting God’s choice. Yes, He will perform miracles and heal. Yes, He will heal all of His people’s diseases and wounds. Sometimes now, sometimes later, sometimes on the other side of eternity, but He is faithful to heal and He is soveriegn in His decisions and His will is perfect. How good is it to know that even in His soveriegnty that He’s on our side and looking for the best for us (you can find that in the rest of Romans 8, if you want to read it)?

In today’s church we still struggle with the same things that we did as a church when Peter and Paul were still preaching and dealing with them. Especially us, who choose to be in leadership positions and who feel a calling on our lives to serve God with more than just our actions, because it isn’t as easy to match our hearts with our words as it is to match our words with our hearts. Just take a look at Peter, even he had trouble with staying true to the gospel that he preached. In Galatians 2:11-13 we see how easily he fell into hypocrisy, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

Peter, being convinced by fear, then convinced others. It wasn’t until Paul confronted him to his face that Peter corrected himself. Peter focused on doing what was right by people and observing the Jewish laws rather than being as Christ wanted him to be. We need to focus on “Being” and not so much on “Doing”. We need to guard ourselves against religion, attempting to reach God by our actions and doing good deeds, and thinking that if we do A, B, and C then God will be pleased with us. Even worse is to think that if we do A, B, and C then God will not only be pleased with us, but will give us D. Such selfish ways of thinking only lead us astray and distract us from God’s will for our lives. Getting caught up in law and to do lists while attempting to get God to do our biding and make us happy is nothing more than being prideful. When your walk becomes more about what you do and what you want than what God has done, will do, and is doing, and what He wants, then you’ve fallen victim to your pride.

Paul made it clear that doing something for appearances sake or to reach for righteousness before God by your own merit means nothing and will require more from you than you can handle by your own power, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4) Of course, Paul was talking about circumcision, but this can be applied to any action you take to seem righteous by your own works, Paul confronted Peter about not eating with Gentiles for appearances sake just as he is confronting the Galatians about circumcision in the same way that Christ confronted the Pharisees about their traditions. We cannot continue to live the same way we used to, Paul makes it clear, “If while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.” (Galatians 2:17-18) However, we cannot go to the other extreme and become religious and seek to be justified by our own right either, as Paul continues “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21)

So, what can we do? How can we live differently or continue to live according to God’s plan? Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 5:16-18, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” God has given us His Spirit freely to work within us and help us to live in our new righteousness and new grace. Aside from God there is no way that we can live for God, without the Spirit we cannot live by the Spirit. We must rely on God.

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? To live by the Spirit means to gratify the desires of the Spirit not the flesh. We all know what the flesh desires, I’m sure even when the church was just beginning they knew clearly, so why does Paul list them in Galatians 5:19-21? What was important about knowing what the desires of the flesh were? Wouldn’t it be more important to give instructions on how to live by the Spirit practically? Let’s take a look at exactly what he said. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” We find our answer in the last sentence, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”, meaning that this isn’t simply a matter of what we do, but what we are. Only heirs inherit, and heirs of a kingdom are the sons and daughters of the king, so it makes sense that only those that live and act a certain way are sons and daughters of a certain king in a certain kingdom. Being raised to new life as sons and daughters of God will produce a change in our lives that is just as obvious as the desires of the flesh. This change in lifestyle is what marks us, it is by God’s Spirit in us that we have changed, though we don’t do everything perfect, our nature is changed. Living by the Spirit isn’t something that we strive for, it’s not something we need to do A, B, and C to get, it is simply living naturally the way God calls us to. Paul goes on to list some of the qualities of the heirs of God’s kingdom, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The words Paul uses to describe the qualities and nature of the Spirit is interesting. “Fruit” means that it produces these naturally, not just one but all. You don’t have to tell an apple tree to make apples, or a lemon tree to make lemons, just by nature a good tree will do so. We must live according to our new nature and produce the fruit we were meant to produce through the Spirit. Fruit is meant for others to see and taste, it is the evidence of our faith produced for others to observe and enjoy. Fruit plants seeds; it also gives nutrition to the seeds so that they can grow. If we want to reach people effectively, then letting our “fruits” do their thing may be just what they need. How we display the fruit of the Spirit in our life is important to the spread of the kingdom. How can we apply this? As Christians, as leaders, and as pastors and teachers, we must take our citizenship to God’s Kingdom seriously.  We must constantly guard against conforming to the cultures of this world and crucify ourselves with Christ daily so that Christ lives through us. It starts with love. God makes it clear that His reason for sending is Son is that “He so loved the world”, that He Himself is love, and the first fruit of the Spirit is love. Even if we’re the best of teachers, speakers, and preachers, if we don’t have love we’re just noise. Paul said so himself, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) Whatever we do, we mustn’t forget love.