In our last letters we had talked about the creation of man by God—that God formed man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. I tried to stress that God created man as onewhole and that our distinctions between body and soul, while important to understand the kind of creature man is, must not lead us to chop man into different pieces. Because of God’s act of creation, man is, according to Genesis 2:7, one living soul.
I want to discuss with you in this letter some of the practical implications of this.
We have mentioned the distinction which Scripture makes between body and soul only in passing. We have stressed rather the idea that God has created man in such a way that he stands related to this earthly creation on the one hand, but that he also stands related to God and spiritual things on the other hand. From this viewpoint, he has two aspects to his creation. And these two aspects of his creation cut right across the distinctions of body and soul. With both body and soul he stands related to the creation; with both body and soul he stands related to God and to the things of heaven. He has, as it were, two sides: one side stands facing this creation, while the other side stands facing God. Yet even these two sides cannot be separated from each other. With the whole of his being he belongs to the creation and with the whole of his being he faces God and confronts the calling to serve Him.
I am always impressed with the fact that Scripture itself emphasizes in many ways this basic unity of man. When the saints cry out in deep affliction they speak, as it were, in one breath of this affliction of both body and soul. Job cries out to his friends: “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces?” Job 19:2. David, prophetically, speaks of deep suffering of both body and soul when he writes: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”Psalm 22:14, 15. While this Psalm speaks prophetically of Christ, it nevertheless arose out of the historical circumstances in which the Psalmist found himself. And the main source of his complaint is found in vs. 1: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me; why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” Quite clearly, his anguish arises from being forsaken of God; but all this has affected his bones and his bowels, his strength and his tongue. We may consider these expressions mere figures of speech, but they are more than that. What he writes concerning his bodily state was true. God’s forsaking him brought physical suffering as well as anguish of his soul. That this is true is clear from the fact that David speaks of Christ—in fact it is Christ Who is really speaking through David. And what is mentioned in the Psalm literally happened to Christ when He hung on the rough cross of Calvary to die for our sins. The same is true ofPsalm 116. In this Psalm too the Psalmist cries out that the Lord’s hand is heavy upon him and that he was deeply afflicted. On the one hand, whatever may have been the nature of his affliction, it affected him in his body, for he cries out in vs. 2 that he was very near to the grave and the pains of the grave laid their hands upon him. But when he finds strength in God it is because he speaks to his soul: “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” vss. 7, 8.
But the opposite is also true. This is evident from the miracles which the Lord Himself performed while on earth. It has always struck me that Jesus makes no distinction between healing the infirmities of a man’s body and healing the deadlier disease of man’s soul. This is particularly illustrated in the healing of the paralytic, a miracle recorded for us in Mark 2:1-12. You recall that the crowd had pressed about Jesus in the home where He was staying so that the doors were all jammed with people. When four men came with this paralytic on a pallet they could not find a way to get the man to Jesus. And so they tore a hole in the roof of the house and lowered the afflicted man to Jesus. When Jesus saw this and the faith of the men (that they were so intent on getting the paralytic to Jesus that they were even willing to wreck a stranger’s house and risk the charge of destruction of property), Jesus said to the paralytic: “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Now this was a strange thing to say. He said nothing to the paralytic about his disease or about healing him of his infirmity. Simply: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” The Pharisees complained about this, and their complaint was that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. Their reasoning was that only God could forgive sins; that, therefore, if Jesus took this authority upon Himself, He was making Himself God; that, therefore, He blasphemed. But Jesus knew their hearts. His response was: “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” They were both one and the same to Jesus. To heal the man’s bodily infirmity was the same as to forgive the man’s sins. We usually interpret this to mean that the sicknesses which Jesus healed and cured were pictures of the spiritual sickness of sin—lameness a picture of the inability to walk in the ways of God’s commandments; blindness a picture of man’s inability to see the things of the kingdom of God; etc. And all of this is certainly true, for Jesus Himself explains this in the case of the man born blind. After the miracle the text tells us of the following conversation between Jesus and the Jews: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” But while all this is true, it nevertheless remains a fact that Jesus repeatedly made no distinction between a man’s infirmities and his sin and between healing a man and saving him. It may be that healing of disease belongs to the body and sin to the soul; but the two are so much one that they may not be separated.
This does not mean that the Pentecostals are right when they say that yet in this day miracles of physical healing accompany the work of salvation. They are wrong on several counts. They forget that the miracles of Scripture were a part of the gospel as signs of the gospel while the Scriptures were not yet completed. Now that we have the full Scriptures we have no more need of the signs. They are wrong too because they forget that we are not healed in our bodies until the final resurrection when the full power of death is destroyed in us completely. This is why Pentecostals always tend towards perfectionism. If our bodily infirmities are healed in this life, then we are completely healed also from sin. Why we are not also delivered from death is a problem that no Pentecostal has been able to solve.
Thus, when Jesus healed from the sicknesses and diseases which afflicted the people in Palestine, He delivered them also from the power and dominion of sin. There seem to be almost no exceptions. Those who were healed were also saved. And many times the saving was a work of Christ which took place at the same time as the healing. Man is one. God saves the whole man.
There are many different kinds of passages in Scripture which speak of the same truth. The example of II Corinthians 9:8 comes to mind: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Paul is telling the Corinthians here that God will supply all their needs so that they always have sufficient. He is making no distinction between the needs of the body and the needs of the soul: all needs will be supplied by God. And this supplying of all needs the apostle calls “grace”: God is able to make all grace abound toward you. But that he is not merely talking about spiritual needs is evident from the fact that this appears in the context where Paul is speaking of the need of the Corinthians .to take up the collections which he will pick up when he arrives so that he can take these collections to Jerusalem. He is saying: “Do not give grudgingly or of necessity, but give cheerfully. God loves a cheerful giver. But when you give cheerfully, you will give liberally. Do not worry about your needs being supplied. God loves a cheerful giver and He will manifest His love by caring for all your needs—spiritually and materially. For the believer they are all really one.”
The Heidelberg Catechism has apparently the same idea in mind when it explains the fourth petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We usually interpret this to refer to a prayer in which we ask God to provide for the needs of the body, while the next petitions go on to talk about the needs of the soul. But the Heidelberg Catechism does not recognize this distinction. It makes this petition refer to both material needs and spiritual needs: “Be pleased to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even thy gifts, can profit us without thy blessing; and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in thee.” Q & A. 125.
The rich fool made the mistake of thinking that his whole life was nothing else but earthly. Luke 12:13-21. He stored away vast quantities of earthly possessions and then took the attitude that he had it made in life. He could retire from work and enjoy himself. And he told his soul that his soul need have no care, for he had all he wanted to eat and to drink and to be merry. But Jesus told this parable to illustrate the truth that “the life of a man consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” vs. 15. And when his soul was required of him that very night, Jesus says: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
God created man one living soul. We must not cut him up. We must recognize and deal with his basic and fundamental unity.
Perhaps in our next letter we can discuss what the implications of this are.
Fraternally in Christ, H. Hanko