Our Great Physician (Augustine, Rutherford, Hodge)

Quaint Sermons of Samuel Rutherford

One theme in Scripture that beautifully describes our Lord is the fact that he is the great physician. In Exodus 15 Yahweh is called the healer. The Psalms talk about God binding up the brokenhearted while Isaiah says that the Messiah heals us by his wounds. Jesus himself said that the sick are people who need a physician. He brings healing, wholeness, and health to our souls by his atoning work on the cross for us. It also has much to do with the free offer of the gospel. Here are some comments on this theme from some Christian theologians from the past:

Have mercy on me, O Lord! Alas for me! Behold, I do not hide my wounds: Thou art the Physician, I am a sick man; Thou art merciful, I am a miserable man. (Augustine, Confessions)

Lord ready to forgive all such as come to Him in humility, He is a physician who will take sick folks in hand to heal them who have no money to give for their cure. He is indeed the poor man’s physician. He seeks no more of us, but only to tell Him that we are sick.

Samuel Rutherford, Quaint Sermons of Samuel Rutherford (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1885), 335.

Christ is not only the only physician, and one able to heal with certainty all our maladies, but he is accessible to every one and at all times. It is not any one form of spiritual disease, or any one degree of it, but all forms and all degrees. Any one in the last stage of spiritual death may come to him with the certainty of being received and cured. He demands no conditions. He asks no terms. He requires no preparation, and will receive no recompense.

Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London; Edinburgh; New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 58.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Sam Storms on Spiritual (Charismatic) Gifts

The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Dr. Sam Storms, http://www ... I’ve not read many books about spiritual gifts from a charismatic perspective.  Therefore, I recently worked through Sam Storm’s book, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, to learn more about charismatic theology/practice.  As a Reformed Christian, I’m not charismatic, but I do want a proper understanding of this movement.  Below is a brief review of this book.

There are ten chapters in this book: 1) When Power Comes to Church (an introduction), 2) Right? Wrong? (10 myths about charismatic/spiritual gifts), 3) Words of Wisdom and Knowledge (prophecy and utterances), 4) Faith and Healing, 5) It’s a Miracle (miracles in the church), 6) Prophecy and Distinguishing of Spirits, 7) Who Said God Said? (knowing the Bible in order to test prophesies), 8) What is the Gift of Tongues, 9) Tongues and Interpretation, 10) Letting Your Gift Find You.  There’s also an appendix on how to pray for healing and one on “when a gifted person falls.”

Storms does give several charismatic stories in attempt to prove his points.  One worth mentioning is his account of a prophet telling a friend that God was going to send a comet to prove that the church should have a 21 day period of prayer and fasting.  The comet came.  This man also said God spoke to him in a dream telling him about a drought and famine, and the next summer was dry (see chapter five).  There are other similar stories of dreams, healings, and revelations.

This book was a reminder to me of why I am not a charismatic. The way Storms explains the passages of Scripture in view (such as 1 Cor. 12) were unconvincing, subjective at times, based on probables at other times, lacking in OT references, and without solid exegetical or theological support.  I was also troubled by Storms’ logic based on experience and emotional appeal (I’m thinking of the logical fallacy of “playing to the gallery”).

Here are some phrases I found unsettling:

“To reject spiritual [charismatic –spl] gifts, to turn from this immediate and gracious divine enabling, is, in a sense, to turn from God. …In denying them, we deny Him” (p. 13).

“If you are not earnestly desiring to prophesy, if you are not praying for an opportunity and occasion to speak prophetically into the lives of the church and other believers, you are disobeying God!” (p. 111).

“It is a sin to despise [charismatic – spl] prophecy” (p. 141).

I also disagree with Storms’ discussion of faith.  He says there are three different kinds of faith: conversion faith (the faith through which we’re justified), continuing faith (the daily faith we have), and charismatic faith, which “appears to be spontaneous and functions as the divinely enabled condition on which the more overtly supernatural activities of God are suspended” (p. 60).  Storms says charismatic faith is not given to every Christian, and it is a special faith that enables a believer to trust God to bring about a sort of blessing not promised in Scripture (p. 61).  Storm then goes on to talk about five levels of faith for healing.  To divide and dissect faith in this way is unhealthy at best.  Here Storms is at odds with the historic confessional understanding of faith: there are not “faiths” that we have as Christians, but “true faith” in Christ alone for justification by grace alone.  I’m not saying that Storms is denying justification by faith alone, but his discussion of faith is not in line with the Reformation; one should remember this when reading Storms’ other works.

I don’t recommend this book, obviously.  I realize that Reformed theology doesn’t have all the answers to Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor. 12, but its answers are better and more biblical than that of charismatic theology.  This book has reminded me of this fact!  As Richard Gaffin and others have said, Scripture is sufficient for us today; we no longer need prophets and revelations.

Sam Storms, The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2012).

shane lems
hammond, wi

Disability and God’s Sovereignty

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace One of the biggest frustrations about living in this fallen world is the fact that there is disability.  To be sure, all humans are disabled to some extent because we’re sinful creatures and neither our minds nor our hearts nor our bodies are free from the effects of sin.  But it often brings tears to our eyes to think of (or face) worse forms of disability; this is why the stories of Jesus healing disabled people (lame, blind, deaf, blood disordered, crippled, etc.) are such a big part of the Good News.  There is hope in Jesus for sure, and his people can thankfully look forward to a Day where they will be fully and finally healed.

But what about disability and God’s sovereignty here and now?  How do these two relate?  I like how Michael Beates (who has a family member with a severe disability) answered this question in an appendix of his book, Disability and the Gospel.  Here are his summarized points (from pages 161-166):

1) First, as previously noted, God creates some people with genetic anomalies simply for the sake of his glory.  Scripture teaches that all things are made by him (John 1:13) and for his glory (Is. 48:10-11; Rom. 11:33).  [This is] a hard teaching, but in it there is great comfort, and by our very affirmation of it, we further glorify our awesome sovereign God. The comfort is that when we embrace the truth that God will glorify himself through everything that happens, we know that in the providence of God nothing is lost or in vain.  Nothing we experience is meaningless; everything is significant, the bitter and the sweet.  We may not see the sweet side of it in this life….  However, we can rest absolutely certain that such things are not mistakes nor do they happen by chance.  We can also be certain that even such awful things [as death] will glorify God because he has said so, and he keeps his promise.

2) Second, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for the sake of his own glory but also to show us our own brokenness and our need of his grace.  The disabled among us, whether genetically disabled or otherwise, remind us of our own inherent disabilities.  When we see them with their limitations, we can begin to see ourselves in a new, more honest manner as broken men and women before God in need of redemption – body and soul.

3) Third, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for his own glory and to show us our own brokenness, but also because such disabled people present the church with the gift of allowing followers of Christ to serve them unconditionally – with no expectation of receiving back.  In this way they help us to mirror God and to experience giving grace to another as God does to us.

4) Fourth, God creates some people with genetic anomalies to increase our desire for heaven.  Revelation 21:3-4 says, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore….’ In that final state God promises to redeem all things, making all things new and perfect.  Things like genetic anomalies serve as signposts, reminding us that we are on a journey and that this world is not our home.”

As I mentioned in an earlier review (HERE), Disability and the Gospel is a helpful book – I recommend it, and I recommend reading the entire section I edited above.  If you are disabled to any extent, or if it affects you in some way, please press on in the faith, try to set a good Christian example for others, and be greatly encouraged that since Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and promised to come back and make all things new, you will one day receive a glorious body like his (Phil. 3:21).  It won’t be long now!

shane lems
hammond, wi


 I’m enjoying this book on counseling: Redemption by Mike Wilkerson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011). In it, Wilkerson explains how the gospel kills our idols and heals our wounds.  I appreciate this book because it shows first of all that people really deal with some terrible suffering and secondly it shows that the redemption Jesus accomplished has everything to do with our wounds, sins, and tears.  This is where theory and practice meet: the truths of the gospel have everything to do with the Christian in the valley in the shadow of death.

“..What if your anguish stems from the slavery of addiction?  Here too it may get worse before it gets better.  But that doesn’t mean God is absent; it means he is at war against the gods that have enslaved you.  It means the bonds of slavery have been tied so tightly that they’ve cut into your skin and can’t be removed without some bleeding.  Your slave masters are not only outside you, in the temptations of the world; they are also within you, wherever you have allowed those temptations to bond with your sinful desires.”

“You must still cry out to God in faith for deliverance.  Yet, as you are brutally honest about your anguish, you must equally be honest about your sin.  You must know that you are in the midst of a war.  Expect death and pain in the process because you have to put sin to death by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13).  But also expect new life, for those who die with Christ also rise with him (Rom. 6:8).  What this means is that your redemption is as certain as his resurrection.”

I recommend this book for any serious Christian who deals with deep scars or who knows other scarred Christians who need gospel centered encouragement.  Pastors, elders, and other Christian leaders who counsel people will want to read this for sure.  There are reflection questions, Scripture references, and “for further study” resources at the end of each chapter.  Redemption is just under 200 pages, and most Christians should be able to work through the book one chapter at a time.  This may be a good book for a small group discussion setting.  I doubt anyone will regret reading this; in fact, I’m certain many will read it again and again.

shane lems