HEALING AND OPENING
George A Coull
Luke 5: 12-17
Acts 16: 23-34
1 Peter 2: 1-7 (to “preciousness”)
In the section that we read in Luke, my mind was attracted to the expression in verse 17, “and the Lord’s power was there to heal them”. It is a wonderful thing to think that the Lord of glory had been in the place of supremacy and magnificence, but took a bondman’s form. It says that He “emptied himself”, Phil 2: 7. This is part of the glad tidings, friend, that there is One who has come here from heavenly glory. It says in John’s gospel about the Lord Jesus that “he came out from God and was going to God”, John 13: 3. And during that time, there was an expression here on earth, in a Man, a perfect Man, of everything that God had looked for right down through all the dispensations of time. And Jesus moved amongst men. Sadly, John also says that “He came to his own, and his own received him not”, John 1: 11. But he goes on to say that “as many as received him, to them gave he the right to be children of God … who have been born, not of blood, nor of flesh’s will, nor of man’s will, but of God”, John 1: 12, 13. In that, dear friend, is contained the kernel of the glad tidings.
And so in looking at this scripture in Luke, I was recalling that it is thought that Luke was a Gentile. We were speaking about the Jews and the Gentiles today. Matthew was a Jew; I think Mark would have been a Jew as well; John would have been a Jew. James, Peter, they were Jews, but here is Luke and he is writing “with method” (Luke 1: 3), and he is a Gentile; nevertheless, God’s power was there to heal. Whoever it may have been, God’s power was there to heal. Well, you say, ‘I am feeling quite well - not really suffering from any malady’; thank God for that! Nevertheless, there is healing required, because we are sinful persons who are in need of healing.
Just before we came to the meeting today I was looking at hymn 446, ‘Just as I am’; and the second verse is -
Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come!
It is a wonderful thing to think that the Man who was here was God Himself, moving amongst men; having come to heal. He also came “to seek and to save that which was lost”, Luke 19: 10. So there is healing required, and there are also persons who are lost that need to be found. In the earlier part of Luke 15, we are told that a woman had lost a piece of silver. She diligently swept the house until she found it, v 8. A man had lost a sheep; he looked and found the sheep and put it on his own shoulders and brought it back. Persons are being healed and persons are being found. So, dear friend, now is the time, I can say with all care and with all joy in my heart, now is the time for persons to be healed, and now is the time for persons to be found. May it be that the Spirit of God may sweep diligently until someone is found in this room tonight.
It might be that you are far away from Jesus in your mind or in your affections, away from God. Even in that situation, the Spirit of God would sweep diligently until He finds. The Lord’s power is here to heal. It says there that there were Pharisees, and doctors of the law, and then the Spirit of God puts in that remark through Luke, “and the Lord’s power was there to heal them”. Wonderful thing! Who would have thought that, looking at these doctors of the law and these Pharisees - probably healthy persons, very active persons, although certainly very negative persons. They were able to quote the scripture and able to speak about Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, able to quote all these things, and yet it says that “the Lord’s power was there to heal them”. A wonderful thing. So that healing is needed. If your mind is poisoned, your mind needs healing. If your heart is filled with other things, your heart needs healing. It is a wonderful thing to think that God in His love for you and me as sinners, has sent His only begotten Son into the world to heal persons.
We read at the beginning where it says, “And it came to pass as he was in one of the cities, that behold, there was a man full of leprosy”. You might think, ‘I can understand that; it is very obvious that this man was needing to be healed’. But there are things that may not be obvious to the eye of man when persons need healing. And so divine power, my friend, is able to bring in healing - whatever the need may be. Another hymn says -
If it’s the hopeless case Thou lov’st to meet (Hymn 423).
Persons are caught in the web of sin, persons are burdened by their sin and leprosy is a typical example. A leper was shunned by men. In the old dispensation, they were put outside the camp, and then it was necessary for them to shout, “Unclean, unclean”, Lev 13: 45. It is obvious they were needing to be healed. But friend, no matter what the malady may be - morally, spiritually, whatever it may be - God’s power is there to heal. And it is in Christ Himself. This was the Man who came out from God, no one else. It says that “he does not indeed take hold of angels by the hand”, Heb 2: 16. Angels have their work to do as distinctive beings, but He passed by angels. There was only one Man who can effect something in your heart and mine, and that is Christ.
And so it says that He was there; “And it came to pass on one of the days, that he was teaching, and there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by”. One of the days; it may be that this is one of the days in your life when you come in contact with Jesus, and you know the healing power of His hand. Lying behind all His power is love; God’s love has been expressed. It says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son”, John 3: 16. That is one of the salient points of the glad tidings, that persons have to come to an understanding that God has moved. We could not do anything to clear ourselves of our sinful state, but God has taken up our cause. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal”. What a provision in Jesus! So there is power to heal, and behind that power lies God’s love, that never ebbing tide. The hymn writer says that it is ‘a never-ebbing tide’, Hymn 400. His grace -
Is flowing o’er the barren place
Where Jesus died. (Hymn No 13)
Jesus had to die and become the Sin-bearer; but that does not mean that God’s love has ceased. Having found an answer in Christ, God’s love continues to flow and there is power to heal you and me today.
So the leprous man was healed. Whoever heard of a man touching a leper? But Jesus touched him freely; what power! What an amazing thing to take account of, in a person who must have been shunned because of a defiling disease. But it says that Jesus touched him freely. That means that God has taken up your cause and mine, and the result is that Jesus was the Sin-bearer. He has taken on what the leprosy speaks of. He has been made sin. It says, “Him who knew not sin God has made sin for us”, 2 Cor 5: 21. Oh, the awfulness of that. And so it says that He touched him freely. The Sin-bearer is no ordinary person. This is One who had come out from God and He was going back to God. How could He go back to God if He died? Friend, that is another point in the glad tidings: Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. What power there was, power to heal, power to raise the dead, power to cause lame to walk rightly, to cause dumb persons to speak, deaf persons to hear. That is divine power, and it is available to you and to me today through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I pass on to Acts 16. What a picture that is of power to heal. “Sirs”, the jailor says, “what must I do that I may be saved?”. Those Pharisees and doctors of the law had needed to be saved. Persons need to be saved from their sinfulness. It does not mean that you have to study the Scriptures and get letters after your name or whatever it may be. You can do these things as long as you like, but you still need to be saved, because you are in a sinful state. It is impossible for you to appear before God in a sinful state, and therefore God has provided you a Saviour in Christ. So the jailor says, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?”. Wonderful thing to see a person coming in faith to Christ. These two men were the emissaries of God. Jesus had died and gone to heaven by this time, but there were persons continuing the work. They were not divine, we need to protect that, but they were persons full of the Holy Spirit, and it says here that they were singing at midnight. The prisoners listened to them. One of our hymns says,
Open wide stands mercy’s door (Hymn 208).
That leper in Luke 5 would have entered in through mercy’s door. Have you entered in through mercy’s door, friend? Have you? It is a wonderful place to go in. As you go in over the threshold of mercy’s door, you are welcomed there. You may ask, why mercy? God is a merciful God and He has provided a basis that you may come to Him in all your sinfulness; you can be cleansed, you can be healed, and you can enter in through mercy’s door.
What a provision! The way was barred before and there was no access, but now the way is open. In the past dispensation, there was certain distance, persons could not draw near to the presence of God in the same way as we can draw near. It is on the basis of the blood of Jesus. It is a wonderful thing to think that God Himself has taken up your cause and mine, and He has opened mercy’s door. Now He says, ‘I have opened this door, and you can come in through it’. The leper entered in through it, the lame man, the blind man; many others have entered in through this door. It came to me that as the earthquake took place, it says of the prison that “all the doors were immediately opened”, Acts 16: 26. Whoever heard of prison doors being opened in this way before? There is a time, of course, when prisoners are released, but what I am speaking of is a whole moral scene, dear friend. You may not realise it but you are in captivity if you are still in your sins: you are held in bondage. In fact, you may be in the inner prison; I am speaking of this morally. As far as Paul and Silas were concerned, they were unjustly looked upon as felons, and they were put into the inner prison because it was reckoned that they needed this special security. But in applying this, you may be in the inner prison, bound with chains, surrounded by darkness. And the jailor called for lights and said, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?”. Mercy’s door was standing wide open.
Friend, you can enter in now because of the blood, Christ’s blood. Having accepted it in faith for the cleansing of your sins, you can enter in through mercy’s door without a shadow of fear, no condemnation. It says, “now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. Rom 8: 1. This is the provision that God has made for you and me, and for every man, for the whole of the human race. God’s provision in Christ, my friend, is there for you to take account of and for you to put your trust and confidence in. Plead the blood of Jesus and your sins will be forgiven. What must I do to be saved? Oh friend, you need to be saved. We all need to be saved. You can imagine the jailor rising and drawing his sword. It amazes me, because Paul and Silas were in the inner prison, and they must have heard that sword coming out of its sheath, but Paul said, “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here”. I believe that divine power was there, containing that whole matter; you might say that whole prison was under divine control at that point. But sadly, the jailor was almost out of control. He was about to take his life, and Paul said, “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here”. And calling for lights the jailor rushed in and says, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?” You can imagine the jailor with his keys, all the paraphernalia of a jailor, and he would have opened and closed these doors as and when he wanted, but there was a door swung open that night that he did not have the key to. Jesus opened the door. It is a wonderful thing to think that mercy’s door was wide open for the vilest of sinners, and it was Jesus who opened that door.
In Revelation the Lord refers to Himself as “he who opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open”, Rev 3: 7. It is a different setting, not exactly the glad tidings, but there is power there. He says there - in the address to the Philadelphians - “he that has the key of David, he who opens and no one shall shut”. The door is open. Divine power has opened that door and no one is going to close it. You think of the Lord’s word about those persons who had their lights burning: the word went out, “Behold, the bridegroom; go forth to meet him”, Matt 25: 6. The lamps of the five foolish were going out; so they went away to buy oil; but the five wise virgins went in and it says that the door was closed. The foolish virgins came back and said, “Lord, Lord, open to us”. That door was closed, friend and no one else can open it; when the end of the dispensations comes, that door will be closed. It says in the hymn -
And, to your loss, the door of mercy close (Hymn 202):
a sober consideration, friend. Let us consider, and let us understand that by divine provision the door is open at this moment, and you can enter in: enter in in liberty.
The jailor came in, and he was there under the leading of divine love. He says, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?” You think of the bond then that was forged between these persons. When a person has faith and knows that he is in need, he says, “What must I do that I may be saved?”. He was brought to know that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour. Perhaps he had heard Paul and Silas singing, but God in the mystery of His ways, is moving and touching a soul here and there. He says, “what must I do that I may be saved?”. And the answer was simple. “The word is near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart”, Rom 10: 8. I think that was the situation with the jailor. The word was near him and it was in his heart. I believe that the Spirit of God had moved in that man and had caused him to use that word in simplicity but in all earnestness, “what must I do that I may be saved?”. He knew he was a sinner, and knew he was condemned and he needed a Saviour. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved”. In that scripture in Romans 10: “the word of faith, which we preach: that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart is believed to righteousness; and with the mouth confession made to salvation”, v 8-10. Wonderful thing. It has been said that prison was turned into a sanctuary. It says, ”the prisoners listened”; they actually heard Paul and Silas singing praises to God in a jail.
Then it goes on to say that he fell down before Paul and Silas, and Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house”. What a wonderful thing! He would have been his own man; he would have had everything his own way in his house, but then it says, “thou and thy house”. It is a wonderful thing to think that persons can blend together having come in touch with Jesus. “Thou and thy house”. It goes on to say, “And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, with all that were in his house”. You think of these vessels, Paul and Silas, Paul himself having had the experience of being caught up to the third heaven. What a vessel! He was able to sit down and convey something to this jailor. The jailor had been a prisoner in this sense, but now he was released. And they were able to sit down together; and Paul might have said, ‘Look I have been in God’s inheritance, and this is what it is like’. “And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, with all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed them from their stripes; and was baptised, he and all his straightway”. What joy there must have been in heaven even over one repenting sinner! And there Paul and Silas imparted something of the joy of the inheritance to that converted jailor, a person now able to wash them from their wounds. He was now able to lay the table and enjoy fellowship, a bond, something that binds persons together.
These are wonderful things, and this is the glad tidings of God. It is the provision of God for you and me available through Christ Himself. He is the holy Sin-bearer. Paul would have spoken about the cross. He would have maybe touched on the Old Testament scriptures and the offerings, but he would have spoken about the cross. He would have spoken about the darkness. He would have spoken about Jesus being put into the grave. He would have spoken about Him being raised again. You know, the power of God is there for you and me. Friend, what a blessing in God’s provision for you and me.
That is why I read in 1 Peter: “To you therefore who believe is the preciousness”. Can you have anything in this world’s provision today that you can put alongside this and say, ‘Well, that is good; it is maybe even better’? Friend, you are deluding yourself. ”To you therefore … is the preciousness”. There is nothing to compare with God’s provision for you and me in Christ. What a wonderful message. That whole section is a wonderful section. The jailor had become a living stone. He might have been a very hard and austere and unfeeling person before, but now he is a living stone. Do you know what that means? That is a man who has a heart for God; that is a person who is now able to find his place in this structure. It says, “are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. These are the things that are ready for you and me to enjoy, and it is through the work of Christ. He shed that precious blood on the cross, and God has accepted that offering. The perfection of that offering will remain in God’s heart forever. And it is available to you and to me.
May it be that all our hearts are freshly moved towards the Saviour and find these great things that Peter writes about. Peter was very forceful, and yet the Lord said to him, “I have besought for thee that thy faith fail not”, Luke 22: 32. And now Peter is writing these precious words and he says, ‘These are living stones that are being placed together’. Think of Philippi when Paul got the vision, Acts 16: 10. There was a man in Macedonia saying, “Pass over … and help us”. Amongst the first persons that Paul met, was a woman, Lydia, and he would have thought, ’It is a man that I am looking for’. But he found the man, and the man was the jailor. And you can see how God was working. Here was a living stone taken out of the jail, and formed in the jailor. There was another living stone in Lydia and in other households. And what you find is that persons are moulded together, “a spiritual house, a holy priesthood”. Everything is the result of the work of Christ.
These are wonderful things my friend and they can be found in Christ. You can find it, I can find it; we can enjoy it together. May God bless the word for His Name’s sake.
Preaching of the gospel, Aberdeen, Scotland
12th February 2017