June 25, 2020

Do Christians Have Authority over Sickness?

Nathan W. Bingham & John Tweeddale
Do Christians Have Authority over Sickness?

Some people teach that Jesus has given Christians the authority to cast out diseases and afflictions--all we have to do is lay claim to that authority. Is this true? Today, John Tweeddale considers the nature of the authority that Christ has given His church.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm joined by the professor of theology at Reformation Bible College, Dr. John Tweeddale. Dr. Tweeddale, do Christians have authority over ailments like epilepsy? What authority do we have in Christ?

DR. JOHN TWEEDDALE: Thank you, Nathan. This is an incredibly complex and difficult question. And I'm so grateful for John and for his question and for the clear love he has for his wife who suffered from epilepsy. And so, our hearts go out to him and to his dear bride. The short answer is to say he does not have authority over epilepsy, but Jesus does. And so, this raises the question of, "What is the nature of authority in the New Testament?" And the place to go here is Matthew 28 and the Great Commission.

When I'm teaching my students about the Great Commission, I'll ask them, "What is the most important phrase in the Great Commission?" And I'll get all kinds of answers. Some of the students will say, "Well, it's to go into all the world." Other students will say, "No, we've got to make disciples of all nations." Some will say, "No, it's the clause where we have to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Other students will pipe up and say, "No, we've got to teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded." And maybe the astute New Testament student will say, "No, this is the place where we have the Immanuel principle where Jesus promises to be with us to the end of the age." And I want to say to my students: "As important as all of those things are in the Great Commission, they are not the key to the text. The most important phrase in the Great Commission comes in Matthew 28:18, where Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.'"

Now, throughout the history of the church, Reformed theologians have distinguished Christ's authority in two ways. On the one hand, they talk about Christ's universal authority as the eternal Son, as the second person of the Trinity, as the Lord of creation, as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. And in that sense, Christ is Lord over the universe, over the seas, over healings in our body , and of sickness. And Christ at times has healed. But the ordinary affairs of life would lead us to believe that most of the time, the wages of sin is death and death is a natural part of the fallen world. And so, Jesus is governor of heaven and earth, but He has not delegated that authority to us.

The second kind of authority we have is Jesus' mediatorial authority. That's the authority He has over the church. And that's the authority Jesus speaks about in Matthew 28. So, He delegates His authority to those who minister in His name. So we preach the Word, we pray down heaven, we read Scripture, we call for repentance. It's those kind of gospel commands that we can lay claim of, if you will, as Christians. And so, there is a delegated or a ministerial authority that we have, especially those who minister in His name, like pastors and elders. But we should not expect to lay claim on that universal authority that Jesus has as Lord over heaven and earth.