by A.E. Knoch

THE LAST DAYS of the present administration of God's grace to the nations are upon us. Paul foretold that they would be perilous (2 Tim.3:1-9). Some will be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons (1 Tim.4:1). In testing any doctrine or practice in these days we should concentrate on God's special revelation concerning it. There is no question that God can heal, and did heal many when Christ and His kingdom apostles were on earth. Indeed, Paul, the apostle of the nations, was one of the greatest healers of them all.


But that was before Paul had received the truth for this secret administration. Now our blessings are spiritual and celestial, not physical or terrestrial (Eph.1:3). This is the basis of our faith today. How did it work out in Paul's own experience? After this we do not read of bodily healing, but of the opposite. Even before this, Paul was given a splinter in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, lest he should be lifted up. He entreated the Lord thrice, that it should withdraw from him. But the Lord said, "Sufficient for you is My grace, for My power in infirmity is being perfected." After that Paul gloried in his infirmities, that the power of Christ should tabernacle over him (2 Cor.12:7). This is the truth for today. The figure of a "thorn" by itself might refer to a spiritual wound, but this is quite impossible when it is in the flesh.


Paul, near the end of his career, rejoiced in the unfeigned faith of Timothy, so we should take him as the best model of the fruits of unfeigned faith for us now (2 Tim.1:5). Alas! He is not. Moreover, he was warned that "the spirit is saying implicitly, that, in subsequent eras, some will be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons..." (1 Tim.4:1). This should show us that the experience of Timothy was based on genuine faith, and suggest that all that is contrary to this may be due to faith in deceiving spirits.


Why did Paul tell Timothy to use a sip of wine for his stomach and his frequent infirmities (1 Tim.5:23)? He certainly had genuine faith! But that is the very reason why he used the wine! God's grace is sufficient for us, the members of the body of Christ. We have not been promised physical blessings on earth, but spiritual blessings among the celestials.

By all means let us believe that "the vow of faith will be saving the faltering" (James 5:15, CV). But let us also believe that this was written to the twelve tribes in the dispersion (James 1:1), by one who was connected with the earthly kingdom, who was not sent to us, of the nations, as Paul was. The present is a secret administration, which was not fully revealed even to Paul until he was imprisoned.


Paul wrote to Timothy, "Endeavor to present yourself to God qualified, correctly cutting the word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15). Misapplied truth is the most seductive error, because it is found in the Scriptures, and therefore appeals to those who are His. This is most important in these last days, for, while we should believe all of God's Word, we should also apply it as indicated. Most of it is concerned with God's purpose in regard to the earth in the future. Ours is a celestial calling with spiritual blessings. It is revealed to the mature (1 Cor.13) in Paul's prison epistles and in Hebrews. All the rest of God's Word should be read in this light.

Those who have been healed, or who have witnessed the healing of others, or have even healed others, are inclined to imagine that all evil is of the devil and all good is of God. But such marvels are also accomplished by unbelievers, some of whom ascribe their power to evil spirits, of which there can be no doubt. As the spirit of God warns us explicitly that some will give heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons (1 Tim.4:1), we exhort all who have God's holy spirit to test such spirit manifestations by these Scriptures which apply to the present.

The teaching of Paul, the example of Timothy, and the presence of Luke, the beloved physician, all should show us that miraculous physical, blessings are not the promised portion to us in the administration of transcendent grace. We have the much higher privilege of glorying in infirmities, that the power of Christ may be tabernacling over us (2 Cor.12:7-10). True faith is not based on the evidence of our senses, but upon the Word of God.

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