Was forgiveness required prior to healing?


A question was raised in a Bible study this past Sunday with various opinions. Reading articles on your website leads me to believe you may be able to provide some additional insight, with Scriptures, into our discussion next Sunday.

Studying Mark 2 Jesus forgives the paralytic and then heals him afterward. A comment was made that forgiveness had to precede the healing. Another comment referred to James 5:15 where James states that one that is sick will be raised up (healed) and then if one has sinned, they will be forgiven. We chased the rabbit around the room several times with more opinions and thoughts than Scripture.

I would appreciate any input you could provide.


Regarding James 5:15, see: What does "anointing him with oil" mean?

In this note, I'll focus on whether forgiveness was always required before healing.

One of the things that strikes me as I studied the gospels is just how varied the healings were. When the woman with the hemorrhaging was healed, there was no direct action taken by Jesus. "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me" (Luke 8:46). This woman was then told that her faith had made her well (Luke 8:48). But when the blind man was healed, he didn't ask to be healed. Other than knowing that the one who healed him was named Jesus, he didn't seem to know much about Jesus initially (John 9:1-9). Or consider the lame man healed by Peter and John (Acts 3:1-10). Again, the man wasn't expecting to be healed or even asked to be healed. He thought he was going to be given money. "And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them." Thus, faith by this man had nothing to do with his healing. In the case of the paralytic man, it was the faith of those who brought the man that Jesus noted (Matthew 9:2).

The critical element was the faith of the one through whom the healing came. When the disciples failed to drive out a demon from a boy with epilepsy, they were told that it was due to their insufficient faith (Matthew 17:20).

Returning to the case of the paralytic man, Jesus did not even initially offer to heal the man. "And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" " (Matthew 9:2). I strongly suspect that Jesus did this to be provocative because people can ask God to forgive sins, but no one can offer forgiveness of sins. Only God can do that -- but then Jesus was God and that was the point. The healing was offered as proof that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home" " (Matthew 9:6). Like the forgiveness, there was no request made to God to heal. Jesus commanded it on his own authority.

The case in James talks about physical and spiritual healing taking place simultaneously.

Consider the healing of the ten lepers:

"Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:12-19).

Ten lepers ask for healing. They are told to go and show themselves to the priests -- a requirement in the Old Law to be designated as clean. As they left to go, they were cleansed. One man, realizing what happened went back and thanked Jesus. Jesus tells this one leper that his faith made him well. What about the other nine? They too were healed. They too obeyed what Jesus said to do, showing some measure of faith. But what was different about this one man? I suspect Jesus wasn't talking about being physically made well. His faith and his appreciation allowed him to be made spiritually well. If so, the forgiveness came after the healing. He received something the other nine did not, even though all ten were healed.

Noting this, then consider the case of Bartimaeus.

"Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road" (Mark 10:46-52).

When Jesus told him that his faith had made him well, he used a tense in Greek that refers to a completed action that will lead to future consequences (the perfect mode). It was immediately after that Bartimaeus received his sight, so what was the completed action that made him well? I believe Jesus is stating that his faith had healed him spiritually. Thus, the order here is the opposite of the ten lepers.

But you don't find forgiveness offered before every healing; in fact, the only case where it is directly mentioned is in the case of the paralytic man. Most of the time forgiveness is not mentioned, and a few times it is mentioned coming after the healing. Therefore, there is not a direct tie between healing and forgiveness.

As I said, it is the variety of ways that people were healed that is noteworthy. The two constants are that Jesus was involved, even when the disciples healed, and it required faith on the part of the one offering healing.


Thank you for the insight. We had gleaned bits and pieces, but you have brought together some organization and added to our thoughts.

Thanks again. God bless your work.

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