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John Piper: 'If our only good news is our healing ministry, we're going to disappoint millions of people'

Theologian and Bible teacher John Piper
Theologian and Bible teacher John Piper | Screengrab: Twitter/desiringGod

When it comes to having a physical disability, should a Christian’s hope to be healed in this life outweigh the ultimate promise we have of a physical resurrection at Christ’s coming?

John Piper, founder and teacher at Desiring God Ministries and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, joined the "Joni and Friends Ministry Podcast" with host Crystal Keating to examine that question.

In looking at the Second Coming of Christ, Piper spoke of the hope that not just those with physical needs and disabilities have, but also those who are growing older as they await the physical redemption of their bodies.

Pointing to seminal passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, Piper said the reality of the resurrection of the saints is first and foremost a physical renewal for those in Christ.

“I'm 77 years old and my body is increasingly disabled, right? Even though I'm relatively healthy, I know it's going to get weaker and weaker,” said Piper. 

“And therefore, in the passage of 1st Corinthians 15, the body is sown in weakness. It is raised in power. It is sown in dishonor. It is raised in glory. Those are simply staggeringly, precious promises for those of us who are getting weaker and older and, and for people who've had a disability, oh my goodness.”

Keating said the promise of these “life-changing events” associated with the resurrection will be all the more precious to those who live with disabilities and their families.

“It's the ongoing daily focus toward the body and the hospital visits and the emotions that go with caring for one another in this, that we will no longer bear anymore,” she said. “What an amazing, amazing anticipation that we have.”

Piper, whose new book Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Second Coming of Christaims at offering clarity on what believers can expect at the Lord’s return, also spoke some hard truths about divine healing, particularly in the Scriptures.

While affirming his belief in divine healing, Piper said that because not all are healed, the resurrection of all believers really is at the heart of the Gospel.

“I believe in divine healing. I pray for everybody that wants me to pray for them to get well. I pray for them to get well,” he explained. “But it is clear from history and from Scripture that God ordains that not every disability is healed and therefore, we really need the resurrection of the body for good news. 

“If our only good news is our healing ministry, we're going to disappoint millions of people.”

Keating added that Jesus came not only to heal physical bodies but to relationships as well.

“When Jesus came and He did heal people in their suffering and disability, it wasn't just a physical healing,” she said. He was restoring people to community and we can't forget that that is a real part of the suffering of some who live with disability. It's the communal isolation, it's the rejection.”

According to Keating, the ministry of Joni & Friends hears from people who are considering physician-assisted suicide, even, she said, from “believers because they are so overwhelmed.”

When asked how he would respond to such inquires, Piper emphasized that he would need to know the person to address them as individuals, and said he would first deal with the question of whether suicide is “biblically permissible.”

One of the passages he would go to would be 1 Corinthians 6:19, which reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

“Your body was bought by the Lord Jesus when He died,” said Piper. “He didn't just buy your soul. He bought your body, which means he intends for your body to be a means of glorifying Him. And you need to ponder seriously whether your choosing to end the life of your body would be an honor to Jesus.”

He also said rather than considering physician-assisted suicide, families should try to provide any medical assistance possible to minimize the patient’s pain and revealed his own family faced that difficult question before the recent passing of his mother-in-law.

“She was 101 years old. She was ready to meet Jesus. And the question was, shall we use morphine and take away her consciousness and pain or shall we not?” he said. “So that you can keep trying to communicate with her and the family made the decision to relieve her. Relieve her. And so, they said their goodbyes. 

“They gave her the dosage that she would need to get the relief, and they never communicated with her again.”

For Piper, being prepared for the Lord’s coming goes far beyond simply obeying his commands — it’s also cultivating what he calls a “heart affection” for Jesus.

He pointed to 2 Timothy 4:8 — which reads, “The Lord will give a crown of righteousness not only to me but also to all those who have loved His appearing” — as the source of inspiration for the book.

“And the reason I stress the affectional nature of the love is because the very next verse says, “Demas, in love with the present world, has forsaken me,’” said Piper. “So, what that means is Demas didn't do what Paul said. He loved the world and that means he desired the world. He had affections for the world. He wanted the world and his wanting and delighting in and treasuring Jesus faded away.”

So how can we cultivate a love for His appearing?

Piper said it comes down to seeing Jesus in all His glory, His sovereign power, and His righteousness.

“Paul said, beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to the next and that transformation is the transformation of our affections,” said Piper. 

“It's becoming more like Jesus in what He loved, what he delighted in, what he approved and treasured, and so beholding is the key to becoming.”

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ian.giatti@christianpost.com

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