By Donald P. Ames
During a recent visit to one of the local hospitals to see some there who were sick, I looked up and was surprised to see Steve Dyson, Minister of the United Pentecostal Church in Newport, Arkansas. Mr. Dyson and I have been acquainted, and good friends, as a result of the fact our radio broadcasts on Sunday morning are within a half-hour of each other and also because of mutual acquaintances in the past. Yet, neither of us has had any hesitation in opposing what we believe to be false doctrine regarding the positions taken by the other (although Steve Dyson has let it be known he has no desire to engage in a public discussion of these differences). I point this out to note that one can disagree without always being disagreeable, and that friendship does not mean that one must appease the falsehoods taught by others (Gal. 1:10).
But, to return to the discussion at hand, I enquired from Mr. Dyson as to the nature of his visit and problem; and learned that his throat was swollen and so sore that he could hardly swallow. I then asked him, since the Pentecostals believe they have the ability to perform miracles today as the apostles did in the times of the N.T., why didn’t he just heal himself? The only reply I got was that “even Paul had his `thorn in the flesh.’ ” This was the same reply I received from Bill Lewis, Minister of the First Apostolic Church (same fellowship) in Aurora, Illinois when he lost his voice during a debate with Larry Hafley (see my report on the Hafley-Lewis-Bishop Debate, Truth Magazine, July 20, 1970), and also when he later had to undergo heart surgery and was laid up for about six months.
Now, I am wondering about their consistency in using this passage in light of what Paul actually said-and why-in 2 Cor. 12. Paul received his “thorn in the flesh” because he had been caught up into the third heaven, and this “messenger of Satan” was to buffet him, “lest I should be exalted above measure.” What had happened to him in this instance was not something that was common to man, and therefore God used this “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. Did either Mr. Lewis or Mr. Dyson experience such a glorious view of the third heaven? Surely they will not contend that problems of being “a great speaker” necessitated God going to such measures-nor that they are so much greater than others that God had to go to such measures to make them learn the lesson of humility (and not do the same to their fellow-man as well).
Secondly, when Paul sought the Lord for relief, He replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9), and from this Paul concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” However, both Mr. Dyson and Mr. Lewis sought relief at the hands of a. medical doctor. Now,.if they are going to use part of a passage, why not use the rest? If God will not heal their infirmities, why not accept the fact “My grace is sufficient for thee”? Or, do they think they can circumvent the “judgment of God” by obtaining relief from another source and thus destroy God’s “purpose” in giving them this “thorn in the side”?
The very fact Paul and others of the apostolic age had physical ailments that were not healed (Phil. 2:27, 1 Tim. 5:23, 2 Tim. 4:20, 2 Cor. 12:7) is evidence that physical healing was not the goal of Christ, but that these miracles were to confirm the word (Mk. 16:20, Heb. 2:4), and that not even the apostles could use them for other purposes (such as their own healing or general healing)-and that once that word had been confirmed, the miracles were to cease (1 Cor. 13:8-10, Eph. 4:11-13, Jas. 1:25, Jn. 20:30-3I ). It would seem that being caught in such a contradictory position would cause some of these “faith healers” to take another look at their own doctrine in light of the Word of God (see Rom. 10:2).
Truth Magazine XIX: 17, p. 262
March 6, 1975