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  • Steve Derenge

God's Sovereignty and Sickness


In Acts 4, after healing a 40+ year old man who had been lame from birth, the clergy of their day commanded Jesus’ disciples not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. The apostles later gathered to pray:

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:23-31 ESV

How did they address God as they opened in prayer?

How did they end their prayer to the Sovereign Lord?

Did they pray, “In light of Your sovereignty, please be glorified through and amidst the suffering of the sick as they receive Christ yet may remain sick for your various, mysterious purposes for their sickness?”

Or did they pray, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus"? Acts 4:29‭-‬30 ESV

Did the apostles understand God's sovereignty to mean that God is responsible for sickness, that sickness can be a blessing in disguise from God, and that the Father uses sickness as a disciplinary measure for sanctification? Or did the apostles understand God's sovereignty to mean that as King of the universe, God commissioned His servants to go around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil through miraculous signs and wonders by healing the sick as they preached the gospel? c.f. Acts 10:38, Mark 6:12f; 16:17ff, Luke 10:9; John 20:21.

So then, what should we think about believers in Jesus getting sick? How is that possible if Jesus was our substitute who bore our sicknesses according to Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:17, etc? For it seems Trophimus, Epaphroditus, etc. became ill (2 Timothy 2:20; Philippians 2:25-27). We can just as easily ask, how can a believer in Jesus sin again, since Jesus was our substitute who bore our sins in our place (Isaiah 53:5-6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)? For it seems that at times New Testament saints sometimes backslid into sin as well (Galatians 2:11ff; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; etc.).

In each case, what should we conclude? Faith (believing the Word of God no matter how heretical He sounds), repentance (submitting one's loyalty to Jesus in obedience), being re-filled with the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18-21), etc. is necessary in both situations, whether a believer in Jesus is sick or in sin. Let us who believe in Jesus therefore

  • Acknowledge the Sovereign Lord as the King who has defeated sin, sickness, and satanic powers. Colossians 2:8-15; Romans 5:17.

  • Remain in His love as we are filled, directed, and empowered by His Holy Spirit. John 15. Acts 1:8; Ephesians 5:18-21.

  • Submit to the His authority, commission, and orders as we begin to go around doing good and healing those oppressed by the devil. Acts 10:38; 1 John 2:6; Matthew 28:18-20; etc.

If you don’t yet know Jesus’ power and love for yourself, then I recommend my article “Would You Like to Kick Satan’s Butt Personally?