Should Christians Go To Doctors?
John Hoole - July 18, 2010
In our ongoing series on the topic of Healing, we come to the question "Should Christians go to doctors when they are sick?" Let me begin our lesson today by asking you a questions:
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT DOCTORS AND MEDICINE?
According to some Christians, seeking medical help is a sign of a lack of faith in God. I once heard a preacher say that no Christian should be sick. The same speaker said something like: "Rather than go to the doctor, the Christian needs to rebuke the sickness, they need to bind little Satan (his words) and reject the symptoms. They should consider themselves completely healed."
I will say at the beginning of this lesson - I just do not find that teaching in the Bible. In fact, I think there are a number of Scriptures showing there is no sin in consulting physicians. Furthermore, it doesn't make any sense. It is inconsistent with God's way of doing His work in other realms.
If your car is damaged, do you take it to a mechanic or wait for God to perform a miracle and heal your car? If the plumbing in your house bursts, do you wait for God to plug the leak, or do you call an experienced plumber?
Certainly God is just as capable of repairing a car or fixing the plumbing as He is of healing our bodies. The fact that God can and does perform miracles of healing does not mean we should always expect an instantaneous miracle instead of seeking the help of individuals who possess the knowledge and skill to assist us.
I believe in doctors and in the science and practice of modern medicine. I hope that as we examine what the Bible says on this topic, we will see that medicine and the healing arts are gifts from God. They are part of His divine & merciful provision for alleviating human suffering to some extent. I commend the countless physicians, nurses, medical researchers and scientists, and all other members of the health care profession who dedicate their lives to the treatment of the sick and diseased.
Having said that, it is crucial to recognize secondly that modern medicine has its limits. Despite the giant leaps forward in medical knowledge and treatment, there are hundreds of diseases and conditions that continue to elude a final cure. But God can do what modern medicine cannot. God has always been in the healing business.
The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are full of examples of divine healing. And accounts of miraculous divine healings are found also throughout Church history. But we also have accounts in the Bible of using available medical help in conjunction with divine healing.
One example of divine healing that used natural means as well is the healing of King Hezekiah.
Isaiah 38:1-5 NKJV
1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'"
2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord,
3 and said, "Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying,
5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.
This is a wonderful example of an answer to a prayer for healing. I have a question for you: Did Hezekiah immediately get out of bed? The answer to that question is given later in the same chapter.
Isaiah 38:21 NKJV
21 Now Isaiah had said, "Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover."
One thing I love about studying the Word of God is that when you compare Scripture with Scripture, difficulties will often be explained. In this case, we have another record in the Bible of the healing of King Hezekiah. As I read it, notice the things mentioned here that were not in Isaiah's account.
2 Kings 20:1-7 NKJV
1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.'"
2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying,
3 "Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
5 "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.
6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David."'"
7 Then Isaiah said, "Take a lump of figs." So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
This passage has some information that the account in Isaiah does not. In verse 7, we see that Hezekiah's total recovery occurred after the lump of figs was applied. And the implication is that he was not completely well until the third day. By the third day he was well enough to go up to the Temple.
This healing is a great example that not all divine healing is instantaneous. And also in this case the divine healing included some natural elements. But it was miraculous, divine healing none the less.
What the Bible says about doctors and medicine
Since the Bible is the basis for a true Christian's faith, we should see the basis of our answers concerning healing and doctors there. When we look into the Bible, we find this: God has nowhere in his Word commanded Christians to avoid doctors or checkups, nor to refuse medicines, blood transfusions, inoculations or surgery. Many Scriptures either show God's neutrality toward medicine, or even lean toward the use of medicines as it might be appropriate.
As we investigate what the Bible says about this topic, we will:......
• Look at what I believe are misunderstood verses.
• Examine some of the arguments of those against going to doctors.
• Investigate the thought that going to doctors is trusting in human wisdom rather than God.
Before getting to these related topics just mentioned, let's look at a number of verses related to our topic.
Take a look at Genesis 17:10-14 NKJV.
10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
It is here that we read the command of the Lord concerning the procedure of circumcision to Abraham. God ordained this minor surgery of the physical body. This would seem to indicate there is nothing sacrosanct about human skin. Cutting into the flesh for medically related purposes is not inherently defiling. I mention this because there are a few who believe otherwise.
Later in the book of Genesis, we read of Joseph's reaction when his father Jacob dies in Egypt.
Genesis 50:1-2 NIV
1 Joseph threw himself upon his father and wept over him and kissed him.
2 Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him,
Although Joseph had been elevated to the second in the land, next to Pharaoh, he still worship Jehovah and was a very godly man. And among his servants were a group of physicians. And I think it interesting that the root word in Hebrew which is translated "physician," is the same as that found in Exodus 15:26 - the word RAPHA. This is the verse that uses the phrase Jehovah Rapha, where Jehovah states that He is the God that heals them.
Proverbs 17:22 states, "A merry heart does good like a medicine." This verse certainly does not cast medicines in a negative light. To the contrary, the metaphor is a positive one.
Another metaphor along these lines is found in Jeremiah 8. In this chapter, we find the prophet Jeremiah mourning over the people of Israel.
Jeremiah 8:22 NKJV reads:
22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there?
Jeremiah 30:13 equates the lack of medicine with a consequent lack of healing.
Jeremiah 51:8 says medicine is the way for Babylon to be healed.
Although these examples are metaphors, they imply that medicines are useful. One can hardly conclude that God is against physicians or medicines by such neutral or positive usage.
Ezekiel 30:21 speaks of Pharaoh's arm being broken and not being healed because it was not bound up. This, again, is metaphorical language, but it logically follows, without the slightest contrary indication of it being wrong, that Pharaoh's arm might have been "healed" had it been bound up. That is, the healing could come through a physical procedure.
One more verse from the Old Testament is especially telling.
Ezekiel 47:12 NKJV
12 Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."
This shows that healing medicine will be made from the leaves of trees that are nourished by the waters from the new temple in the New Jerusalem. And we find this thought echoed in Revelation 22:2.
Now we come to the New Testament.
Luke 5:31 NKJV
31 Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."
See also Mark 2:17 and Matthew 9:12.
Also, Luke writes the words of Christ, quoting the proverb, "physician, heal yourself!" Here, Jesus applies this to Himself. In neither case of Luke's writing does Christ give so much as a hint at disapproval of physicians.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, he refers to Luke as the "beloved physician." Luke was a physician and was well thought of. The Bible nowhere states that Luke stopped using his skills after his conversion.
The verses that we have examine thus far have been a brief survey, and no one can conclude from these verses that the Bible in any way condemns doctors or medicines. On what grounds, then, do some conclude that medicines and doctors are wrong for Christians?
There are a couple of Bible passages that are sometimes used by those who believe Christians should not go to doctors. One is in 2 Kings, and the other in 2 Chronicles.
2 Kings 1:1-4 (NKJV) cites the example of King Ahaziah of Israel.
1 Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, "Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury."
3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?'
4 Now therefore, thus says the Lord: 'You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.'" So Elijah departed.
Here, we learn that Ahaziah, king of Israel, was injured in his home. He sends his servants to go and inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if he was to recover from his injury. God responds by telling the prophet Elijah what Ahaziah had done, and he intercepts the servants. Elijah tells the servants that the king would not recover from his wounds - but would die.
I find interesting the meaning of the king's name - Ahaziah. It means "held by Jehovah," or "Jehovah sustains." Yet, he did not trust in the God of his name.
Rather, the king insults Jehovah - or at least ignores Him. He should have inquired of the God of Israel. This is not a Scripture denouncing the use of doctors, but the condemnation of ancient practitioners who relied on pagan gods amulets, incantations or other forms of magic or superstition. The king was asking about the future from a false god. This passage is about idolatry. It has nothing to do with getting medical help.
Another example sometime used by those who believe it is a lack of faith to go to doctors is found in 2 Chronicles 16. In this passage we find King Asa near the end of his life.
2 Chronicles 16:12-13 NKJV
12 And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.
13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign.
This wasn't the first time that King Asa declined to enquire of the Lord when he was in a difficult situation. Earlier in the same chapter - verse 7 - we find the prophet of God delivering a reprimand to Asa. Because he did not enquire of the Lord, the King of Syria and his army escaped.
And then in verse 9, we find that very important verse:
2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV
9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars."
Again, the issue is not the doctors, but the ignoring of God. As Christians, we should not trust the medical profession as if it were a god. Our first inquiry should be our Lord.
Jeremiah 17:5 NKJV
5 Thus says the Lord: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord.
In summary, the Bible simply does not condemn people for seeking practical and scientific help with their illness if they first have their trust resting on God. This is what God expects us to do in all aspects of our life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
In any decision of any consequence we have to make, it should be our way of life and our habit to go to God for help and wisdom. And this applies when seeking medical attention or health advice, as well as any other part of our life.
Let us continue the thought in the previous couple of paragraphs. One view against the use of doctors is the belief that one who uses them is trusting in humans instead of God. Of course, it is possible to have no faith in God and almost superstitious faith in human scientific knowledge. A person can trust humans instead of God, not just in healing, but in any area of life. This can be true, but need not be true when one decides to go to the doctor.
One who seeks medical aid does not by definition trust humans instead of God, just as a person who uses an employment agency is not by definition refusing to trust God. We should always trust in God, even though we seek human help, whether in health, in finding a job, or in any other difficulty. We can use doctors' help without treating them like gods.
Another illogical argument is the idea that using a physician is "throwing faith out the window." This statement assumes that faith in God and use of a doctor are opposites. In this sense the statement is merely another way of saying that if you have some confidence in science, such as trusting an airplane can fly, you don't have faith in God. Faith in God is a matter of the heart, between a person and God, and it is not interrupted by seeing a doctor.
Another view I have heard is that the medical profession is one of this world's humanly devised sciences invented and constructed by a civilization cut off from God. This is a true statement, but it is also true of virtually every other aspect of civilization, including the automobile, airplanes, computers and telephones. Just because humans have done something without God does not in itself condemn it. One could argue that they did not, in actuality, do something without God, because God is the one who gave them the brain to think and dream. It is up to us to make sure that what we dream and devise is not sinful.
The bottom line in this thought is that the Bible must always be our guide for what is sin and what is not. The Bible simply does not label doctors, medicines and surgeries as sin.
God heals in three different ways:
1. By natural means
2. By medical means
3. By prayer
But, I need to make this clear by adding this statement. When it's any one of these three, it is still God who does the healing.
1. It isn't your body that heals itself - it is God who made your body to heal itself.
2. It isn't the doctor that makes you well - you are healed by the principles that God has built into our system that doctors learn and help along.
3. It isn't prayer that makes people well - it is the God that people call upon when they pray.
From all the passages we have examined today, what is the biblical conclusion.
1. Physicians are not God and should not be viewed as such. They sometimes can help, but their knowledge and abilities are limited. God created us as intelligent beings and gave us the ability to create medicines, and have learned is some measure how to repair the body.
2. Seeing physicians and using "earthly" remedies are not condemned in Scripture, but rather seem to have been used throughout Scripture. Many verses speak of using "medical treatments" such as applying bandages (Isa 1:6), using oil (James 5:14), oil and wine (Luke 10:34), and salves (Jer. 8:22).
3. God's intervention in any physical difficulty should be sought. He may answer in a way different than we want, but we have the assurance that He always will act in love and in our best interest.
I have no doubt that God can use doctors and medical professional. I believe that in the same way that, according to Romans 13, He used law enforcement to administer safety.