Does Sickness Glorify God?
By Troy J. Edwards
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. -John 11:3, 4
Taken out of it’s contextual setting, this Scripture would appear to teach that God gets glory out of the sickness of others. So many have used this passage irresponsibly. However, a careful study of this passage proves that it is not so much the sickness that brought Jesus the glory, but it was what Jesus did concerning the sickness that glorified Him.
Of course someone may believe that I am incorrect in my assumption. They may say, “But Troy, the passage plainly says that this sickness is for the glory of God that He may be glorified. It does not say anything about the end result.” It also says (if we keep it in context), “This sickness is not unto death…” Yet, several passages later, Jesus tells His disciples, ” Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:14). If He had done this in our day, the Lord would be accused of being a liar and a false prophet. He would be denounced on many of the present day “apologists'” radio shows and internet webpages.
What did Jesus mean here? He simply meant that Lazarus was saved and was not dead as in eternally separate from God. Jesus said that Lazarus was asleep (John 11:11). This is the same description given of every believer whose spirit has left their physical body to be with Jesus (1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6; 1 Thess. 4:13, 14). Therefore, we know that He did not lie. Yet, today’s critics would not bother to take the time to see exactly what Jesus is saying. On the contrary they would have attempted to destroy His public ministry.
Even in Jesus’ day, He had His fair share of critics, “And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” (John 11:37) Aaaah the critics. Jesus had to deal with them even in His day. Should not His present day followers expect the same treatment? Surely the servant is not above His master.
Therefore, I believe that I am quite justified in saying that the context of this passage proves that the end result of the sickness, or how Jesus demonstrated His authority even over death, is what brought God the glory. The fact that Lazarus was sick is not what brought God glory. It was what Jesus had done about it the sickness that glorified Him as we read the context of this passage.
In case anyone thinks otherwise please read John 11:37 again and see that the dead Lazarus was bringing Jesus criticism rather than glory. Those who insist that Jesus taught that the sickness was to the glory of God must also keep it in context by saying that the sickness was not unto death. Using this method of interpretation then a person would be accused of calling Christ a liar since Lazarus actually died. Yet, we know that if we read the whole chapter and other Bible passages, our Lord is vindicated from this horrendous accusation.
The fact that Lazarus was raised from the dead is what gave glory to God and not the sickness itself can be confirmed as we read further:
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. – John 11:40-45
Jesus asked, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Believe what? Believe what He said about Himself being the resurrection and the life? Jesus did not want them to see this as just some future event but He wanted them to take note that resurrection and life was available NOW!!! By placing their faith in this they would see the glory of God.
In verse 45 we are told that the Jews believed on Jesus. What caused the Jews to believe on Jesus? Was it the sickness and/or the death itself? No. The the fact that the sickness was not healed caused some to criticize the Lord (John 11:37). It caused Martha to limit the power of God when she said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:32). It caused the Jews to weep and cry instead of rejoicing that their Savior was there in the midst of them. This caused the Lord Himself to groan (John 11:33). I do not believe that the sickness and subsequent death brought Jesus any glory.
Nevertheless, the sickness was for the glory of God in this manner: it was an opportunity to demonstrate the power of God over sickness, disease and death itself. The sickness and death brought doubt, sadness, criticism, and grieving. Yet, when Jesus demonstrated resurrection power, this in turn caused many of the Jews to believe on Him. The demonstration of the power of God brought Jesus glory. This same resurrection power is still available to give life to your mortal body:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. – Rom. 8:11
Your healing is what brings glory to God. Resurrection power is available to you by faith to give life to your mortal body. What Jesus asked the sisters of Lazarus, He asks every sick person today, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” His resurrection power, that same power that raise Lazarus from the dead, that same power the raised our Lord from His grave, is available to those who will simply believe.
Martha did have enough faith to know that the Lord always received that which He prayed for, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” (John 11:22). It was the answer to Jesus prayer for Lazarus resurrection that gave God the glory due to Him. Answered prayer glorifies God:
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. -John 14:13-14
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. – John 15:7-8
The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by Kenneth S. Wuest translates John 15:7-8 this way: “If you maintain a living communion with me and my words are at home in you, I command you to ask, at once, something for yourself, whatever your heart desires, and it will become yours. In this my Father is glorified, namely that you are bearing much fruit.”
You see, if we are having communion with God and His words are in us we will not ask for something that does not bring God any glory. Certain prayer requests for ourselves are not considered by God to be selfish and self centered. On the contrary, answered prayer brings glory to God. The Word of God has enough promises that gives us the surety that it is always God’s will to heal our bodies as well as our spirit and soul. To ask for healing and receive it brings glory to the Lord.
God gets glory as we pray in line with His Word and His promises. Not once has God ever denied a request that was presented to Him in conjunction with His revealed will. He says, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (2 Cor. 1:20). It would not bring God glory to deny a request when there is a clear promise for it in His Word.
Do not let unbelieving critics and Christian skeptics cheat you out of the blessings that God has clearly promised you. Healing is a promise from God. The Bible tells us “And the prayer offered in faith shall make the sick person well, and the Lord shall raise him up.” (James 5:15; The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by Kenneth S. Wuest). There is no spiritualizing this passage. It is a clear cut promise of healing when conditions are met.
The Blind Man In John 9
John 9:1-3 is also used by some to teach that God gets glory out of our sicknesses. They also use this to teach that sickness is not necessarily the cause of sin. I agree with them wholeheartedly on the latter while disagreeing with them strongly on the former. Thank God for passages such as this one and the book of Job which teaches us that the rotten things in life that may come upon a Christian does not necessarily mean that he or she has sinned.
Yet, I cannot agree with my brethren that this passage teaches us that God sovereignly chooses some to suffer sickness for His glory. Let us read this passage:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. -John 9:1-4
It is unfortunate but true that so many stop reading right there. This along with John 11:3-4 are the proof texts used by some to teach that God gets glory from the person’s sickness. Just as we have shown the reader that John 11 does not teach this false doctrine, but in fact, teaches that God received the glory from Lazarus’s resurrection, the same truth applies here.
God did not sovereignly choose this man to be sick. So many have interpreted this passage to teach that the man was born blind as a result of “divine providence.” Due to the “period” placed after verse three in John chapter 9, this passage may seem to make a wonderful proof text to those who advocate sickness as a blessing from God.
However, every Bible student knows that the New Testament was not originally written in the English language. The English language was not in existence during the period that the New Testament was being written as the Spirit of God inspired the men who wrote it.
The controversial Open View Theologian, Pastor Gregory Boyd gives some wonderful insights into this passage:
the verse should not be interpreted as suggesting that God’s will is behind this man’s blindness in the first place, and this is my third point. The original verse does not say that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed.” The Greek simply has hina with the aorist subjunctive passive of phaneroo (“to manifest”) and can readily be translated as, “But let the works of God be manifested.” As is certainly the case in Mark 5:23, Ephesians 5:33,2 Corinthians 8:7; as is likely the case in Mark 2:10, 5:12, 10:51 and a host of other passages; and as is frequently the case in the Septuagint and later postapostolic writings, the hina here should be taken as forming an imperative, not a purposive, clause.
In this light, Jesus is simply saying that, in contrast to the misguided moralistic speculations of the disciples, the only thing that matters concerning this man’s blindness is that God can overcome it and thus be glorified through it. In the satanically ruled world in which he and his disciples ministered, and in which we ourselves still live, there is no discernible particular reason why this man was born blind. The disciples’ questions, like the many assertions of Job’s “friends,” were based on the false assumption that God is behind all things, and thus that there must be a good reason for such things as blindness and the demonic torturing of a little girl-punishing sin, building character or glorifying God, for example.
In this reading, however, Jesus is simply refuting (not modifying) this assumption. He is, in effect, saying that the only response to this man’s sorry condition is, “Let the works of God be manifested!” This obviously has monumental theological implications. 
To further drive his point home, Dr. Boyd references another scholar of the Greek languages named Nigel Turner. Turner’s remarks are well worth quoting here:
The hypothesis of the imperatival hina … releases the text from the fatalism which had obsessed it, and dissolves the picture which had become familiar through all our English versions, a man destined from birth to suffer for the sole purpose of glorifying God when he was healed.
We can further add to the scholarship previously referenced that the Greek texts contain no punctuation so translators had to place them where they felt would be the proper place in the sentences. George Ricker Berry, in his introduction in the The Interlinear KJV Bible says this:
There is no authority anywhere for the punctuation. There are few or no points in the ancient copies, and editors naturally differ in their system of pointing. We have been obliged to punctuate for ourselves as we judged best.
A.S. Worrell makes a similar observation in his translation of the New Testament:
It should be understood by the reader that the division of the different books of the New Testament into chapters and verses was the work of men; and it must be confessed, with deep regret, that the work, as a whole, was very poorly done; a chapter sometimes ending where perhaps a semicolon or even a comma should have been used; and a verse often ending where the slightest division was required. Such errors tend to obscure the sense.
Though, I personally appreciate the division of the Bible into chapters and verse for the fact that it is easier to reference, Dr. Worrell has made an interesting observation that can be applied to John 9:3 and 4. If we removed the period from the end of verse three, and replaced it with a comma or semicolon, and if we had not divided these two verses, we would have a better understanding of this text that is consistent with the rest of Scripture.
Gordon Lindsay, founder of the Christ For The Nations Bible Institute made this statement in volume 3 of his series of books, The Life And Teachings of Christ:
There is no punctuation in the original Greek and the sentence could be punctuated as follows: “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.”
Further in his book, Gordon Lindsay makes it clear that he does not claim to have the correct punctuation. Nevertheless, he does present another alternative that the majority of English translations do not provide. One of the few that do offer this alternative is Robert Young’s Literal translation of the Bible:
Jesus answered, `Neither did this one sin nor his parents, but that the works of God may be manifested in him; it behoveth me to be working the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night doth come, when no one is able to work: — when I am in the world, I am a light of the world.’ -John 9:3-5; Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible
Notice that Young places a semicolon where most other translations use a period. According to the Webster’s dictionary, a semicolon is used to indicate, “a degree of separation greater than that marked by the comma and less than that marked by the period.” It is also used “…to separate closely related clauses.”
It seems to me that Dr. Young did not not see the man’s blindness as the “providence of God” or “for the Glory of God.” We should not read this man’s blindness as “divine providence” but rather as DIVINE OPPORTUNITY!!! If we read the passage carefully in the KJV, we will see that Jesus was not saying that God ensured that this man was born blind so that God could later heal him. What he was saying was that because this man was born blind, this provides a great opportunity to work the works of God. The Contemporary English version makes this distinction clearer:
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been born blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?” “No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. “But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him. As long as it is day, we must do what the one who sent me wants me to do. When night comes, no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1-5; Contemporary English Version)
A controversial paraphrase of the New Testament by Eugene Peterson called “The Message” also brings the thought of divine opportunity rather than divine providence in this case:
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” (John 9:1-5; The Message by Eugene Peterson)
Lawrence O. Richards in his Bible Background Commentary illustrates this point well in differentiating between “divine providence” and “divine opportunity:”
What is important here is not the answer Jesus gave – that the blindness was not a punishment for sin at all, but would serve as an occasion to glorify God. What is important is that when the disciples saw suffering – their curiosity rather than their compassion was aroused.
The light that Jesus brings, and in which we are to walk, must radically change our priorities. Solving theological puzzles, and even being “right” in our interpretations of Scripture, should be less important to us than displaying the compassion and concern for others that Jesus’ own actions constantly reveal.
It is tempting to quote more scholarship on this but I believe that this will suffice in making our point. Nevertheless, there are several other teachers and commentators who convey the same thought that I am presenting, which we have placed in our footnotes for further study.
As we read further along in the chapter we will see again that it was the healing that brought glory to God, not this man’s sickness. The sickness was an opportunity for the power of God to be demonstrated. Verse 4 in most translations outside of the King James uses the personal pronoun “we” instead of “I” showing us that Jesus wants us to cooperate with Him in this work.
We must do the works of Jesus and even greater than these (John 14:11-13; Mark 16:15-20). We are not to look at others with disdain, concerning ourselves with the cause of their sin. If sin be the cause of their predicament, let us minister God’s forgiveness as well as healing (James 5:14-16). However, let’s not condemn them. If we truly want God to be glorified, we must do the same works that Jesus did and healing the sick is one of them (Matt. 10:1-8; Luke 9:1-3).
However, in our ministering, it is equally wrong to say that God is punishing someone for their sins by sickness as well as to tell someone that God has placed sickness on them to glorify His name. This has a tendency to cause some to become bitter with God. We must simply proclaim the promises of God concerning restoration and deliverance from sin and sickness.
Scriptural Proof That Healing Glorifies God
I want to present to the reader several Scriptures that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is divine healing, not sickness itself, that brings glory to God. I will not expound very much on these passages since I have already done so in my book, Divine Healing Guaranteed
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day. -Luke 5:24-26
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. -Luke 13:12-17
And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God. -Luke 18:35-43
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. -Acts 4:21-22
So far we have seen that the passages used by some to teach that God derives glory from our sicknesses can be refuted when we read the passages within their context and see what they are truly teaching. We have seen that the above passages are clear that the healings wrought in the ministry of Jesus caused the people to glorify God. Finis Dakes made this statement in his study Bible:
Miracles will always bring glory to God; but failure, sickness, and disease will not. It is held today that sickness glorifies God because one has opportunity to witness to souls, but why not look at it in this light – could not the same witnessing be carried on better in a well body? Is it not better, therefore, to think this – that God gets glory in spite of our sicknesses, not because of it? Would God have received the glory for all the healings recorded in the blind, the sick, and the lame had not been healed and the demons cast out? Would He have received glory if Lazarus had remained dead? Definitely not, so what is the source of God’s glory – to remain sick or be healed?
In conclusion, I do not want to seem insensitive to those who are suffering a physical handicap or a sickness of any kind. It is not my intention to hurt anyone or to make them feel that they are any less of a child of God or that they are in sin. The purpose of this essay is to refute and destroy traditional ideas concerning sickness and God’s glory. It is my desire that God’s children always seek the provision that Christ has purchased for the healing of their bodies. Nevertheless, I do not think any less of anyone who, for one reason or another, has not received this provision or do not sense the necessity to do so.
My main objective is to teach the plain truth of God’s Word in these areas, not to belittle others who do not have the same understanding of the Scriptures that I have in these areas. Nevertheless, if one believes that sickness originates from God and is used to glorify Him, one must have something other than out of context Scripture passages and traditional interpretations. Our beliefs must have a solid grounding in the plain truth of Scripture.
As Andrew Murray once said, “Although many sick people may have glorified God by their patience in suffering. He can still be glorified by a health which He has sanctified.”
Boyd, Gregory A. God At War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997), p. 233
Turner, Nigel Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1965), p. 145. As quoted in Boyd, God At War, pp. 233, 234
Berry, George Ricker The Interlinear KJV: Parallel New Testament In Greek And English (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) p. ii
Worrell, A.S. The Worrell New Testament (Springfield, MS: Gospel Publishing House, 1980), p. v
Lindsay, Gordon The Life & Teachings Of Christ Vol. 3 (Dallas, TX: Christ For The Nations, 1987), p. 46
Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary (Macmillan, U.S.A., 1999)
Richards, Lawrence O. The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), p. 241
I did not want to put all of the quotes in the body of this essay nor did I not want to exclude them altogether. I believe that the below quotes will benfit those who desire further research and insight into how others see John 9:1-3:
Simpson, A.B. The Christ In The Bible Commentary Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), On page 454 Simpson says, “What a blessing it would be if we would ever feel that our troubles have been permitted, not that we should sink under them, but that God might have an occasion to show what He can do in our deliverance. He definitely implies that his blindness was not the work of God, but of another hand. The works of God were to be manifested in his healing.”
Dake, Finis Jennings Dakes Annotated Reference Bible (Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Bible Sales, Inc.), p. 105, note n: “This was not the cause of his blindness but a simple declaration that the works of God were to be manifest regardless of the cause. Jesus answered their question as to whether the man or his parents had sinned. He did not state the cause, but it is certain that God was not the cause. God was the healer and Satan was back of the cause (Mt. 12:22; Acts 10:38; Jn. 10:10; 1 Jn 3:8).”
Guthrie, D.; Motyer, J.A.; Stibbs, A.M.; Wisemen, D.J. The New Bible Commentary: Revised (Carmel, NY: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), p. 949, “But that the works of God might be made manifest in him. This was a possibility which was given little consideration in our Lord’s day. That suffering could be used for God’s glory was a difficult to believe, although it is inherent in the Christian approach to the problem. This miracle, however, is not concerned with the problem. It is aimed to show the illuminating power of Christ, not only in the physical but in the spiritual sphere. Restored sight led to a developing faith.”
May, Herbert G and Metzger, Bruce M. The Oxford Annotated Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 1298, notes on 9.1-41, “Suffering was attributed to sin, either of the parents or of the man prenatally. Jesus denies this and shifts attention from cause to purpose; this is an opportunity for God to act.”
Meeks, Wayne A. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), p. 2031, “He was born blind. These words are not actually in the Greek text of Jesus reply. The point seems to be not to find a cause or a purpose for the man’s blindness but to present it as an occasion for doing God’s works of healing (see 4.34; 5.17-21, 36; 10.32-38; 14. 10-12; 17.4)”
Brown, Raymond E. The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), p. 443. Although the commentators believe that the sickness was the divine providence of God, they further state that Jesus, “…does not say that this is the entire explanation, but he does deny that human sinfulness is that explanation.
Edwards, Troy J. Divine Healing: Guaranteed (Providence, RI: Victory Through The Word Ministries). In chapter 7, I expound more on the practical principles found in the Scriptures that show that God is glorified as His healing power is displayed in sick bodies. This book is now free and can be downloaded from the internet.
Dakes, p. 82, note i
Murray, Andrew Divine Healing (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1982), p. 74