The Man Born Blind

One question that comes up from time to time when I teach about healing is about the man born blind from John 9.  Here is the passage of scripture in the NKJV translation:

John 9:1-7
1Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.
7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

The question usually goes something like this:  “Doesn’t this prove that sometimes God makes people sick for His glory?  It says in verse 3 that the man was born blind so that the works of God would be revealed in him…so doesn’t that mean that God wanted him to be blind initially?”

The answer to this, of course, is no.  God the Father wasn’t making people blind so that Jesus could heal them.  Jesus himself stated that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus is not opposed to the Father.  The Father and the Son are on the same team, and they are in agreement.  Jesus also says that He only does what the Father shows Him, meaning that all of His actions are in complete agreement with the will and the nature of the Father.

Never forget this statement from Peter in Acts 10:38:  God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing GOOD and HEALING all who were OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, for God was with him.

The people that Jesus was healing were oppressed by the devil, not by God the Father.  Jesus was healing every sickness, and “God was with him.”  God the Father and Jesus the Son were in agreement together against sickness and disease and all kinds of physical problems.  It is a very serious accusation to claim that the Father made people blind, but Jesus healed them.

But still, we have a statement in John 9:3 that sounds like it contradicts Acts 10:38.  Namely, that the man “was born blind that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

So how are we supposed to take this?

The answer is found by examining the original Greek language.  There is a word in this verse that can be translated several ways, and depending on the translator’s choice, it can cause the verse to appear to mean two very different things.  Here is the verse again, with the word in question highlighted:

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

The Greek word is “hina” can be used to show the purpose of an action, or it can be used as a command for an action. In the example above in the NKJV, the translator chose to translate “hina” to show the purpose of the blindness.  But this is not the only way this can be translated.  Before I show you the other way it can be translated let me show you another verse where this word is used, and where different translators made different choices.

The verse is Titus 3:13, I will continue using red bold text to emphasize the Greek word in question.

Titus 3:13 (NKJV):  Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing.  (this shows the purpose for an action)

Titus 3:13 (NIV):  Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. (this is a command to do an action)

The NKJV translators chose to translate it to show purpose.  When translated to show purpose, it gives you the reason that something is done.  “…so that they lack nothing”

The NIV translators chose to translate it to show a command.  When translated to show command, it is giving an instruction.  “…See that they lay nothing.”

Both of these are valid choices, and it is up to the translator to decide which use of the word he believes is the best fit.

That being said, let us now take a look at John 9:3 and see how it reads when we choose this alternate, and equally accurate translation of “hina,” using it to show a command rather than a purpose:

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.  See that the works of God are revealed in him.

Then, the next thing Jesus does is heal him, which shows us the will and the “works of God.”

When you read it with this meaning, it shows you that Jesus is saying that the blindness is not the result of anyone’s sin, so don’t focus on that.  Instead of focusing on the cause, enforce the will of God and heal the man.

This translation, which again is an equally valid choice for the Greek word “hina,” aligns much better with the life and actions of Jesus in demonstrating God’s will.

Jesus always healed everyone that came to him without exception.  And Jesus is the only example of a “human” that always demonstrated God’s will.  So our only choice is to believe that healing is God’s will because that’s what Jesus always did.  Therefore, when I have a choice in the translation, I believe it is safer to choose the option that aligns with the revealed character of God.

2 Responses

  1. I appreciate this Neal. I have pursued the spectrum on this topic, from cessationalist to full blown prosperity and found that there really isn’t an absolute. There is one huge problem… Not everyone who comes forward for healing IS healed. Many who come forward aren’t healed. Why?
    Secondly, The enemy comes to steal kill and destroy. Yet 2 servants of God who withheld money from him suddenly fell dead. God or Satan? Seems very much implied that it is God’s sovereignty.
    While I don’t disbelieve in God’s healing, there must be room for God’s sovereignty and wisdom. Even George Mueller, a man of great faith said at the deathbed of his wife, ” if it be good for me that my wife’s health is restored then God will do it; however, if it would not be good for me then she will go on in Glory.”
    The trust here is that all things that come from God are good. Therefore, if one is abiding in Christ, they can be assured that God’s plan for their life is good- regardless of their circumstances or experience.
    Worthy of a conversation… much more on this matter…

    1. Hi Rick. Thanks for your comments and your questions. Those are very good questions, and yes I agree that they are very worthy of a conversation. I have an entire post planned and in the works that will hopefully address some of this, and I do not have the space in the comments area here to cover it fully. Please take that into consideration as you read this.

      Briefly, I view God’s sovereignty as God’s divine “right” (for lack of a better word) to make decisions without asking permission from anyone. God is the boss…the King. If He wants to make everything happen just the way He wants, according to His will, then He can do that because He is sovereign. Or, if He instead wants to make it so that the decisions of free moral agents can affect the outcomes of things, then He can also do that because He is sovereign. However, if He chooses to create free moral agents and give them the ability to make choices, then He is intentionally, by His own sovereign choice, limiting His control over those creatures to some degree.

      Personally, I believe that this is what the Bible teaches us about God’s character: that He sovereignly decided to give His created beings (human, angel, etc) the ability to make choices that will have a real effect on the way things go, even if those choices are in opposition to His good, pleasing, and perfect will. When free moral agents choose to reject God’s will, then the results they experience are not a result of God’s will. Here is a post that covers that in more detail. In my view, sickness only exists in the human experience because free moral agents chose again and again to reject His will, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden. Please see my post on “The Source of Sickness” for a more thorough treatment of this particular point. And please keep an eye out for an upcoming post about sovereignty for a more thorough treatment of that point as well.

      Like you said in your comments, all things from God are good. I completely agree. That being said, I do not believe that all results or activities or outcomes are from God. Some things are the result of centuries of poor choices by humans, often influenced by the enemy, that resulted in a fallen world with sin, destruction, and sickness in our midst. Sometimes we experience things that come as a result of our own, or someone else’s poor, ungodly choices that came before us. Those things are not God’s will because God is not the author of ungodliness. Our current moral climate does not accurately reflect God’s will or God’s character, for example.

      Personally, when I minister healing but I do not see anything happen, I do not blame it on God’s will. I know that if Jesus was here physically in the flesh doing the ministering, then the healing would always happen, because that’s what always happened in the Bible, and Jesus was the only person to completely and accurately demonstrate God’s will. So rather than assuming the outcome was God’s will, I go back to the Father in prayer asking Him to teach me and train me and help me to see or understand what I am missing. That is how I approach it. Whether or not you agree, I hope this at least explains where I am coming from.

      Thank you again for your questions and comments. Be blessed

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