“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” (Jeremiah 8:22)
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:33)
“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” Israel had lapsed into sin, in rebuke God had sent judgment after judgment upon His chosen people. At the time Jeremiah posed this question, their sin had become so intense and hateful God was provoked to loosen the Chaldean armies against Israel.
Consternation and desolation prevailed throughout the land, yet, the nation, as a whole, continued to rebel against God. The nation was spiritually diseased, its remaining health waning, and God was sorely displeased. Jeremiah did not ask this question because he did not know the answer. But he was making entreaty of the people, earnestly imploring them to turn back to God. Israel would have no difficulty in understanding the question. They knew the prophet was addressing them in figurative language, and that he referred to the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation’s personal Physician. They knew he referred to the law of God, and its Passover lamb, whose blood was a sure stay against the judgments of God.
land of Gilead on the other side of Jordon was a part of the country of
Israel, where a peculiar plant grew which yielded a special and
balm for physical healing. The plant, being pierced, issued a resin
because of its healing virtue became a valuable commodity. It was used
to cleanse sores, heal deep wounds, as eye salve, as an antidote for
bite of poison serpents, it was commonly held by Israel to be
in the healing of all manner of disease.
In the literal sense, Jeremiah asks, “Has God ceased to be God, is He not yet able to forgive our sins, and restore our strength?” Many of God’s dealings and dispensations with ancient Israel are of great typical value for this present age, and particularly for the New Testament Church.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (I Corinthians 10:11). So it is Gilead’s balm may be held as a fit type of the shed blood of Christ which is all comprehensive in its curative powers. The lack of a cure for Israel’s disease was not owing to the want of balm, or of a Physician, but to their own unbelief and folly. The medicine was in ready and sufficient supply and their Physician able. Another thing adding to the peculiarity of the balm is, the plant was indigenous to Israel only. God vouchsafed this anti disease balm to Israel, and made other nations beholding to them for it.
gave the Passover lamb to Israel, and to no other nation. Egypt, which
is a vivid type of the world, had no atoning blood, or soul healing
The only way an Egyptian could be saved was to own Israel’s God, and
lamb. The typical blood was shed in Israel every day for 1,500 years,
with each sacrifice they were reminded that “It is the blood
that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
The lines and treks of God’s elective decree shall ever be a mystery to the unglorified saint, with hindsight he can see where it has run (I Thessalonians 1:4), but he cannot tell in a personal way whither it goeth. During the Mosiac economy some Gentiles were saved, including Rahab the harlot, Naaman the Syrian, the widow of Sidon, Ruth the Moabitess, etc. However, I have not read of any who were saved independent of the typical gospel of Israel, or her spiritual balm. I do not mean to imply that every person saved beyond the progeny of Israel became a devout proselyte. It would be illogical to assume this seeing that many native Israelites had problems keeping their own ordinances (Acts 15:10). Yet, in Israel only was God’s institutional glory vested. Only Israel had divine ordinances, and Israel was the only nation God promised to meet with in an institutional sense. “And I (God) will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)
As in ancient times when God restricted His institutional glory to Israel, He has in this age made the New Testament church the repository of that same glory, making the church the “pillar and ground of the truth,” committing to her His ordinances, and promising her His perpetual presence (Matthew 28:18-20; I Timothy 3:15 ). Of the Mosiac institution we read, “In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion.” (Psalm 76:1-2). The seat of God’s institutional glory was in Israel, and manifested through the temple worship services in Jerusalem. God, in infinite wisdom has chosen the New Testament church to be the seat of His institutional glory for this age, and in view of this fact, Paul says, “Unto Him (God) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21). There were other religious institutions in the days of Israel, but Israel was the only one instituted by God. There are today sundry churches in divers places, but only one (kind) has been divinely instituted, and all others are false churches. The churches to whom the Lord has committed the proclamation of the gospel, all missionary enterprise, and in whom His institutional glory resides are Sovereign Grace Missionary Baptist churches. Baptists are not the only people making this claim, but it seems they are the only people labeled “bigoted” for doing so. Investigation will reveal that many denominations make this claim for themselves, and others which are not so dogmatic in asserting the same for their church, yet contend that their particular group is more perfect in degree than all others. Any church that is not built after the New Testament model is not merely a false church, but is the antithesis of the true, and whether conscious of it or not, every ecclesiastical exercise of an ill-founded church is an effort to bedim the glory of the true.
Testament Baptists hold that the Lord baptized the church in the Holy
on the day of Pentecost, and that this baptism was of an institutional
nature. This baptism not only attested to the fact that the church had
superseded the Jewish institution with its typical gospel, but with
baptism came the indwelling, and empowering of the already existing
by the Spirit. This glorious manifestation of the Divine presence in
church was prefigured by the Shechinah glory filling the tabernacle (Exodus
40:34-38), and later the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (I
Kings 8:10-11). By this baptism the church takes up the
which Israel let fall through harlotry, by this baptism the church
the exclusive ecclesiastical institution with the favor of the
God. Through the church the Spirit will apply the healing balm of
rather, the blood of Christ to all for whom He was pierced. They are
beholding to the church for the message of redemption, and apart from
message there is no healing of the soul. The devil knows it is through
the Lord’s churches that the Spirit calls out the elect of God. He
that the church reflects the glory of God, and to obscure that glory he
afflicts the church with many loathsome diseases.
(A.) Heresy and error are terrible diseases which spreads like cancer, and is a constant threat to every New Testament church. Too often the little church must go to the great Physician and plead for the healing balm of Gilead because of this agonizing sore. This disease, like cancer comes in many forms and gradations. One of the most deadly being Arminianism. Some of the symptoms of Arminian carcinoma are:
The lifting up of carnal reason above that of Divine revelation. This
manifests itself in the doctrine which leaves the eternal issues to be
settled by the volitional power of the creature. It is eternally fatal
to trust the destiny of the soul to human rationalization, rather than
“... Lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
2. Calling attention to religious performances, rather than high lighting the work of Christ, and the power of imputed righteousness, is another sure sign of Arminian carcinoma.
Why is it churches have the one year, two year, five year and ten year Sunday school pen if it is not to impress their peers? In most cases the disease is fatal and its terminal nature is made apparent by the efforts of the church to replace the work of the Holy Spirit with human enthusiasm. No means to inspire and excite the religious energies of the flesh are over looked, and one of the highlights of the Sunday morning service is when the Pastor asks the “Soul Winner of the Week” to stand up!
Thus it is the redemption of souls is ascribed to the power of the corrupt reason rather than to the efficacious and free grace of God. Such practices are not merely unscriptural, but are anti scripture. The church which lets the Arminian error spread to such an extent described above has turned from the Great Physician and His healing balm to the great pretender, and his soul damning bane Like cancer, early detection of the Arminian heresy is absolutely essential. The first symptom should alarm the church, and cause her to employ the swiftest motion on fleeing to Him Who has the heavenly balm. For it is yet true, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9)
(B.) Schism and division among church members is a loathsome and hurtful disease. “... It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1). “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:15)
While the disease which causes sheep to bite and devour one another is irregular, it is usually chaotic A hateful and dreadful disease it is which turns brotherly converse into vain janglings, and begets alienation of affection. The malady is all the more grievous when the sheep are in the blood bought sheepfold, with the Great Physician and Head present in their assembly. The spirit of strife and division can only exist where love for the Lord and His church have diminished, and when strife comes in, godly edifying goes out. What a strange distemper it is that makes church brothers and sisters renounce communion with one another in whom they once took the greatest delight. One sad aspect of this disease is that it usually originates with issues not vital to the welfare of the church. Such as; who should sing what parts in the church choir or groups, a plurality of organ and piano players can give birth to envy and jealousy apart from due restraint, an oversight in greeting, thermostat settings on heat and air conditioners, etc. We do not mean to imply these things are not important. They areimportant but they are not of such magnitude as to cause the first element of bitterness in the church. The first schism in the body is the devil’s floodgate through which every manner of evil pours into the church. “For where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16)
“Opinions are like noses, everybody has one,” but woe to the person or party that would so press their opinion as to expose the church to the scorn and derision of her enemies. Schism in the body tends to hinder prayer, demands time that could otherwise be used for the propagation of the gospel. It lowers eternal assets on the scale of values, spiritual interest declines, and in short time indifference will prevail. 0, how the devil must rejoice over this calamitous state of the Lord’s church. Jeremiah said to God’s ancient people, “Thy breach is great, like the sea, who can heal thee?” (Lamentations 2:13). Surely none but He that hath the balm of Gilead. The Great Physician’s prescription calls for preventive medicine. “There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another ... submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God ... And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another ... to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God...” (I Corinthians 12:25; Ephesians 5:21; I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
Adherence to this prescription will keep the church in such state of health that when offences do come they will be of brief duration, and handled in a manner that edifies the church and glorifies God. The balm works negatively in putting away from the church, “All bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking,” it works positively enabling the church to “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven,” the whole church (Ephesians 4:31-32).
(C.) Unsettledness in doctrine is a grievous disease with which contemporary Baptists are afflicted.
Many are filled with the wine of instability, and are “reeling to and fro like drunken men,” (Isaiah 24:20), first to one side of the doctrinal street, then to the other side. Paul said to the church at Ephesus, “... Henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine ...” (Ephesians 4:14). This certainly does not mean a person is unalterably bound to his original concepts, but it does mean that doctrinal vacillation is a mark of weakness, and that change in doctrinal position is to be made only after much prayer, meditation, and laborious study. Eschatology has become a labyrinth, and every doctrinal turn seems to demand another. Some have gone from pre-trib doctrine of the Lord’s return to a mid-trib view, then on to post-trib, and finally put their anchor down in the murky waters and shifting sands of A-millennialism. All this irresolution has caused so much confusion that some have given up altogether the study of prophecy and eschatology. There is constant traffic between the two schools of thought regarding the instrumentality of the gospel in regeneration. The result being, many have parked their doctrinal vehicle on the plausibility lot, and have left it in neutral so as no ill wind can blow against it. This is a worse state than being an erring zealot, for they which purge themselves of all dogmatism are in love with their disease and cannot see any need whatsoever of the healing balm. Like the alcoholic, he is sick, does not know it, and will listen to reproof until the first free drink comes along.
balm which should be appropriated to cure the spiritual crippling
on by doctrinal unsettledness is found in Hebrews 12:12-13 ,
“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be
out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” The earlier a
can formulate doctrine the better, for he will not spend his spiritual
life in a piecemeal way, constantly doing and redoing his doctrinal
He will become steadfast in his belief, and will be able to contend for
his faith, (Acts 2:42; Jude 3). Paul not only knew Whom
believed, he also knew what he believed, and in the benediction of his
life he said, “I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).
Heresy and error, schism and division in the church, unsettledness in doctrine are all devastating diseases, but we need to remember where these diseases abound the sovereign balm doth much more abound. It is said of our gracious Lord, He “healeth all thy diseases” (Psalm 103:3). The church is never afflicted with a sickness which is beyond divine remedy, but no cure will be effected until the church owns the cause of the disease to be their own. The Great Physician cherishes the weakest grace in His beloved bride, and when she cries out from a penitent heart for healing, He makes a house call with healing in His wings. Our Lord advances the cure by weakening and restraining the power of sin. He breaks the bonds and loosens the fetters whereby His people are bound to self. He straightens them in duty, and they “Walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).
Many are stubborn, determined to have their own way, and will not honor Christ’s prescription for healing. They will not drink the liquid of self-denial, or of repentance, or of contrition. The pill of personal sacrifice and mortification in their notion costs too much, so they are left to languish in their disease, not knowing it is the mother of utter corruption, culminating in the extinguishing of all light.
A brief word to the unsaved in closing. The world in which you live is a spiritual leprosarium, and you are a spiritual leper. There is no cure for you apart from the heavenly balm, the shed blood of Christ. Prayer, baptism, good works, morality are all wonderful in their place, but they contribute absolutely nothing to the healing of the sin sick soul. It is the sacrificial blood of Christ, and nothing but His blood that heals the eternal soul of its damning disease, and the Great Physician will not be satisfied with anything less than full honour for the soul’s cure.
(Sovereign Grace Advocate - August, 1979)
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