A lot of times we read accounts of events that happened in scripture accounting them to be no more than history and of no special importance to us today. That is a false assumption on our part for the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul said, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV) Some say Paul was only speaking about the Old Testament but Peter put Paul's writings on the same level with those Old Testament scriptures in his comments in 2 Peter 3:14-16 when he says some twist what Paul wrote "as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:16 NKJV)
The account of the woman healed from her flow of blood is one such event that can easily be overlooked as having no special importance for you and me today--that is until we look closer at it. The account of this healing can be found in Matt. 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, and Luke 8:43-48. Because Matthew's account is so short I will quote it here.
"And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment; for she said to herself, 'If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.' But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, 'Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And the woman was made well from that hour." (Matt. 9:20-22 NKJV)
At the time this event occurred Jesus was on his way to raise from the dead Jairus' daughter although at the time no one knew that as it was only reported that she was very ill, she had not yet died. Jesus and the disciples were accompanied by a great multitude on their journey to the home of Jairus and in that crowd was the woman who is the subject of our study.
We live in a day and age where the idea that seems to prevail is that faith alone saves. The idea is that no effort on our part is required for that would be, we are told, salvation by works. Jesus said this woman was healed by her faith but according to today's thinking why did she have to leave home to be healed? She believed in Jesus and his powers before ever making the journey to meet him else why leave home to go? Why did she? Why would her faith not heal her at home?
The answer is really quite simple and is written all through the Bible and taught time and time again. Faith must act if it is to be of any value. This unnamed woman had undoubtedly heard from others that those who touched Jesus were often healed of whatever disease they had. Luke's account of the story is found in chapter 8 but in chapter 6 earlier in time we read that, "the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all." (Luke 6:19 NKJV)
Marks account of the event of the woman's healing is found in chapter 5 but in the next chapter, a little later in time, we are told, "Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well." (Mark 6:56 NKJV) It must have been well publicized throughout the country that by touching Jesus one could be healed. The woman left home based on some things she had heard and believed. That much is obvious. The test of her faith was whether or not she would leave home to go to Jesus. Was her faith strong enough to get her to act? It was a test of her faith.
Many people today do not believe faith is tested. God, however, has always tested faith. Adam and Eve had a test before them of their faith in God while in the garden. Would they believe God or the serpent? Would Noah believe God concerning a flood to come and build the ark or would he not believe and thus not build it? Would Abraham offer up Isaac or would he not do it? The Bible specifically calls this a test for it says, "God tested Abraham." (Gen. 22:1 NKJV, see also Heb. 11:17) We can call these events and many others like them tests of obedience if we want to for they are that but if we stop there we have stopped short and failed to see the big picture. Why does one obey in the first place? There is only one reason—one obeys because one believes. He believes the word of God and believes it is essential to obey it to achieve the end he desires.
The Hebrew writer reminds us of the reason the children of Israel failed to enter the Promised Land when he says in Heb. 3:18-19, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." (NKJV) They did not obey God for they did not believe God. Moses reminds the children of Israel of what happened when he says, "And I said to you, … Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the LORD God of your fathers, has spoken to you … Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD you God." (Deut. 1:20, 21, and 26 NKJV) God had given them the promise of victory over the inhabitants of the land but they did not believe God and thus feared and failed to act. Moses says plainly, "You did not believe the LORD your God." (Deut. 1:32 NKJV)
Man acts when man believes. We strictly obey the speeding law when we see a state trooper parked along the side of the road because we believe he will indeed come after us if we violate the law. The first thing we do when we see an officer is look at our speedometer and if it shows us over the speed limit even a tiny bit we will do whatever is necessary to get ourselves slowed down. We act because we believe. Genuine belief leads to action. So it is also in religion. This is why only a deeply committed faith can save because it is the only kind of faith that is strong enough to act, to obey God.
Let us talk awhile about the testing of our faith today. At the present time there is much talk in this country of legalizing gay marriage. This very morning I heard that Hillary Clinton has come out in support of it. Barely a day goes by when we do not hear about the subject. One's position on this issue is a test of faith. How so? The word of God says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NKJV) Well, do we believe that or not? It is a test of your faith.
Your support for gay marriage or opposition to it tells us where your faith is, whether or not it is in God's word? Did you vote for a candidate in the last election that you knew supported gay marriage? If so where was your faith in the word of God? If you believed God's word in 1 Cor. 6 why would you make want to make it easier for people to go to hell ("not inherit the kingdom of God") by supporting gay marriage legislation?
We did that with no fault divorce laws regarding the right to commit adultery and not be found at fault and today find ourselves in a society that does not blink twice about adulterous marriages and gives its full support to them as though it is a great blessing that such couples finally found happiness in those kinds of marriages. Many churches are full of people involved in adulterous marriages and unlike John the Baptist who spoke out against it those couples are not being told it is unlawful. Paul said "do not be deceived" adulterers "will not inherit the kingdom of God." Your opinion about such marriages is a reflection on your faith in God, in what he has said.
But faith can be tested in other ways as well. Peter talks about this in 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (NKJV, underlining by me) Would those he was directly writing to at the time lose their faith? How would we know? By whether or not they obeyed God's word or abandoned it in the face of trials.
Our lady with the issue of blood acted on her faith. Had she stayed home and said faith is all I need, no need to act upon my faith, would she have been healed long distance? Today one often hears that baptism, clearly a command of God (I have never heard anyone disagree with that), just does not matter. Many seem to believe you can disobey God and not be baptized and you can and will still be saved. Have you ever given thought to the idea that baptism might well be a test of your faith?
When we say this command matters and I will obey it on the one hand but then on the other hand say that command does not make that much difference so I will be negligent in my obedience to it then we have displaced the king of glory as the lawmaker, we have displaced King Jesus and made ourselves king. James puts it this way, "if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge." (James 4:11 NKJV) We do not get to decide what laws ought to be obeyed and which ones can be discarded. James goes on to say "there is one Lawgiver" (James 4:12 NKJV) and that is not you or me. Disobedience can expose ignorance of the word of God or weakness of the flesh but it also in many cases exposes unbelief, unbelief being the root cause of the disobedience.
Most of us are probably familiar with Heb. 11:6, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (NKJV) The part of this verse that is overlooked is the last part, a thing the text says must be believed—"that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." No person who is willfully disobedient to the commands of God can be said to be a diligent seeker after God. Why are they not a diligent seeker? They lack the faith to be such. Faith and action (we might well call it obedience) must travel together or, as James says, faith is dead and thus useless. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20 NKJV)
What have we learned from the woman who was healed of her blood flow issue? For healing to take place faith must be accompanied by action. That is as true of spiritual healing as it was of her physical healing. It was not enough to travel to where Jesus was. Once there she had to follow through and touch Jesus. That is what her faith required. Would Jesus have healed her without her faith following through with this act? He didn't. If so why wasn't she healed before touching him? Her faith in Jesus' power to heal was just as great before she touched him, when she left her home to travel to meet him, as it was when she actually reached out and performed the act.
It is a simple lesson taught as said before time and time and time again in the Bible—faith without works is dead. Faith must become active.