The Great Spiritual Physician – Gary L. Grizzell

Gary L. Grizzell

Christians sing the beautiful song entitled The Great Physician by William Hunter (published 1859). This article shows the reason Jesus Christ deserves to be called such.

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:9-13; see also Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31).

Jesus is seen in Matthew’s house eating with those who had a bad reputation in the community. The self-righteous Pharisees question Jesus’ disciples about this matter. Jesus overhears. So, at this point He teaches them a much needed lesson.

Jesus made the following remarks to His critics:

1) “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” The application is that the tax-collectors and known sinners needed the spiritual physician. Thus, His association with them was for that purpose. Note that not all association is fellowship.

2) “Go ye and learn what that meaneth.” For the Lord to rebuke the Jewish religious leaders and tell them to go and learn a passage of scripture was to insult them greatly.

3) “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” This was a quote from Hosea 6:6 emphasizing that religious works without the right motives were but vanity as far as their relationship with God was concerned! Those Pharisees had outward righteousness but were lacking in love, mercy and faith. Nor did they have a proper sense of justice.

4) “For I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Jesus reveals His mission on earth. Also, He reveals the remedy, the prescription—the antidote—for the sin-sick soul. That antidote is repentance. Repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of conduct, direction, and life in an obedient faith. From this account we learn that Jesus is truly The Great Physician.

The Spiritually Sick Must Come to the Great Physician

Jesus said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” This great principle is perhaps best illustrated in Luke chapter 15. In that chapter the Lord told about three things that were lost: 1) lost sheep, 2) lost coin, and 3) the lost boy. Those who were concerned left the safe ones to focus on and retrieve the lost ones. (1) The farther the sheep went astray, the closer the Shepherd was willing to follow, to find, and bring it back into the fold. (2) The woman left her nine silver coins to diligently sweep the house in search of the 10th piece. (3) Of his two sons, the loving father focused on his lost son. He watched with hope and great anticipation for his youngest son to come home from his lost state in a far country. Jesus said, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).

Any group of religious people (organization) where the upright, righteous individuals get all the attention and love is not the church of our Lord which one reads about in the New Testament. The mission of the church is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The philosophy of the world is that the little guy is the least important, but not so in the church of our Lord. This principle is seen in that each member is important to God and should be to us:

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness (1 Cor. 12:22-23).

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2; Emph. GLG). We are to strive not to sin. Nothing being said here is to discount the need for obedience and repentance (Luke 13:3). However, to have the view that because one is sinful the Lord does not care for his soul is a misconception of the identity of Jesus Christ. Remember that the good shepherd in the Luke 15 parable sacrificially left the safe sheep to go out and find the one lost sheep. Of course that shepherd represents Jesus, the great shepherd. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20; Emph. GLG). “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isa. 59:1).

The Example Of Paul

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Tim. 1:12-17).

Do you feel you cannot be worthy in order to be a child of God? Allow me to ask you this: Have you committed blasphemy? Paul did and was forgiven. Have you committed injury to someone? Paul did and was forgiven. Have you persecuted someone for being a controversial Christian? Paul did and was forgiven. Have you held the garments for others while they stoned a faithful gospel preacher to death? Paul did and he was forgiven. Have you abused civil law and its authorities to pursue, find fault with and persecute members of the church? Paul did and was forgiven. (Acts 9:1-2). In each of these cases he sincerely repented. “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

Later, Paul himself would be targeted by the chief men of the city because they had been stirred up and manipulated by the local religious leaders. “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts” (Acts 13:50). These women may have been “honourable women” in man’s eyes, but certainly not in God’s. There is not a poisonous tongue more damaging to a gospel preacher’s reputation than a gossiping woman’s tongue. Many times those gossips are idle widows or rich men’s wives with too much time on their hands. On this passage an insightful comment is, “The potent influence of the female character both for and against the truth is seen in every age of the Church’s history” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown).

Speaking of persecution, it is His testimony (the Lord’s) that is important—who He is, the only begotten Son of God. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9; Emph. GLG). Modern-day testifying sessions of individuals telling all about themselves is not what saves a soul from spiritual death. We are to preach His testimony. He is the I AM. “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (Rev. 6:9; Emph. GLG). Christian martyrs in the first century were slain for telling the world about who Christ is, the Savior, the resurrected one, deity—not all about their personal lives in what has become in modern times blubbering, back-patting, feel-good sessions of pseudo Christianity. (This article is not saying that we should not confess our faults one to another and pray one for another as James 5:16 teaches, but we must guard against abuses of that passage). It is the gospel that is the power to save, not our personal stories about ourselves (Rom. 1:16-17).

Yes, we are aware that Paul told about himself—his conversion—because he was an apostle born out of due time. Paul wrote, “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8).

Paul was called by the pen of inspiration the chief of sinners! “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:12; Emph. GLG). The Holy Spirit called Paul the chief of sinners, not you. A principle learned from a statement Jesus made dealing with another person is seen here: “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47, Emph. GLG). So in Paul’s case we are reminded that he that is forgiven much, loves much.


Note the difference between how Peter dealt with guilt as opposed to how Judas dealt with it. Peter denied Christ three times and later went out and wept bitterly for his sin. “And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Mat. 26:75). He sincerely repented and as a faithful apostle was allowed to preach the gospel on the birth date of the church of Christ (Acts 2). He had become a great servant of God, and among other achievements penned two epistles by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 and 2 Peter). Peter successfully dealt with his guilt for sins by believing he had been forgiven by the blood of Christ and told others how to obtain remission of sins (see Acts 2:38).

The Holy Spirit used Peter to tell us how to have peace of mind and freedom from guilt by having a good conscience toward God:

1 Peter 2:19 — “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully”

1 Peter 3:16 — “having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ”

1 Peter 3:21 — “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (All Emph. GLG)

How did Judas, who betrayed the Lord into the hands of His enemies for 30 pieces of silver, deal with his guilt? To say he responded unwisely is an understatement. He went out and hanged himself (cf. Acts 1:18). That was so sad and needless. While still on the earth Jesus summarized that, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). Too bad Judas disallowed himself to be a part of that effort to preach the good news of salvation beginning at Jerusalem. During the Lord’s life on earth, when Judas had secretly chosen the wrong path, Jesus said of the man who would betray him that “good were it for that man if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21).

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). Some seem so stressed out by guilt for sins that they act like they think, if it were possible, they are the chief of sinners. No one before Paul or after him may be called this. Why? Is it because there have not been others who were blasphemous, injurious and murderous of Christians? No, there have been others who had these traits. Nero of Rome was all of these and more. Paul was this wicked and, at the time the church began, he was a religious leader of the Jews. He was sincere, but religiously wrong, thinking the law of Moses was still binding—which it was not (Col. 1:14). So, unless you lived at the time when Christianity was just getting its feet off the ground, were a murderer of Christians, and called by the pen of inspiration the chief of sinners, then you can’t claim to be such.

Why do some who are over-ridden with guilt think they cannot be forgiven by God? Do they imply they are the chief of sinners? If you hear a person say (or you think to yourself), “I am not a Christian because I cannot live the Christian life. I’m not good enough to be accepted of God. The Lord would never receive me,” then remember that if God could forgive the chief of sinners He can and will forgive you, when you repent and obey the terms of salvation found in Jesus’ New Testament. Remember Paul said, “I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him” (1 Tim. 1:16; Emph. GLG).

Those Who Reject the Spiritual Great Physician

are Without Hope of Forgiveness And Eternal Life

His critics of Nazareth said to Him, “Physician, heal thyself.” This expression is found only in Luke 4:23. The sentiment, however, is seen in Matthew 27:39-44. The enemies of Christ, Jewish religious leaders, mocked him while on the cross with the following wicked demands and accusations:

If you are really the Son of God, you should save yourself, proving it, by coming down from the cross.”

Jewish religious leaders mocked Him with the wicked taunt that He had saved others, but He could not save Himself.

He has the obligation to come down from the cross to prove His claim that trusting in God was a credible claim.

Quoting from Isaiah 6:1 Jesus told those people of Nazareth that God had sent Him “to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives” (Cf. Luke 4:18). They rejected Him and thus denied themselves spiritual healing.

What must you do to become a New Testament Christian? Hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17). Believe in Christ (John 8:24), Repent of your sins (Acts 2:38), confess Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and be baptized (buried) in water for the forgiveness of your sins by the blood of Christ (Acts 2:38).

What did Saul of Tarsus (Paul, the chief of sinners) do to receive forgiveness? Having heard the gospel, believed in Christ, repented of his sins, and confessed the Lord, he was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. He did that and so can you. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Jesus had power while on earth to both miraculously heal the body and, additionally, heal the soul. Note Matthew’s account below.

And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. (Matt. 9:1-8; Emph. GLG).

The next time you come in contact with someone who believes God won’t accept him because that person thinks he is not good enough, remind him what the great physician said: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12).

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