December 7, 2003


Jesus "came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, 'I see men like trees, walking.' Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, 'Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.'" (Mark 8:22-26).

This miracle is perhaps the most unusual of all Jesus' mighty deeds. In every other miracle, the full result is accomplished instantly. In this case, the blind man was healed in stages. At first he went from complete blindness to being able to detect light and shadow and motion. And then, in the second stage of the miracle, the man was able to see distinctly.

Scholars have given several suggestions as to why Jesus healed the man in stages instead of instantly. B.W. Johnson wrote: "This is the only example of a progressive cure. I suppose that it was an example of progressive faith. The Lord could have healed him with a word, but he wished to save the soul as well as the body." George W. Clark adds that this miracle "must be regarded, not only as reflecting the man's faith, but also as illustrating the variety of the divine workings in removing spiritual blindness from the eyes of men." Along that same line, William Barclay suggests, "There is symbolic truth here. No man sees all God's truth all at once... If a man lived a hundred, or a thousand, or a million years, he would still have to go on growing in grace, and learning more and more about the infinite wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ."

One thing we can be assured of: the two-stage process was not due to a shortage of power on the part of Jesus. The Man who walked on water, miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes, cast out demons, and raised the dead could have just as easily cured the blind man with or without a touch. Whether or not we are able to fully ascertain His reasons, Jesus did exactly what He intended to do.

And once again, as we look at the passage under consideration, we see that Jesus instructed the man who had been healed not to make it publicly known. Jesus frequently instructed those He healed in the cities of Galilee and Judea not to spread abroad the knowledge of what He had done. This was done in fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42:2, "He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. See Matt. 18:16-21. He also sought to delay the religious leaders from reacting too early to His work. He knew He must be offered as a sacrifice for sin, but He had much work to accomplish before His opposition mounted to that point. On the other hand, in the Gentile cities, where He met with little or no opposition, He instructed the recipients of His miracles to go and make known what He had done for them. See Mark 5:19.

Once Jesus had accomplished His purpose on earth and laid down His life for our sins, He instructed His disciples to make known throughout the world His identify and His gospel.

--Clarence R. Johnson



Several years ago I arranged to have a study with a preacher in another church of Christ in the town where I lived about differences we had on the subject of institutionalism. He admitted he had not studied the subject much, but he wanted me to read a tract written by Athens Clay Pullias entitled "Where There Is No Pattern." The thesis of this brochure was that there is no New Testament pattern in the area of our disagreement, and, thus, we are free to do as we please without constraints from divine law. Our disagreement involved the organization and work of the church. If the tract is correct, there is no divine pattern for the organization and work of the church!

For a generation some brethren have cried, "We do lots of things without Bible authority!" In the last several years some have followed this plea to its logical conclusion. One brother claimed of the New Testament:

"Nowhere, nowhere, do I find a consistent diagram or blueprint of what life should be or what the church should be."

Another declared:

"I am willing to admit that I do not have faith in the binding nature of Divine Revelation."

This raises the question, Is the New Testament a binding pattern for people today?

Paul Says It Is

The apostle Paul plainly stated that the New Testament is a pattern. He commanded:

"Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:13).

The author of Hebrews, in comparing the Old and New Testaments, appealed to the example of the construction of the tabernacle by Moses. The Lord commanded Moses, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain" (Hebrews 8:5; cf. Exodus 25:40; also vv. 8-9). The Lord instructed Moses to build the tabernacle according to the divine pattern revealed on Mt. Sinai. Moses did just that (Exodus 39:42-43). As the result, "the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34-35). This is a "copy and shadow of the heavenly things" for us (Hebrews 8:5). Just as the tabernacle and all the service pertaining to it were set up according to the pattern made known through Moses, the New Testament church and all that pertains to it are ordered by the pattern revealed through Christ.

What the Pattern Is

The apostle even revealed what the divine pattern is. He described it as "the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me" (2 Timothy 1:13).

The New Testament pattern is composed of "sound words." The term "sound" means "to be well, to be in good health.... true and incorrupt doctrine" (Thayer. 634). Just as nutritious food is conducive to a sound body, even so "true and incorrupt doctrine" builds a healthy spirit. True doctrine is that which comes from God (John 17:17; Romans 3:3-4). But it must also be "incorrupt." Just as a small amount of deadly poison in otherwise healthful food can be fatal, a little human doctrine mixed with the doctrine of Christ is deadly to the soul (Galatians 1:6-9).

This pattern is composed of the "words which you have heard from me" (Paul). Since Paul was an apostle, the things he taught came through the Holy Spirit from Christ (Ephesians 3:1-6).

Therefore, the New Testament pattern on any subject is composed of everything the New Testament teaches on that subject.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

If we find everything the New Testament teaches about salvation, that is the divine pattern on salvation. The same principle is likewise true of the family, obligations to civil government, righteousness in business relationships, responsibilities to our neighbors, holy living, worship, organization of the church, work of the church, or any other subject which pertains to the salvation of one's soul.

Responsibility to the Pattern

The apostle also made known our responsibility to this pattern. He commanded, "Hold fast the pattern of sound words." The phrase "Hold fast" means "keep" (Thayer. 266) or "steadfast adherence to" (Vine. 2:223). Just as Moses made "all things according to the pattern" and just as Noah built the ark "according to all that God commanded him" (Genesis 6:22; cf. vv. 14-16), so we must follow the divine pattern found in the New Testament in all we do (Colossians 3:17). To act in disregard of the New Testament pattern is to leave God (2 John 9-11).


The beloved apostle even informed us of the attitudes we must maintain toward the divine blueprint. He commanded us to follow it "in faith and love."

Since faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), in order to do things by faith, we must do those things and only those things that are authorized in the New Testament. Those whose lives are pleasing to God "walk by faith" (2 Corinthians 5:7). If we practice and teach things not authorized by the Lord in His word, we are not walking by faith, and our lives are displeasing to God.

Further, we are to exercise love in holding fast this pattern. We must always speak and practice truth, but it must be done in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15). Love of the truth demands we preach and practice truth. Love of God requires our obedience to Him (1 John 5:3). Love of our brothers and sisters in Christ compels us to seek their good in all we do (1 John 3:16-18) and to never place a stumbling block before them to cause them to sin (1 John 2:10).


The division that exists among Christians is tragic (cf. John 17:20-21; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). If all would lay aside opinions and creeds and determine to believe, preach, and practice the pattern of sound words, the doctrine of Christ, we would all be one (1 Corinthians 1:10). Brother, sister, it must begin with you and me. Will you not determine to hold fast the pattern of sound words?

--Keith Sharp, Meditate on These Things, April 29, 2002


Clarence R. Johnson
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