Recognizing the Symptoms and the Disease

Comparing Physical and Spiritual Illness

It is common for a person to want to know as soon as possible if he or she has contracted a serious illness to take appropriate action. Tests and examinations are often sought for this purpose.

In the Bible, comparisons with physical disease help us to understand the seriousness of sin (for example, Matthew 9:12; Jeremiah 46:11-12). The contagion of sin has always existed. For this reason, all of us need to know how to detect spiritual sickness in our lives.

Unreliable Means of Detection

Human science — Human science today knows much more in the field of medicine than one or two centuries ago. Still, when a pandemic like this arrives, solutions are constantly being sought by men. (We appreciate those who work in the medical field to help heal us physically.)

The Bible makes clear that in the spiritual realm men cannot decide or determine, on their own, what sin is or is not. Paul said, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21 (NIV)). We cannot know God through human wisdom, nor can we know God’s plan for man without His revealed word. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4), not of men’s ideas or philosophies (Proverbs 16:2).

Emotions — We understand that one can say “I don’t feel bad,” although he may already be sick without realizing it. People who have coronavirus often have no symptoms.

Emotions are not a reliable guide for determining what sin is nor what is required to be well with God. Isaiah 44:20 indicates that a person may allow himself to be deceived by his own heart and turned aside so that “he cannot deliver his soul” (NKJV). The Bible often speaks of how deceptive sin is (Hebrews 3:12; 2 Timothy 3:12-13).

Ways to Better Detect Sin and Its Symptoms

A) By their fruits — Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). We understand that the false teacher is known by his “bad fruits” (Matthew 7:17) and many times we can recognize what is sinful because of the negative results of misconduct (Luke 6:43-45). Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified by her children” (Matthew 11:19).

B) By hearing those who teach the Word — James 1:21 says that we should receive the implanted word with meekness. The Bible in several places speaks of how good it is to hear the word preached. At the same time, we understand that we need to discern between pure and impure teaching by examining what is taught, as the Bereans did (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11).

C) By self-examination — It is possible to hear many lessons. It is possible to do much reading and have a lot of biblical knowledge. However, it will not be of much practical value, if we are not trying to apply to life what we have learned, examining ourselves to see how we need to be in our spiritual walk (James 1:22-25).

D) By being cautious — Without realizing it at the time, it is possible to follow examples of questionable behavior or to heed the doctrines of men. For a dangerous disease, meaningful measures are taken as a precaution. Wouldn’t it be even more important to avoid behaviors or situations which endanger the soul? Paul told Timothy to take care of himself in behavior and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). It is possible to be too cautious or too demanding, but when “a red alert” appears in our minds and we ignore it, we will likely regret it afterwards.

Spiritual Illness and the Need for Urgency

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have heard many alarming and worrying things at the global level. For diseases in general, people tend to get very concerned and want to know right away what the symptoms are to identify and treat afflictions that might be harmful to our physical bodies.

Should we not see it as urgent to detect when we are with some spiritual illness that can keep us far from the Heavenly Father? A disease that separates us from God, also stands in our way of heaven. The Great Physician, Jesus, came to provide the spiritual healing and life that everyone needs. May we be persistent in trying not to be infected with sin and ask for divine help to recognize sin and its symptoms so that we can be healed and be made spiritually alive to someday inherit a heavenly home with Him.

–Greg Roark