This Week's Focus Passage

‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’

Focus Passage: Ma 1:40

‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’

The above statement is found in the context of chapter one and verses 40-42. It is one of the earliest healings recorded in the gospel account given us by Mark. It reads in full as follows:

And there cometh to him a leper, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean.

This may seem to be—and it may actually be—over simplistic to say, yet it strikes me that an Arminian, to be consistent, must necessarily alter this statement to read, rather than, ‘If Thou wilt;’ to, ‘If I will, thou canst make me clean.’ This because, in the teaching and practice of the Arminian, it is man who must have the final say with regard to his, or her, salvation. With their insistent teaching that, in the final analysis, mankind can and must exercise their ‘free’ will in repenting from their sins; in believing the gospel of Jesus Christ; in coming to Him as their Savior in order to be saved.

They fail to grasp the awesome relevance of the words of our Lord Jesus unto Nicodemus when that Pharisee had come to Him by night seeking explanation for the signs that Jesus had wrought. The Savior of the World uttered words that startled this ‘teacher of Israel,’ as he heard Jesus say, ‘Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God,’ and, ‘Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ It was conspicuous that this teacher did not understand what this ‘teacher come from God’ was teaching. He responded to this enigmatic statement, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’ This now second answer that Nicodemus received from the Christ was every bit as puzzling to him as was the first. He heard Jesus utter these awesome words;

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

They even say of those who repent and believe, after the fact of the exercise of faith and repentance, ‘Now you are born again.’ But man is not any more able to regenerate his own heart than he is to heal himself of the leprosy. While diseases and afflictions may, and are, certainly healed or removed by the use of secondary means, it is nonetheless God who does the healing regardless of the means that He chooses to employ. He may make use of the physician’s balm or surgical skill, yet it is only He Himself that may grant healing. He may take the disease away with, or without, the use of secondary means. Jesus simply spoke the words, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean. It may be rejoined that Christ made use of a secondary means when he stretched forth his hand and touched him [the leper]. And it may be that this should, or could, be accounted to be a secondary means. Yet there are ample occasions where Christ just spoke the Word, and it was done, as in the case of the man with the palsy of whom we read in Matthew’s account; chapter 9:6-7;

But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins (then saith he to the sick of the palsy), Arise, and take up thy bed, and go unto thy house. And he arose, and departed to his house.

Jesus only spoke the words, ‘Arise, and take up thy bed,’ and the man arose. Such instances of the use or non-use of secondary means may be multiplied. But to return to Mark’s leper, it was Jesus who said, I will, and not the leper. Perhaps we could be allowed a little bit of sarcasm in pointing out that the man who had cried unto Jesus, If Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, was not then asked to come down the aisle; he was not implored to ask Jesus to come into his heart; he was not entreated to utter the sinner’s prayer. In point of fact, to consider this account typically, it would seem that he had already come to Jesus for mercy; he had already experienced a change of heart, and his ‘sinner’s prayer’ was If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. The reality is that the only person who will come to Jesus in this manner is that person whose heart has been regenerated; who through regeneration has been a recipient of the gifts of repentance and faith. It is only this person that recognizes that they are indeed unclean; that recognizes that they cannot make themselves clean; that now recognizes that they are the helpless, undone, bankrupt sinners that Christ has come to redeem unto Himself.

This is the remarkable distinction between the Pharisee and the publican. The self-righteous Pharisee did not understand, nor realize that he was the helpless, unrighteous sinner that requires the righteousness of Another. This Pharisee is one who is satisfied with his own righteousness, failing to be able to acknowledge that all his supposed righteousnesses are less than filthy rags is the sight of God; they are worthless, useless things. One splendid preacher of the last century seemed to grasp this matter even in the title he gave to a small work that he wrote upon this subject. He simply, but exquisitely titled his little book, ‘The Plight of Man, and the Power of God.’ In these ten syllables he set down for us the wonderful blessedness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He spelled out the desperate plight of man. One dictionary gives the definition of plight as ‘a distressing situation.’ Another adds to that the truth that it is more than distressing; it is dangerous. That speaks to the condition of the sinner without Christ. And he who is distressed and that sees that he is in danger is the one that has had his eyes opened through regenerating grace. As the man-slayer, he sees the blood on his hands and flees to the City of Refuge, Jesus Christ, perhaps with words such as Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


Join us Sunday at