2 Kings 5:10-12 – And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman, a Syrian military commander, had leprosy. After hearing about Elisha, the prophet in Israel, Naaman came seeking healing for his disease. When he arrived at Elisha’s door, Elisha, as we read above, sent a simple message to him about how he would be healed. But Naaman was very angry, because the prophet simply sent word for him to wash in the Jordan instead of coming out to perform some sort of ritual over his diseased skin. Later in the chapter, Naaman’s servants do convince him to follow the prophet’s instruction, and Naaman is healed.
But something interesting strikes me about Naaman’s anger. He is upset, because he could not imagine that the gracious healing of God could come by such a simple. Means. Naaman just knew in his heart that, if he were to be healed, it must require some sort of spectacular ceremony, incantation, potion, or sacrifice. Surely healing could not come by such a simple means. Surely the Jordan River is not the best source of water. Surely there must be more.
Naaman almost stumbled over the stumbling block of faith. In the New Testament, the cross of Christ is called a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). Why was the cross a stumbling block? It was for the same reason that Naaman almost turned and left Israel in a huff. The Jews, and very many others, will not believe that salvation from sins can come by such a seemingly simple means as faith. Throughout the New Testament, the authors argued time and time again against people who could not believe that salvation would come via such a simple means. They called people to faith, with no religious rituals, fancy ceremonies, or outward deeds of penance. The New Testament authors preached a salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and such a preaching actually caught many of their hearers as too good to be true.
Today, we still live in a world where people can not receive the grace of God because they refuse to believe that it is that simple. They can not imagine that God would truly forgive anyone simply based on whether or not that person has placed their trust in Jesus Christ. Some turn away from Jesus completely because of their trouble with this. Other groups attempt to add the necessity of certain rituals, sacraments, or good works to one’s faith in order for it to be saving faith (this is the Roman Catholic error). But the fact remains that the only means that God has ever given whereby the souls of men might be saved is by his grace through a simple faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Now, let me make one more application of the Naaman story to our modern age that is a little different. It is not merely the lost who fall into Naaman’s error. There is a way in which Christians look like Naaman too. God has given us his holy scriptures, fully sufficient and inspired—breathed out by God with no possibility of error. God’s holy word contains in it everything that we need to know and do his will. His word contains in itself either explicitly or implicitly, everything we need to make every moral decision. It contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) so that the people of God can be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). But very many who claim Christ reject the sufficiency of the Bible. These people are out there looking for a mystical experience where God will reveal to them some new portion of his will that he did not record in scripture, because, like Naaman, they think that things just can’t be that easy. They think there should be some magical feeling, some spiritual experience, some secret formula to discerning the will of God. They think that the more flashy looking tools of secular psychology or psychiatry are what we need to use to solve our problems instead of God’s word. They turn to the opinions of men, lost men, to determine ethics regarding sexual morality or the sanctity of human life, because they think that the Bible is outdated. But all such errors look just like Naaman, rejecting God’s way for one that is more flashy, more modern, or more of the way they want things to be done.
So, how do you fall into Naaman’s error? What part of Christianity is too good to be true in your mind? Is faith in Christ not enough to save your soul? That is what God says will save you. Is the word of God not a sufficient means for you to learn his will, solve your problems, or determine what is moral? God said it is enough. Is God not enough to satisfy your soul? He claims to be enough. Today, turn from seeking something extra flashy, and follow what god has said that you need for salvation and for godly living.
Dear Lord, I thank you that following you is not all bound up in mystical experiences and ostentatious ceremonies. I recognize and acknowledge that salvation is your gift that comes to me by your grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I know that I can add nothing to faith for my salvation, and that faith is a gift from you. I pray that you will make me aware of any way in which I try to add something to faith and so dishonor Christ. I also pray that you will help me to live, as a Christian, by your all-sufficient word. Let me not turn to things outside of your revelation to determine how to live or to help others with problems. I trust that you have given me, in your word, everything I need. I do not need some extra mystical experience, because such an experience will not give me anything more than what is already recorded in your holy word. I pray that you will guide me to your truth as you have revealed it in your word, and keep me from seeking something extra like Naaman nearly did.