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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 27, 2011

Some who read these sermons on our website have asked why they are so short. The reason is simple – after I preach each sentence my words are then translated by two other men, first in Chinese and then in Spanish. All three of us speak rapidly but, even so, these short sermons last about fifty minutes. No one moves or fidgets. Everyone listens attentively, even first-time visitors and small children.

This sermon has been edited and shortened, with my comments added. It is adapted from “Christ the Physician of the Soul,” by the Reverend George Whitefield, M.A. (George Whitefield, Sermons, Pietan Publications, 2008, volume IV, pp. 46-62). Whitefield was born in 1714 and, after receiving his master’s degree from Oxford University, was ordained by the Church of England. He preached his first sermon in 1736. Whitefield went, with his Oxford friends John and Charles Wesley, as a missionary to America. When he returned to England he found that his preaching on the need for church members to be born again caused nearly all the ministers in England to close the doors of their churches to him. He was denounced from pulpits across England, but this only caused people to want to hear him. Driven out of the churches for constantly preaching this message to church members, he began speaking in the open fields. Thousands thronged to hear him as he travelled through Wales, Scotland, England, America and several other countries. He preached an average of fifteen times a week without a break for the rest of his life. He always preached with great vigor and zeal. His voice could be heard for over a mile, and he once preached (without a microphone of course) to over 138 thousand people in Cambuslang, Scotland. He died in Newburyport, Massachusetts a few hours after preaching his last sermon, on September 30, 1770. Up until Billy Graham (using modern electronic devices) George Whitefield preached to more people than any man in history. But Billy Graham’s “decisionist” message and methods made him a far less important figure than Whitefield. Billy Graham himself admitted that no revival came during any of his crusades. On the other hand, Whitefield constantly saw God-sent revival accompany his preaching. We do not need more men like Billy Graham! We need men like George Whitefield again today! Please turn to the text, in Matthew 9:12, and stand for the reading of God’s Word.

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

You may be seated.

Today the meaning of our text is almost forgotten. We are flooded with sermons that tell us how to be prosperous, how to feel better, how to have better homes, how to be happier, how to succeed, and how to be physically healed. We are inundated with so-called “expository” sermons, tedious lectures on long passages of Scripture. This method was introduced by the Plymouth Brethren, and does not come from our Baptist heritage. It is usually quite boring. All sermons tend to sound alike. People don’t remember what was preached, because too many ideas are presented in these modern “expositions.” They are really not sermons, but complicated Bible studies aimed at Christians, even though most in the congregations are unconverted!

Where, oh where, are the preachers whose central message is the new birth and conversion? Where are those whose main topic centers on Christ, the physician of souls – who alone can save us from sin, Hell, and the grave? That is the crying need of our time! That is what your generation needs to hear loud and clear at this dark hour of world history. As our country disintegrates and the nations of the world rise up in confusion and rebellion – may we hear again in our pulpits the soul-saving Gospel of our forefathers! We need fiery Gospel sermons like those preached by Whitefield. And let us throw out the junk music, and let us stop being ashamed of the old hymns, but sing them again with zeal and gusto!

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
   Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the steeps and cross the waves;
   Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
(“Jesus Saves” by Priscilla J. Owens, 1829-1907).

What does Jesus save us from? Not necessarily from poverty. Some of the greatest Christians in history lived in poverty. Not necessarily from sickness. Some of the greatest Christians in history suffered much from the ravages of illness. Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead to save us from sin! That is the central message of the Bible! “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3). That is the heart of the Gospel. Let us hear it again, preached with fire and sweat in our pulpits!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
       (I Timothy 1:15).

Now, as we approach our text, we find that Jesus was sitting down to a meal in Matthew’s house. Many publicans and sinners came and sat down to eat with Jesus. The “publicans” were tax collectors who worked for the Roman government. The Orthodox Jews hated them because they worked for Rome and kept much of the money they collected in taxes for themselves. The Pharisees were the Orthodox Jews of that time. They thought that the publicans were thieves and traitors to the Jewish nation. The “sinners” were those that the Pharisees considered worthless Jews because they did not practice the rabbinic traditions. They were thought of as terrible “sinners” by the Pharisees because they did not follow the rules and traditions of the rabbis.

We must understand that the “publicans” and “sinners” were not skid row bums, drug addicts, or people on welfare. There were no skid rows then, and no welfare. None of those people who came to eat with Jesus were drug addicts either. All of the publicans and sinners were working people. But they were considered outcasts by the Pharisees.

When the Pharisees saw Jesus sitting with those outcasts “they said unto [Jesus’] disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11). When Jesus heard what the Pharisees said, He told them,

“They that be whole [are well] need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

The Pharisees thought they were well – that they were righteous and did not need salvation because they kept the rules of Orthodox Judaism. The outcast publicans and sinners knew they were not righteous. This made them better candidates for salvation than the self-righteous Pharisees.

“They that be whole [are well] need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

I will break the words of the text down to three points.

I. First, those who think they are well.

Here Christ speaks of Himself as the “physician,” or medical doctor, for sin-sick souls. But those who think they are already well do not feel any real need for Christ. They are like the Pharisee who went to the Temple. He was a man who trusted himself. He thought he was righteous. He said, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11). He really didn’t come to the Temple to pray. He came to boast, to compare himself to others and brag that he was better than them.

Are you like him? Do you think about people who are worse sinners than you? Do you think that you are better than them, and are not really such a bad sinner yourself? If you are like that, of course you don’t feel any real need for the Great Physician of souls. The Saviour, Jesus, is of no real interest to you because you have never felt guilt for the sin in your heart and life. I see no hope for you unless you are made to feel guilty for your sin. There is more hope for a Buddhist or a Roman Catholic than there is for a modern evangelical who thinks he is saved because he once said a prayer or learned a few Bible verses! By the long experience of fifty-three years in the ministry, I have found that atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and Catholics are better candidates for real conversion than self-satisfied new-evangelicals who have been blinded by modern “decisionism.”

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

The great preacher George Whitefield said, “I have more hope of a...Sabbath-breaker, a curser, a swearer, than of that person that thinks himself good enough already. [Christ said] ‘the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you’ [Matthew 21:31]...he [who thinks himself good enough] has not yet learned the first lesson of Christianity, to know himself [as a] poor, dead, stupid [creature who does not] see that [he needs Christ]...When the minister speaks to sinners, he thinks he is speaking to others, and not to him” (Whitefield, ibid., p. 53). A person like that has little hope of ever experiencing real conversion!

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

II. Second, those who know they are sick.

Christ is not speaking of bodily sickness here. Healing of bodily illnesses has been so overemphasized by Pentecostals and charismatics in these last days that some of them preach this text, out of context, as though it referred to physical healing! But the old saying is true, “A text without a context is a pretext.” In Matthew 9:10-13 Jesus is not speaking of physical healing. Verse 13 makes that perfectly clear.

In our text Christ is speaking of Himself as the physician of the soul, the healer of those whose souls are sick unto death. Whitefield said, “When our Lord talks of people being sick, he means those that are sick in their heart, those that are sick in their souls...if ever ye hope to enter the gates of heaven, to live with the blessed God forever, the eternal God by His blessed Spirit must make you sick. Sick of what?...He makes a [lost] soul sick of some great sin, of which he has been guilty...So a person begins thus to be sick of sin... This is not all, if the work of God is thorough in the sinner’s heart, the Spirit of God goes deep into the soul, and the [sinner] begins to be sick not only of his actual sins, but of his original sin...‘Oh,’ says the [sinner], ‘now I find I have got a desperately wicked heart, now I find my heart is deceitful above all things, now I see the doctrine of original sin’... Now [he who thought] he had a good heart, begins to find he hath got nothing but sin... then [he] sees sin to be exceedingly sinful [and] says, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ [Romans 7:24]...At last the lost sinner is made sick of the sin...of unbelief...The poor creature thought before [that he had] faith...He thought he believed in Christ, because he heard of such a person as Christ...But now the poor creature thinks he can no more believe than move the sun. [Now the sinner] says, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ [Acts 16:30]. [Now he says] ‘What would I give, if I could but now venture as a poor, lost, undone, damned creature, upon Jesus Christ? What would I give if I could exert but one act of faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness?’ Now the poor sinner is sick indeed; the poor soul [now] needs [the] physician...The poor creature now mourns all the day long; he refuses to be comforted...The poor creature now says, ‘None but the blood of Christ can heal me.’ Such a person needs [Christ the] physician” (Whitefield, ibid., pp. 54-57).

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matthew 9:12).

III. Third, those who are sick enough to want Jesus.

The Saviour said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If you are labouring and feel heavy laden by your sin, come to Jesus. He paid the penalty for your sin on the Cross. He shed His precious Blood to cleanse you “from all sin” (I John 1:7). He is alive right now on the right hand of God in Heaven. Come to Jesus and be healed of your sin! Whitefield said, “I hear some of you say, ‘You have [been talking to] me; I have been awakened; I feel an hell in my soul; I feel no righteousness of [my] own, my sins stare me in the face; my corruptions have dominion over me; I find I cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; I want faith; I want [the] physician; what do ye think will become of me? I am afraid I shall be damned...I am afraid my case is incurable...I am sick, I have committed so many sins, I have committed them so long...I am afraid God will have no mercy [on] me’.

How shall I encourage you? I will encourage you to lay yourself at the feet of the dear Jesus... you that are brokenhearted, I would have you come to Him. [Do not forget] that great word all. ‘Come all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Come to Jesus, the great doctor of souls...Oh, come, then come to this great Physician. He will cure you for nothing, “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). If ye will come to Him, His grace is free. If ye can exert one act of faith upon [Him] ye shall be made...perfectly [well]...Christ will make thee clean” (Whitefield, ibid., pp. 60-61). Amen. Please stand and sing hymn number 7 on your song sheet.

There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
   And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains;
   And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.
(“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 9:10-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).




by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”
(Matthew 9:12).

(I Corinthians 15:3; I Timothy 1:15; Matthew 9:11)

I.   First, those who think they are well, Luke 18:11; Matthew 21:31.

II.  Second, those who know they are sick, Romans 7:24; Acts 16:30.

III. Third, those who are sick enough to want Jesus, Matthew 11:28;
I John 1:7; Isaiah 55:1.