There are two important criteria which can help settle this issue. The one true God should have authority.
• He should have authority over disease and demons.
• He should have authority to forgive sin.
Let us examine the first criterion from the backdrop of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Luke 4:33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us?
Before we look at how Jesus handled the demon, let us examine what a practitioner of witchcraft or of some other power would do in a similar situation. Let’s say that a person suffered from demonic nightmares every night and asked to be treated by a witchdoctor for a fee. Although there are different variations on the procedure, typically the witchdoctor would have his patient go to the market to buy some items, for example, a chicken. The practitioner would take the chicken and prepare a tasty meal to offer to the afflicting demon. This offering is actually a bribe to appease the demon in the hope that the demon will stop the harassment. If the demon is pleased with the bribe and the humble spirit in which it is offered, he might stop the affliction and the patient will be “healed.” A variation on this theme has the witchdoctor obtaining the help of an outside demon to mediate and bring the nightmares to a halt.
Victims of demonic oppression indeed have been “set free” miraculously in such a way. Does this mean that witchcraft is from the one true God and should be emulated? No, it most certainly does not.
When one must resort to bribery and appeasement to gain favor from a second party, it is clear that the second party is the one with the greater authority. From this logic we conclude that the demon clearly has higher authority than the witchdoctor. Therefore witchdoctors and the “power” they use and serve cannot be from the one true God who is above all.
Healing which is from the one true God above will not utilize bribery and offerings of appeasement. The God who is above all is the King of all kings and thus has authority over demons and diseases. A king exercises his authority in no uncertain terms. Observe how Jesus handled the demon:
Luke 4:35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. 36 Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37 And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
We see that Jesus did not do what witchdoctors and other practitioners do. There was no appeasement. There were no incantations, no charms, fetishes, and amulets, and the like. Instead, Jesus rebuked and commanded the demon to leave with his words. And because He had been given authority and power from His Father, the demon obeyed His command.
By definition, the one true God is from above and therefore has all authority, including authority over demons and diseases. When He desires them to leave, He most certainly does not employ appeasement; instead He commands with authority and power. And because they are under His authority, they must obey. In this way, infirm people are healed and set free.
Thus we conclude from this that Jesus Christ must be the Son of the one true God. And we his disciples can learn to use His supernatural authority to drive out demons and heal the sick as proof to the world that our God is the only true God and that Jesus is the only way to Him.
Let’s now look at the second criterion for deciding who is the one true God. He should have authority to forgive sin.
When someone commits sin, it is primarily against the one true God who is holy and just. Because He is holy, he hates sin; because He is just, those who sin must be punished for their sins. Sin can be considered a debt that a sinner owes to God. According to Scripture, the sinner must pay the debt to God by suffering eternally in hell.
The only One with the authority to forgive this debt is obviously God Himself. For example, if we borrow money from a bank, no one else but the bank has the authority to cancel and forgive the debt. Thus it is clear that only God Himself has authority to forgive sins.
Mark 2:1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
By uttering the words “your sins are forgiven” to the paralytic, Jesus was claiming to be equal to God Himself, for only God alone can forgive sins. This shocked the teachers of the law.
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
Let’s answer this question posed by Jesus before the crowd gathered on that occasion. Telling a paralytic that his sins are forgiven in front of a crowd is outwardly an easy thing to do since the forgiveness of sins is an invisible spiritual transaction. There’s no visible proof that his sins have actually been forgiven. Who knows if anything has really happened?
But for us to tell a paralytic to get up in front of a crowd of onlookers is a risky thing. The people are watching for the paralytic to get up and walk; they are anticipating a miracle. The utterance must be backed up by the miracle. What if the paralytic does not get up and no miracle takes place? Thus it is outwardly much more difficult to tell a paralytic to get up than to tell him his sins are forgiven.
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Jesus would heal the paralytic in front of the people to prove that he had authority to forgive sins. Disease and infirmities are ultimately the consequence of sin. They can be compared to “monthly interest payments” that we pay on our earthly debts. If for some reason our debt has been canceled or forgiven, the interest payments of course cease. Thus where sin has been forgiven, it is possible that healing of the infirmity can follow. The one with the authority to heal physical infirmities is the one who has the authority to forgive sin. The one with the authority to remove the consequence of sin (in this case, physical infirmity) is logically the one who has authority to forgive sin itself. Jesus accomplished this by dying on the cross to bear our sin.
12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Jesus healed the man. He did that which was harder to say. In doing so he proved that he had authority to do that which was easier to say. By healing the man of his physical infirmity Jesus proved that he had authority to forgive sins. The many miraculous healings performed by Jesus two thousand years ago proved that he had authority to forgive sin.
How did Jesus heal the paralytic? He did not use bribery or appeasement, but rather he used his authority to command the man to get up and be healed. Thus the one who has supernatural authority to heal the sick is the one who has authority to forgive sin.
We disciples of Jesus Christ can learn to use this supernatural authority to heal the sick in His name as proof to the world that our God is the only true God and that Jesus is the only way to Him.
In contrast, there is no similar evidence that religion can forgive sin. Religion has no supernatural authority to heal the sick. Witchdoctors and the like have no authority to drive out demons as Jesus and his disciples did.
There are at least two criteria by which we can determine who is the one true God. Among other things, He must have:
• authority over disease and demons, and
• authority to forgive sin.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”