2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
Trophimus was a gospel worker with Paul (Acts 20:4,21,29)
The incident is narrated in just eight words. We don’t know the nature of Tropimus’ sickness. Was it overwork as was the case with Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30)? Was he recovering from beating that he got for preaching the gospel? We don’t know.
What we do knos is that Paul did not say that it was the will of God for Trophimus to be sick. WE do know that Paul is not teaching a doctrine here, but just narrating a simple experience. We do not know whether Trophimus received his healing by faith after Paul had left Miletus.
Yet there are people who use this 8-word phrase as proof that the righteous must suffer illness.
Given the conditions under which the apostles had to minister, to say nothing of their beatings, it is truly amazing that more of them were not left somewhere sick. The fact that Trophimus is the exception should highlight the rule. God continued to restore his workers to health when they needed it.
Of course, some people just assume that if Trophimus was sick, that must have been the will of God. Following this logic, it must have been the will of God for the Corinthians to be carnal, for the Colossians to be legalistic, for Alexander the Coppersmith to do Paul much harm, and for Demas to love this world and forsake Paul anc for David to commit adultery, and so on. After all, the Bible records these historical incidents, too. The fact that history was recorded honestly does not mean that God’s will was being done. Paul made no doctrinal statement about Trophimus. This was not teaching, only a statement of fact. You cannot use a mere statement of fact as a teaching. If you can say that the verse about Trophimus proves that God does not want to heal all, I can say that the verse about Demas proves that God does not want all to continue obeying and serving him instead of loving this present world.
If you want to know Paul’s doctrine, look at verses such as 1 Cor 6:19-20, where Paul clearly states that your body and your spirit were both bought with the same price. He clearly lived out this doctrine as special miracles were done by his hands in Asia and he healed the sick on the island of Melita, to cite only two cases.
The other half of the objection is that Paul should have healed Trophimus the way he healed everyone else. There is certainly reason to suspect that Paul would have prayed for Trophimus. Why did Trophimus fail to receive his healing right away? We don’t know. There are many reasons people can fail to receive their healing; see the Mistakes section. Given that several other of Paul’s fellow workers lost their zeal for the Lord and deserted him or failed to stick up for him when he was greatly withstood by Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim 4:15-16), and that this account is a few verses away from the Trophimus verse, it is possible that Trophimus for some reason was not walking in the light, either. You cannot simply lay hands on a person who fails to do the known will of God even if you believe that it is the will of God for the person to be healed.
If it is fair to blame Paul for Trophimus not walking in the light of his healing, we must also blame Paul for the failures of Demas and John Mark to continue with him in the ministry. Neither is fair to Paul. We don’t have authority over human wills, and neither did Paul. It is no more reasonable to say that God wanted Trophimus sick for some reason than to say that God wanted Demas to forsake Paul for some reason. No one can prove that Trophimus stayed sick a long time, either. This is truly a paper-thin verse on which to build an anti-healing doctrine.
Yet people build a castle on this verse. “Paul had a healing ministry but couldn’t heal Trophimus!” Watch out! Paul’s Lord could not heal the sick at Nazareth, either. This proves nothing other the people’s unbelief, which is stated as the reason for their failure to receive healing. The fact that Jesus left many sick at Nazareth does not prove that God wanted them sick and was unwilling to heal them supernaturally. Therefore, the fact that Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletum does not prove that God wanted Trophimus sick and was unwilling to heal him supernaturally.
It is also possible that Paul prayed for Trophimus and that Trophimus followed Jesus’ instructions to “believe that he received” when he prayed, but his healing had not yet manifested in his body, just as the tree that Jesus cursed did not appear dead on the outside right away. We can’t prove whether or not this is true. The eight words about Trophimus’s condition are not enough to prove anything.
Why build a doctrine on one exceptional case, where we are never told why the man was sick, or if he remained that way? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build a doctrine on the rule rather than the exception? Rather than groping for some silly excuse to stay sick, build your doctrine on the crowds of people in the New Testament who were healed and the statements made by the Lord and his disciples under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! No Scripture says that you cannot be healed, but plenty of them that say that you can be healed. Base your doctrine and your believing on them!