Widely found on the internet is the wonderful PDF by Phil Moore on a Healthy Theology of Healing. As this PDF has many scripture references, I have copied the material here so that I can add pop-up tags to the scriptures. All copyright goes to the original author. For some Greek or Hebrew texts in the footnotes, you will need to reference a copy of the original PDF.
“A HEALTHY THEOLOGY OF HEALING”
Have you ever looked at an old photograph of yourself and been struck by how much younger you look in the photo? Welcome to the club. It’s called the ageing process. The apostle Paul talked about it in 2 Corinthians 4:162 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. when he told his readers that “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
Ultimately this “wasting away” of our bodies reminds us that they are mortal and will not sustain our souls on this planet beyond a mere fraction of its history. Only God is immortal, or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, “Man is destined to die.” (Hebrews 9:27Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, )
On the other hand, have you ever stopped to think about the way in which your body constantly replenishes itself, bringing healing and wholeness to itself wherever there is decay?
In the next hour alone your body will shed some 600,000 skin cells, but you won’t notice because simultaneously it will also produce 600,000 more.
This may sound like a busy hour’s work, but it’s nothing compared to what is happening in your blood vessels every second. Every single second of your life 2,000,000 red blood cells return to your bone marrow to die, and they are replaced every second by another 2,000,000 red blood cells which will make a quarter of a million round trips of your body before they also return to the bone marrow to die. No wonder you sometimes feel a bit tired!
We also see our bodies working even harder each time we are ill. Colds get better – with or without Lemsip and Lockets – if we simply give our body enough time to recover. Broken bones mend. Cut fingers heal. Although our bodies cannot deal with every sickness without medical intervention, it is obvious that our bodies have an inbuilt capacity, given them by their Designer, which works tirelessly to heal what is sick and mend what is broken. God has decreed that our bodies are mortal, but He is still very committed to promoting healing and wholeness in them as an expression of His character. As Christians, we are not confused by this paradox. The atheist learns no spiritual lesson from the opposing principles of both healing and decline in his body. Without firm hope beyond the grave, he either laments or ignores his mortality whilst trying to halt the decline as long as possible before death inevitably comes. We know as Christians, however, that these two opposing forces of physical healing and decline are at the very heart of the Gospel. When God created the world He saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31Genesis 1:31 (ESV)
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. ), but when Adam disobeyed the Lord’s command that “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17Genesis 2:17 (ESV)
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ) he brought about the Fall and its very bad consequences. Paul explains that “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12Romans 5:12 (ESV)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— ), and Moses makes it clear that sickness was part of the curse which came through sin (Deuteronomy 28:21-22, 59-61Deuteronomy 28:21-22, 59-61 (ESV)
21-22 The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.
59-61 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. ). This makes sense of Peter’s teaching that Jesus was undoing the work of the Fall in his earthly ministry when he came “healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38Acts 10:38 (ESV)
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ), and explains why Scripture teaches that it is often (but not always) linked to demonic activity (Matthew 9:32-33Matthew 9:32-33 (ESV)
As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” ; Luke 13:11,16Luke 13:11-16 (ESV)
11And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” ). 1 Sickness is not just a biological and medical phenomenon, but also a spiritual one related to the devil’s work in the world (Acts 10:38Acts 10:38 (ESV)
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ). Healing is therefore part of God’s work in the world, as personified in Jesus Christ, who became a human being with a mortal body in order to “destroy the devil’s work” (1John 3:81John 3:8 (ESV)
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. ).
Given the clear biblical teaching about the two principles of human mortality and divine healing, no Christian seriously denies either one of them in their entirety. Even the most die-hard cessationist still expects to get better when he catches the ‘flu, and if necessary goes to the doctor to help his body in its work of recuperation. Even the most fiery Pentecostal faith-healer does not seriously expect his congregation to experience so much healing from God that they will never actually die.
The question is not whether the Bible and experience teach that there are two principles of mortality and healing at work in our bodies, but how much we can expect God to heal our mortal bodies right now. Since Jesus taught that healing was a primary sign that His Kingdom had come (Matthew 10:7-8Matthew 10:7-8 (ESV)
And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. ; Mark 1:15,27Mark 1:15,27 (ESV)
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” ; Luke 9:2, 9:11, 10:9Luke 9:2, 9:11 & 10:9 (ESV)
9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.
9:11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.
10:9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ ), the answer to this question is part of the bigger question of how much has the Kingdom of God already come? In this much bigger question lies a healthy theology of healing.
Most Christians agree that the Kingdom of God has come through the first coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28Matthew 12:28 (ESV)
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. ). He quietened John the Baptist’s doubts over whether he truly was the promised Messianic King by reminding him that through him “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Matthew 11:5Matthew 11:5 (ESV)
the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. ).
Most Christians also agree that the Kingdom of God has not yet fully come and will not fully come until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 19:11-12Luke 19:11-12 (ESV)
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. ). The apostle John saw that it was only after the Second Coming that the angels would fully proclaim that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15Revelation 11:15 (ESV)
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” ), and he also saw that it was only after the Second Coming that the old order of things would be ended and sickness would become a distant memory rather than a daily reality. He tells us that “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:1-5aRevelation 21:1-5 (ESV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ). We do not yet possess the resurrection bodies which Jesus has won for us through his work of salvation, but we eagerly await them through the groans and trials of this life (1 Corinthians 15:39-531 Corinthians 15:39-53 (ESV)
For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. , Philippians 3:21Philippians 3:21 (ESV)
who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. , Romans 8:23Romans 8:23 (ESV)
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. , Acts 14:22Acts 14:22 (ESV)
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. ), knowing that at the Second Coming of Jesus we will be raised to life to enjoy the complete fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Most Christians agree still further that we have a role to play as Christians in turning the now-but not-yet Kingdom of God into reality on earth today. Jesus, after all, told us to ask the Father “Let your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ).
Therefore since almost all Christians agree that, in Jesus Christ, the promised Kingdom has come (Genesis 49:10Genesis 49:10 (ESV)
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. , Jeremiah 23:5-6Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ , Ezekiel 21:25-27Ezekiel 21:25-27 (ESV)
And you, O profane wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come, the time of your final punishment, thus says the Lord God: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted. A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him. ), a healthy theology of healing answers the question of just how much the Kingdom of God came through his First Coming and how much we should resign ourselves to sickness in the here and now as part of our groaning for his speedy Second Coming. Put simply, we can say that if the Kingdom of God has come much then I can have much expectation of being healed, but if the Kingdom of God has come little then I can have little expectation of being healed (Luke 10:9Luke 10:9 (ESV)
Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ ).
This paper will therefore examine each of the four main Christian answers to the question of how much the Kingdom of God has already come in Jesus Christ, and will conclude by showing how a biblical answer to this question provides us with the framework for a healthy theology of healing. This will then provide us with four crucial areas in which we need to grow in our own personal ministries if we are to bring the healing of God to our own generation as an expression of the Kingdom rule, here and now, of the Great King Jesus Christ.
FOUR VIEWS OF HOW MUCH WE CAN EXPECT GOD TO HEAL
With so many differing Christian viewpoints on healing, it is very difficult to summarize them into four groups without over-simplifying the spectrum of opinions. Even so, if we are aware that the four views actually represent a wider discussion, then it makes the task much more manageable. 2
VIEWPOINT #1: “THE CLASSIC LIBERAL VIEW”
This viewpoint agrees with the other three views that the BC era was a time of waiting for the Kingdom of God, and that the era after the Second Coming will see the Kingdom in all its fullness (see fig.1 below). However, the liberal theologians in the last century and a half have been so affected by the seismic shift in the Western worldview which was ushered in by the ‘Enlightenment’ and by Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ that they struggle to accept the idea of God ever intervening in the world to perform a healing miracle – either inside or outside of Scripture – and they therefore question whether He even healed miraculously through Jesus, let alone promises to do so through us.
Their position can be best summarized as “Although God has the power to heal and this is a sign of His coming Kingdom, He does not heal people miraculously today and has probably never done so because He respects the natural laws of the universe.” They would see the Kingdom largely as ‘not yet’, and have little expectation of any miraculous healing this side of the Second Coming of Jesus.
The liberal writer Rudolph Bultmann writes in his book ‘Jesus Christ and Mythology’ that “Modern man acknowledges as reality only such phenomena or events as are comprehensible within the framework of the rational order of the universe. He does not acknowledge miracles because they do not fit into this lawful order.” 3Langdon B. Gilkey describes the biblical accounts of the miracles in Exodus as “the acts Hebrews believed God might have done and the words he might have said had he done and said them – but of course we recognize that he did not.” 4 This tragic viewpoint owes far more to 20th-Century rationalism than it does to any of the contents of the Bible. In fact, it so denies the reliability of the gospel accounts that Bultmann eventually admits that when examining the Easter events he feels that “an historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable.” 5 Such a desire to subject the words of Scripture to the arrogant claims of the modern Western worldview effectively presents Jesus as so bereft of kingly power that we are left wondering how they would even believe that the Second Coming and the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God would truly bring the kind of healing they dismiss as so fanciful.
This liberal theology of healing extols western science and dismisses the historical facts of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is decidedly unhealthy, so let’s try another.
VIEWPOINT #2: “THE CLASSIC CESSATIONIST VIEW”
Unlike liberals, cessationists do not deny that God healed in Bible times or that He can heal today. What they do deny is that it is the purpose of God to heal through anointed men and women at this stage in history. Their view is best summarized as “God can heal today and may occasionally do so, but because we do not live in the ‘apostolic era’ God no longer grants people gifts of healing, and any human claim to possess modern-day gifts of healing are bogus.” As leading cessationist theologian Richard B Gaffin writes, “I do not deny that God heals today . . . I do question, however, whether the gifts of healing and of working miracles as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9-101 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. are given today.” 6 This view therefore draws an extra line on our timeline in Fig.2 which it calls the end of ‘the apostolic era’ in c. 100 AD, when after a brief period of supernatural miracles the Lord withdrew these gifts until they return at his Second Coming. 7
It is important that we understand that the cessationist view is not at its root a theology of healing. It is primarily an attempt to protect the bedrock Reformation belief of sola scriptura against the perceived rival authority of modern prophecy and apostleship if any of the charismatic gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:7-111 Corinthians 12:7-11 (ESV)
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. and Ephesians 4:11Ephesians 4:11 (ESV)
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, are still functioning today. If miraculous healing is available today then logically so must be the other charismatic gifts, including prophecy and apostleship, and cessationists fear that this divine empowerment of modern-day individuals would compromise the supremacy of the 1st-Century apostles and the final authority of the Bible. 8 Although this viewpoint is held by sincere Christians who love and treasure the Bible as the inerrant word of God, a brief look at their three key arguments show that however sincere they are, their theology is not sound.
The first key argument is that healing miracles were given to authenticate the apostles until the New Testament was completed, and therefore ceased once the canon of scripture was complete. This argument was popularized by BB Warfield as an explanation of why the promised miracles of the New Testament were not common in his own day, but it is seriously flawed.
Firstly, there is no specific verse in Scripture which tells us that the charismatic gifts were in any way a temporary phenomenon – in fact, a straight reading of the New Testament encourages us to expect them to continue! If this were the genuine teaching of the New Testament then we would expect at least one clear verse in the Bible to warn generations of Christians to expect the charismatic promises of Scripture not to apply to them. But there is no such verse. 9
Secondly, there are several specific verses in Scripture which imply that charismatic gifts will last throughout AD history until Jesus returns. Paul tells the Corinthians that “You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Corinthians 1:71 Corinthians 1:7 (ESV)
so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, ), and he tells them that charismatic gifts will continue until “perfection comes” and “we see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:9-121 Corinthians 13:9-12 (ESV)
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ). 10
Thirdly, if the cessationist view is correct that gifts of miraculous healing were given to prove that certain men were real apostles and that their writings should therefore be regarded as Holy Scripture, then why is it that many of the key writers of the New Testament were not apostles (Mark, Luke, Jude) or were people who as far as Scripture tells us did not perform any miracles (Mark, Luke, James, Jude)? If the primary purpose of the healing gift was to authenticate the writings of a small group of miracle-working apostles then surely there was a massive misdirection of this gift to the wrong people! The Corinthian and Galatian churches which had stumbled into false doctrine (1 Corinthians 15:12-141 Corinthians 15:12-14 (ESV)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. , Galatians 1:6-7Galatians 1:6-7 (ESV)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. ) performed more recorded miracles than the writers of the two of the Gospels (1 Corinthians 1:7, 12:91 Corinthians 1:7 & 12:9 (ESV)
1:7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, ; Galatians 3:5Galatians 3:5 (ESV)
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— )!
Fourthly, Jesus and the New Testament writers exhibited none of the protective restriction on the use of gifts of healing that we would expect if it was as firmly linked to the question of apostolic authority as the cessationists suppose. Jesus was happy for an anonymous follower to perform miracles despite not being one of the Twelve (Mark 9:38-41Mark 9:38-41 (ESV)
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. ), and for all the Seventy-Two to perform miracles (Luke 10:1, 9Luke 10:1, 9 (ESV)
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go... 9Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ ). Luke writes about the miracles of the deacons Stephen (Acts 6:8Acts 6:8 (ESV)
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. ) and Philip (Acts 8:6-7Acts 8:6-7 (ESV)
And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. ), and of the rank-and-file Christian Ananias (Acts 9:17-18Acts 9:17-18 (ESV)
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; ) without hesitating in case he set unfair expectations for his readers.
Fifthly, Scripture actually tells us what the primary purpose of the charismatic gifts is, including gifts of healing. They are not given for the authentication of Scripture. They are given “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:71 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. ) and “for the strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:261 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. ), something which is surely just as important today as it was before the canon of Scripture was completed. 11
The second key argument is that since Jesus and the apostles healed all who came to them, the gulf between the quantity and quality of healings in the so-called ‘apostolic era’ and those claimed by modern charismatics indicates that modern healings are well-intentioned but bogus.
Although it is an argument from silence, it appears that Jesus did indeed heal all who came to him, 12 but there is at least some evidence that the apostles were not always able to heal all who came to them. Paul appears to have waited for faith to be present before he healed the sick (Acts 14:8-10Acts 14:8-10 (ESV)
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. ), and we will need to return later in this paper to the question of why Epaphroditus and Trophimus were not immediately healed through Paul’s prayers (Philippians 2:25-27Philippians 2:25-27 (ESV)
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. , 2 Timothy 4:202 Timothy 4:20 (ESV)
Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. ). There is at least some evidence that healing was not automatic even for the first-century apostles.
Nor is it at all clear that Jesus and the apostles only did what some cessationists call ‘high quality’ miracles and not the ‘low quality’ healings of which they are so dismissive. When Matthew tells us that Jesus “went through all the towns and villages…preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 9:35Matthew 9:35 (ESV)
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. ), he is specifically telling us that Jesus performed both ‘high quality’ and ‘low quality’ miracles (the fact that we are using such horrible terms to describe any of the Holy Spirit’s activity should give us a clue that this thinking is misguided!). Similarly, when Luke singles out the ‘high quality’ way in which Peter healed people with just his shadow in Acts 5:15Acts 5:15 (ESV)
so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. , he does not appear to feel that he has in any way disqualified the ‘low quality’ healings performed only three verses earlier by the other apostles who had to lay their hands on people to see them healed (Acts 5:12Acts 5:12 (ESV)
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. ). In fact, he deliberately shatters the myth that there was one single degree of healing gift in the early Church when he tells us that Paul performed “extraordinary miracles” in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12Acts 19:11-12 (ESV)
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. ) compared to the “ordinary miracles” performed by others. Clearly some received greater gifts of healing then, as now, and this should actually encourage us to fan our emerging healing gifting into flame more and more (1 Timothy 4:41 Timothy 4:4 (ESV)
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, , 2 Timothy 1:62 Timothy 1:6 (ESV)
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, ), so that we might move from seeing one in ten healed to one in three healed, and from seeing minor ailments healed to seeing cancers and HIV healed. The fact that I see fewer than the apostle Peter’s 3000 saved each time that I preach the Gospel (Acts 2:41Acts 2:41 (ESV)
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. ) is not proof that the gift of evangelism has ceased! It simply shows me that as yet my faith is still immature (Romans 12:6Romans 12:6 (ESV)
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; ). The same is true of gifts of healing.
The third and final argument is that miraculous healings have not occurred throughout the whole of Church history, and therefore they cannot be an integral part of Christianity for every generation.
Although there are periods in Church history where there are few historical accounts of miraculous healing, the historical record is too incomplete to construct this argument from silence. The absence of healing has undoubtedly been exaggerated by cessationists because they have a tendency to dismiss all historical accounts of miracles as spurious - especially if they were performed by anyone who did not hold to the complete body of systematic theology that has been rubber stamped as acceptable to God by modern western reformed theologians! DA Carson observes that “there is enough evidence that some form of charismatic gifts continued sporadically across the centuries of church history that it is futile to insist on doctrinaire grounds that every report is spurious or the fruit of demonic activity or psychological aberration.” 13 John Calvin, not a man renowned for his wild charismatic claims and practice, did not see his lack of experience of miracles as a reason to doubt that God still wanted to perform them in his own day, and nor should we. He writes in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that “Today we see our own slender resources, our poverty in fact; but this is undoubtedly the punishment we deserve, as the reward for our ingratitude. For God’s riches are not exhausted, nor has His liberality grown less; but we are not worthy of His largess, or capable of receiving all that He generously gives.” 14 Furthermore, we find in the letters of none other than Martin Luther that his advice concerning a particular man’s sickness was that “I know of no worldly help to give…It must, rather, be an affliction which comes from the devil, and this must be counteracted with the prayer of faith. This is what we do, and what we have been accustomed to do, for a cabinet maker here was similarly afflicted with madness and we cured him by prayer in Christ’s name.” 15John Wimber produces an outstanding overview of miraculous healing throughout Church history in his book ‘Power Evangelism’, and it is pure folly for us to accept the doctrinal teaching of great men like Luther and yet to refuse to believe their testimony about the healing miracles of their day. 16It would also be foolish to assume that the cessationists’ unbelief about the reality of modern healing gifts is not actually one of the reasons why they have not experienced the gifts in their own ministry! 17Our past experiences and disappointments hold far more sway over our theology than most of us like to admit, and the cessationist theology is based on experience (or rather a lack of it!), which directly contradicts the teaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost when he referred to the whole of AD history from Pentecost to Parousia as one integral period called “the last days” – not just a brief so-called ‘apostolic age’ – which would be marked by the widespread miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-21Acts 2:14-21 (ESV)
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’").
Even if we were to accept that many have failed to experience the charismatic gift of healing during large portions of Church history, this should not lead us to assume that God has therefore withdrawn His gift from the Church (Romans 11:29Romans 11:29 (ESV)
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. ). If Luther had applied the same logic during the Reformation then we would all still be saying our ‘Hail Marys’! He rightly saw that centuries of doubt and resistance towards the work of God had grieved the work of the Holy Spirit to the impoverishment of the Church, and he led a wave of repentance which pleaded with Him to return and to restore what had been lost. We need a similar attitude of humility in our own day which accepts that the gulf between our Bibles and our experience is due to some change on our part rather than on God’s part. We should rejoice that many have already begun to repent of this sin, and that God is beginning to restore this aspect of the Gospel back into the heart of Church life. We should celebrate and give thanks to God, not marshal together reasons to cast out the gift as an unfamiliar and unwelcome stranger!
Therefore the cessationist view on healing is very sincere, but it is also very unhealthy and damaging. It performs so many exegetical contortions that it actually devalues the very Scriptures it aims to protect. In addition, since Paul writes that unless “signs and miracles” had been part of his preaching around the Roman Empire then he would not have “fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18-19Romans 15:18-19 (ESV)
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; ), we find that it actually dares to tamper with the Gospel which was given us by Jesus Christ.
We must reject this second unhealthy theology of healing, and press on towards one that is healthy.
VIEWPOINT #3: “THE CLASSIC PENTECOSTAL VIEW”
The Pentecostal view rests at almost the other end of the end of the spectrum to the cessationist position, and reads the same Bible to understand that “Jesus’ death on the cross was to bring healing and not just forgiveness, and therefore healing has already been bought for everyone through the cross and simply needs to be received through faith that ‘healing is in the blood.’ The Pentecostal view therefore rejects any view that ‘the apostolic age’ has ended, and teaches that the Kingdom of God is so present through the First Coming of Jesus that anyone can and should expect to experience full healing in this life, and not merely after the Second Coming.
This viewpoint is one of the key tenets of faith of the largest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God. The twelfth section of their ‘Statement of Fundamental Truths’ teaches that “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.”
Nor can we dismiss this viewpoint lightly. Whether or not this is the theology of our own Christian tradition, we do need to face the fact that almost every great minister of healing in the 20th Century held something close to this view.
The great healing evangelist John G. Lake taught in his book ‘Adventures in God’ that “The Christian, the child of God, the Christ-man who has committed his body as well as his spirit and soul to God, ought not to be a subject for healing. He ought to be a subject of continuous, abiding health, because he is filled with the life of God.”18 Another great healing evangelist, Oral Roberts, took a similar view. “If Jesus took our sicknesses we need not bear them any longer. Sickness is part of the curse and Jesus came to destroy the curse. He suffered in our stead because he did not want us to suffer disease. He took our specific diseases and infirmities upon his own sinless, perfect body in complete payment for the penalty of sin … I know it is God’s highest wish for you to be in health … Sickness is not part of God’s plan and not devised by God’s will … Some ministers are still praying ‘Father, if it be thy will, heal.’ I wonder if they could be sued for theological malpractice? Well, it’s a thought!”19 Kenneth Hagin, one of the leading ‘word of faith’ teachers, continues this line of reasoning. “Like salvation, healing is a gift, already paid for at Calvary. All we need to do is accept it. All we need to do is possess the promise that is ours. As children of God, we need to realize that healing belongs to us.”20 He adds that “It is unscriptural to pray, ‘If it is the will of God.’ When you put an ‘if’ in your prayer, you are praying in doubt.”21
It is difficult to deny that this theology of healing is yielding much fruit in terms of healing. However, before we rush after the pragmatism of success, we do need to note that despite the great strengths in the first two arguments which lie at the root of this theology of healing, there are also significant flaws in the third key argument which dramatically skew the Pentecostal application of those truths.
The first key argument is that healing must be in the atonement (ie definitively secured through Jesus’ death and resurrection) because sickness is part of the curse which came through Adam, and must therefore have been undone through the finished work of Jesus, the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:451 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV)
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. ). This is, frankly, an extremely strong argument. Since both Moses and Paul tell us that sickness is part the curse of Adam’s Fall (Deuteronomy 28:21- 22, 59-61Deuteronomy 28:21- 22, 59-61 (ESV)
21-22 The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.
59-61 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. And he will bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. Every sickness also and every affliction that is not recorded in the book of this law, the Lord will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. ; Romans 5:12Romans 5:12 (ESV)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— ), it must surely be the case that Jesus dealt completely and finally with the human problem of sickness when he “became a curse for us” on the cross (Galatians 3:13Galatians 3:13 (ESV)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— ) and declared from the cross “It is finished!” (John 19:30John 19:30 (ESV)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ). If Jesus’ death on the cross did not remove the curse of sickness, then Paul tells us in Romans 3:26Romans 3:26 (ESV)
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. that God would actually be unjust to lift a curse which deservedly rests upon us. Similarly, when Peter tells us that sickness is part of the arsenal of weapons which Satan secured through the Fall (Acts 10:38Acts 10:38 (ESV)
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ), it must surely follow that when Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities” on the cross (Colossians 2:15Colossians 2:15 (ESV)
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ) that he removed this weapon from Satan’s arsenal along with all the rest. Perhaps the main reason that many struggle to accept this is that many Pentecostals apply this to mean that we can be as certain that God will heal us through faith in the blood of Jesus as we can that God will save us through faith in the blood of Jesus. We are right to be suspicious of this application because this is not how Scripture models the healing ministry – we do not, for example, find Paul urging Timothy that his stomach complaint would be healed if only he spent more time meditating with faith over the finished work of Jesus for him on the cross (1 Timothy 5:231 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)
(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) )! – but our suspicion over the Pentecostal application of these verses should not prevent us from grasping what is taught in the verses themselves.
The second key argument is that healing must be in the atonement (ie definitively secured through Jesus’ death and resurrection), because Matthew tells us that this is a correct understanding of the teaching of Isaiah 53. This is also a very compelling argument, and one which is stronger than most of us realise simply because our English translations do not fully convey the flow of Isaiah’s argument in the original Hebrew. In fact, Isaiah prophesies about the death of Jesus in his 53rd chapter and tells us that...
Note that when we look at the Hebrew words which Isaiah used as he wrote down his prophecy, we can see two clear themes which the Holy Spirit wants us to understand about the death of Jesus on the cross, but which are lost in most English translations of these verses. Firstly, he bore our sickness when he died on the cross – physical pain and sickness is the primary meaning of the Hebrew words maḵ'ōḇ and ḥŏlî . We are not at liberty to spiritualize these words because these Hebrew words deliberately prevent us from doing so. Secondly, Jesus bore our sickness on the cross in the same way in which he bore our sin – the same two Hebrew verbs nāśā' and sāḇal are deliberately used to describe both how Jesus bore our sin in v. 11-12 and how he bore our sickness in v. 4.
This in turn makes sense of Matthew’s commentary on Isaiah 53 in chapter 8 of his gospel, and the fact that he deliberately chooses not to quote from the Septuagint which slightly spiritualizes Jesus’ bearing of our sickness (rather like our English translations), and opts instead for an unknown translation which emphasizes the physical nature of the sickness which Jesus bore. He writes in Matthew 8:16-17 that “When evening came, many who were demonized were brought to Jesus, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” Note that if he were wanting to spiritualize Jesus’ work on the cross then he could easily have quoted from the Septuagint which reads “he bears our sins and is pained for us,” but he chose instead to emphasize the physical healing won by Jesus at the cross by saying that “he himself took our sicknesses and carried our diseases.”
So far so good, and if the phrase ‘healing in the atonement’ referred only to these two statements then there would be little need to bring correction. DA Carson writes that in his view Matthew 8:16-17Matthew 8:16-17 (ESV)
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” does indeed “teach that there is healing in the atonement; but similarly there is the promise of a resurrection body in the atonement, even if believers do not inherit it until the Parousia. From the perspectives of the New Testament writers, the cross is the basis of all the benefits that accrue to believers, but this does not mean that all such benefits can be secured at this present time on demand.”22 Wayne Grudem also adds helpfully (although perhaps a little optimistically given the scale of the disagreement on this issue!) in his ‘Systematic Theology’ that “All Christians would probably agree that in the atonement Christ has purchased for us not only complete freedom from sin but also complete freedom from physical weakness and infirmity in his work of redemption. And all Christians would also no doubt agree that our full and complete possession of all the benefits that Christ earned for us will not come until Christ returns … When people say that complete healing is ‘in the atonement’, the statement is true in an ultimate sense, but it really does not tell us anything about when we will receive ‘complete healing’.”23 And it is the Pentecostal answer to when we receive this healing that is problematic.
Their third key argument is that every person has already been healed at the cross of Jesus, and needs simply to receive this heavenly reality by faith in order to experience it as an earthly reality. This treats healing in much the same way as sanctification, where the Bible tells us that we have already died positionally with Christ and therefore need to put to death evil deeds in order to walk free from sin (Colossians 3:3, 5Colossians 3:3, 5 (ESV)
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God... Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ). It puts together the promise of Isaiah 53:5Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. that “by his stripes we are healed” and the promise of Jesus in Mark 11:24Mark 11:24 (ESV)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. that “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” and it tells sick people on the basis of both verses they should receive prayer for healing and then ‘deny their symptoms’ and start thanking God for their (as yet unseen) healing.24 The problem with this teaching should be obvious. Any sensible eye can see that many of these people have patently not been healed, and that their ‘denial of their symptoms’ is actually naïve unreality rather than genuine faith. Not only can this discredit the Gospel in the eyes of unbelievers, but it can also rob people of the genuine healing which could actually be theirs. Lex Loizides, one of the elders of Jubilee Church in Cape Town, tells of a time when he prayed for a prisoner in St Louis, Missouri, and the prisoner started rejoicing ‘in faith’ that his hand had been healed despite the fact that he was still in acute pain and barely able to hold a cup! It was only when Lex told him to face the fact that he had not yet been healed that he was willing to place his faith in God’s grace rather than in his own faith …with the result that he was miraculously healed!25 At its worst, this teaching can encourage something which is more akin to secular ‘positive thinking’ than biblical faith, so that faith becomes a form of magic through which we hope to manipulate the spiritual world based on ‘spiritual laws’. Without intending to do so, many Pentecostals have found that their teaching causes sick people to place their faith in faith itself rather than in God the Healer. 26
Many who have seen this kind of healing ministry have been so offended by its pastoral insensitivity that they completely reject the idea that healing might be ‘in the atonement’. Some argue that since the events of Matthew 8 took place before Jesus died on the cross, Matthew is actually talking about how Jesus’ exertions on behalf of the sick during his ministry channeled God’s healing towards them. Since Jesus also forgave a man for his sins only 24 verses later in Matthew 9:2Matthew 9:2 (ESV)
And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” – and very few of us would be foolish enough to try to argue that Jesus was able to forgive this man on the basis of the exertions of his busy ministry schedule rather than of his later work on the cross! – this is rather hard to swallow. Others argue more hopefully that Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah 53 intends to link healing to the Messiah in general rather than to his cross in particular, but they offer no convincing explanation as to why Matthew chose the one chapter in the Old Testament which talks most clearly about the atoning death of the Messiah unless he actually wanted us to link healing not just to the Messiah but to his atoning death as well. Still others argue that Peter understands Isaiah to mean spiritual salvation when he quotes Isaiah 53:5Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. in 1 Peter 2:241 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. to teach that “by his wounds you have been iaomai /healed/cured,” but it is not at all clear from that passage that Peter is teaching us that the healing of Calvary is exclusively spiritual – in fact his own bold confidence that healing is “that which I have” to give away (Acts 3:6Acts 3:6 (ESV)
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” ) is our biggest clue about what Peter understood from that verse, and it was certainly not a spiritualization of the promises.
Others do not feel the need to reject entirely the link between divine healing and the cross of Jesus. John Wimber, one of the great fathers of the non-Pentecostal healing movement within the western Church in the 20th century, stated that he believed that healing was not 'in the atonement’ but ‘through the atonement’.27 Wimber's concern was that if we teach that healing comes through the cross of Jesus in a similar fashion to salvation then, given that healing does not always happen as consistently as we hope, this will inevitably decrease people’s faith in the Gospel for their salvation. His writings have been enormously helpful in unpacking what ‘healing in the atonement’ should mean as opposed to what it has unfortunately come to mean, but we need to be very careful that our rejection the unhelpful Pentecostal interpretation of Isaiah 53:5Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. and Mark 11:24Mark 11:24 (ESV)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. does not also lead us to downgrade the overall teaching of Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8 to something less than it actually is.
There is enough evidence in the New Testament that some Christians did not receive immediate healing and that the early Church did not preach a ‘deny your symptoms’ methodology of healing for us to reject the Pentecostal interpretation of Isaiah 53:5Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. and Mark 11:24Mark 11:24 (ESV)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. . However, these are very poor grounds for arguing that the death of Jesus on the cross brought about anything less than a decisive change in the place of sickness in the world. Arguments that the Lord only heals because of His compassionate character as revealed by His Name Jehovah Rāp̄ā'/The-Lord-Who-Heals-You (Exodus 15:26Exodus 15:26 (ESV)
saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” ) are scuppered by the fact that the specific example of healing which accompanies it in the previous verse was administered through a piece of wood which the Lord provided, something that Christian theologians across the centuries have often seen as a type of the cross of Jesus.28
If God’s commitment to heal is only revealed in His character, then we have reason to try to rebuke sickness and even reason to hope for healing, but no sure ground for confidence that sickness and demons will fly before our God-given authority or for genuine faith that healing will come in this situation, right here right now. This is tragic because the link between the work of Jesus on the cross and healing brings great confidence over Jesus’ authority and his victorious redemption of a broken universe. Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8 tell us that a decisive judicial act took place at Calvary which lifted the curse of sin from mankind (Romans 3:26Romans 3:26 (ESV)
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ) and emptied the devil’s arsenal of its every weapon (Colossians 2:15Colossians 2:15 (ESV)
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ). Our authority to minister gifts of healing comes from the victorious King Jesus Christ, and he obtained this just authority by “binding the strongman” (Matthew 12:29Matthew 12:29 (ESV)
Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. , Luke 11:21-22Luke 11:21-22 (ESV)
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. ) and giving charismatic gifts to His People as He led the devil and his demons “captive in his train” (Ephesians 4:8Ephesians 4:8 (ESV)
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” ). For too long has the disarmed devil been able to act like a general without any artillery who frightens the enemy into calling off their attack by the clever use of mock gun emplacements. In the area of sickness and healing, Scripture genuinely does teach us that through the cross he has become a toothless foe relying on guile alone to hold onto his crumbling kingdom. This, then, is the true meaning of Peter’s past tense that “by his stripes you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:241 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. ), and we must not let this vital truth be lost because others misuse it. It is only when we settle in our minds and our hearts that healing has been won decisively through the cross and that sickness now has no authority before the name of Jesus Christ that we will begin to push forward in the spiritual battle to plunder Satan’s usurped territory.
The Pentecostal viewpoint misunderstands how the cross of Jesus has dealt a decisive death blow to sickness here and now, and we must make sure that we do not share in its failings. However, we must note with humility that for all of these failings, the Lord is choosing to heal many more people through flawed Pentecostal faith than He is through many well-reasoned but hesitant charismatic evangelicals. It seems that James really meant what he said when he wrote in the context of receiving charismatic gifts that we should “ask in faith, without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. That person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7James 1:6-7 (ESV)
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. ).
We cannot fully embrace the Pentecostal viewpoint on healing, but as we move to examine our own, fourth viewpoint on healing, we must make sure that we mix it with the same kind of faith (Hebrews 4:2Hebrews 4:2 (ESV)
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. ).
VIEWPOINT #4: “THE CLASSIC CHARISMATIC VIEW”
This is probably the viewpoint that we personally need to be the most cautious about evaluating. As a group of charismatics, there is a danger that we could cling to our own historical viewpoint on healing and defend it simply because it is the one which we have held for so long – rather like the fact that you will never convince me that anyone cooks better than my Mum, simply because I grew up and had my palate shaped by the tastes and preferences of her kitchen!
The charismatic view is similar to the Pentecostal view, but it is considerably less triumphalist than its Pentecostal counterpart. Although it agrees that the Kingdom of God has most definitely come with the First Coming of Jesus (Matthew 12:28Matthew 12:28 (ESV)
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. , Daniel 2:34-35Daniel 2:34-35 (ESV)
As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. ), and that it certainly did not diminish with the deaths of the first-century apostles, it would generally not be so bullish as to argue that ‘healing is in the atonement’, either in the sense of people already being healed and needing to bring this into reality through their faith, or even in the sense of healing having being won decisively as a covenant blessing through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Instead – depending on the particular writer or teacher – it would generally tend to place the emphasis more on the fact that the Kingdom is now-but-not-yet, and sometimes the fullness of the Kingdom spills out from the future into the present through the mystery of the compassionate and gracious character of God.
One great strength of this view is that it manages to embrace the Bible’s teaching that God grants gifts of healing today without ignoring the fact that it also tells us that our bodies are still wasting away (Romans 8:23Romans 8:23 (ESV)
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. ) and are still destined to die at the end of their fixed lifespan (Hebrews 9:27Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, , Psalm 102:24Psalm 102:24 (ESV)
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!” , Ecclesiastes 7:17Ecclesiastes 7:17 (ESV)
Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? ). It stresses that we should expect miraculous healing from God, but that we should also accept the teaching of Ecclesiastes 3:2-3Ecclesiastes 3:2-3 (ESV)
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; that there is a “time to die” and a time for the Lord to take life rather than heal. When Kenneth Copeland tells us that “I don't care how old we are, it's God’s will to take us home healed, well, whole, and delivered,”29 charismatics ask the obvious question of why we will be “taken home” at all if we are quite so healed, well and whole?! Similarly, since Elisha’s dead bones still contained enough anointing to raise a man to life (2 Kings 13:212 Kings 13:21 (ESV)
And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. ), but his whole body did not contain enough anointing to heal him when he was afflicted with “the illness from which he died” (2 Kings 13:142 Kings 13:14 (ESV)
Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” ), they reject the view that healing is always God’s Will for absolutely anyone who has enough faith to receive it. Paul tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:501 Corinthians 15:50 (ESV)
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. ), so charismatics accept the Bible’s teaching that some sickness does end in death, and that a ‘a good death’ at the right time is part of the victorious Christian life (1 Thessalonians 4:13-181 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ), and not necessarily a ‘failure’.
Another strength is that the charismatic view accords far more with our experience of God’s working – at least within charismatic circles! – and with some of the clues we have about God’s actual working in New Testament times. Pentecostal triumphalism has no convincing explanation for why Epaphroditus, Trophimus and Paul were all sick and did not receive immediate healing (Philippians 2:25-27Philippians 2:25-27 (ESV)
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. , 2 Timothy 4:202 Timothy 4:20 (ESV)
Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. , Galatians 4:13-15Galatians 4:13-15 (ESV)
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. ), and it does not easily accommodate Paul’s teaching in Galatians 4:13Galatians 4:13 (ESV)
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first that God sometimes uses sickness for good. In fact, as even the Pentecostal theologian Gordon Fee points out in his book ‘The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel’, the Pentecostal viewpoint can come very close at times to sounding like the very opposite of the apostolic Gospel that “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22Acts 14:22 (ESV)
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. ).
Consequently, a third strength is that it appears to be a more ‘pastoral’ theology than the Pentecostal viewpoint. It is one thing for a (usually itinerant) healing evangelist to promise that a person ‘has been healed’ and simply needs to deny their symptoms until earthly experience catches up with spiritual reality, but it is quite another to be the pastor of that same Christian the following week when their earthly reality seems rather reluctant to change! The charismatic viewpoint denies that healing is categorically God’s Will for any person at any time, and therefore avoids serving up what Jim Carrey’s character in the film ‘Bruce Almighty’ refers to as a “side-plate of guilt” to go alongside the “main course” of sickness and suffering which has already been laid before them. Nobody wants to be like Job’s comforters or to add to a sick person’s misery by telling them that they would be healed if only they had more faith. After all, David Watson was a great pioneer of the healing ministry in late 20th century Britain, but despite the fact that he (and with him many thousands of Christians around the world) had faith not just in God’s ability but also in His willingness to heal him, he nevertheless died of uncured cancer.30 This viewpoint therefore refuses to treat faith as a ‘magic’ which forces the arm of God, and it makes room once again for some of the New Testament miracles which happened without a sick person having faith to be healed. This theology allows for a lame beggar to be healed even though he expected nothing more than money (Acts 3:5Acts 3:5 (ESV)
And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. ), or for another lame man to be healed without having any understanding of Jesus or his mission (John 5:12-13John 5:12-13 (ESV)
They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. ).
The other key strength of this viewpoint is that it takes a more biblical view of the Kingdom of God affecting the whole cosmos together rather than every single individual separately. God’s agenda is the redemption of the whole universe and not just individual people. To reduce the coming of the Kingdom of God to matters of my own individual life and body is to miss the bigger picture that the Kingdom of God brings the complete redemption of the whole cosmos. We groan with the aches and pains of our mortal bodies as part of a universe which longs for God’s redemption of the universe – in a far greater, cosmic sense than just the sickness in my own body (Romans 8:18-25Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ). The charismatic viewpoint rejects the Pentecostal assumption that we are always able to second-guess what God’s perfect Will is for any individual in any given situation. It accepts that a particular healing in this life may not necessarily be the ultimate good in God’s great Master-Plan, and accepts that we will never grasp the fullness of God’s wisdom this side of eternity.31 It can accommodate the fact that the apostles Peter and James both had the same promise of God that “the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” ) and yet the Lord chose that the outworking of this promise for one was deliverance whilst for the other it was execution (Acts 12:1-11Acts 12:1-11 (ESV)
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ).
However, even though there are some real strengths in this fourth viewpoint, I want to suggest that this our traditional viewpoint has some flaws of its own which we need to reconsider and revise to if we are to arrive at a truly healthy theology of healing.
Firstly, it places too much emphasis on a ‘theology of sickness’ which is not actually clearly stated in the Bible. Since Jesus and the apostles regularly spoke about the fact that suffering is an integral part of the Christian life, many who hold to the classic charismatic viewpoint extrapolate that principle to argue that sickness is therefore also a normal way in which God sanctifies Christians and glorifies His Name. However, the list of biblical examples which are used to support this teaching do not bear detailed examination. Job was indeed sick, but Scripture tells us clearly that it was a work of Satan (Job 2:3-7Job 2:3-7 (ESV)
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. ) which was healed by God within months, and that at least one of the reasons for the delay was that those around Job were too busy theorizing about why God might allow suffering to bother to pray for him to be healed. The book of Job was not given to justify a theology of sickness but precisely to prevent people from arguing that God smites people with sickness to deal with their sin! Epaphroditus, Trophimus and Paul were not healed straight away (Philippians 2:25-27Philippians 2:25-27 (ESV)
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. , 2 Timothy 4:202 Timothy 4:20 (ESV)
Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. , Galatians 4:13-15Galatians 4:13-15 (ESV)
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. ), but Scripture tells us that at least one of them did recover after only a short delay so that he was able to leave Galatia. Last, but by no means least, the old classic of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7-102 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV)
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. . He is almost certainly referring back to the Septuagint’s description of troublesome people in Numbers 33:55Numbers 33:55 (ESV)
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. – hence the fact that he calls the thorn an aggelos /angel/messenger which is only ever used in Scripture for a person or spirit and never for a thing – but even if these things were not the case we would need to concede that since the Lord told Paul that He would not remove the thorn in his flesh in order to keep him “from becoming conceited” because of the “surpassingly great revelations” which He had given him, this is unlikely to be the primary reason why many are not healed in our churches.32 When we argue that unhealed sickness is a God-given “thorn”, we prove that we do not believe this deep down for all our claims on Sunday that ‘my sickness is God’s Will for His glory’ because we then visit the doctor’s on Monday – presumably as a rebellious attempt to diminish God’s glory in the world?!
We can say that there is evidence in the Bible that God may not choose to heal everyone immediately, but this is a long way from saying that sickness is either God’s normal means of sanctification or a primary means for His glory. Jesus and the apostles talked very frankly and in some detail about the suffering we must endure as Christians, but not one of them ever talked about the suffering of sickness in this context despite being surrounded daily by crowds of sick people. Importantly, not one of them ever told anyone who came to them for healing that they should go home and continue to glorify God by the faithful way in which they bore their sickness.33 On the contrary, whilst we never read in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that a sick person ever glorified God by remaining sick, we do repeatedly read that they glorified God by being healed! (eg Matthew 15:31Matthew 15:31 (ESV)
so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. ; Mark 2:12Mark 2:12 (ESV)
And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” ; Luke 5:26, 9:43,18:43,19:37Luke 5:26, 9:43,18:43 & 19:37 (ESV)
5:26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
9:43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples,
18:43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
19:37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, ; John 11:4John 11:4 (ESV)
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” ; Acts 4:21Acts 4:21 (ESV)
And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. ). The fact that our ‘theology of sickness’ is overblown is demonstrated by the way that we often call sickness a blessing when Jesus calls it Satan’s prison (Luke 13:16Luke 13:16 (ESV)
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” ) and call death the ultimate healing when Paul calls it “the ultimate enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:261 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV)
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. ). A ‘theology of sickness’ ends up blunting our faith that we have authority over sickness and paints a picture of God which defames His character. As Francis MacNutt writes, “When we say that God sends sickness or asks us to endure it, we are creating for many people an image of God they must eventually reject. What human mother or father would choose cancer for their daughter in order to tame her pride?...Those preachers and chaplains who try to comfort the sick by telling them to accept their illness as a blessing from God are giving an immediate consolation, but at what an ultimate cost! In a sense, we unwittingly treat God as something of a pagan deity, placated by human sacrifice.”34
Secondly, it places too little emphasis on the faithfulness of God to His promises. In reaction to the crass way in which they feel that some Pentecostals have tried to use the promises of God as a means of forcing God’s hand and manipulating Him in to action, many charismatics prefer to emphasize the sovereign freedom of God to heal or not to heal, just as Romans 9 defends His sovereign freedom to save or not to save. This sounds good in theory, but the objection that “the faith confession movement tends strongly to emphasize God’s faithfulness at the expense of God’s freedom”35 creates a false dichotomy which leaves us wondering how it could ever be possible to over-emphasize God’s faithfulness or why He might ever want the freedom to be less faithful?!
The thing that makes the Gospel good news is precisely the fact that in it is revealed a God who grants us what we do not deserve based on the cross of Jesus “from first to last” (Romans 1:17, 8:31-37Romans 1:17, 8:31-37 (ESV)
1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
8:31-37 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. ). The Gospel means that God does make promises to us that in view of the cross of Jesus He will act in one way and not in another, and Paul tells us that this Gospel includes miraculous healing as well as justification (Romans 15:19Romans 15:19 (ESV)
by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; ). Not only do we never find Jesus rebuking anyone who comes to him for presuming too much but only for believing too little (eg Mark 16:14Mark 16:14 (ESV)
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. ), but we actually find Jesus deliberately making himself into a servant in order to demonstrate that we will never receive all that is ours through the cross unless we let him assume this role as the great Giver (John 13:1-9John 13:1-9 (ESV)
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” ). The cry that it is presumptuous to act as if it is God’s Will to heal all who ask Him ignores the great compass of the New Testament promises of healing – such as “Is any one of you sick?...The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:14-15James 5:14-15 (ESV)
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. ) – and it is a far cry from Jesus’ reassurance “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32Luke 12:32 (ESV)
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. ). If all our caveats were indeed true under the New Covenant then the good news of the Gospel would actually mean that God is less willing to heal now and less committed to destroying the work of Satan than He was before Christ came, since in BC times He encouraged people that they could all come to Him with faith for healing (Numbers 21:8-9Numbers 21:8-9 (ESV)
And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. , John 3:14John 3:14 (ESV)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, , Psalm 103:3Psalm 103:3 (ESV)
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, ). Clearly this cannot be the case.
The difficulty with dismantling this deep-rooted belief that God decides to heal or not to heal based primarily on ‘the mystery of His character’ is that deep down we know that His character is far beyond our comprehension and that this is in part the only place for us to take some of our disappointments not seeing people healed. The point is not that there is no mystery in God’s character, but rather that we have placed far too much emphasis on the fact that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29aDeuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. ) and not enough emphasis on the fact that “the revealed things belong to us and to our children” (Deuteronomy 29:29bDeuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. )! God has not left us with the spiritual equivalent of the National Lottery’s promise that “It could be you!” He has given us such great promises that Peter was able to assure a lame man he had only just met that “the thing that I have I give to you” (Acts 3:6Acts 3:6 (ESV)
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” ). The “revealed thing” is that neither Jesus nor the apostles refused anyone who came to them for healing, telling them that it was “not God’s will” or “not yet time” for them to be healed.36 On the contrary, we are told consistently and repeatedly that Jesus healed all the sick who came to him (Matthew 4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35, 12:15, 14:16Matthew 4:23-24, 8:16-17, 9:35, 12:15 & 14:16 (ESV)
4:23-24 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
8:16-17 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
9:35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
12:15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all
14:16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” ; Luke 4:40, 6:19Luke 4:40, 6:19 (ESV)
4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.
6:19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. ), and that the apostles also tended to heal all the sick who came to them (Acts 5:16, 28:9Acts 5:16, 28:9 (ESV)
5:16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
28:9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. ). Another “revealed thing” is that Jesus promised us that “Anyone who has faith in me will do the works I have been doing. He will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12John 14:12 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. ). A final “revealed thing” came on the only occasion that anyone ever came to Jesus with a query over whether he was willing to heal him, and he very quickly corrected his theology with the words “I am willing” and then healed him! (Matthew 8:2-3Matthew 8:2-3 (ESV)
And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. , Mark 1:40-42Mark 1:40-42 (ESV)
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. ). The fact that despite God’s revealed willingness people are sometimes not healed is definitely one of the “secret things”, but we need to move from meditating on what has not been revealed to confidence in what has been revealed. There is no Beatitude that reads “Blessed are those who expect little from God, for they shall not be disappointed”! On the contrary, Jesus encourages us instead that “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see” (Luke 10:23Luke 10:23 (ESV)
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! ).
There are therefore some great strengths to the classic charismatic theology of healing, but we cannot accept that we have arrived yet at a rounded biblical view when we treat Scripture’s silence about sickness as ‘theology’ and Scripture’s promises about healing as a ‘mystery’.
Since we have dismissed the classic liberal and cessationist theologies of healing as decidedly unhealthy, and have seen major flaws in both the classic Pentecostal and charismatic theologies of healing, let’s draw together in conclusion a fifth, more healthy, theology of healing.
What, then, are the vital elements which join together to form a truly healthy theology of healing?
Firstly, there is Jesus Christ, the Messianic King who has brought in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom characterized by miraculous healing (Matthew 11:5, 12:28Matthew 11:5 & 12:28 (ESV)
11:5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. ) as part of the loving character of God.
Secondly, there is the cross of Jesus, where sickness was dealt a decisive death blow and God’s eager desire to heal was matched with the justice and authority to do so. This means that healing is no longer something alien to the here-and-now which occasionally ‘breaks in’ like an intruder who does not really belong here. Satan’s weapon sickness is the real intruder on ground which he lost two thousand years ago. It now belongs to the healing Kingdom of God, and only ignorance about what happened at Calvary will enable sickness to squat there any longer (Hosea 4:6Hosea 4:6 (ESV)
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. , Matthew 28:18Matthew 28:18 (ESV)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ).
Thirdly, there are the healing promises of God which are “the revealed things” which “belong to us and our children forever.” We freely admit that despite God’s revelation that He is willing to heal and has given us authority to heal in His Name, we do not generally see the same success in praying for the sick as many Christians who have gone before us. However, we refuse to construct grand doctrines which speculate about what is not revealed, but simply accept that there are times when even though the cross of Jesus means that God has “put everything under his feet”, nevertheless we have some catching up to do because “at present we do not see everything subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8Hebrews 2:8 (ESV)
putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. ).
Putting these three things together, we accept the small question marks which remain in our practice of the healing gifts, but press forward in faith that our experience of healing will increase as we move further along from Pentecost to the Parousia. Ezekiel’s river of the Spirit got deeper and deeper the further on it flowed (Ezekiel 47:1-12Ezekiel 47:1-12 (ESV)
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” ); Jesus’ mustard seed grew bigger and bigger over time (Matthew 13:31-33Matthew 13:31-33 (ESV)
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” ); and the Kingdom of God which Daniel saw inaugurated as a “rock” at the time of the 1st-Century Roman Empire became a “mountain” by the time of the Second Coming (Daniel 2:34-35Daniel 2:34-35 (ESV)
As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. ). We will experience the reality of these pictures as we take God at His Word and preach the good news of the Kingdom.
If we accept this as the right framework for a healthy theology of healing, then there are some important implications for us as charismatics trying to bring our experience of healing more into line with God’s Word. I want to close with four key lessons from Jesus in John 11, which I believe are the four crucial areas of growth for us if we are to see more and more healing in these last days.
1) THE WISDOM OF GOD
Jesus displayed great wisdom in his healing ministry when John tells us that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6John 11:5-6 (ESV)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. , lit Greek, cf KJV/RSV/ESV). He recognized that there is a “sickness which ends in death” (verse 4John 11:4 (ESV)
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” ), and he had absolute confidence that the Father’s Will was to heal those who were not ill with such a sickness (verses 41-42John 11:41-42 (ESV)
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” ). Nevertheless, he had such a high regard for the Father’s perfect timing in bringing miraculous healing (John 5:19John 5:19 (ESV)
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. ) that he refused to presume that God’s willingness would always result in automatic and immediate healing. Only the foolish onlookers made that mistake (verse 37John 11:37 (ESV)
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” ).
If we minister with the wisdom of Jesus, then we also will share his triumphant but not triumphalistic approach to praying for the sick. We will be able to reassure people that it is not lack of faith for them to go to a doctor (Colossians 4:14Colossians 4:14 (ESV)
Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. , 1 Timothy 5:231 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)
(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) ), nor for those suffering from infertility to adopt children (Ephesians 1:5Ephesians 1:5 (ESV)
he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, , Esther 2:15Esther 2:15 (ESV)
When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. ). We will be able to give reassurance to those who have not yet been healed, and to offer them encouragement either to press on in faith towards healing or to press on in faith towards the victorious death which gains the promised resurrection body. Jesus’ wisdom in verse 44John 11:44 (ESV)
The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” involved sensitive follow-up for those he prayed for, and not just a time of power ministry.
This wisdom of Jesus in verse 23John 11:23 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” also saves us from perhaps the biggest error which prevents us from seeing more miraculous healing in our churches today, and this is a false understanding of what it means to be pastoral. Any church leader who has prayed for the sick and seen some of them fail to receive healing knows the terrible anguish and pain which can result both for the person receiving prayer and for the person doing the praying. It is understandable that some of us tacitly decide that we will downplay the biblical promises of healing in our churches in order to spare people any further disappointment. Understandable, but very, very wrong.
The wisdom of Jesus shows us that whilst this may be an expression of loving care, it is not pastoral in any biblical sense of the word. In Paul’s great teaching for the Ephesian eldership team on what it means to be “shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” and pastors of “the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28Acts 20:28 (ESV)
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. ), he makes it very clear that there is one sin, one great and heinous sin, that he or any other Christian pastor might commit in shepherding a local church, and that sin would be if he “hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you” (Acts 20:20Acts 20:20 (ESV)
how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, ). Since miraculous healing is not merely an authentication of the Gospel but part of the Gospel itself (Romans 15:18-19Romans 15:18-19 (ESV)
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; ; Matthew 4:23, 9:35Matthew 4:23, 9:35 (ESV)
4:23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
9:35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. ), then to decide to downplay part of the Gospel because of trials and disappointments along the way is not being pastoral, it is being disobedient. Paul reminds us that “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a Gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8Galatians 1:8 (ESV)
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. ), and just in case we failed to grasp the full importance of this message with regard to our teaching about healing, he repeats it a second time when he places a curse on us if we downplay any aspect of the Gospel: “Now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a Gospel other than what you received, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:10Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ). This is very serious indeed!
As those called by God to pastor His Church, we dare not back away from the Bible’s theology of healing and so abdicate this ministry to evangelists and ‘charismatic specialists’. James tells local church elders to make sure that they are at the very heart of the healing ministry (James 5:14-16James 5:14-16 (ESV)
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ), and only when the wisdom of God is expressed through the elders appointed by God will we have a context free from the opposite evils of a false ‘theology of sickness’ and a false triumphalism. Being truly pastoral means taking a lead to bring miraculous healing to the sheep in our care, whilst offering continued love and care for those who for some reason are still experiencing the delay of John 11:5-6John 11:5-6 (ESV)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. .
2) THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Jesus’ prayer in verses 41-42John 11:41-42 (ESV)
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” is based almost entirely on his relationship with the Father and not on any formula for praying for the sick. His confidence that the sick would be healed was not based on a technique he had come to know, but on the Father he had come to know. Perhaps this is why Jesus began entrusting the healing ministry to us by choosing Twelve “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14-15Mark 3:14-15 (ESV)
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. ). We cannot bypass this principle and hope to minister healing through the Holy Spirit without first coming into an intimate friendship with Him. No servant is greater than his master (John 13:16John 13:16 (ESV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. ).
Some hope to see miraculous healing as an automatic right so long as people have enough faith to receive it, but Jesus did not operate based on that formula. Martha only had a little faith (verses 21-27John 11: 21-27 (ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” ), Mary had less faith (verse 32John 11:32 (ESV)
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ), the onlookers had even less faith (verse 37John 11:37 (ESV)
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” ), and of course dead Lazarus had no faith at all! And yet even in this context of little faith the miracle came.
Others hope to see miraculous healing through techniques such as laying on hands, speaking commands rather than prayers, anointing with oil, ending prayers with the words in the name of Jesus, and so on, but we must note that the gospel writers deliberately contrive to prevent us from seeing any comprehensive formula in the healing ministry of Jesus. If we only had the Matthew account of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law then we would assume that laying on hands was the key factor in her healing (Matthew 8:14-15Matthew 8:14-15 (ESV)
And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. ), but Mark’s account of the same healing would lead us to assume that helping her to her feet was the key factor (Mark 1:29-31Mark 1:29-31 (ESV)
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. ), and Luke’s account would lead us to assume that rebuking the fever was the key factor (Luke 4:38-39Luke 4:38-39 (ESV)
And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. ). Matthew, Mark and Luke all give us partial accounts of the methods which Jesus used in his ministry because they want to keep us focused on Jesus as the perfect example of ministering in partnership with the Holy Spirit, not on any secret formula (Matthew 12:28Matthew 12:28 (ESV)
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. , Luke 4:18, 5:17Luke 4:18 & 5:17 (ESV)
4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
5:17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. , Acts 10:38Acts 10:38 (ESV)
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ). The same is true for the healing of blind Bartimaeus. If we only had Luke’s account then we would assume that the key factor was Jesus commanding him to “See!” (Luke 18:35-43Luke 18:35-43 (ESV)
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. ); if we only had Matthew’s account then we would assume that the key factor was the laying on of hands (Matthew 20:29-34Matthew 20:29-34 (ESV)
And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. ); and if we only had Mark’s account then we would assume that the key factor was proclaiming over him “Your faith has healed you" (Mark 10:46-52Mark 10:46-52 (ESV)
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. ). Perhaps Luke gives us the most damning assessment of reliance on a formula rather than relationship when he tells us that the seven sons of Sceva were seeing some success in the healing ministry using the words “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out” – a well worked formula if ever there was one! – until one day they learned a very salutary lesson (Acts 19:13-16Acts 19:13-16 (ESV)
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. ).
Jesus clearly attributes the miracle at Lazarus’ tomb to the intimacy of his prayer life with the Father, the same thing he taught when he told the disciples in Mark 9:29Mark 9:29 (ESV)
And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” that he was only able to heal because he had communed intimately with God through “prayer and fasting.” The Old Testament had long taught that removing the sin which hinders our walk with God is a vital step towards seeing miracles of healing (Isaiah 58:6-8Isaiah 58:6-8 (ESV)
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. ), and so it should not surprise us that Paul also stresses the prime importance of our walk with God when he tells us that “gifts of healings” come as the Holy Spirit “apportions them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:9, 111 Corinthians 12:9, 11 (ESV)
to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits... All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ). Both Old Testament and New Testament testify together that the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring healing through any person who allows His River to flow through them (Ezekiel 47:12Ezekiel 47:12 (ESV)
And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” , Revelation 22:2Revelation 22:2 (ESV)
through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. , John 7:37-39John 7:37-39 (ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. ). Therefore we need to reject any confidence we have in formulae so that we can place our full confidence in fellowship with the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. ) and let His River flow through us (2 Corinthians 13:142 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. , Philippians 2:1Philippians 2:1 (ESV)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, , 1 Corinthians 3:91 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)
For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. ). When we know intimate fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit then the healing comes through His initiative, not through our know-how.
3) THE PASSION OF GOD
The passion which gripped Jesus’ soul and which brought about such a great miracle was primarily the love of God. John comments three times in the first half of the chapter that Jesus was filled with love for Lazarus and his family (verses 3, 5 & 11John 11:3, 5 & 11 (ESV)
So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” ... Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus... After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” ), and even the cynical crowd saw his tears of compassion and commented “See how much he loved him!” (verses 35-36John 11:35-36 (ESV)
Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” ). The united testimony of almost all those who are ministering successfully in the area of healing is that their breakthrough was linked to them beginning to feel the love and compassion of God towards the sick people in front of them. Mahesh Chavda feels this so strongly that he titled his autobiography ‘Only Love Can Make a Miracle’, and he writes that his healing ministry only began after “It was as though the Lord broke off a little piece of his heart and placed it inside me…I was learning that the power of God was to be found in the love of God…The healings came almost as a by-product. I learned that only love can make a miracle.”37 Godly compassion was one of the key factors in Jesus’ healing ministry (Mark 1:41, 5:19Mark 1:41, 5:19 (ESV)
1:41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
5:19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” ; Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14, 20:34Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14, 20:34 (ESV)
9:35-36 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
14:14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
20:34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. ), and it will be in ours too.38
Note, however, that love was not the only passion which gripped Jesus’ soul at Lazarus’ tomb. He was also deeply moved by the righteous anger of God against the devil and the sickness he brings. Twice John uses the strange verb
(verses 33 & 38John 11:33 & 38 (ESV)
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved (embrimaomai) in his spirit and greatly troubled.
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved (embrimaomai) again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. ), which means literally that Jesus snorted like a horse eager to get into battle. He also uses the verb tarasso (verse 33John 11:33 (ESV)
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled (tarasso). ), which means to be churned up like the sea. Jesus was able to confront the rule of Satan powerfully and effectively because he was churned up by its reality and was angered that it had usurped the rightful rule of God. The great healing evangelist John G Lake urges us that the same will be true for us when he tells us that the pivotal springboard for his healing ministry was that when he saw his sister dying, “A great cry to God, such as had never before come from my soul, went up to God. She must not die! I would not have it! Had not Christ died for her? … No words of mine can convey to another soul the cry that was in my heart and the flame of hatred for death and sickness that the Spirit of God had stirred within me. The very wrath of God seemed to possess my soul!”39 The sad truth is that the reason why much sickness remains around us is that we acquiesce to its existence and bring no godly challenge to its pretended authority.
A third passion which gripped Jesus’ soul in this passage was a passion for the glory of God. The reason he delayed to come to Lazarus’ bedside was that his number one priority was “God’s glory” (verse 4John 11:4 (ESV)
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” ), and his shorthand description for the miracle he was about to perform was “the glory of God” (verse 40John 11:40 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” ). He had no qualms about risking his own reputation outside Lazarus’ tomb because he had already counted his own glory as nothing compared to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:6-7Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV)
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ). Sadly, many of us care too much for our own reputation and too little for the glory of God. We will only begin to see more healing when we realize that the Kingdom came through Jesus looking foolish on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:181 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. , Hebrews 12:2Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ), and it has only ever advanced through his followers being willing to look foolish for His sake too (1 Corinthians 4:9-101 Corinthians 4:9-10 (ESV)
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. ). Unless we are so passionate to see God being glorified that we are willing for ourselves to be vilified, then we will see very few miracles of healing in our own generation.
4) THE FAITH OF GOD
The fourth and final principle which Jesus demonstrates in this chapter is the crucial role which faith plays in ministering miraculous healing. The gospel writers consistently emphasize that faith is vital if anyone is to be healed (eg Matthew 9:22Matthew 9:22 (ESV)
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. , Mark 10:52Mark 10:52 (ESV)
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. , Luke 17:19Luke 17:19 (ESV)
And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” , Acts 14:8-10Acts 14:8-10 (ESV)
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. ), but Jesus and the apostles took responsibility for having this faith themselves rather than rebuking the sick for not having enough faith. Jesus was happy to restore Lazarus’ decaying body despite the distinct atmosphere of doubt in Bethany, and Peter was equally happy to heal the lame man at the Beautiful Gate despite the fact that his expectation was all about money not miracles (Acts 3:5Acts 3:5 (ESV)
And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. )! The closest that Jesus ever comes to praying for a sick person in the gospels is in this very passage, but note that it is not a prayer that the Father might heal “if it is your will.” Instead, it is the bold statement that “I thank you that you have heard me…I only said this for the benefit of the people standing here so that they may believe” (verses 41-42John 11:41-42 (ESV)
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” ).
Now this does not mean that we should place the same emphasis as many Pentecostals on the size of our faith being the crucial factor in receiving healing. Jesus responded to this kind of theology in the mouths of his disciples by telling them that even if they had a tiny amount of the right kind of faith then it would be enough to bring about even the greatest kind of Holy Spirit miracle (Luke 17:5-6Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)
Luke 17:5-6). Jesus’ emphasis is not on the size of our faith but on the substance of our faith – namely our faith that God is not only able to heal each person but is also willing to heal them too. This is the great battleground in which the Kingdom of God advances.40
We have not placed enough confidence in God’s willingness to heal those around us because we would rather not attribute their continued sickness to our own actions. We may be more passionate for our own glory than for His glory, or our faith may be in our method rather than in His character, or we may simply prefer to hang onto cherished sin rather than become vessels for the Holy Spirit. We find this in Matthew 17:14-23Matthew 17:14-23 (ESV)
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” --- As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. where despite the fact that Jesus had given the Twelve “authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 10:1Matthew 10:1 (ESV)
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. ), the combined efforts of nine of them failed to heal a child with epilepsy because the disciples lacked faith in the Father’s willingness (Matthew 17:16-20Matthew 17:16-20 (ESV)
And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” ) and had not pursued the kind of intimacy with the Father which results in effective partnership (Matthew17:21Matthew 17:21 (ESV)
But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting (Note: This verse does not appear in most authoritative manuscripts)).
We have not placed enough confidence in God’s willingness to heal those around us because we would rather not attribute their continued sickness to our lack of the persistent prayer which characterizes true faith. Mark tells us that on one occasion Jesus “entered a house and did not want anyone to know it,” and therefore appeared more unwilling to heal than at any other point in the gospels (Mark 7:24-30Mark 7:24-30 (ESV)
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. ). Note, however, that Mark carries on to tell us that even on this occasion he quickly granted healing when he saw evidence of persistent and genuine faith on the part of a Gentile mother. The Lord had been actually been willing to heal all along, but had been waiting to see genuine faith expressed in the kind of perseverance he both demanded (Luke 18:1-8Luke 18:1-8 (ESV)
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” ) and displayed personally (Mark 8:22-25Mark 8:22-25 (ESV)
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. ). Most of those who see any fruit in ministering healing bear testimony to the way in which the Lord taught them to express faith in His willingness in spite of their bad experiences along the way. John Wimber’s breakthrough was in response to God’s command, “Don’t preach your experience, preach my Word.”41
To those who refuse to believe that God is willing to heal those around them, Jesus gives no proof beyond his promises. He will not let us spiritualise the words of Scripture any more than he let Martha in verses 23-27John 11:23-27 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” , but asks us plainly “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (verse 40John 11:40 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” ). Of course we would prefer it if Jesus would come into line with the English proverb that “seeing is believing”, but he does seem quite insistent that, on the contrary, “believing is seeing.” He seems resolutely committed to the statement that we will only fully minister in healing when each of us “does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen” (Mark 11:23Mark 11:23 (ESV)
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. ).
To those who struggle with past disappointments, Jesus says tenderly that “For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe” or “so that you may have faith” (John 11:15John 11:15 (ESV)
and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.). He does not feel the need to justify himself to us, but simply calls us to have the same confused but determined faith as Martha, who told him that “If you had been here then my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (verses 21-22John 11:21-22 (ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” ). Kathryn Kuhlman testified that “No one really knows how I hurt inside when a service is over, and I see those who have come in wheelchairs leaving in the same wheelchairs in which they came... But the answer I must leave with God. And one of these days, when I get home to glory, I’m going to ask Him to give me the answer from His own lips, as why everyone is not healed.”42 Lex Loizides testifies that once when he was crying out to God over an individual who had not been healed, he heard God give him the simple reply “Yes, we must pray more, mustn’t we?”43 Those who see God healing people in response to their commands in Jesus’ name are those who have pressed through the disappointments of verse 21John 11:21 (ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." to find the faith of verse 22John 11:22 (ESV)
"But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” .44
Finally, to those of us who are digesting the words of this paper in an earnest desire to grasp a healthy theology of healing for the sake of the glory of God in our generation, Jesus tells us to place our faith him as “the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (verse 27John 11:27 (ESV)
She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” ) and in the fact that he brought a Kingdom which is characterized by supernatural healings (Matthew 11:2-6Matthew 11:2-6 (ESV)
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” ). His closing instructions to us are similar to the ones he gave to the men of Bethany when he commanded them to “Take away the stone” (verse 39John 11:39 (ESV)
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” ). Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked for help to move the stone away from the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb? Surely the one who ministered in enough power to raise the dead also had enough power to move a stone as part of the same miracle? Of course he did. He didn’t want to. He deliberately called the men of Bethany to take one small step of faith so that this could form a catalyst for the miraculous work of God. In our lives, this will probably not mean moving physical stones, but it may well mean moving the deadweight stone of false theology about healing – even such mighty rocks as a resistance to the link which Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8 make between physical healing and the death of Jesus on the cross. It may well mean moving the heavy stone of fear in order to risk looking foolish so that God might look great. It may be moving the stone of passivity so that we get ready to pray for healing the next time, and every time, that we come into contact with sickness. It may even be as simple as moving our heavy bodies out of bed a few minutes earlier each morning in order to give ourselves to prayer and fasting and to the intimacy with God which enables Him to use us as partners with His Holy Spirit.
Jesus cheers us on, urging us to move these stones and encouraging us with the promise “Did I not tell you that if you believed then you would see the glory of God?” (verse 40John 11:40 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” ). The men of Bethany moved forward to move the stone. Heaven waits with baited breath to see if we will do the same in our generation.
Phil Moore, Woking 2008
1 Several verses link sickness not only to demonic activity but specifically to sin which opens up a door for demons and sickness. The clearest verses are James 5:14-16James 5:14-16 (ESV)
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. and 1 Corinthians 11:27-311 Corinthians 11:27-31 (ESV)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. , although Jesus warns us in John 9:1-3 that we must not over-emphasize the link between sin and sickness. Sin may open a door for sickness, but Job’s sickness was demonic in origin yet came in spite of him being the most righteous man on earth! (Job 1:3-7Job 1:3-7 (ESV)
He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” ) (Return to footnote location)
2 For example, even though it is helpful to refer to a ‘classic Pentecostal view’, it is over-simplifying the case to imply that all Pentecostals therefore hold to this view. Gordon Fee is a Pentecostal whose book ‘The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel’ (USA, 1979) argues against the classic Pentecostal view that ‘healing is in the atonement’. Fee was very disenchanted by many Pentecostal preachers whom he felt abused this teaching with their man-centred and hedonistic messages of ‘health and wealth’ through the cross of Jesus. (Return to footnote location)
3 Rudolph Bultmann ‘Jesus Christ and Mythology’, p37-38, (USA 1958) (Return to footnote location)
4 Quoted from an article by Langon B Gilkey in ‘The Journal of Religion’ (Vol 41, No 3, July 1961, University of Chicago Press, p194-205) entitled ‘Cosmology, Ontology, and the Travail of Biblical Language’ (Return to footnote location)
5 Rudolph Bultmann ‘Jesus Christ and Mythology’, p84 (USA 1958) (Return to footnote location)
6 Richard B Gaffin in his co-authored book ‘Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views’, (USA 1996) (Return to footnote location)
7 It is important that we do not misunderstand the phrase cessationism to mean a belief that divine healing itself has ceased, but only the charismatic gifts of healing as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 and described in operation in the book of Acts. Perhaps one of the clearest insights into what cessationists actually believe is afforded by Walter Chantry in his book ‘Signs of the Apostles’ (USA, 1973) in which he explains that “There is no Biblical reason to limit God to performing miracles at certain seasons only. No doubt God is yet executing unusual feats of power…It is plain that God’s working of wonders cannot be limited to ages past. ‘Charismatic’ enthusiasts, however, are not merely claiming that God is doing miracles in the twentieth century. They are asserting that some twentieth century men have power to perform miracles…The question of our inquiry is not ‘Should God be working miracles today?’ It is rather, ‘Should men be doing miracles on behalf of God?’…Serious students of God’s Word must deny that miracles are being performed today by men who are filled with God’s Spirit” (p8-9 & p116). The issue for Chantry and other cessationists is that if men and women today have been given the same gifts of healing as the NT apostles, then somehow the finality and supremacy of the New Testament Scriptures will be compromised. (Return to footnote location)
8 Cessationism grew out of a fear that Pentecostal miracles were creating a ‘cult of man’ in which Christians placed more value on what was taught by an anointed man or woman of God than on the words of the Bible. Walter Chantry writes in ‘Signs of the Apostles’ (USA, 1973, p23) that “Great numbers believe the opinions of those who perform wonders because their ‘gifts’ indicate that they are ‘filled with the Spirit’. The implication of such logic is clear. How can anyone question the doctrines of miracle workers?...‘Can a man be teaching false doctrine when he does such mighty things?’ ask the captivated.” We would share the concern that charismatic gifts should not be understood as an endorsement of all that a person teaches (1 Corinthians 1:7,12:9 & 15:12-141 Corinthians 1:7,12:9 & 15:12-14 (ESV)
1:7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
15:12-14 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. ; Galatians 3:5 & 1:6-7Galatians 3:5 & 1:6-7 (ESV)
3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
1:6-7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. ), but we understand that the primary purpose of the charismatic gifts was not to authenticate the New Testament canon and therefore we do not see the same need to fight the gifts as many alarmed cessationists (1 Corinthians 12:7 & 14:261 Corinthians 12:7 & 14:26 (ESV)
12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. ). (Return to footnote location)
9 The best verse I have seen used to argue this point is 2 Corinthians 12:122 Corinthians 12:12 (Translation Comparison)
NIV: I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.
KJV: Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
NKJV: Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
ESV: The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
NET2: Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance by signs and wonders and powerful deeds. from the NIV which reads that “the things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.” The argument is that Paul is teaching here that miracles were essentially signs to authenticate true apostles. Unfortunately for those who seize upon this verse as a proof-text, the NIV translates Paul’s Greek in a misleading way. Paul actually says (see original PDF for the Greek) and the dative nouns “signs, wonders and miracles” simply cannot be placed grammatically alongside the nominative noun “the things that mark” an apostle. What Paul actually says literally in Greek is that “the signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, [accompanied] by signs, wonders and miracles.” He is not arguing that miracles authenticate apostles but that his life of suffering in order to plant churches is the sign of a true apostle, and that miracles were one of the key ways in which he planted churches. Not only does this spurious appeal to the misleading NIV translation weaken rather than strengthen the cessationist cause, but on the contrary by drawing our attention to this verse the cessationists remind us once again how we had better not give up on stepping out for miracles of healing if ever we want to see great churches planted in our own generation. (Return to footnote location)
10 Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones underlines how arrogant and foolish it is to assume that now the canon of Scripture has been completed that we need the authenticating sign of miracles less than 1st-Century Christians. He points out that this argument “means that you and I, who have the Scriptures open before us, know much more than the apostle Paul of God’s truth…It means that we are altogether superior…even to the apostles themselves, including the apostle Paul! It means that we are now in a position in which…‘we know, even as also we are known’ by God…Indeed, there is only one word to describe such a view, it is nonsense.” ‘Prove All Things’, p32-33, (published in the UK in 1985) (Return to footnote location)
11 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who cannot strictly speaking be called a ‘cessationist’ because he died before the birth of Pentecostalism ushered in both a rediscovery of the charismatic gifts of healing and the cessationist movement which rejected them, claimed that “The miracles were the great bell of the universe which was rung in order to call the attention of all men all over the world to the fact that the gospel feast was spread; we do not need the bell now.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol 23 p471). The first part of this statement is certainly backed up by Romans 15:18-19Romans 15:18-19 (ESV)
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; , which links the rapid growth of the 1st century Church to signs and wonders, but there is less evidence for the second part of the statement that the Kingdom is now advancing so rapidly that miracles are no longer needed. On the contrary, the experience of those who preach the Gospel in Muslim or Hindu nations, and even our own limited experience in the UK, is that when God rings the “bell” today non-Christians become much more open to receiving the “gospel feast.” It would appear that the “bell” still has a great part left to play! (Return to footnote location)
12 Mark 6:5Mark 6:5 (ESV)
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. tells us that Jesus “could not do any miracles” on one visit to Nazareth, but it goes on to qualify this with “except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Clearly for Jesus a bad ministry time was not failing to see people healed when they came to him in faith, but seeing fewer people coming to him in faith for healing than he hoped. Similarly, when Luke 5:17Luke 5:17 (ESV)
On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. tells us that on a particular occasion “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick”, the phrase comes with no evidence that there were other times when the power of the Lord was not present for healing, but rather appears to stress that this one occasion was particularly fruitful. (Return to footnote location)
13 DA Carson ‘Showing the Spirit’, p166, (USA 1987) (Return to footnote location)
14 John Calvin’s ‘Commentary on 1 Corinthians’, p305. Although Calvin does not refer to Amos 8:11-12Amos 8:11-12 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. , this is a good defense of his position. If the Lord withheld the charismatic gift of prophecy from His People because of their sin, rebellion and unbelief, then we can assume that He also withholds the charismatic gift of healing from His People because of their sin, rebellion and unbelief. The problem with assuming that our lack of experience equates to God’s lack of willingness is that it tries to foist all of the blame for our lack of experience onto God, and therefore abdicates our responsibility to repent and to respond to the Word of God with faith. (Return to footnote location)
15 John Wimber ‘Power Evangelism’, p160, (USA 1985) (Return to footnote location)
16 John Wimber ‘Power Evangelism’, p151-166, (USA 1985). Wimber’s overview of church history includes amongst many others miraculous healings in the time of Augustine in the early 5th century, in the time of Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century, and in the ministry of Martin Luther in the 16th century. Only a crass prejudice against finding any miraculous healing in church history could dismiss the consistent testimonies of all these people of high spiritual caliber as myth or superstition. (Return to footnote location)
17 Jesus put the failure of the Twelve on one occasion to see healing down to their unbelief rather than to any unwillingness on God’s part, and promptly healed the sick person to demonstrate that God had been willing to heal him all along (Matthew 17:16-18Matthew 17:16-18 (ESV)
And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. )! We need to be careful that we do not dismiss the arguments of cessationists out of hand because of their bad experiences, but we cannot ignore the fact that experience affects everyone’s theology of healing. Benjamin B Warfield, the founding father of cessationism, suffered tragedy on his honeymoon in August 1876 when his wife Annie was struck by lightning, resulting in paralysis for the rest of her life. The fact that Warfield spent all 39 years of his married life juggling the twin roles of theologian and carer, without seeing any answer to his prayers and fasting for healing, must have had a significant impact upon his theology. (Return to footnote location)
18 John G.Lake ‘Adventures in God’, p55, written in the USA in the 1920s. (Return to footnote location)
19 Oral Roberts in ‘Abundant Life Magazine’, Sept 1976 edition. (Return to footnote location)
20 Kenneth Hagin ‘Healing Belongs to Us’, p32. (Return to footnote location)
21 Kenneth Hagin ‘Exceedingly Growing Faith’, p10. (Return to footnote location)
22 Taken from DA Carson’s commentary ‘When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10 (USA, 1987) (Return to footnote location)
23 Wayne Grudem ‘Systematic Theology’, p1063, (USA, 1994), my underlining. (Return to footnote location)
24 The Hebrew of Is 53:5 (See original PDF for Hebrew)/by his stripes there is healing for us) is technically an imperfect verb which suggests ongoing action rather than a perfect verb of completed action. The crux of this argument comes not from the Hebrew text but from the fact that when Peter quotes this verse in 1 Peter 2:241 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. he follows the Septuagint reading which places the action in the aorist/past tense (see original PDF for the Greek)/by his stripes you have been healed). (Return to footnote location)
25 Lex Loizides has told this story several times at the ‘Front Edge’ events he has organized in Africa, Europe and India to equip New frontiers leaders to minister in gifts of healing. (Return to footnote location)
26 Henry Knight, writing in ‘The Journal of Pentecostal Theology’, expresses his concerns that based on the teaching of some Pentecostals “Faith is essentially trusting in God’s promises in Scripture rather than trusting in God. Indeed, the believer is assured of healing because, given the spiritual laws and scriptura promises, a faithful God has no choice in the matter” (1993, p69). (Return to footnote location)
27 See p37 & pp146-165 of John Wimber’s book ‘Power Healing’ (USA, 1986). (Return to footnote location)
28 This link between Moses’ piece of wood in Exodus 15:25Exodus 15:25 (ESV)
And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, and the cross of Jesus is not just the result of commentators’ tendency to spiritualize Old Testament passages. Even within the New Testament, we find that the writers take the word cu l on/wood/tree which appears in that verse in the Septuagint, and they use it to refer to the cross of Jesus. See any of Acts 5:30, 10:39,13:29Acts 5:30, 10:39 & 13:29 (ESV)
5:30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.
10:39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,
13:29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. or Galatians 3:13Galatians 3:13 (ESV)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— & 1 Peter 2:241 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. . The counter-argument is that the New Testament use of the word cu l on/wood/tree refers back to Deuteronomy 21:23Deuteronomy 21:23 (ESV)
his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. , but even if we were to accept this supposition then we are still looking at an Old Testament verse which talks about the curse (eg of sickness) only being able to be removed because someone (ie Jesus) hung on a tree for us. (Return to footnote location)
29 Kenneth Copeland quoted in the ‘Calvary Contender’, 15th Sept 1989 edition. (Return to footnote location)
30 Wimber tells a moving account of David Watson’s death in spite of his faith for healing on pp147-149 of his book ‘Power Healing’ (USA, 1986). (Return to footnote location)
31 One of the best examples of our need to admit humbly that we do not fully understand how God works out His promises in Scripture is perhaps the promises which He made to King David in 1 Chronicles 17. God promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne over the kingdom of Israel forever (v7-141 Chronicles 17:7-14 (ESV)
Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’” ), but the outworking of this promise has involved the nation state of Israel ceasing to exist from 70AD to 1948AD and there actually being no Davidic King ruling over Israel or even Judah since 586BC! God is entirely faithful to His promise, and has made David’s great descendant Jesus into the great King of kings who rules over the whole universe, but this much more glorious outworking of the promise is far greater than David fully grasped even in his most inspired Messianic psalms. We must leave room for God to fulfil His promises in a way which is incomprehensibly better than our best interpretations on the basis of our own logic. (Return to footnote location)
32 The Septuagint translation of Numbers 33:55Numbers 33:55 (ESV)
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. refers to people who troubled the People of God as a skolops/thorn in their bodies. We cannot prove that Paul has this verse in mind, but the fact that he also calls it an aggelos/angel/messenger of Satan is certainly personal language. We cannot state categorically that this isn’t an example of sickness, but we certainly cannot state with any credibility whatsoever that it categorically is. (Return to footnote location)
33 The closest example I can find in Scripture which comes anywhere close to this would be in John 11:3-6John 11:3-6 (ESV)
So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. where Jesus delays going to heal Lazarus – in fact delays so long that he dies in the meantime. Technically this is not an example of someone requesting healing, since Mary and Martha merely tell Jesus that “The one you love is sick”, and do not specifically ask for healing. However, this example is worthy of further attention, and this paper deals with it in more detail on p16. (Return to footnote location)
34 Francis MacNutt in his book simply entitled ‘Healing’ (USA, 1974). (Return to footnote location)
35 This quotation comes from Henry Knight’s critique of the Pentecostal position in ‘The Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1993’ entitled ‘God’s Faithfulness and God’s Freedom’ (p69) – as if they were somehow in opposition to one another. (Return to footnote location)
36 See footnote number 33 (Return to footnote location)
37 Mahesh Chavda ‘Only Love Can Make a Miracle’, p84&86, (USA, 1990). (Return to footnote location)
38 Jesus’ healing ministry was not motivated primarily by his desire to prove he was the Messiah, or even primarily by his desire to usher in the Kingdom of God. It was primarily motivated by the compassionate character of God who reveals Himself as Yahweh-Rophe, The-Lord-Who-Heals. Francis MacNutt writes very helpful in his book ‘Healing’ on p110 (USA, 1974) that “Jesus did not heal people to prove that He was God; he healed them because He was God.” (Return to footnote location)
39 John G. Lake ‘Adventures in God’, p50-51. (Return to footnote location)
40 We should not be surprised that this is the main battleground. If we argue that God is willing to help the sick but unable to do so, then we doubt His strength. However, if we argue that He is able to help the sick but unwilling to do so, then we doubt His love. Neither of these views is likely to bring healing because “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he is the rewarder of those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ). (Return to footnote location)
41 John Wimber shares this testimony as one of turning points in his ministry in his book ‘Power Evangelism’ (USA, 1985) (Return to footnote location)
42 Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-76) always refused to be drawn publicly on the question of why God does not always heal. The quotation comes from Jamie Buckingham’s book ‘A Glimpse Into Glory’, p35, (USA 1983) (Return to footnote location)
43 Lex Loizides sharing his testimony at the New frontiers ‘Front Edge’ Conference at King’s Church Catford in May 2007 (Return to footnote location)
44 As ministers of healing, we press through disappointments to focus on what God is doing through us rather than on what He has not done. If only three out of ten are healed then we are still advancing the Kingdom of Heaven and we are still seeing supernatural miracles which bear testimony to God’s glory a third of the time! However, we do need to give an answer to those whom we have not received the healing we pray for. I personally tend to say something along the lines of “Three different things can happen to people when they receive prayer for healing. Some are healed straight away which is wonderful. Some do not sense their healing straight away but discover later that something decisive happened when they were prayed for and that their symptoms change shortly afterwards – this may well be the case for you. Others do not get healed straightaway but are healed the next time someone prays for them, so if this is the case for you then keep pressing into God in faith because He wants to heal you.” One of the best explanations I have heard from another New frontiers evangelist was simply to say “I find that some people are healed when I pray for them and some people are not, but when I look at Scripture I see that Jesus healed everyone. I know that there is still quite a gulf between me ministering healing and Jesus doing so, so I assume that as I get closer to Jesus that more and more people will be healed.” A key principle is to keep the burden of responsibility on you as the minister rather than laying a ‘side-plate of guilt’ on the sick person. Jesus rebuked the disciples for not being able to heal people, but he did not rebuke the sick people for not being healed, even when he might have had grounds to do so (Matthew 17:14-21Matthew 17:14-21 (ESV)
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Some Manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting)). (Return to footnote location)