In discussing the variances between Christianity and Jehovah's Witnesses, a friend who is a Jehovah's Witness made the following comment:
Some religions practice the healing by laying on of hands. And yet the Bible says that healing was done away with after all the first century Christians died.
I have to wonder why people believe this to be a fact that "the Bible says." A lot of Christians believe this as well (Cessationists). However, they struggle greatly with presenting a Bible based argument. It seems to me that for those who believe this, their belief is not really because "the Bible says" but for other reasons - often because it's simply what they've been told or what they've personally experienced.
I grew up attending churches that believed it was not only God's desire that people receive healing, but that God still heals today. I'm thankful for this as it wasn't until I was older that I realized how many churches believe that healing was done away with, officially, after the time of the new testament. As an adult, I've read the arguments on both sides and from a straight biblical standpoint, the cessationists have no footing. Their view is steeped in experience. Following experience above the actual words of God is never a wise position, and while I have had awesome experiences, the ultimate and only source of truth is the word of God. We must take our experiences and say, "Does this line up with the word of God, or is this contrary to the word of God, or does this miss the mark of the fullness of God's word?"
First, my experiences. Of the many I have seen and had, I will discuss only five - one witnessed, one experienced through me and three experienced by me.
While I saw a number of miraculous healings as a young person attending church, two stick out in my mind even to this day. The first involved a female a year or two older than me. Her name was Kelly. My mom had met her mom shortly after moving to the area in the mid 1970s and their family attended the same schools and church as I did. Kelly had one leg shorter than the other. She always had. I'm not talking an inch or two so that she walked funny but no one could really tell - I'm talking several inches. She had to have special bottoms made for all her shoes so she could stand up straight. She would have to have pants hemmed differently for each leg. It was obvious. Her shoes were almost comical with the one super tall sole. One day they prayed for her short leg to be made right with the other leg. It happened instantly. For the rest of the night Kelly had to walk around carrying her shoes because they would have put her very lopsided had she tried to wear them. I remember joking to her that she'd have to buy all new shoes and she added that she'd have to get new pants. Her legs were perfectly normal for the rest of the time I knew her, and as far as I know, are still so today. I've heard of several similar stories to this one, but unlike the others, I was there and witnessed this one. Kelly wasn't some plant in the audience who knew how to make it look like one leg was shorter than the other - her one leg was shorter than the other and had been that way the entire time I'd known her. It was a miraculous healing that occurred in an instant.
The second incident is also from my younger years and is the first true healing that I remember happening to me. I had been in my room and kneeled down quickly and accidentally put my knee on a thumbtack. It went in and hurt terribly. Over the next few days my leg got all swollen, terribly painful, and I could not bend my knee. Ultimately, my mom took me to church to meet the pastor to pray about it. My guess is we didn't have insurance or at least the money for a doctor. Besides, isn't God the first place we should turn? I remember the pastor praying over my knee. The relief was nearly instant. In a matter of minutes the swelling went down and the pain left. I could bend my knee. An obvious infection that had been increasing quickly for a couple of days had simply, quickly vanished. God is good.
The third story also happened to me. I was in my freshman year of college and (the doctor assumed) because of a poorly sanitized hot tub at the school rec center I got a significant infection in my belly button. Health service was included at the college so I was able to get an antibiotic. It did not help so eventually I was given another antibiotic. With this, the infection continued to grow. It was visually disgusting - swollen, colored, oozing pus and with lines spreading out and away from my belly button. I was sent to the hospital where I was told that within 24 hours I needed to be checked into a hospital and would have to have surgery to remove (cut out and suck out) the infection and that traditional oral or shot antibiotics would not be able to do anything on their own. It was then described that I would have to have a pic line for a constant feed of antibiotics to completely rid the rest of the infection as it was spreading into my internal organs. This was to either involve going back home to have my family doctor set up or checking in to the hospital on my own at the college. I would miss at least a week of classes. I was in a good amount of pain and as a young man freshly on my own, I was rather frightened by the idea of everything. I left the hospital and instead of making plans to ether check in at the local college hospital or go home, I went to my friend Marc, whom I knew from church. He was a year ahead of me and lived in my dorm above me one floor. I explained the situation and showed him the infection. Gross. We prayed. Instantly I could feel a difference, though no visual difference was noted. Within no more than 60 minutes that "feeling a difference" equated to "no pain whatsoever." I did not finish the antibiotics I had - not taking a single one after we prayed. They clearly had not been working which is what lead to the college health department sending me to the hospital in the first place. Over the next week or two the visual aspects of the infection went away and I was left with a new belly button.
Let me explain that last line. This is my favorite part of this story. Before the infection I had always had an "outie." Whereas most people's belly buttons sink in, mine stuck out as a weird knob of tightly wrinkled flesh. I had always hated it! It embarrassed me greatly. I was a skinny kid so this easily stuck out and was visible with t-shirts. I hated going without a shirt, even at the pool, because it was a feature of me that drew comments from others. As an insecure teenager, it bothered me greatly. As the visual impact of the infection healed up after the pain had left almost instantly, my belly button changed from an outie to an innie. It now looks perfectly normal, and has ever since my freshman year of college. To me, the healing was God being gracious and faithful to his word, but changing the shape and design of my belly button was God saying "I even care about the silly things that shouldn't bother you, but do." This whole incident was truly a great miracle for me.
The fourth occurred later in my college years. I was at a March for Jesus rally in Toledo, Ohio. If you've not heard of a March for Jesus rally, they are similar to a Gay Pride parade, but instead of celebrating being gay, they celebrate the greatness of our God and King. Anyway, the music pastor from my church was there helping to set up and he burned his hand on a generator. It was obviously, visually, painful and as he was supposed to be leading worship for our section of the parade, it was a great distraction to him in the moment. He asked me to pray with him about it and we did. He said thank you and continued working, as things needed done. After the rally he came up to me and told me that within a few minutes of our praying he forgot about even having been burned, as the pain and reddened seared flesh was gone. God had brought healing. Once again, God is good.
The fifth involves God's gracious timing and prompting, and in this healing a surgeon was used by God (God can work through doctors at times and he can work without doctors at times and he can work in spite of doctors at times). I had had a small lump on my back for a number of years in my mid to late 20s. Only once had I asked a doctor about it during a work required physical and he simply said "if it ever changes, see a doctor." In the late 90s and early 2000s I was working at a private Christian homeschool setup. It was here that the lump on my back began to bug me. It had grown a bit and was uncomfortable if I leaned back in certain chairs. I was self-employed and had no insurance, but I knew in my heart that I needed to get a job with insurance. Over the course of a month or so I left my position and placement was found for all my students. The grace here was not only that I was able to leave my position, but I was able to do so without any serious disruption to others. I got a job as a manager at a Bob Evans, knowing I could have insurance within 30 days, which wasn't that bad for such a job, as often people waited 6 months at that time (~2000). God's timing was perfect, even when I didn't think it was. What was supposed to take only 30 days (getting my insurance card) actually took closer to 40. Once I did I had an appointment set up and had the tumor removed by my family doctor. We chatted the whole time (I was only under a local anesthetic) and he even let me see the tumor as we cut it in half to look inside. What he had originally thought would be an oily cyst turned out to be a fatty tumor. It was cool looking - almost as if the white fat glowed inside. He decided to send it off to a lab, "just to be safe, though it's probably just a fatty tumor." He sewed me up and told me to be careful about stretching my back (don't lift your arms too high). For the time, I forgot about it and returned to life as normal.
A couple of weeks later I got a call on my cell while I was at work. It was a receptionist for a doctor I had never heard of confirming my possible surgery for two days later depending on another appointment tomorrow. Upon realizing I had no idea what she was talking about and confirming that I was indeed who I am, she got the surgeon. The surgeon was clearly annoyed at having to talk to me, because he was baring some very bad news over the phone. Apparently when my family doctor got the lab results back they forwarded them on to the specialist, but neglected informing me of the results. Anyway, the surgeon went on to explain what I had (a word I could not make out with his heavy accent), but it was cancer. He was quite negative, telling me how the surgery was scheduled but it was likely I would not need it as he was positive that the cancer would have metastasized and spread through my body at this late stage. I was to have a PET scan the next day to confirm this, and if, on the unlikely chance that it had not metastasized, I would have to have the surgery. The doctor told me it was very likely I would die from this and that it would happen quickly. I was encouraged to have my things in order. He didn't tell me to have my things in order because there is inherent risk in all surgeries. He told me that in his professional opinion, there was no real hope.
Needless to say, I left work that day without saying anything to anyone and went home. I remember someone asking if I had just seen a ghost as apparently I was as white as one myself. I just kept going out the door.
Well, the PET scan came out okay and I was set for surgery the next day. They were going to excise the entire area and all the musculature around the spot on my back where the original tumor had been removed. I was told I would never do various things again. Apparently doctors assume everyone plays golf or tennis, because those are two things I remember him saying would be forever impossible for me. Additionally, I was promised that I would not be able to stand correctly or hold my torso straight anymore due to all the missing musculature. I would not be able to lift anything. My life, though saved, was to be forever changed even if I did everything right during the recovery process. The doctor made it clear - this wasn't going to be temporary... these changes were forever.
I was with my mom at that time. We didn't accept that word. I had peace, and I knew I would be fine. I want to interject here. I really did have peace. I've known people who have cancer and it's miserable for them. They fear death and live in a constant state of believing they are going to die - and they are frightened by that. They are tortured by their minds more than the cancer. And with the exception of 15 minutes, I did not have that. For fifteen minutes that night, though, I do believe God did lift his hand of grace just so I could experience what my situation was like for so many, many others who don't have the peace of God. It was truly horrible - fifteen of the worst minutes of my life. And I know so many people experience that constantly with such a diagnosis. That fifteen minutes gave me grace and empathy for others, and gave me a thankfulness I never would have had for God's peace given to me.
Surgery was the next morning. It was the one time in life I lost time. When you sleep, you wake up the next morning knowing time has passed. You don't think about this until you wake up one day not knowing time has passed. It was weird. The surgery lasted a few hours and when I woke up, I was confused as to why I couldn't roll over as I was (or so I thought), still just getting onto the elevator on the gurney to go have the surgery. The surgery was excessively invasive. They removed a good chunk of my back, just as they had promised. They shaved the top layer of skin off the back of my right leg to replace the skin they removed from my back. The back had no feeling (and really, still doesn't have surface feeling today), but the leg hurt terribly (and still has welts today). For a month I was not allowed to do much beyond lay on my belly not lifting my hands above my shoulders and not lifting my elbows at all. This was to keep the skin graft from stretching and tearing. I knew to hold to this because when I had been sewn up from the initial tumor removal I didn't pay well enough heed to not stretch my back and ended up bleeding at work the day before I found out I had the cancer.
I was told I'd be taking three months off before I could do any sort of work and that if my job as a manager involved much physical labor, I wouldn't be able to do that ever again, but I ended up going back to Bob's at around the two month mark. The leg had some painful issues along the way as I became reactive to one of the medications (apparently this happens to 10% of the population, but I was not told about the possibility so I just kept putting more on until an ER visit was required). Once back at work, my back slowly healed up. It was frightful to look at at first. Mom cried when she saw it. It looked like someone had dug a swimming pool into my back so that if I laid on my belly you could fill it with water for small creatures to enjoy. We laughed at that thought. The excised skin was tested for the cancer. All was clean, though the initial lump removed had been tested by multiple labs and was positive. I even had a friend who worked in a lab in Texas get a sample, and her team agreed with the original diagnosis and prognosis.
The team of doctors recommended radiation. While I did have peace regarding the surgery, I did not about the radiation, even before the "straw" that ultimately made me back out completely (I had been talked into getting mapped for the radiation because the doctors were sure they could convince me to go through with it). The people mapping me thought I was asleep but I wasn't (this happened a lot in high school as well - the teachers would get annoyed when calling me out for napping and I responded by telling them the previous few sentences they had said before they "woke me up."). Sometimes I just listen better when I am not looking at anything. Anyway, I heard one of them say this after much discussion... "It's only a kidney... he has another." Later I was shown a body scan of my torso. I was told to look at various black spots around all my organs. I was told that normal people have fat around their organs, but I was really skinny and didn't have that fat. I clearly remember the radiologist saying "I could shake you and all your organs would clank around inside your skeleton like they were loose in a cage." That doctor did come up with a method to save my kidney, but I hadn't had peace from the beginning and I still opted out of the radiation. I knew the cancer had been fully removed and there was no need. No one else was convinced at the doctor's office, but it was my choice.
Now a bit about God's grace and timing.
First: I was initially upset that the medical card took so long to get to me, but if I had been diagnosed a week or two earlier, I would not have been working at Bob Evan's long enough to qualify for extended medical paid leave. While not a lot, I did get full pay for a month and 40% pay for the second month because of that delay. I was not a wealthy man and that money allowed me to keep current on my bills and keep my apartment. However, the doctors all agreed that if I had been diagnosed even a week later, I would be dead today. Everyone was amazed that the cancer had not metastasized and they were certain that I was days, if not hours away from those cells breaking free and spreading through my system. God knew the perfect moment where everything would come into place.
Second: I was promised I'd lose so much freedom of movement and ability to do anything physical. I had also been given stretches to do to help prevent the new skin from adhering to my bones as it healed. I'm lazy about these things, so I know if I had not been working at Bob's (a very physical job - even for management) I would have had much more significant issues with the new skin adhering to the bones. Also, for reasons that I believe are God's restorative muscular grace, I have full use of my back and full strength to do anything I want. While I don't golf or play tennis (specific examples of what the Doctor said I would never be able to do again), I can take a maul and chop up a tree into firewood and I can reach and stretch and do anything I need (sometimes even to my own stupidity, as I did give myself a hernia several years later).
Third: Because the surgeon had a heavy accent, I never could figure out what kind of cancer I had until it was all over and I was discussing things with the radiologist. I asked him to write down what I had, explaining that I had never understood what the surgeon said. He did. I had a leiomyosarcoma - a cancer of involuntary muscles. For me, this would have been the muscles under my skin that cause goosebumps. Because of this, the cancer was easily excisable. Because I didn't know what it was until it was all over, I hadn't had the chance to look up the stats. It was after it was all over that I figured out why the initial conversation was one of "be prepared to die soon." At that time (~2000), this cancer only affected about 3 in 1 million. Roughly 80% of those people die within 2 years. Roughly 80% of the survivors have a recurrence within 2 years, and roughly 80% of those people then die within another 2 years. Most involuntary muscles are in much more difficult to reach places - being superficial (just under the skin) was a grace that allowed me to live. Of the people that get this cancer (at least at that time), only 3.2 out of 100 were expected to live past 4 years. These are facts that God was gracious to not let me know about until after all was said and done. He kept me in peace by keeping me ignorant. Even my family doctor's mistake of sending the lab results on to the surgeon but not telling me was a part of that grace. Thank God for that lapse and the surgeon's heavy accent!
Finally, that job at Bob Evans and the work I did there during the recovery time led me to the career I have today. A customer was watching me and I "randomly" sat down at his table one day even though to me he was a complete stranger (something not like me to do). He told me he'd been watching me and he could get me accepted at a local prestigious private university into one of their graduate programs. He said he could get me an assistantship so it'd all be free. Within two weeks I was enrolled in classes and had left my position at Bob's. I never could have planned that. God had something better in mind and he thrust it on me. My life was forever changed because, completely out of character, I felt should sit down and talked to someone I didn't even know had been in the restaurant before (clearly, I don't pay attention, as he'd been watching me for months). It took a good 20 years after my initial graduation with a BA, but God knew the whole path to my current career all along. God is good.
So, those are a handful of my experiences regarding healing. But as I said at the start, we are not to believe based on our experiences. We are to believe based on what is stated in the word of God... so what does the Bible really say?
I think to answer this, we need to know who God really is. There are seven spots in the old testament where our unchanging God describes himself by his own name. These are known as the seven compound names of Jehovah and they describe his wonderful eternal character and show that he is everything we will ever need. While we will only focus on one, the seven names are:
See, it is all God in the Christian faith. None of it is us. It is God who provides the sacrifice (Jesus) and who is our healer. God is the banner we should proclaim (and not our own) and it is God who is our peace. We are not capable of finding true peace in ourselves. God is the only shepherd who guides us - we get lost on our own and it is God who is our righteousness (our own righteousness is as "filthy rags" - Isaiah 64:6Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. ). And finally, God is always present - he never leaves us.
Let's look at Jehovah Rapha - the Lord our Healer.
Exodus 15:25-26 (when the Israelites were complaining at the water Marah because they could not find fresh water):
And he (Moses) 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, 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.”
The Hebrew for that last part "the Lord your healer" is Yĕhovah rapha'. It is a compound word that means the Lord our healer and it is the name for himself that God chose at that moment to reveal to the Israelites. Make note of that. Man did not name God, God named himself in that moment. Bible Verse Tooltip:
Malachi 3:6Malachi 3:6 (ESV)
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. makes it clear that our God does not change (and it is only because he doesn't change that we are not consumed). If God is our healer at the waters Marah, then God is our healer today. It's the name he has given himself and it is always who he is.
Isaiah 53. I'm always amazed at the complex effort people make to remove the beautiful simplicity of Isaiah 53:5. This verse is a prophecy about Jesus at the cross and what he did for us there. The entire chapter is beautiful. In the ESV verse 5 reads:
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, (some versions will says "the chastisement of our peace was upon him") And by His stripes we are healed.
This verse shows that the sacrifice Jesus made covers every aspect of our being.
He was wounded for our transgressions. The Hebrew word for transgressions here is pesha`. A pesha` is a rebellion or revolt, sin or trespass. We have rebelled and revolted against God and Jesus was wounded for that sin.
He was bruised for our iniquities. The Hebrew word for inequities is `avon. This word means perversity or depravity. It is the guilt of our sinful nature. It is our fallen way of being. Jesus was bruised for our iniquities.
The chastisement for our peace was upon him. Here, peace is the Hebrew word shalowm (shalom). It is a multifaceted word that means completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace. It can refer to tranquility, welfare, health and prosperity. It is the peace of mind that allows us to do things we should be able to do. It is the opposite of fear, obsession, and compulsion. Jesus was chastised so we could have shalom. (or, the chastisement of our peace was upon him so we could instead have the perfect shalom).
And by His stripes we are healed. The Hebrew for healed is rapha'. It is the same word used in the compound name of God from 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.” . Properly, this word means to mend, as by stitching. It means to cure or repair - to thoroughly make whole. It was by the tearing stripes on Jesus' back that we are made whole.
It is the same word used in Genesis 20:17:
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
It is the same word Moses used when he cried to God in Numbers 12:13:
O God, please heal her—please.
When Hezekiah was sick in 2 Kings 20, it was the word God used to show that he would heal Hezekiah.
It is the word used to refer to the physicians in Genesis 50:2Genesis 50:2 (ESV)
And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. and 2 Chronicles 16:122 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. (interestingly, in 2 Chronicles 16:122 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. , Asa seeks not the Lord, but the physicians, and dies).
Not limited to physicians or healing, it is a great word referring to healing in all possible senses. It is used in 2 Chronicles 7:142 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. where God says he will heal our land as we turn to him. But it is used specifically for physical healing in verses such as Leviticus 13:7Leviticus 13:7 (ESV)
But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. , Deuteronomy 28:27Deuteronomy 28:27 (ESV)
The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed. and Ezekiel 34:4Ezekiel 34:4 (ESV)
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. .
It is because of the stripes that Jesus took that we are healed - in every sense of healing. Also note the tense of the original language. It does not say that by his stripes we will be healed or are going to be healed... it says we are healed. We are healed just as much as our sins are forgiven. What Jesus did at the cross covers all of us - spirit (forgiveness from sin and rebellion), soul/mind (we can have peace/shalom) and body (because God is our healer). Nowhere in the Bible does it say one part happens now and another part happens later. In beautiful and complete simplicity, this is what God did for us through Jesus at the cross.
This is why Jesus could say in Luke 5:23:
"Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?".
Jesus did not differentiate between the healing of the lame man and the forgiveness of his sins - so why do we?
Jesus said in Mark 16:16-18:
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The scripture does not read: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe, but only for the next 50 years or so: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
It does not read: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And until the first generation of believers dies, these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Jesus also did not say "...whoever believes and is baptized will be saved... but to only those called apostles will the power be given to... lay their hands on the sick..."
Yet, in our "modern" Christianity we often take the forgiveness part and throw out the rest. We have forgotten the words of the scripture and instead trusted in our eyes, personal beliefs and traditions. In our own way in modern Christianity we have done the very same thing the Pharisees had done, to which Jesus said "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” and “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" (see Mark 7:7-9Mark 7:7-9 (ESV)
in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! ).
As people who claim to believe in the Bible, we need to decide if the Bible is true or if our experiences are true. If our experiences do not line up with what is so plainly found in the word of God, then we need to question - which one is right? If our faith has stopped teaching the word of God, does that make the word of God not true? As Paul said, "What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar" (See Romans 3:3-4Romans 3:3-4 (ESV)
What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” ).
Because God self-names himself as our healer; because Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was for our sin (spirit), peace (mind) and healing (body); because Jesus did not differentiate between being forgiven and being physically healed; and because Jesus said that "these signs will accompany those who believe..." rather than saying "And these signs will accompany some of those who believe or the first of those who believe..."; I do not see how it can be argued that the great promises of scripture are not true for today. There are many that say healing doesn't happen anymore. This belief seems to be rooted in what they have personally observed rather than the word of God. Sadly, their observations are the crux of their faith. Maybe these people should look in a different direction as healings occur all the time, but really, it doesn't matter what anyone sees or even what anyone believes. The only thing that matters is what is written in the Word of God - that is the only source of truth. There is no other.
Does this mean I always experience perfect health? No, it does not. Does this mean that everyone I've ever prayed for has been instantly healed? No, it does not mean that either. But whose report am I going to believe - the report of my own experiences or the truth of God's Word? We are fallible people in a fallen world. I know I don't spend the majority of my time studying the things of God. I watch tv. I go to work. I work on pastimes. But my admitted lack of faithfulness to God's word does not negate his word. Not even a little. Study the arguments of those who believe "the Bible says that the healing was done away with after all the first century Christians died." Even the best of their writers have to admit their case is circumstantial, and they fail to explain away the very self-given name and nature of our eternal and unchanging God as Jehovah Rapha. Some try to teach that the healing 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. doesn't refer to a physical healing, but they are then lost on how to explain why the exact same word "rapha" does refer to physical healing in so many other places in the old testament. They also fail to explain why God would be so careful to speak to spiritual rebellion and our depravity (spirit), our peace (mind) and physical healing (body) (covering all aspects of who we are as fallen people) if God really only was referring to the spiritual aspect of ourselves. This is further compounded by the fact that when Peter quoted this verse, he also used the word for physical healing in the Greek (See 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. - Greek: aomai - compare to the same word used in Matthew 15:28, 29Matthew 15:28, 29 (ESV)
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. ; Luke 6:17Luke 6:17 (ESV)
And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, ; Luke 7:7Luke 7:7 (ESV)
Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. ; John 4:47John 4:47 (ESV)
When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. ; Acts 8:27Acts 8:27 (ESV)
And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship ; and James 5:16James 5:16 (ESV)
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. - all speaking specifically to physical healing). The argument that healing was done away with after the first century Christians died just doesn't hold. It is contrary to the very nature of who God is and it is contrary to what the Bible says that Jesus did for us at the cross. We may like to pick and choose - salvation but not healing, forgiveness but not peace of mind, but it is a package deal. Our experiences can never be the foundation of our faith. We must always choose the word of God.