Following on from the short series on the Holy Spirit Gifts, a brief look at the subject of divine healing.
Healing and the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:7-9
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit…
Of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit this, according to my own experience, is the gift most subject to most debate and anguish. Today I attempt to point your thoughts in the right direction to start you off on your own studies.
I believe that God heals miraculously, apart from medical intervention, in our time.
Problems: One person’s healing has a tendency to shape their theology more than the revelation of scripture. It is then all too tempting for that person to pass on that unfounded conviction which then becomes the doctrine of that group.
1) Healing in the Old Testament
The people in the Old Testament were promised healing and health in certain circumstances. We are unwise to assume those promises all apply to us too simply because it is the same God. A chapter that is addressed to the ancient Israelites speaking of healing (Deut 7:1-2), also told them to destroy the nations that were in the land.
Promises to the Jews concerning healing, which were dependant upon their obedience to certain laws, can not simply be applied to Christians who are not now required to obey those laws (such as animal sacrifice, avoiding certain foods and clothing). See Exodus 21:27; 29:10-14; Deuteronomy 14:21, 28-29; Leviticus 19:19.
In Deuteronomy 29:5 the Jews were told their shoes and clothing would not wear out. If we were to expect their promises of healing to apply to us too, we should also expect the same from our shoes and clothes. We clearly do not.
The Old Testament promises about healing must be viewed in that light and not lifted out of their context carelessly. Such behaviour can not offer genuine hope or comfort to the sick, and friends of the sick, if it is based upon nothing of substance.
2) Healing in the New Testament
That God heals is clearly declared in the New Testament, but it is always clear that obedience to laws, regulation or codes of behaviours is not now required. In the New Testament God is seen to be the one who heals freely, as an undeserved gift even though not all were healed as Jesus went by, including the man at Beautiful Gate in Acts 3:2.
Healing is possible for all Christians today but we do not always receive what we have hoped and prayed for. Although we are not promised healing in all circumstances we have far more. We are far richer. We have relationship with God beyond the wildest dreams of those Old Testament believers. We have the gift of salvation, by faith in Jesus, freely available to all. We have the gifts of the Spirit and the transformation in us brought about by that same Spirit. We have the continual, abiding, supportive, presence of that Spirit. Though healing is not promised to all, these wonders are.
See 1 Peter 1:3-9
Note verses 6-7 “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith…”
Troubles may be allowed but they are not inflicted upon us by God. This scripture however is not about sickness, rather it is about a time of persecution when the believers were pressed to deny their faith. Compare 1 Peter 4:12-16 and Romans 8:18.
Why did Jesus heal?
The healings of Jesus:
- Were an expression of God’s love and compassion, though they also had purpose.
- Were an announcement that he had authority. See Matthew 8:14-16; Luke 13:32; John 4:46-54.
- Heralded the arrival of the Kingdom of God. God’s rule would now be expressed through him and then through his people as they loved their neighbours and prayed for God’s will into situations that would otherwise be according to the will of those in opposition to God’s purposes (“Thy will be done…”). Jesus shows himself to be supreme over all the powers of darkness and he has handed that authority over to us. See Matthew 4:23-24, 9:35, 12:22-29; Luke 9:1-1.
- Did not just make the sick well, it gave clues to the sort of life that could be expected in the future kingdom when all people will be whole.
3) Divine Healing Today
The healings that take place in our world in answer to prayer are not intended to be for all the purposes just mentioned in regard to the healing ministry of Jesus. We are not looking to mimic Jesus, even if we could.
The instruction in James 5:13-18 reveals an early church practice that is very much of the community, the church family, rather the prayers of an individual. It still, however, seems to be an expression of the Kingdom of God to which his people now belong. Jesus had obviously expected a healing ministry to continue after his death, illustrated by his sending out of the disciples (Matt chapter 10; Luke chapters 9 and 10).
Some topics often mentioned in relation to divine healing
Sometimes when Jesus healed, faith is mentioned and at other times it is not. Sometimes he healed when it was unexpected. There is no indication that Jesus expected that people should have assurance they would be healed when they came to him. The claim by some preachers now that we should come expecting does not have a foundation in scripture.
I reject the idea that a person must believe they are healed as they ignore their symptoms, as though it is the power of their own thought that accomplishes their healing. I don’t think this claim is clever or helpful, and it is not supported in the New Testament.
On only one occasion was lack of faith mentioned are a factor. That was the situation of a whole town – Nazareth. It is not that they thought he would not, they thought he could not. It is not that they has little faith, they had no faith. They rejected him. See Matthew 13:51-58; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30.
The gospel, or other New Testament writers do not offer any unambiguous reference to sin having any part in a person’s sickness. Jesus does not link sin to sickness in any way anywhere in the gospels.
Grace! This has to be a guiding principle when we are trying to understand this subject of divine healing in the New Testament age.
“Healing In The Atonement”
A term used by some preachers to claim that just as our justification was accomplished by the finished work of the cross and ready to be claimed, so also our healing was paid for there and is the right of all believers waiting to be claimed. Some scriptures are misquoted to back up this claim. A glaringly obvious fact is that the healings that Jesus performed were before his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection – before the Atonement.
Smith Wigglesworth was a man from Bradford who was used by God in remarkable ways despite not being very literate. His lack of theological grounding left him vulnerable to some silly beliefs. Having started my pastoral ministry in Bradford, I have known people who worked with Smith.
Wigglesworth believed that sickness was caused by demons clinging to a person. In order to drive the demons from the afflicted, he thought he had to use violence, so when he was praying for people and assault them in various ways. Eyewitnesses have told me of seeing him violently, with great force, punch a young woman in the stomach. I have it on good authority that after a tragic incident he stopped that practice. Although we know he was mistaken, and he stopped doing it, that has not stopped others more recently from mimicking Smith without knowing why he did it and why that behaviour is such an error.
Does God heal today?
Of course! Countless testimonies from those healed and from eye witnesses.
For those seeking healing in the context of long term ill health, some things I suggest:
(a) Remember, healing is a gift of grace. It does not depend upon you.
(b) Own your own prayer for healing. You must decide how you might want to present yourself to God. Ensure you are in control, that it is your decision, and that you are not manipulated by others who are using you to deal with their own baggage.
You have options:
- You could present yourself for prayer every time their is a public opportunity for prayer.
- Or you could wait and only respond on those occasions that you feel particularly promoted by the Holy Spirit to do so.
- Or you could present your need do God and leave it there, confident in the knowledge that God knows that your heart cries constantly to him.
(c) Be merciful to those who say silly things.
From which I have lifted some content for this sermon. Because he is a friend I am confident he will not sue me!
Healing and Suffering. Biblical and Pastoral Reflections. By Keith Warrington
A YouTube you might like about healing.