Faith healers can fill major convention centers wherever they go. Thousands of Christians file in to the convention center because this could be "their day" for healing.
Their healing services are complete with praise and worship songs to God. Messages and testimonies by those who were previously healed and by associated healing evangelists. A special message by the main, gifted, healing minister. A collection where people can place their "seed money" as a token of their faith in God's power to heal. And finally, the healing line where people come up on stage for prayer and healing.
Perhaps you have gone to faith healing services. You may have seen people hoping that God would heal them coming from hundreds of miles away. They sought out God's minister to anoint them with the healing power of God.
People with cancer are cured. People with poor vision have their sight restored. Back pain is eliminated. AIDS is vanquished. People with emphysema breathe freely. Heart blockages are relieved. Arthritis is gone--gone! Gone by the grace of God!
Yet, are these people actually healed?
Various media investigators have followed up on people who attended healing services and received the healer's prayer and touch. Investigators interviewed people receiving "healing", their family and friends, their doctors or other health professionals in an attempt to find a verifiable instance of an actual healing.
What they have found is universally disturbing.
There does not appear to be a single verified case of anyone being healed at a faith healing meeting.
Perhaps you saw the Dateline NBC segment on Benny Hinn. They followed up on a number of people Benny Hinn declared as healed. What were the results?
There is not a single verifiable cure.
Benny Hinn modeled himself after another faith healer, Kathryn Kulman. Her record is also nothing to brag about:
But, people are desperate for hope, desperate for relief of pain, desperate for longer life. They will do whatever they are told to get that hope. And, one thing they are told is to contribute money to "God's work" in order to demonstrate their faith. They must sow a seed to reap the benefits God has in his storehouse.
And it all seems like one big money machine, geared to rake in as much money as can be squeezed out of desperate people.
What does the Bible say about healing?
If the Bible is relevant for today, there should be some message there that is consistent with reality. Why don't we see great healings in the church today?
The Bible seems to describe two distinct spiritual areas of healing:
We will look at each of these areas and see the purpose of each. Then we can compare the Biblical examples with current faith healing ministries.
Power to Heal
The Greek word for power is "dunamis". It is the word from which we get words like dynamite and dynamic. We can say that "dunamis" is a "dynamite miracle working power".
Jesus, after he was baptized by John, went into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Jesus went without food for 40 days and was tempted severely. After that period of temptation the Devil left Jesus and Jesus returned to Galilee. At that time, scripture indicates Jesus returned in the power (dunamis) of the Spirit, with miracle working power. From that time he became famous throughout the region because of the miracles he performed.
During his ministry, Jesus sent his twelve disciple out to preach the gospel telling them to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils. Jesus gave them power (dunamis) to enable them to perform their tasks.
This power enabled the disciples to cure diseases in others.
But, this miracle working power was not used without a purpose.
The purpose was to assist and give authority to the preaching of the gospel.
Healings of Jesus
Notice how the scriptures tie together the miracles with the preaching.
This association between the miracles and the preaching is not simply an accident. It is repeated again and again to emphasize that relationship.
Jesus commanded his disciples to combine the miracles with the teaching. There were not to go as simple preachers, but to go in miracle working power giving authenticity and authority to their message.
The relation of the powerful miracles and the preaching was intended to proclaim that the kingdom of God had come to them. The message proclaimed the new age of the Messiah and the miracles witnessed to the fact that the Messiah had authority over sickness, disease, and the demonic spirit world.
The close connection between the preaching and the miracles is emphasized here as signs that the kingdom has come. The miracles were not simply to amuse the people, but to help announce the fact that the kingdom was present.
Power to Heal in the Early Church
Jesus promised that the disciples would receive power by the Holy Spirit. He associated that power with the task of being his witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem and continuing throughout the world.
During the Jewish feast of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire and rested upon the disciples. They received power (dunamis) and preached to foreign visitors in their own native languages.
The result of using this power was the conversion of thousands of Jews to the new faith.
This is exactly what Jesus promised. The disciples received miracle working power that allowed them to carry his message (witness) to the people.
We see this power at work in Peter as he was walking into the Temple. He came upon a lame man who was asking for money.
The lame man was not a stranger to those in the Temple. He was lame from birth and was carried to the gate of the Temple daily to ask for money. Everyone entering the Temple saw him whenever they went to the Temple.
Here was a miraculous use of power to heal a lame man. The man leapt to his feet and began praising God for the great healing he had received.
The people immediately recognized that a miracle had taken place. The one who had for years been sitting and begging at the gate now leapt and shouted, praising God.
You can imaging the crowd that gathered around to look. They wanted to know how he was cured and who did this miraculous work.
Peter took advantage of the gathered crowd to preach the good news about Jesus. The crowd gathered around to listen to Peter's message.
But, others also took note of the disruption in the normal activities of the Temple. They wanted to stop this activity so people could worship God in the traditional ways.
Temple guards, priests, and the Saducees apprehend Peter and John and put them in jail for a hearing before the priests. At the hearing Peter preached to the priests. They commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus and released them. Peter and John returned to their companions.
They told their companions about the events of the last couple of days and they began to pray about the matter. They asked that God would continue to permit the use of his mighty power to perform miracles so the gospel could be effectively preached.
The disciples continued to use the great power of God to help in their preaching.
The apostles used this mighty power to attract crowds and show that God was working through them. They preached the gospel and people joined them in the faith.
Other disciples also preached with power.
Eventually the message expanded beyond Judea to Samaria. Here, Phillip was preaching with power in Samaria. He used the power (dunamis) of God to cast out evil spirits and cure many diseases. But, with a purpose. He was preaching the gospel to the people. And, as a result, more people were joined to them in faith.
While it is not clear exactly where Lud was located (probably close to Joppa), we again see the power (dunamis) of God being used to preach the good news of Jesus. Use of this power and the preaching that accompanied it resulted in people turing to the Lord.
At Joppa, Peter again used the power of God to raise a disciple from the dead. In this case, a well known disciple who did good things for all the people had died. Peter using the power of God commanded that she rise again. News of this miracle got out and many more people believed on the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas witnessed with power in Iconium. They preached and performed miracles so that a large number of people received their message and believed.
Paul continued his missionary trips throughout Asia and the surrounding areas. He performed many miracles and preached about Jesus. As a result many were converted to the new faith and destroyed the materials they used to practice pagan rituals.
Paul wrote to the Roman church that he had fully preached the gospel of Christ. Here he includes not only preaching by words but by using the miraculous power of God to witness to his message.
It was clear to the writer of the book of Hebrews that the message about Jesus was confirmed by the miracles. The signs and wonders produced by the power of God added to the validity of the message.
It is confirmed over and over that the power (dunamis) of God was used to help get the gospel message out to the people. It helped attract crowds and gave authority to those delivering the message.
The "Power of Healing" was given to preachers of the gospel so people would pay attention, give heed to the message, and be converted.
The purpose of the miraculous power was to aid in the delivery of that message. It was not used to make life easier or more pleasant for the disciples.
Preachers of the gospel to the unbelieving used the power of healing by commanding the sick to arise and become well. The power of healing was not exercised through prayer to God.
Gifts of Healings
The spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit given by God to people for the common good.
One description of these spiritual manifestations or gifts is found in 1st Corinthians. Here, Paul writes that he does not want people to be without knowledge about these gifts:
So, it's clear that Paul wants to teach in this section about these spiritual things.
Here, Paul emphasizes that these gifts are from God. While they are different, they work together for the good of all.
Paul then goes on to provide a list of these gifts. While there are three basic lists of gifts in Paul's writings, this list includes the gifts of healings.
The specific gifts of healings is mention in several places in 1st Corinthians chapter 12:
Notice that Paul describes the gifts of healings as something distinct from the powers. That is, the powers (including the power to heal others) appears to be of a different nature than the gifts of healings.
While some people equate gifts of healings with the power to heal, it seems Paul intended to make a distinction between them. That is, we can describe these two aspects of healing as:
There does not appear any reason to equate "gifts of healings" with the power ((dunamis) to heal that is associated with the preaching of the gospel. There is no mention of an association of "gifts of healings" with preaching the gospel.
Rather, gifts of healings are God's gift to the church for occasionally healing certain diseases or illnesses. Paul indicates that not everyone receives gifts of healings. They are gifts. That is, they are not expected, earned, or demanded. They are freely given when God considers it wise.
We can ask for or desire healing, but it is God who decides whether or not to give that gift.
One of the sad characteristics of some denominations is the expectation of certain gifts. Some denomination require members to demonstrate that they have received one or more gifts to fully be considered a member. Yet, Paul indicated that not everyone has any specific gift.
Gifts of Healing Within the Church
Within the church community there is no need to preach the gospel. The church is already composed of people who have heard and accepted the good news of Jesus Christ.
Within the church community we are told to pray for one another. Specifically, for healing we are to call for the elders of the church to anoint us and pray that we may be healed.
It is God, in his mercy, that decides whether or not to give the gift of healing to any member.
Paul, himself, was beset with some illness. While there is speculation over exactly what that illness was, it was something that irritated Paul.
Paul prayed that God would take away this irritation. Paul probably fasted and prayed earnestly for God to intervene and relieve him of his pain. But, God would not heal Paul.
One of Paul's close associates was Timothy. And Timothy, himself, had stomach problems. But, Paul did not use the power to heal since its purpose was to aid in preaching the gospel.
Instead, Paul suggested that Timothy take some wine to help soothe his stomach.
Paul in his travels met many people. While he was at Miletus he became acquainted with a disciple named Trophimus. But, Paul did not use the power of God to heal Trophimus. He probably prayed for Trophimus to ask God to heal him. But, in the end Paul left Miletus with Trophimus still sick.
While Paul was in prison in Rome, the Phillipian church sent aid to Paul. One of the people sent to help Paul was Epaphroditus. But, after arriving in Rome to assist Paul, Epaphroditus himself became quite ill. Here, after Epaphroditus recovers, Paul indicates he is sending Epaphroditus back.
Healing within the church is done by the grace of God. That is, healing within the church is a gift God gives to some, but not others.
Requests for the gifts of healings are made in prayer to God. The sick are not commanded to rise and become well.
There are two distinct ways that God heals. One is through the power to heal while the other is through the gifts of healings. These can be summarized as follows:
People engaged in healing crusades have mistakenly equated the two ways God heals. They believe they have the power to heal Christians. They command, in the name of Jesus, that the sick Christians become well. Healing crusades in which Christians gather together for the purpose of being healed are simply not Biblical. That's not the way the power of healing was intended to work.
Sick Christians should request prayers and anointing to seek God's gifts of healing.
I welcome your comments:
Back to the main page of Freedom in Christ
Copyright © 2003 Robert Sherman ge of Freedom in Christ
Copyright © 2006 Robert Sherman