Christians differ, often vehemently, on this subject. Some argue that, because miraculous signs were rare in Bible times and throughout church history, therefore we should conclude that God intends them to be the exception rather than the rule. Others, taking Hebrews 13:8 as their starting point: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’, insist that supernatural healing should be the order of the day.
However, on three points all Christians agree:
- Sickness is an enemy
Because ‘in all things’ – including illness – ‘God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28), many Christians say we should welcome ill-health as a friend. Yet even they take medication and undergo surgery to remove this character-developing gift of God!
Of course it’s OK to take medicine because God also heals by natural means. Paul’s advice to Timothy almost reads like a homeopathic prescription! – ‘Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses’ (1 Timothy 5:23)
But here our focus is on the supernatural aspect of divine healing.
- Even healthy Christians ultimately die
including all those with spectacular healing ministries. This is because death, ‘the last enemy’, will not be conquered until the return of Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 15:26)
- The problem of suffering is complex
This fact of life should not cause us to lose heart and quit the healing ministry. After all, it’s an incentive to medical research in the world of science. Let it also be our motivation in the realm of the Spirit, Let us humbly develop a closer walk with God, and a more compassionate sensitivity to those who suffer.
Is it God’s will to heal?
Everyone who accepts the Bible as God’s word is convinced that God can heal any medically incurable condition. Their problem is whether God wants to heal me – now.
Matthew groups his selection of Jesus’ teachings and actions non-chronologically. Having the razor-sharp mathematical brain of the taxman, his pattern is deliberate. Undoubtedly the choice of his first example of Jesus’ individual healing is intended to answer straightaway this question of the will of God to heal. When the leper said: ‘ “Lord, if” you are willing, you can make me clean, ” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing, ” he said. “Be clean! ” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. ’ (Matthew 8:2-3)
Centuries earlier God had already told his people through Moses that his very name is Healer – that’s what he is by nature:
‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you’ (Exodus 15:26)
This statement clearly indicates that some sicknesses are directly linked to personal sin, due to a failure to work, eat and sleep healthily.
Conversely, the Lord promises that if his people live according to his ways, by faith and obedience, he will keep them in sound health according to his name Yahweh Rophi – the Lord your healer.
As Jesus directed lepers to their priests, it is advisable for us to send those healed of chronic conditions back to their doctors for verification and for advice about how best to discontinue strong medication.
On what ground is divine healing made available?
Here’s how the apostle Matthew explained his Master’s ministry of healing:
‘He healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up
our diseases and carried our illnesses. ”’ (Matthew 8: 1 6- 17)
Matthew has Isaiah 53:4-6 in mind. The prophet had foreseen that the Lord’s Servant (the Christ) would be wounded and punished to heal us of:
- our physical ‘infirmities’
- our emotional ‘sorrows’
- our moral ‘transgressions’ and ‘iniquities’
- our relational conflicts (‘the punishment that brought us peace ’ – with God, with other human beings and inside ourselves)
He did all this at Calvary in the awesome mystery of his experience of hell upon earth.
Matthew indicates also that even before going to the cross Jesus carried the pain of those who were sick while healing them. He did not merely wave a magician’s wand, sprinkle woofle dust and cry Abracadabra! With perfect empathy he fully identified with the distress of those he healed.
His apostle Peter agrees with Matthew about the significance of lsaiah’s prediction:
‘He himself’ carried up our sins in his body [throughout his ministry, then] onto the tree [where he
bore them away] …, by his wounds you have been healed. ’ (1 Peter 2:24, literal translation)
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Who can administer healing?
In a phrase: ‘those who believe’.
Each of the four Gospels ends with Jesus commissioning his disciples to continue the ministry he had started among the Jew and extend it to the ends of the earth.
Each evangelist emphasises different aspects of that mission. Mark, who particularly highlights healing, opens this aspect of evangelism to all believers in Christ, not just apostles. ‘These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons ,… they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. ’ (Mark 16: 17-18)
‘It is not that there is no clergy, but that there is no laity, for we are all priests unto the Highest’ (Quaker Jolm H Graham)
Of course, even the Lord Jesus performed no healings until after the Holy Spirit had come upon him (Acts 10:38) at the point of his total dedication to the will of God in his baptism in the Jordan, and the complete testing of that dedication for forty days in the wilderness. From that point on you never find him second guessing his Father. He only did those things he saw his Father doing(John 5:19).
- Although the five covered colonnades around the Pool of Bethesda were crowded with sick and crippled people, he only healed one man (John 5:1-9).
- He must often have passed by the invalid beggar who sat daily at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. He left him for Peter and John to raise up to perfect health several years later (Acts 3: 1-10).
Let us diligently work at improving our sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit of God in this held of ministry.
Jesus still uses various means of healing
The Lord Jesus and his apostles healed the sick by many different methods, such as:
- by laying hands on them (Mark 6:5; Acts 28:9)
- by anointing them with oil (Mark 6:13)
- by praying over them (James 5: 14-16)
- by a word of command to the person (Luke 5:24-25)
- – even at a distance (Matthew 8:5-13), in Jesus’ name (Acts 3: 1-10)
- by the power of God specially present in the very atmosphere (Luke 5:17, Acts 5:15- 16)
- by driving out unclean spirits that had caused the disability (Matthew (9:32-34; 17: 14-18)
- by a substantial anointing of God’s Spirit impregnating items that have been in contact with one of his servants at times of extraordinary visitation (Acts 19: 1 1-12)
The methods will vary, but faith is always the means of conducting healing from the Lord to those who are ill – either on the part of those ministering (Mark 16:17-18; James 5: 14-16) and/or in those receiving healing (Luke 7:1-10; 9:43-48; 18:25-43) and their friends (Luke 5: 17-26).
Incidentally, not all examples of our Lord’s healing ministry were instantaneous cures. He touched one blind man a second time before he could focus with 20/20 vision (Mark 8:22-26). And when he sent a group of ten lepers to the priests for a medical examination, ‘as they went they were cleansed’ (Luke 17:12- 14).
How do miracles differ from healings?
Miraculous powers are manifestations of the Spirit in the Body of Christ distinct from gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12:7, 9-10).
Healing is a renewing ministry that restores sick areas of the physical body to their proper function.
Miracles, on the other hand, are creative acts of God by means of which he replaces missing organs or component parts.
Perhaps the reason why Jesus spat on the dust of the ground and applied the mud to the eyes of the man born blind was to indicate that he was re-enacting God’s original creating of Adam (John 9: 1-7 ; Genesis 2:7).