By Charles T. Crabtree
Diving healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the Atonement, and is the privilege of all believers (Isaiah 53:4,5; Matthew 8:16,17; James 5:4-16). — One of four defining truths of the Assemblies of God.
Something tragic has taken place in the name of God. The great biblical doctrine of divine healing has been so abused that many have abandoned its benefits.
This article will identify errors surrounding divine healing and deal with the scriptural principles, patterns and promises of the doctrine.
Errors concerning divine healing
1. The gifts of healing were a temporary sign gift to establish the authority of the apostles, but spiritual gifts no longer play a role in the Church.
This concept has absolutely no basis in Scripture. On the contrary, we are encouraged to seek earnestly the best gifts. According to James, part of the elders’ role in the church is to pray and anoint the sick with oil for the purpose of divine healing. Healing of the sick is one of the signs Jesus said would follow believers (Mark 16:17,18).
Jesus is still in the healing business. The day of miracles is not past.
2. It is God’s will for me to be sick.
The Bible teaches that the physical body is corrupt or mortal because of sin. Sin brought a curse upon this world. But it is not God’s will for His people to live under the curse. In fact, He is building a city where there is no curse.
3. Everyone should be healed right now because healing is in the Atonement.
The atonement of Jesus Christ paid for the redemption of mankind. He took our punishment and suffered so we could be healed. He shed His blood and died to complete the perfect work of redemption. Jesus Christ conquered Satan and arose as the firstfruits of those who die in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20).
He forgave our sins by His sacrifice, but our redeemed souls are still dwelling in unredeemed bodies. We do, however, have the promise that one day we will have redeemed or glorified bodies. Romans 8:23 tells us: “We ourselves … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (NIV).
Jesus Christ provided for our complete and eternal salvation on Calvary, signaled by His cry, “It is finished” (John 19:30). We can claim the redemption of our souls — total forgiveness from sin. Jesus Christ also provided complete and eternal healing for our bodies, but no one presently living on this planet has yet received a glorified body. No one on this earth has been totally removed from the consequences of the curse.
When we say, “Healing is in the Atonement,” we must remember that we have not yet seen the ultimate healing. Even those who have been miraculously healed have not been perfectly healed as yet. Salvation has come through Calvary, but we have not yet realized perfection in our body, soul, spirit or world.
4. All sickness is a result of sin in the one who is sick.
To say that all sickness is a result of the curse is biblical, but to say that all sickness is a result of sin in the person who is sick is not scriptural. Sickness might be a result of the consequences of sin, but nowhere did Jesus limit sickness to being the result of unconfessed sin.
If all sickness were a result of unconfessed sin, every time the Christian confessed sin in his life, known or unknown, he would be instantly healed. Such teachings bring condemnation, causing the believer to doubt his salvation and putting him in a place of failure through self, rather than a place of victory through Christ.
5. All faith healers are con artists.
To be technically accurate, we should probably call the legitimate faith healer a “faith builder” or a “Christ exalter,” because only Christ heals.
Jesus Christ has given many gifts to the Church. God has chosen unique people and ministries to edify the body of Christ. Some of these people have been given an extraordinary ability to build faith for healing through the Word. I resent anyone placing a whole group of people in one category, then dismissing the whole lot because of an unscrupulous few. There are legitimate God-given faith builders in His church.
To our sorrow, it is obvious there are men and women who are con artists. The Bible clearly says there will be those who will stand before the Throne and ask for entrance into heaven because they say they have healed the sick and cast out devils in His name. But God will tell them they are iniquitous workers and He never had anything to do with them (Matthew 7:22,23).
The Bible admonishes us to know those who minister among us for our own God-given protection. We should be more concerned about a man’s character than about his claims. Beware of anyone who asks for your allegiance. No man can be a substitute for your own faith in the Man of Galilee.
The scriptural basis for divine healing
1. The person of God.
It is within God’s character to heal. As a matter of fact, one of the names of God is Jehovah-Rapha, or “The Lord that healeth.”
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, He healed the sick. The divine Healer set people free from every incurable disease known to man. No sickness stymied His ability to heal. The blind received their sight, the dumb spoke, and the lame and paralyzed were given strong, healthy limbs. The awful scourge of leprosy was lifted time and again, the high fever was checked and the temperature returned to normal, the issue of blood was dried up by a touch, and the withered hand was stretched out and made whole. Funeral processions were interrupted and changed to resurrection parades, the demons of hell were evicted from their habitations, and epileptic seizures were silenced.
This same Jesus is alive today. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. In Matthew 28:20, He said, “Lo, I am with you always.”
2. The promise of God.
We have sound, scriptural reasons for believing in divine healing. When Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission, He also gave them the power to cast out demons and heal all manner of sickness. Jesus said, “I give unto you power” (Luke 10:19). The word “power” here is the word dunamis — the same power given to the Church at Pentecost, and the same power He has promised to His church in all ages.
Jesus gave the disciples the authority to use His name; it was His power of attorney. When someone is given the power of attorney, he is authorized by that person to act in his place. Jesus Christ has given believers the authority to use His name in His place, during His physical absence (Mark 16:17,18).
Jesus also promised healing through the anointing of oil and the laying on of hands:
“Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (James 5:14,15). That promise doesn’t sound like our Healer has decided to resign.
Jesus also provided gifts of healing to benefit the human body. When God answers prayer, He often uses the natural functions of the body to restore healing. He starts a trend toward health rather than sickness — this is a gift of healing. However, there are times when He chooses to supersede the natural healing process and instantly makes the person whole — this is a miracle of healing.
3. The pattern of divine healing.
God’s pattern of divine healing was established in the New Testament church and follows the teaching of our Lord Jesus. The ultimate purpose and object of healing is not to avoid a problem or to relieve pain, but to bring glory and honor to Jesus. The fundamental reason for healing is the same as the reason for the gift of the Holy Spirit: to make Jesus known.
The means of healing is through faith. You cannot be good enough, and you cannot work hard enough for it. The means is faith, and the object is Jesus. God has provided, but faith is the means whereby we take what God has promised and act accordingly.
The methods of healing are not limited. We see the pattern in the Early Church. The disciples exercised faith by a simple word and command. People were healed through fasting and prayer. People were healed by anointing handkerchiefs and aprons with oil. People were healed when Peter’s shadow passed over them. People were healed by the laying on of hands.
What is the Word trying to communicate? God will use any method, but it is up to us to simply exercise faith in His name and for His glory.
God still heals today.
Adapted from This I Believe (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1982). Used by permission.
Charles T. Crabtree is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
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