Is The Gift of Healing For Today?
Q. I’ve heard two beliefs about healing.
1) The healing done by Jesus and the Apostles was to validate their authority, and the gift of healing is not for our day since we have the New Testament. God still heals, but there is no gift of healing.
2) The gift of healing is for today and there are believers who have this gift, who lay their hands on the sick and pray, and healing results.
Which is it?
The Bible simply does not say that the gift of healing was only for Jesus and the Apostles. Paul spoke of the gifts of healing at work in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:9). Some say these ‘sign’ gifts passed away after the Bible was completed, but Scripture does not tell us this.
1 Corinthians 13 does speak of prophecies, tongues and knowledge passing away “when the perfect comes” (ESV). Some say this “perfect” refers to the completion of the Bible. But an honest reading of the context shows that this is speaking of when we see Christ face to face (v12). At that time we will “know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Can anyone truly believe that since the Bible has been completed we now see Jesus face to face (rather than “in a mirror dimly”) and know “fully”? We have a more complete knowledge and vision of Jesus than Paul the Apostle had? No. All the gifts are needed in the body for edification until Jesus comes. Then they will pass away.
Some argue that the “that which is perfect” (1 Cor 13:10, NKJV) cannot refer to Jesus because it is in the neuter gender. But Matthew 1:20 clearly refers to Jesus in the neuter gender when it says of Mary, “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (ESV). So we believe that the “perfect” is the time when Christ comes and the church is with him.
Others argue that the gift of healing can be seen slowly fading away in the book of Acts until, by the end of the book, it is no longer in use. But in the last chapter of Acts, Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta and cured every sick person on the entire island (Acts 28:9)!
Just because we do not understand something does not mean that we can twist the word of God to say it doesn’t exist anymore. And just because a spiritual gift is abused or used incorrectly does not mean God wants us to teach that they are not for our time. It is true that many people abuse spiritual gifts, using them with no regard to the instructions of Scripture. But that does not make the gift bad; it simply means the one abusing the gift needs to repent. The church at Corinth was filled with abuses of the gifts, but Paul did not tell them to quit using them. And he most certainly did NOT say, “When I finish writing this letter and Scripture is complete, whole sections of this letter will immediately become obsolete. But I’m not going to tell you which chapters to rip out and disregard. I’ll let the Baptists explain this later…” (I’m a Baptist, so I can joke like that). Instead, what did Paul say? He corrected their abuses and told them to keep using the gifts! Not to wait for the apostles to come when they needed healing…
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor 12:28-31a, ESV). God has appointed in the church gifts of healing! This verse shows us that not all in the church have the same gift, and gifts of healing is used as an example. So according to the word of God there are some in the body who have gifts of healing, and others do not. All of us can pray and ask God to heal the sick. And sometimes he does. But in his sovereign wisdom and purpose, sometimes he refrains. We are to ask for healing, praise God when he answers, and trust him when he refrains. Whether healing comes in answer to prayer, or through the laying on of hands and prayer by someone in the body who has the gift of healing, God has moved.
Sometimes the gift of healing is faked by conmen. But they will answer to God for this. Again, this does not make the gift bad.
Jesus said those who believe in him “will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, ESV). He didn’t say this was for apostles, but for those who believe in him. In Mark 16:17-18 Jesus says “these signs will accompany those who believe…they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (ESV). He did not say these signs will accompany Apostles, but those who believe. And he did not say that they would accompany believers until the New Testament is completed.
Is it our “right” to be healed, as some teach? Some make you think that God ALWAYS wants to heal every sickness, and if you are not healed it simply means your faith is lacking. Like most lies, there is a grain of truth, but it has been perverted. Matthew 8:16-17 is a powerful passage that connects Jesus’ work at the cross with our physical healing: “That evening they brought to him many were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases’” (ESV). Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quotes Isaiah 53, a passage which is clearly speaking of the atonement Jesus made at the cross, and connects it with physical healing! The verse in Isaiah reads, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (ESV). The Holy Spirit led Matthew to point out that this refers not to just our sins, but our sicknesses. So if Jesus earned our healing at the cross, why do believers sometimes get sick and receive no healing even when they pray?
Jesus earned an entire “salvation package” for us at the cross. When we believe in Christ we receive the entire “package” – everything Jesus won for us – positionally, spiritually, in the heavenlies. In other words, we actually and truly possess all of the package, but experientially we only walk in part of it until we are face to face with Christ.
This is easy to see with the issue of sin. At the moment of belief in Christ we are justified – declared right with God. But in our experience day by day we still struggle with sin and grow in a sanctification process (of being set free day by day from the power of sin). We look ahead to our glorification, in which we will be given new bodies and be free from the very presence of sin. It is true that we, at the moment of faith, are free from sin in heaven. God sees the final product. But we are, in our experience, in the working out of it day by day. We are experiencing more and more of what we have in Christ, until one day we will actually experience the fullness of the package.
It is the same way with our healing. At the cross Christ earned our healing with his stripes. We possess, in the heavenlies, complete healing in Christ. But now we experience this in part. One day we will experience the fullness. Until that day, we pray for healing and we trust God. When God chooses not to heal, we believe that he has a reason for the sickness that will ultimately give him glory (John 9:3, 11:4).
Finally we must point out that we live in a fallen creation and it is appointed to man once to die. It is likely that our death will come through sickness. God doesn’t remove all sickness or no believer would ever die! This is not a lack of faith on our part, but the working out of God’s plan. Sin and lack of faith could be a hindrance to healing, but not necessarily.
So when we are sick we should:
1. Personally pray for healing.
2. Ask the church to pray for healing, expecting God to heal. God may want to involve the
entire body to strengthen the faith of all. This will also give opportunity for those with the
gift of healing to discover and use their gift. James tells us to call for the elders to anoint us
oil and pray (James 5:14). This is a command!
3. Look for unconfessed sin in our lives and ask God to search us and make known any sin. If he
shows us sin, repent.
4. If no sin is shown to us by God, ask God what he is teaching us through this and ask him to be
glorified in it.
5. Sometimes God heals using doctors. But we should look to God first. Our source is God, not