A Scriptural and Practical Approach
While it cannot be denied that the New Testament teaches that God did heal many people supernaturally in the first century, there are many in the church today who would be keen to downplay the present day relevance of such examples for those presently suffering with various forms of sickness and disease. The ministry of divine healing in the name of Jesus has been especially controversial in the last century, and has stirred up much religious feeling on both sides of the issue. At times this has been at least in part due to the unwise practices of certain well-known “faith-healers”. In some cases people have rejected divine healing because they could not accept some of the doctrines and practices of those who advocated it. Yet the Scripture does speak on this issue, and it is of great relevance to those who are sick and suffering, if perchance Jesus Christ might still be willing to demonstrate his compassion and power by healing them.
We must be willing to “test all things”, and “hold fast to that which is good”. Our standard of reference for discerning truth must be the Scriptures themselves, and not the pronouncements of popes, reformers, theologians, pastors, teachers or evangelists - although all of these may have something worthwhile to say at times.
Importance of the issue for those in Pain
No-one really enjoys pain, and sickness is often a source of great pain and anguish to many. Some suffering and pain is part of the plan of God for our lives (2 Tim. 3:12; Ps. 34:19), and some pain is the result of ignorance or other factors for which God cannot be blamed (Hosea 4:6; Proverbs 1:24-33; Prov. 19:3, 19,29).
Today multitudes of Christians are sick and diseased. The reality is that virtually all of us have to battle with the spectre of sickness and disease at some time in our lives. If there are sick Christians that God wants to heal, then we cannot assume that this healing will automatically take place without any co-operation from our part. Although God can bring good things even out of sinful episodes and terrible tragedies, this does not mean that God intended for these things to have happened - at least not in every case. God can use sickness - He can even use the devil himself - but that does not make God the author of sickness any more than it makes Him the author of sin.
God may have better ways of teaching an obedient child than sickness. After all, He gave us His Word, His Spirit and gifted teachers to instruct us in His ways. We ought to consider how much the mission of the church is being obstructed by sickness and incapacity in its members. How many resources of time and money are being consumed through sickness in the church? Before dismissing the whole issue of divine healing as an irrelevant side issue, we should be willing to carefully consider what the Scripture teaches because of these aspects also. It is not as if nothing is at stake in this issue.
Divine healing is not only an issue relevant for sick Christians. Consider this. If divine healing can come to those unbelievers hearing the message of Jesus Christ, and thus confirm to them the reality of God’s love and power - should we close our ears and eyes to these things? Would it not be better to fully investigate what possibilities there are for us to glorify God through this kind of ministry - so that more lost souls can be saved? Jesus said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (Jn 4:48). If it is possible that we can have any part to play at all in the manifestation of signs and wonders, wouldn’t it be worth it for the sake of those who are more deeply bound in the chains of unbelief than perhaps we were, when confronted with the claims of Christ?
God has more than a religious theory to help
those who are sick and in pain
Many times the church has sought to comfort the sick with religious notions instead of effectively ministering divine healing through faith in the name of Jesus. The seriously ill may be encouraged by such ideas as these: “You must be very holy for God to have chosen you to suffer in this way.” or “God is using this to teach you a lesson.” or “God is pleased when He looks down and sees you suffering so patiently”. All these notions and others like them may be quite comforting to the minds of the sufferers, but that does not mean that they are the pure truth of God at all!
In fact, such words may in fact lead to religious pride or to distorted views of the character of God. Sometimes sick Christians will hold on to such ideas with more tenacity than to any of the Scriptural encouragements to faith for divine healing. These religious notions can therefore become barriers to what God wants to do in producing expectation and faith for healing in the sufferer.
The Good News is that God is healing people today through faith in the name of Jesus. All kinds of miracles have taken place. We have Scriptural reasons to believe that God wants to heal us when we are sick. We can have deliverance today through the ministry of God’s Spirit to our mortal bodies.
Do we learn the will of God from experience or from the Word?
Some have confused notions concerning what is meant by the Will of God. It is believed by some that whatever happens is the Sovereign Will of God. For such believers, the question of God’s will in the matter of healing must be determined by experience. Prayer may be offered for healing, and if the sickness persists, it is concluded that the sickness must have been the will of God! If the person got better - be it through medical intervention or otherwise, it is concluded that it was God’s will to heal that person - but when the next case comes along we will just have to wait and see what God’s will is.
When people think like that, there is little room left for faith, since faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) or “faith is being sure of what we hope for, and it is certain of what we do not see.” When people are unsure whether what they hope for is God’s will, they cannot be sure that it will come. This is not faith. In fact it is merely natural hope mixed with uncertainty.
Some point to examples of Christians, even great Christians, who were sick and died sick. Some even believed they would be healed. This does not prove anything one way or the other. We are not called to judge the spirituality of such Christians. Nor should we use their example to determine what the Scriptural teaching is. We would do better to judge experiences by the Word of God, than to judge the Word of God by experiences.
We take a great step forward when we realise two things:
(1) That God tells us what His will for us is in His Word. It is revealed through His promises, His declarations, and through the life and ministry of His Son Jesus Christ.
(2) The will of God is not always done in our life or in our world.
Concerning the latter point, consider the Scripture “[The Lord] ... is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). We know that not all come to repentance - even though God would like them too. Therefore God’s will is not done in their lives.
There is another interesting verse in this regard in Luke 7:30. Here the Word of God states, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John].” The plain meaning is that it is possible for men to reject the will of God for themselves. This means that what happens is not always the will of God. This means that just because a person was not healed does not automatically mean that it was not God’s will to heal them.
What God’s will is, is clearly revealed through the Scriptures. It can be seen through the ministry of Jesus to the sick, for Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God on the earth. It is seen in the many promises concerning divine healing in both the Old and New Testaments. We must remember that “all the promises of God in Him [Christ] are Yes, and in Him, Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20). Whatever God’s Word has promised is a clear indication of God’s will - for it is God’s will to keep His promises. And we will consider many of those great and precious promises concerning divine healing in the sections below.
All this is not a denial of God’s Sovereignty and rulership of the universe. It just shows how serious human choices are. God respects our ability to choose and will faithfully administrate the outcome of those choices - be it through judgements or blessings. Nothing takes God by surprise - and yet there are many choices people make and things people do that were not desired by our loving Father.
God did heal supernaturally. Does God still do it?
Yes! Today more and more people are thanking God for the healing they received from God, which was accomplished by a direct action of the Spirit of God in their bodies. All the time cases are reported of deaf ears opening, cripples walking, internal organs being healed, backs straightening and so on. Jesus Christ is still doing it!
The Scripture provides many models of Christ’s healing work. All these principles are relevant to us in building up our faith in these areas. We should not allow the traditions of men to neutralise the impact of these Scriptures to us.
How can one know if the source of supernatural healing is Divine or satanic?
Satanic healings take the attention away from Jesus Christ as the healer and are coming through people who promote unscriptural and/or occultic doctrines.
They come without any reference to the cross of Christ and they lead people away from the true knowledge of God rather than to the foot of the cross.
Satanic healings transfer the problem from the body to the soul of man. Those who have been to occultic healers often become mentally disturbed and confused.
This should not lead us to be fearful of the godly ministry of divine healing, however. We should bear in mind the teaching of Jesus in Mathew’s gospel.
“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
We have nothing to fear of the ministry of humble, Christ exalting men who teach the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, call people to true repentance and faith in Him and give all the glory to God for the miracles and changed lives that come as a result.
What Are Some of The Scriptures Indicating Divine Healing is God’s Will?
My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ears to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.
The Word of God has a key role in divine healing (see also Ps. 107:20). It can be health to all our flesh - leaving no room for sickness and disease in our flesh. It is difficult to spiritualise this passage and say that it is really talking about healing for our spirits or souls - since it specifically mentions our flesh - with no ifs or buts about it.
If you are sick you need to get your ears and your eyes onto the Word of God itself and off negative reports, unbelieving theologies, religious traditions and the pain itself. For God’s Word itself can become medicine to your flesh if you take that medicine faithfully according to prescription. God is Almighty but also a God of integrity, and sooner or later He will back up His own words when they are mixed with faith.
Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save [heal] the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
This is a New Testament instruction that many sick Christians do not put into practise. The implication here is that the elders of the church should be willing to come to the bed of the sufferer, and able to pray the prayer of faith for healing. The word for "saved" in Greek is “sozo” and is used many times for "healed" as well as "saved" in the New Testament. This is no accident, because healing is really just an expression of God’s salvation for the body.
Here we have two very unambiguous promises concerning divine healing. Together with other promises and statements made in the Word of God, little room is left for doubt and unbelief at least concerning what the Bible teaches is God’s promise and intention in these matters.
And these signs will follow those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons ... they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Although this promise is primarily valid for those engaged in evangelism (Mark 16:15), the truth remains that many times God will use the laying on of hands to impart the power of the Holy Spirit into a person’s body so that sickness is dissolved. Often this happens in conjunction with “the gifts of healings” (1 Cor. 12:9) - one of the manifestations of the Spirit given to build up the body of Christ.
Other Relevant Scriptures:
Is. 53:4,5; Ex. 15:26; Ps. 103:3; 3 John 2; Ps. 107:20; Romans 8:11.
False Doctrines that Obstruct Divine Healing
1. Sickness is a blessing, of which God is the author.
Nowhere does God’s Word refer to sickness as a blessing. Rather, it is shown to be part of the curse of the law, which is detailed in Deutoronomy 28:15-68.
But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these CURSES shall come upon you and overtake you.
Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed.
These Scriptures clearly reveal that sickness and disease are curses and not blessings. Thankfully, under the New Covenant, we have the declaration of Galatians 3:13:
Christ has REDEEMED us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).
This Scripture actually reveals that when Jesus hung on the cross (the tree), he became a curse for us. In this way, He took the curse of sickness we justly deserve. The next verse tells us that it was so we could experience the blessing of Abraham.
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
God’s intention is that we pass from curse to blessing. It was important enough to God for Jesus to pay the price for it when he suffered on the cross. So a real part of what God makes available for the Christian is the provision to be delivered of the curse of sickness and come into the blessing of God.
Sickness may be at times a judgment on the disobedient, but it cannot be viewed as a blessing. Sickness and death came in with sin, and are part of the corruption of nature which came by mankind’s initial rejection of our loving Father.
2. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a sickness, and God didn’t want to take it away.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Many have taught that Paul’s “thorn” was a sickness, which Paul wanted the LORD to take away - but the LORD was quite unwilling to take it away (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Thus many sick Christians today have been taught that since their prayer for healing has apparently been denied by God, they are in the same situation as Paul. They see that God has given them this sickness for the purpose of character development - that they might exhibit fortitude and patience in their suffering and thereby glorify God.
While patience in suffering is certainly commendable, this passage tells us what the “thorn in the flesh was”. Paul himself says that it was “a messager [Gk: angelos] of Satan to buffet him”. This means Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was really a person - most likely a fallen angel of Satan.
The use of the word “thorn” is obviously symbolic. We can see that also in the book of Joshua it referred to a harassing person or people. When Joshua told the Israelites that if they make peace with the Canaanites they would be “scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes” (Joshua 23:13) he meant that they would be harassed and attacked by them. We should not make too much of the fact that the thorn was “in the flesh”, just as we would not draw too many conclusions about the location of the problem if we heard someone being described as “a pain in the neck”, or, to use the Old Testament expression “a thorn in the eyes”.
Therefore the most likely conclusion is that Paul was at some time in his ministry under intense demonic attack. These attacks may at times have produced physical discomfort and weakness, since Paul mentions “infirmities” in 2 Cor. 12:10. But he also mentions “reproaches”, “needs”, “persecutions” and “distresses” - all of which were likely also to be the results of this demonic angel stirring up trouble for Paul.
This view is in line with the text itself. The thorn was given lest Paul be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations. God did not want Paul to become haughty, arrogant or puffed up by the great revelation knowledge he received. Therefore he permitted Paul to get into circumstances where he would need to continue to depend on God and His power, and not on what Paul already knew and understood. Our true wisdom is to humble ourselves before the Lord and receive His help against our spiritual enemies who can stir up much trouble for us at times.
One thing is clear. Paul’s “thorn”, however distressing it may have been at times, did not prevent him from engaging in “labours more abundant” (2 Cor. 11:23). Are some of those who are claiming to have a thorn like Paul’s using their thorn as an excuse for not being able to work hard for the Lord? Are the exhortations to “be prepared for every good work”, to “be careful to maintain good works” and to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” only applicable to Christians without “thorns”?
Paul’s thorn did not cause those on the island of Malta to have doubts concerning divine healing (Acts 28:8,9). While teaching on Paul’s thorn by many modern preachers has destroyed the confidence and expectation of believers that God shall heal them by his power, it was not so in Paul’s day. The words and works of Paul were doubtless in line with the testimony of the whole of the Word of God, which we are told is “medicine for all our flesh” (Prov. 4:22).
If a Christian is convinced that God has given him a sickness, a “thorn” for character development or any other purpose, then surely it would be wrong for them to go to the doctors to seek to have the “thorn” removed!
God wanted Paul here to humble himself and get more grace from God, so that he could overcome these demonic assaults. Indeed, the Christian life will have many battles with evil spirits. By humbling ourselves we receive grace from God to not only live patiently and righteously in these trials, but also to rebuke them and eventually clear the demonic opposition out of our path, no matter how strong and persistent it may seem to be.
In conclusion, Paul’s thorn was a fallen angel, not a sickness as such. And although there may be various demonic attacks on our bodies and our situation, this does not change the fact that God’s intention for us is to overcome these things through faith and patience and receive the fulfillment of the promises He has made to us concerning healing and every other problem. In the midst of these attacks we are supposed to gain spiritual strength. We are not supposed to just let the devil walk all over us.
3. Paul and his team were sickly - so this is what God wants.
It is true that Paul at times was physically weak (Galatians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:10). Epaphroditus, a co-worker of Paul was sick at one stage, but God had mercy on him and healed him (Php 2:25-30). Timothy was instructed to “use a little wine for his stomach’s sake and his frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23) and Trophimus Paul left in Miletus sick (2 Tim. 4:20). What can we make of all this?
These passages were included in the word of God to guard us against extreme positions and harsh judgments against those who at some points in their lives may have battles with sickness. The fact is, we live in a fallen world and the Kingdom of God has not been fully manifested. At times Christians, especially front-line missionaries may have to battle with sickness brought on by such factors as overwork, poor quality nutrition or water supplies, or demonic attack. God never guarantees that our prayers for the healing of others will have immediate visible results. In the case of Trophimus, Paul could not wait until the manifestation of healing came, because he had kingdom work to do and it was time to move on. God healed Epaphroditus and none of these men died of sickness as far as we know.
We must look after our bodies in the natural sense and not abuse them even in times of revival. Otherwise they may wear out and we will die before the time. God expects us to use wisdom and not to work ourselves to death or eat poorly if we have the opportunity to protect our health by eating well in moderation.
There may still be times when Christians, even spiritually advanced Christians, will struggle with demonic attacks on their health. But God has given us His word and His promises concerning healing. So we have a “sword” to fight with and God expects us at times to fight. The reality is that battles are not always won instantaneously, but that is no reason to give up the fight, to give up hope or to cast away our confidence or the confession of our hope.
The truth is that Paul often exprerienced the supernatural strengthening of God in his body in order to complete his mission. How else could he have got up and preached in the city immediately after he had been left for dead by those who stoned him outside the city (Acts 14:19,20)? After so many beatings with rods in which the bones of his feet were likely broken in many places, how could he continue his travels? Paul also knew the supernatural intervention of God in divine healing - and we should expect it too if we are serving the Lord.
4. God is glorified through my sickness.
Many times it is the sufferer that is glorified when he patiently endures his sickness without complaining. People will praise and glorify such a person. But God receives a greater glory when all can see that He has truly intervened in restoring to health the sick person. When we receive the fulfillment of the promise of God, God is glorified (2 Corinthians 1:20).
When people saw the paralyzed man get up and walk at Jesus’ command, they were “all amazed and glorified God saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12). This is the better way to glorify God. The streets of India are full of sick people - Hindus and Buddhists who seem to be patiently bearing their suffering, accepting it as their “karma”. But when they are healed in Jesus’ name then truly God is glorified.
We should seek to follow the New Testament pattern of glorifying God with regard to our bodies. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)
5. God needs to use this sickness to teach me a lesson.
If we are willing to listen to God’s Word and God’s Spirit, there is no need to get into a place where God needs to use sickness to teach us. If an earthly father was to break his child’s arm or put harmful germs in his food when the child was disobedient, that father would be considered to be a child abuser. Well, God in heaven is not a child abuser. If we disobey Him or permit idols to have a place in our hearts, then it is true that we are opening the door for Satan and his demons to afflict us. But this is not the same thing as God needing to use sickness to teach us a lesson.
A mature approach to learning from God is to discipline ourselves to pray, hear God’s Word, and act on what it says. God promises to protect those who stay “under the shadow of the Almighty” from the attacks of the evil one (see Psalm 91).
6. I guess I’m another Job.
Although there may be times when we are battling sickness and cannot understand why God is permitting it to continue, we do need to be faithful to God as Job was. However, even Job sinned by allowing negative fear into his life and being self-righteous. “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25). Fear attracts the thing we fear, and expresses a lack of trust in God, which is sin. We should not model our lives on Job, as wonderful as he was in other areas, but rather on Jesus.
While it is wrong to condemn those who are sick as Job’s friends did, we also must remember that God eventually did heal Job and restore his fortunes more than at the first. If we are going to be like Job then we should expect a practical manifestation of the Lord’s goodness and compassion also (James 5:11).
Another point to remember is that Job was not an Israelite and did not have the promises that we have in the Bible. God had not made a covenant of healing with Job as far as we know, as He did with the Israelites. The Israelites demonstrated far less moral uprightness than Job, and yet “there was none feeble among His tribes” when they came out of Egypt. Statistically, this represents an amazing miracle. God established a covenant of healing with the Israelites which Job himself knew nothing of.
Since we have greater promises and covenants available to us than Job did, we should not use him as a model of the relationship of sickness to the believer.
Also, if our life is not upright as Job was, how can we be sure than we are right in comparing ourselves with Job? But even if we have come into that level of holy living, we should believe all the promises of God concerning healing. Sickness is not the only way that a person can suffer. We will suffer at times and our loyalty to God will be tested, but let it be suffering that glorifies God and not ourselves.
We would do better to embrace the patience of Job without using his example to justify us in doubting the relevance of all the promises of God to us concerning divine healing and health, which were revealed to God’s people after Job was dead and buried.
7. The age of miracles is past
The Bible does not teach this, so why should we? This faith-destroying phrase has robbed many of some of God’s blessings. Indeed, if the age of miracles has passed, how can anyone be born again of the Spirit of God? For truly the “new creation” must be considered a miracle of God, since the Spirit of God is directly involved in changing the nature of the spirit of man.
To state that “the age of miracles” is passed is to mock prayer today, since any intervention of God as a result of prayer could rightly be considered a miracle. If the things that happen in answer to prayer would have happened even if no prayer was offered then prayer makes no difference and God’s promises regarding prayer are mocked.
8. Only apostles (or those close to them) can heal the sick, so it happens no more.
Firstly, Stephen, one of the seven, was not an apostle, yet he, “full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Also later, “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip [also one of the seven and not an apostle], hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:6).
There is no solid reason to doubt the words recorded in John 14:12, “He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do shall he do also” or the words of Mark 16:17, “These signs shall follow those who believe: in My name ... they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover”.
Notice that these promises are to those who believe and not merely to “apostles who believe” or some such thing. The promises to “those who believe” are all vaid throughout the gospel age.
Even in the writings of the early church fathers we find references to many healings and miracles done through believers, even the raising of the dead. The teaching that only apostles or those close to them can heal the sick is unbiblical, and contrary to both Scripture and the testimony of history.
9. The supernatural gifts of the Spirit have passed away.
Why not say, “Thorns in the flesh have passed away with the apostles”?
Seriously, there is no solid Scriptural support for this idea. It is not enough to point to the teachings of noted Christian leaders to defend this doctrine, for in many places, the testimony of church history is against this foolish doctrine. Even if there was only ONE genuine occurrence of one of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in our time this idea would be proven false!
There is too much evidence of self-denying true followers of Christ who have solid testimonies of the gifts of the Spirit working through them, for this idea to be taken seriously any more.
Some appeal to the passage below to suggest that God has done away with these gifts.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10,12
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But WHEN THAT WHICH IS PERFECT HAS COME, then that which is in part will be done away. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but THEN face to face. NOW I know in part, but THEN I shall know just as I also am known.
It is argued that when the New Testament canon was completed “the perfect” came, and then there was no further need for the gifts of the Spirit to give that partial measure of truth and confirmation of the gospel. Some see then that the gifts ceased when John finished the Revelation, others when John died, and still others, when the church councils finally authorised the NT Canon in the 4th century AD.
It should be clear enough that “the perfect” refers to the consummation of the Kingdom of God at the Second Coming of Christ. Then there will truly be no more need for the gifts of the Spirit. They will be swallowed up by something far more complete. Until then however, they will be needed wherever the gospel is preached and the church of Christ falls short of the fulness of the measure of the stature of Christ.
Here are some of the problems with the view equating “the Bible” with “the perfect” in this passage.
a. The word “then” in verse 12 implies that when “the perfect” has truly come, we will see the Lord face to face. Now people only see Him imperfectly. The proof of this is the disagreements about the will of Christ that can be found everywhere in the church. When we see Him, we will be like Him.
b. We still only know in part, for no man living has the complete revelation of everything that the Bible truly teaches about the Lord.
c. Scholars are disagreed about minor textual variations concerning what the original Scriptures exactly said, word for word. If this is so, how can we say we know “perfectly”.
d. Partial knowledge has clearly not passed away amongst Christians. So why should we say that tongues and prophecy have? If this be so then clearly this passage of Scripture points to a future fulfilment, and was not fulfilled in the 1st or the 4th century A.D.
e. When the canon was completed, not all Christians had access to it all, and not all could read. The need for God to reveal Himself through the gifts of the Spirit was totally unchanged as far as those Christians were concerned.
f. The purpose for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit was not and is not to establish true doctrine - but rather for the building up of the body of Christ. People still need the personal encouragement that comes through the Holy Spirit speaking and acting directly through people to them. The need therefore for healing, prophetic confirmation of the specific will of God, supernatural wisdom and knowledge is just as real now as it ever was. And praying in other tongues will still build up any Christian who takes the time to do it.
g. So many millions of sincere Christians have discovered that these gifts are working in their lives and have received personal benefit from them. While counterfeits may exist, their existence only suggests the existence of something real that could be counterfeited.
h. There is no other Scripture which can support this theological assumption which remains unproven and has been demonstrated to be positively harmful in destroying faith for the some of the very things God ordained to build us up.
10. Supernatural healing today is all of the devil.
This doctrine, which is as old as the Scribes and Pharisees who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24), is unworthy of a Bible believing Christian who believes that God is a compassionate and powerful God and that Jesus is our merciful High Priest, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
While some manifestations of spiritual healing are demonic in their origin - such as those coming through people believing in a New Age, Satanic or Hinduistic philosophies this does not mean that genuine divine healing no longer exists. While it is true that the mere mentioning of “Jesus” or the word “Christ” in no way guarantees that the Lord Jesus Christ truly is the source of what a person is doing, neither can we say that all supernatural healings are now of the devil. How could that be so if James 5:14,15 or Mark 16:18 is still true?
Some point to Matthew 7:21-23 as proof of this doctrine.
Matthew 7:22,23 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This passage shows us that merely doing supernatural works in Jesus’ name does not guarantee a person a place in the Kingdom of God. But the reason Jesus told them to depart is that they were “practicing lawlessness”, and “not doing the will of the Father in heaven” (vs 21).
If this passage was meant to show that healing the sick and casting out demons are sinful, satanically inspired activities, then many prominent New Testament figures were clearly guilty of this charge! Not only Peter and Paul, but also non-apostles like Philip the Evangelist, Stephen the first martyr and Agabus the prophet were guilty.
The presence of “signs and wonders” does not prove anything about a man’s life or acceptance with God - one way or the other.
Actually, healing the sick and casting out demons is supposed to follow every believer, according to Mark 16:17,18. It may be that many of those professing Christians who criticise such activities are themselves practicing lawlessness by deceiving the Body of Christ concerning these things, and “not doing the will of the Father in heaven” by refusing to be vessels of God’s healing and delivering power. They are not showing forth the will of the Father in the way Jesus Christ expressed it to a world in pain and darkness.
Nevertheless the passage above sounds a strong warning and exhortation to practical and moral righteousness for all those who are moving in the supernatural, using Jesus’ name. It is not one or the other, but both that fully express the will of the Father. The passage does not show that healing and deliverance being practiced today in Jesus’ name is of the devil.
11. But if the doctrine of divine healing is true, how could Christians ever die?
This is really not as great a problem as it may seem at first. The simple answer is: if Jesus does not come back first, a Christian may die through persecution, or by their body wearing out and God taking their spirit to be with him. “You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Ps. 104:29). Although many Christians do die with sickness in their body this does not mean that all do or all should. After God has satifisfied a man with long life (Ps. 91:16), He is quite capable of taking his spirit without making him sick first. Those who die as martyrs are a special category and obviously do not die because of sickness.
Our bodies are still mortal and as such cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They are affected by the Adamic curse and no longer have the capacity to live forever. They must be put aside at some stage before we can receive our new resurrection bodies. Only then will that promise for our bodies become a practical reality.
We mustn’t allow philosophical arguments to rob us of the blessing of divine healing and the possibility to run the full course which God has for us in life.
The Good News for those Suffering with Sickness
If you are sick God’s path for you will eventually take you out of sickness and pain, one blessing at a time. Unless you are satisfied with long life already, you ought to be able to experience your healing well before you receive your resurrection body! This is not to deny the Sovereignty of God, but rather, it is to affirm His Faithfulness and the integrity of His Word.
“But the path of the righteous is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter until the perfect day.”
Things will get better, at least in the soul of an obedient Christian. But God has something for the body too!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
At the cross Jesus already legally accomplished your healing and deliverance. What is necessary now is to follow Him in all things and let Him make some changes to your life. One of them, if you are sick and in pain, will be your healing.
Surely he has borne our griefs [Heb: choli = sicknesses] And carried our sorrows [Heb: Makob = pains] Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes WE ARE HEALED.
In this passage Isaiah the prophet foretells the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Just as Jesus bore our sins and the punishment for our transgressions, he also bore the curse, which includes sicknesses and the pains they produce. Jesus would not have done this if God wanted us to always bear our sicknesses and pains ourselves.
There is really no good reason for translating “choli” as “griefs” and “makob” as “sorrows” except perhaps to uphold religious tradition. These words really mean sicknesses and pains respectively. That is why Matthew, when quoting this passage in Matthew 8:17 renders it as “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”. This implies a physical interpretation for the Isaiah prophecy.
Just as salvation has been provided for all men in the area of forgiveness and spiritual regeneration, so it has also healing been provided for by the same sacrifice. But people need to appropriate the benefits of Calvary by repentance and faith, and so it is also with divine healing. We have the strongest indications here that God doesn’t want us to remain sick - just as He doesn’t want us to remain in sin. Faith takes hold of the provision of Calvary. We may need to add patience to our faith in order to inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12), but the promises are there and they can be really experienced.
God is interested in our total healing and salvation. Therefore we are wise if we co-operate with the way He is leading us. Many times God will begin by addressing a spiritual or emotional problem in our lives before He gets around to removing the physical infirmity or disease. Thus God may first lead a person let go of bitterness and resentment in their life - thus freeing them emotionally, before the manifestation of the physical healing can come.
We cannot tell God the way He must heal us. It is an error to command God or try to use “faith” to force Him to do something we are not convinced He wants to do. We need to realise that God does want us to be well - but the way He wants us to receive that wellness may not be known to us. This is why we need to seek to know God’s ways and be sensitive to His Spirit. We really need to be dependent on the Spirit for all things. True faith is based on relationship with God, not formulas and principles. Failure to understand this has led to a lot of grief and disappointment amongst those who have been looking to the Lord for divine healing.
We will consider below different ways which God may use in order for us to actually receive our healing, which He provided for us at the cross.
What is the role of faith in divine healing? Is lack of faith always to blame when the sick is not healed?
Faith has an important role not only in divine healing, but also in our salvation, and everything we do in life. Since the Word tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) and “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23) it is obviously very important to God that we do all we can to develop our faith.
It is possible to have great faith in God for certain areas while being full of doubt in other areas where God has spoken. Many believe God for the salvation of their soul that believe nothing definite regarding the healing of their body. Some have faith to pray effectively for revival or even for the healing of others and yet do not seem to have any confidence in regard to the healing of their own body. Some have faith for their healing and yet do not even have faith for salvation! Think of how many were healed under Jesus’ ministry and yet did not follow Him! It is therefore a mistake to consider that having faith in one area means that there is nothing more God is expecting you to believe for in life.
We ought not to judge people whose faith is deficient in a particular area, but rather encourage them with the Word. People however can be discouraged by if they somehow conclude that what we are really saying is that they are “second-rate Christians” because they struggle in the area of divine healing. We must bring the living water of God’s life to such people, not discouraging words of condemnation which put all the responsibility for receiving healing on the patient.
When Jesus sent out the seventy He simply told them to “heal the sick there” (Luke 10:9). He put the responsibility on the disciples, and not on the sick. The great challenge for all God’s ministers (which should include all true Christians) is to stay close to the Holy Spirit under the authority of Jesus Christ and to know exactly how, when and where to minister divine healing in Christ’s name. Since faith comes out of fellowship with Christ, our communion with the Lord through the Holy Spirit is very important if we are to minister divine healing consistently and effectively. The commission for divine healing is still given to the body of Christ today (John 14:12; Mark 16:17,18).
Having said all this, it is important to realise that God expects us to believe what He says. We should believe it even when our physical senses and our minds may be screaming out that it cannot be so. As we have seen, God has given great and precious promises concerning the healing of the body. Our responsibility is to focus on those promises, to praise God for them, and to rest patiently in the confidence of their truthfulness until indeed our divine healing is a physical fact in our bodies.
We must imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). This means that there may be a period of time between actually believing the promise and experiencing the results of divine healing. This is true despite the fact that it was all legally accomplished a long time ago at the cross.
The Scripture gives us many examples of people whose faith played a major role in their healing, or in the healing of others. To the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus said, “Daughter, your FAITH has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34). This woman believed and declared to herself that “If only I may touch his clothes, I shall be made well.” (vs 28). No one was telling her what she needed to believe or say. Her faith and confession came out of her heart. She had heard about Jesus and what He can do, and this sparked off faith in her heart. She pushed past the crowd of religious traditionalists who were just waiting for Jesus to do something, and she got her miracle.
In the same way, if a believer today can get past the crowd of religious people who are hanging around Jesus but not touching him with faith, that believer can get something real from God. Though Jesus is not physically here with us, He can touch us just as surely by His Word and by His Spirit. His touch may come through an anointed servant of God ministering in His name. We should be open to such things. More than that, like that woman we should come to a place where we expect Jesus to do something for us when we can “touch his clothes”. The way we do that depends on the God given conviction we receive from God about what needs to happen. It has to be more than wishful hoping. It must be a God-given conviction.
To Bartimaeus, who was blind, Jesus said, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:52). He is another example of someone who went after Jesus with determination and faith, not taking into account the discouraging words of those around him and around Jesus. We should have the same attitude.
It was the faith of friends that resulted in the healing of a number of people in the gospels. The paralytic in the story of Mark 2 was saved and healed because of the faith of his friends who got him to Jesus (Mark 2:5). The centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:5-13 resulted in the healing of his servant. And the great faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:25-30 resulted in the healing and deliverance of her daughter. In an atmosphere of faith where Jesus is moving, the faith of others can bring deliverance to their loved ones. Our faith in Jesus can result in great blessings for our loved ones.
A person’s lack of faith is not always the reason that divine healing does not flow to them. There may be any number of reasons in such cases, and unless the Spirit of God has clearly shown us by revelation what the problem is in a particular case, we do better to confess our ignorance rather than declare what we think the problem is.. It may be helpful however, to refer to the section below: “What are some of the things which may obstruct divine healing”.
What are some different ways to receive divine healing?
Divine healing may be received in many ways. Below some of the more important ways are discussed. All of these methods have worked in a multitude of cases, and testimonies can be given to support all of this. But this is not done here for the purpose of space.
Calling for the Elders of the Church
Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save [heal] the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
This is a command of the New Testament. In cases where simpler methods have not worked, it is the instruction of God that we call the elders of the church to come to the bed of the sick one and do these things. God assumes here that the elders are able to pray a prayer of faith. If your church leaders are unable to do this, perhaps you should find a church where the elders can and will do their part in this matter. Then God gives his promise, “The Lord will raise him up.” Wonderful promise!
Laying on of Hands
Jesus laid hands on the sick on many occasions and in this way imparted the healing power of the Holy Spirit to their diseased bodies. Jesus touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8:15, and the fever left her. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by taking her by the hand and speaking to her (Matthew 9:25). By touching the eyes of blind men Jesus healed them also (Matthew 9:29). Many other examples could be given.
Many times also it was enough for the sick themselves to touch Jesus, or His clothes. Mark 6:56 says that “as many as touched him were made well”. This is a variation on the idea of laying on of hands but the idea is similar. The healing power of the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus through a physical contact made in faith.
Jesus gave this ministry to all believers in Mark 16:17,18. “These signs will follow those who believe: In My Name ... they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” It is still working today.
It is biblical to pray and intercede from a distance for those in sickness. The centurion did this in one sense, knowing that a word from Jesus was enough for the healing of His servant. In the Old Testament, Abraham prayed for the healing of Abimelech and his family and was heard (Genesis 20:17). In Numbers 12:13 Moses intercedes for the healing of his sister Miriam from leprosy, and she was healed by the time seven days were up. It is Biblical to pray for others. We are told to ask in Jesus’ name, and we shall receive, that our joy may be full (John 16:24).
Prolonged intecessory prayer will often prepare the way for God to move miraculously and suddenly in divine healing. Such prayer involves a struggle with the powers of darkness. We are not often aware of the reasons for the spiritual struggles involved in getting answers for some of our prayers. Persistent faith is important here (Luke 18:1-8).
Listening to Preaching on Divine Healing from the Word of God
Since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ [God]” (Romans 10:17) one way to grow in faith for God’s promises to be fulfilled is to hear anointed preaching on the subject. We need not only to read and analyze, but to really hear faith-filled preaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. In third world countries many are healed in great evangelistic rallies by simply hearing the message preached. Even listening to taped messages can be of great benefit to our faith.
Meditation on the Word
Many benefits are promised to those who meditate on the Word (e.g. Joshua 1:8). The Hebrew concept of meditation includes muttering something to oneself over and over again. This causes the words to enter deeply into the human soul and spirit. In this way, faith can be developed for things which look impossible to the natural eye.
Proverbs 4:20-22 promises healing to the flesh of all who attend to God’s Word, focus on it and do not let it depart from their heart.
One of the ways faith comes is by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we keep hearing the Word of God about healing, eventually faith will be developed in that area. We need to meditate on the Word until our hearts are speaking the Word back to us, and we are really hearing it. After we have begun to hear the Word, we need to keep hearing it, pondering it, and turning it over in our minds so that doubt and unbelief has no place to enter.
Confessing the Word in the first person
Closely related to meditating on the Word is the idea of declaring with the mouth the promise or declaration of the Scriptures in the first person (that is, using the words “I” and “me”).
This is far from the only method of healing, yet it has its place. The classic example of this is to refuse to talk about the pain one feels, but rather to declare, for example: “Jesus took my sicknesses and carried my pains, and by his wounds I am healed” (Is. 53:4,5; 1 Peter 2:24).
The more we believe something, the more we will say it (2 Cor. 4:13). And the more we say something, the more likely we are to believe it. If it is true that repeatedly hearing lies results in deception, then it is also true that repeatedly hearing the Word of God, especially out of our own mouth, will result in faith. This is because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we prayerfully hear the Word with a soft, good heart, new faith germinates and grows in the previously barren areas of our lives.
Doubt is overcome by devoting oneself to meditation on the Word. Declaring the Word releases power and can change the spiritual climate governing our situation. This is a good reason to speak the Word of God out in the face of all kinds of negative and threatening situations. In order to do this, however, we first need to believe that God’s Word can over-rule the circumstances of our lives. Secondly, we need to know the Scriptures relevant to our particular case.
Since “death and life is in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, we ought to believe that we can have what we say in line with God’s Will, which is revealed in His Word. There is creative power in words. God used them to create the Universe. We use them all the time to influence our world. Since God wants us well, we should speak words of life over our bodies and not words of defeat and discouragement.
When we truly believe from the heart, and when we talk and act consistently with that faith, God works. Such faith is a gift from God. God wants us to believe His promises. He knows when we believe. By holding onto our confession and patiently waiting for God to move we will obtain the promises (Hebrews 6:12; 10:23).
Confessing the Word concerning healing in the first person means to say out loud the declarations of Scripture concerning our healing and to make it personal. This can help build faith and also, “by calling things that are not as though they were” we can follow in the footsteps of Abraham (Romans 4:17-21) and see God intervene to change the circumstances.
Such confessions do not force the hand of God. Rather, they express trust and confidence in the integrity of God’s Word. It is a verbal affirmation that the thing God says about healing applies to us. Confessing the Word like this does not always bring instant results. Instead it works to progressively grow us up spiritually and release us from fear, doubt and discouragement so that faith can work.
Many other confessions concerning healing or anything else can be constructed using God’s Word. When done by the Spirit of God, it can release great power into our lives - harmonising us with God’s plan for blessing.
Speaking to the Mountain.
Mark 11:22-24 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, HE WILL HAVE WHATEVER HE SAYS. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Jesus is not really talking about literal mountains here. “The mountain” refers to any obstacle, problem or negative thing in your path. Like a mountain, it looks like it is impossible to move. But Jesus said, if you tell it to move and don’t doubt in your heart, you will have what you say! This principle is applied to ministering deliverance and healing to people.
We command the mountain of demonic oppression to leave a person and it goes. We command the bodies of others or our own bodies to come into line according to the principles of perfect health, and they do. It works when we understand that God wants it to happen, because of His nature, His compassion and His written Will - the Word of God. It works when we take this Scripture seriously and believe that God could use us in such a way. If we doubt any of these things, it probably won’t work for us. We then need to purify our hearts and minds and become more like Jesus, who knew the Father perfectly and operated this way all the time with perfect confidence.
In Jesus name, we can command muscles, tendons and ligaments to relax, and bones to move into place. We can command internal organs to be made new, or nerve connections to be fixed. All this is to be done in Jesus’ name. If we believe it with God-given faith, God will do it. This “believing” though is not something we generate, but something that is imparted to us through our relationship with God and our knowledge of His ways. We still need to depend on God in all of this.
We are not commanding God here, but we are commanding the mountain - the body or the problem, to move. God is sovereign. He has commanded us to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). We put this Scripture into practise in obedience to Him. Mark 11:23 reveals an important principle to those with ears to hear. We are called upon to voluntarily submit to God’s Lordship, but this often means active faith rather than passive weakness. We have authority in Jesus’ name when we live under the authority of Jesus Christ in a practical way.
Praising God for the Promises
The story is told of a misionary in China who was afflicted with many smallpox sores and was in serious danger. The Lord instructed her to praise Him for His promises of healing. When those praises were greater than the problem, she was miraculously healed by the power of God.
In the same way, God is pleased when we thank and praise Him for His promises. This develops character in the face of difficulty. It glorifies God, and often results in a wonderful manifestation of divine healing.
Obedience to a Divinely given Instruction
In the gospels Jesus often gave instructions to people seeking healing. For example, he told the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:7). It was obedience to Christ’s instruction which released the healing to that man. It can be the same today, since God still has His ways of communicating with us.
I personally know a preacher who was healed of a skin problem when he obeyed the Lord and began to preach in the open air in his city. People may also receive physical healing when they put things right in a relationship either by restoring what was stolen or by forgiving those who have unjustly treated them. These are things the Holy Spirit may show us to do. And often, we will fail to receive divine healing until we do the very thing our conscience is pressing us to do.
A minister of divine healing may give an instruction in the name of Jesus to a person seeking healing. Obedience to that instruction will release healing if the instruction truly was from the Lord. Many times the instruction will involve doing something that was impossible or difficult to do before. I have been led many times to tell those with back problems to thank the Lord and then touch their toes. Many times they are surprised at the way the Lord instantly heals them at that moment. This happens both with non-believers and with believers.
It is no use talking about what great faith we have if we are not willing to obey the practical instructions of the Lord to our situtation. Faith without corresponding actions is dead faith - no use to anyone.
Personal Fasting and Prayer
Sometimes sickness persists and we don’t know why. Prayer and fasting (not eating food) is a divinely instituted means of getting breakthoughs in difficult circumstances. In humbling ourselves this way, we can receive grace from God and hear His voice more clearly. Our prayers tend to have greater power also in times of fasting.
Fasting has the side effect of releasing the toxins out of our body which have accumulated, perhaps through a less than perfect diet, or for other reasons. Often just eliminating these toxins will have a positive effect on our health. Natural things are not to be despised. Why should God keep on healing us if we insist on abusing our bodies with tobacco, excessive alchohol or gluttonous behaviour?
Fasting helps in breaking the power of sin and disease and demonic strongholds in our mind. It will also enable us in many cases to receive a far greater anointing with which to minister to others.
Deliverance from Evil Spirits
Sometimes sickness and illness, especially those sicknesses and illnesses of a chronic nature, are the direct result of the work of an evil spirits. In Luke 13:11-16 we read of “a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up”. Jesus healed this woman by a word of command. Regarding this case said, “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound - think of it - for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (vs 16).
Here is a clear example showing that even a child of God can by physically afflicted or bound by an evil spirit.
The casting out of demons goes together with the healing of the sick in many passages in the New Testament, especially in the ministry of Jesus. This is no accident. In fact, understanding the ministry of deliverance provides major keys to an effective ministry of healing.
Many people, even many Christians, are under the power of a demonic curse which is affecting many areas of their lives, often including their physical health. Such people need to understand how to have that curse broken through repentance and faith in Christ, and to receive deliverance from it and any evil spirits associated with it.
In the gospels, Jesus often gave the authority to heal the sick together with the authority to drive out demons.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons ... they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Philip the evangelist had one of the greatest healing and miracle ministries described in the New Testament. The Bible describes his meetings as follows:
For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
Again we see the ministry of deliverance working together with the ministry of healing.
The whole of Jesus’ healing ministry was summarized by the apostle Peter in his message to the Romans as follows:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and went about doing good and HEALING ALL WHO WERE OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, for God was with Him.”
This verse provides additional evidence that divine healing is the will of God, since it is a means by which the works of the devil are destroyed. It was not God who was putting sickness on the ones Jesus healed. The Scripture reveals that these diseases were the work of the devil.
The same principles used in casting out demons effectively may be used in healing the sick. However, it is not necessary to talk a lot about the presence of demons. Such talk can be counter-productive in some cases. The best thing to do in many such cases is just to treat sickness like a demon and expect it to go when confronted with the Name of Jesus, the Word of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit.
In many cases Jesus ministered healing by casting out demons. A few examples will suffice:
Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.
As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel.”
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter no more!”
The word translated “demon-possessed” here in the original in no way implies total ownership by Satan or demons - but rather a condition of being affected by evil spirits. Sadly many Christians are unwilling to face the possibility that these kind of Scriptures may be relevant in some of the cases they may know of, even amongst believing people. There are many cases where spirits of infirmity must be driven out or driven away before real healing can take place.
In many cases demons are affecting people, re-inforcing the power of sin in their lives. When the demonic stronghold is broken, the grace of healing can flow more easily.
To be effective in casting out demons we need to understand our authority as believers to use the name of Jesus. We also need to say ‘no’ to our fleshly desires. We need to abide in Jesus and seek to be full of the Spirit of God at all times for maximum results. Also, we need to understand the work of Calvary and the power of the blood of Jesus for ourselves and others.
The Gifts of Healing, Miracles and Faith
Since God’s gifts have not been revoked from the church, we can expect to still find ministers operating in the special gifts of healings, miracles and/or faith. Such ministries will normally demonstrate a high degree of the power of Christ as they minister in His name. This can build our confidence in God’s willingness to heal and work miracles.
However, it is also important to develop our own faith in God’s promises, rather than rely on the faith or anointing of a man of God. Our healing and our faith received through such anointed ministry may be challenged when the anointed minister is not around. Then we will need to understand and believe the promises of the Word, and rebuke the disease ourselves in Jesus’ name.
Receiving Holy Communion with Understanding
Just as the cup in Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper represents the blood of Jesus which deals with our sins, so the bread represents the Body of Christ which was broken for our healing and health. Many of the Corinthians were sick and some died because they did not properly discern the Lord’s body in the bread. (1 Cor. 11:29,30).
The flesh of the lamb in the passover meal in the Old Covenant is a type of the Body of Christ in the New Testament. It is interesting to note that not one of the 3 million or so Israelites who left Egypt were feeble or sick after eating the flesh of that lamb (Psalm 105:37). How is it possible that so many church members are sick, while the Israelites were so healthy? Could it be that the church has ignored a vital meaning of the Lord’s supper as it applies to us? The flesh of the Son of God is supposed to have power when received by faith to impart physical healing to our bodies. This is in line with all God’s healing covenants and the declaration of Isaiah 53:5, “By his wounds we are healed.”
If one takes the Lord’s supper in faith, one can therefore expect not only a spiritual blessing, but also a physical healing. The Lord’s desire is that we come to the table of the Lord with a prepared heart and mind, so that we can fully partake of the goodness of the Lord’s gospel blessings for us at that time.
Obstacles to Effective Divine Healing Ministry
Some assume that God will do whatever He wants to do and therefore if He does want us well He will do it regardless of anything on our side. While it is true that God is sovereign, and well able to heal even when many of these obstructions mentioned below are present in a particular case, we should seek to remove all possible obstructions from our lives in any case - because they offend God.
Religious traditions in doctrine we have already discussed in part in a previous section. They can form a great barrier to the reception of divine healing. Another form of tradition that we have not looked at is more subtle. It comes from those who are attempting to minister divine healing according to a pattern that they have learned.
If God blesses one method today, it is no guarantee that similar methodology will bring the same blessing tomorrow. Perhaps one day the Lord led the minister to call all those who are sick to the front of the church and lay hands on them from left to right, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. People were wonderfully blessed and many testimonies of healing followed.
But if the same procedure was followed every week without consulting the mind of the Lord, it can gradually degenerate into a mindless tradition in which the sick are rarely healed and the same method is followed slavishly without result.
This is only one example. Many could be constructed. The principle to bear in mind here is this: we must follow Jesus and the Spirit of God closely. God is a God of variety. He wants us to depend on Him, and not a method, in our ministries. Jesus Himself could do nothing of Himself, but “only what He saw the Father doing” (John 5:19) Jesus’ methods varied tremendously. At times He even spat on the ground and used the mud so formed to place on the eyes of a blind man, thus healing him. Sometimes Jesus healed with a touch, other times with a word. Other times Jesus simply gave an instruction - “Stretch out your hand”, or “go your way”. Obedience to the Word of Jesus produced healing.
It is so easy for a church to create a dead tradition - even in the matter of healing. This is done by setting up a system of laws, rules and regulations - written or unwritten. When such systems are followed more than the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit may well choose not to get involved in what is being done. When that happens, nothing of lasting value will be achieved.
Jesus often rebuked his disciples for their unbelief, hardness of heart, doubt and little faith (Mark 4:40; Matthew 28:17). One time Jesus said when his disciples failed to cast out a demon: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” (Matthew 17:17).
Unbelief is a spiritual condition of the heart, formed by accepting bad ideas and rejecting God’s Word. Unbelief steadfastly refuses to accept and trust God’s promises, or to really consider that the Bible means what it says. God calls this unbelief sin. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12).
When faced with the promises of God concerning healing, a person with unbelief will not rejoice or give thanks. Immediately they will dismiss it, or, if they are Christians, they will look for excuses, raise objections, harden their hearts and allow sadness and hurt to fill their heart.
In Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, where He had been brought up, “He could do no mighty works there ... because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5,6) If unbelief could limit Jesus in his healing ministry then, it certainly can today.
If a person has no confidence that God will heal them, how can they claim to have no problem with unbelief in this area? How can they say that God should honour their faith and heal them? If when they pray, they have an assurance that nothing will happen, there is a problem with unbelief. They are believing something else more than the promises of God concerning the matter.
There are three kinds of unbelief which hinder the flow of divine healing: personal unbelief, unbelief on the part of the ministers (Matthew 17:20), and general community unbelief (Mark 6:5,6). However, even in these circumstances, it is possible that God will do a work of divine healing anyway. He is Sovereign.
Negative Words and Curses
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Since there is power in words (Proverbs 18:21), especially those heartfelt words of a believer, it is important that we make positive and not negative pronouncements over people, places and things. A curse is invoked when negative words are pronounced over something or someone. Many factors influence the power or otherwise of a curse. Negative words spoken by authority figures such as parents over a young child’s life can bring a very powerful negative effect on their future. Heartfelt words of doubt, fear, dismay or encouragement from believers or others can have a negative effect also. One activity of witchcraft is that of placing curses on others. A believer who is following God’s divine order can escape, but those with open doors to Satan in their lives may be afflicted. God himself has cursed those involved in idolatry and occultism even to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:3-5). In many cases a believer whose ancestors have been involved in such things will have to take conscious steps of renunciation and prayer before the inherited curse is effectively broken from off their lives.
What happens in the spiritual world is this. Negative words are carriers for evil spirits, which are assigned to bring them to pass. Blessings are words of life which God honours and causes good to follow. Satan may attempt to counterfeit blessings, but he always brings a greater curse with the so-called blessing.
The subject of blessings and curses is a vast one, and cannot be properly treated here. It is a reality however that many diseases have as their root cause a curse. In some cases, unless steps are taken to break the curse by verbally renouncing all those elements which gave it the possibility to exist in the first place, healing may be delayed or even stopped.
Curses have been legally dealt with by the work of Jesus at the Cross. However, once again, the legal victory must be practically applied by using the Word, confession of sins, forgiveness of others, detailed renunciation of evil and a bold, faith filled declaration in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide to lead us out of curse into blessing. Only He can uncover some of the elements that may be important for our healing and deliverance.
Sin has hurt us all, and sometimes people hold on to resentment in their hearts because of the unjustices they have suffered at the hands of others, even in church life. We cannot expect to receive the blessings of the gospel while we allow any place for unforgiveness, resentment or bitterness in our lives. It is God’s law. Jesus said just after talking about the power of faith these words:
And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
There is nothing like unforgiveness for blocking the flow of grace and blessing to our lives. We must show mercy if we hope to receive mercy from God. Divine healing is grace, mercy and love. It is not something we ought to demand from God, any more than we should demand that He forgive us. No. We should receive it as undeserved grace and mercy to our lives.
Many physical conditions such as arthritis and cancer can be brought on by unforgiveness. This is not the cause in every case, but it is often so. I know a pastor’s wife who was greatly hurt by the way church people treated her. Her unforgiveness brought her to the final stages of cancer. Yet she was healed by forgiving those people and patiently confessing and believing the promise of God’s Word to her. The whole healing took more than a year to fully manifest. How many would have given up first in discouragement?
There are cases when by refusing to forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us we are unable to receive God’s healing. We would be wise to forgive when God does. It is pride not to do so.
Pride & Stubborness
These sins can be hindrances to receiving God’s healing. Such a person may not be willing to obey God’s instruction for their own healing. The instruction may be as simple as “Come out the front if you are sick”. I have known people to refuse to come out even when a word of knowledge detailing their condition is given. Then afterwards they come up to you asking for prayer.
A subtle trap is to be proud of all the things you are doing for your own healing. Once we start believing that God will heal us because of what we have done, we are looking to the wrong things. We should be looking to Jesus and his work for us, not to our religious discipline and exercises, even if it be confessing the Word of God.
If we believe that God owes us healing, we could become bitter towards God when we understand that He is delaying in giving us what He owes us. We need to understand that all God’s gifts are due to the undeserved, unmerited favour of God.
Other personal sins
As mentioned before, personal sin needs to be repented of. Attitudes like envy, strife, rebellion, lust and other unconfessed sins and acts of disobedience can block the flow of God’s healing to a person. The thing to do is to confess them, repent of them and make any restoration to others necessary.
We are supposed to be “looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), but when we look to other things more we can fail to receive healing.
a. If we look more to men than to God, this can lead to disappointment. For all the people healed in some evangelist’s meetings, there are many more who go away unhealed. We must recognise that God is the source of healing and give Him all the glory.
b. If we believe the word of the doctor more than the word of God, we will miss out in many cases. If we look to religious friends trying to ensure we are not going to disappointed by encouraging us not to believe, we may not be disappointed, but we are unlikely to be healed either. Stories of others who were not healed though it was claimed they believed are not going to help our faith. Only God knows the full facts on these cases. Looking to religious doctrines preached by spiritual leaders which emphasize the place of sickness in the life of a believer once again will weaken our faith. God calls all such reports “evil” because they look more to the natural than to the promise of God (see Numbers 14:37 in context).
c. If we consider that what we feel in our body tells us our condition more truly than God’s Word, we can block the flow of God’s power in our lives. We should focus on the promises and declarations of God’s Word, not on our physical symptons. We should think on good things (Php 4:8,9) and focussing on the problem will not help us believe God’s promises. When Peter got his eyes off Jesus onto the wind and the waves around him, he began to sank. We must look to Jesus and act in faith.
d. When we keep declaring negative things concerning our health and healing we often limit what we can receive from God. It is possible to have what you say even when what you say is negative (Mark 11:23). If we say with one breath, “God is healing me” and then we start complaining about our sickness, we reveal a divided heart and a double mind. God wants a wholehearted, trusting, thankful faith.
Negative words can attract evil spirits. We should therefore guard our lips carefully.
What do I do if the answer doesn’t come immediately?
If the answer doesn’t come immediately, do not be discouraged. Keep seeking God and meditating on the promises. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He wants to do in your life. Co-operate with God. Enlist intecessory prayer support and keep taking opportunities to receive ministry through the laying on of hands, especially through anointed, spirit-empowered ministers of God. Don’t let extremists tell you it is always unbelief when you pray more than once about something. Many have been healed gradually, or suddenly after many unsuccessful attempts at ministry.
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.
What do I do if the problem goes away but then seems to return?
Many wonder why this sometimes happens, but the explanation is quite simple. Often when the power of the Holy Spirit is moving and anointed hands are laid on an afflicted person, the evil spirit responsible for the condition, feeling uncomfortable, is forced to leave. But Jesus said they will try to come back (see Matthew 12:43-45). The evil spirits will be unsuccessful, however, if you fill your life with the Word of God and the Spirit of God through thankfulness, prayer and rejoicing. When they attempt to put the symptons back on you, simply tell them to go in the name and authority of Jesus Christ. Believe that the mountain of pain will move.
What about doctors and medication?
We should have nothing to do with occultic methods of healing such as charms, acupuncture, hypnosis, homeopathy and healing cults which use a spiritual power unrelated to the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Nevertheless, there is a genuine and important place for true medical science which is based on objective research and practice.
Since sickness is a work of the devil, doctors and medical professionals are normally our allies in working against sickness. If someone’s faith is not developed to the point of totally trusting God for healing and health, there may be times when it is very wise and good to go to the medical profession for help. The best thing is to go to God first though, even if there is an emergency and there is only time for a quick prayer before medical professionals arrive. In such situations it helps to have already built the Word of God into your heart for healing. It is a good insurance against premature death (Ps. 91:16).
A person under medical care should not stop taking medicines unless their doctor tells them to. A diabetic who receives prayer ministry should continue to take insulin until the doctors say it is no longer necessary. They should go to the doctor if they get insulin shock in their body because their pancreas is already producing insulin again. A person with eye-sight problems should not destroy their glasses to prove they have faith. But if they find that they can see better without them, they might put them aside or give them to someone who needs them!
Much tragedy and disgrace can be avoided if people will stop doing foolish things in the name of “faith”. We may need medical treatment at times before God’s supernatural healing power has time to work. In any case, it is the Lord who heals, even when medicine and surgery are the means used. When children are refused medical treatment on religious grounds much disgrace can come to the name of Jesus Christ and the ministry of divine healing. Even Jesus told the lepers who were healed under his ministry to report to the priests, who were the physicians of the day (Matthew 8:4). A true healing can be and ought to be confirmed by the medical profession, as a testimony to the power of God and as a guard against self-deception.
Who can minister divine healing?
According to Mark 16:17,18 , any true believer can minister divine healing. Obviously, the believer must believe in divine healing, or he is unlikely to be much use. Pastors, and elders of the church are called upon to visit the sick and minister the prayer of faith in the name of the Lord (James 5:14,15). Evangelists and some teachers and prophetic ministries are called upon especially to demonstrate the power of God in healing and miracles, and to equip believers in doing these things. Men with apostolic ministries are expected to minister divine healing powerfully and consistently because that is just one of the signs of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12).
What are some principles guiding the ministry of divine healing?
The basic principle is to get people to believe the Word of God by teaching, example and demonstration. In ministering any part of the gospel a minister ought to depend on the Holy Spirit, be led by Him, filled with Him and in communion with Him. As Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), so all ministers of divine healing should develop their spiritual capacity to perceive what God is doing, where faith exists (Acts 14:9) and how the Lord wants healing ministered.
Another important factor is persistence. Don’t give up until God enables you to minister effectively. Keep studying, praying and asking for the leading of the Lord. Keep laying hands on people believing that something good will happen. Be open to different methods as the Lord leads.
How can a person become more effective in divine healing?
Apart from observing the basic principles mentioned above, a minister of divine healing can become more effective by fasting and prayer, and by association with those already moving effectively in this ministry.
By humbling oneself one receives more grace and power from the Lord. One way to do this is through much prayer and fasting.
Another way is to work alongside someone who is already ministering divine healing effectively. In this way, there can be an impartation of faith and anointing. Elisha received a double measure of Elijah’s anointing after years of faithful and persistent service.
Is divine healing just a side issue?
Divine healing is right throughout the Bible, and is more relevant to the needs of men than many other things commonly discussed in church circles - such as predestination vs. free will theologies, end-time events and even the “correct” form of church government.
Divine healing will always play a secondary role to the ministry of the basic gospel message of forgiveness and new life through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet it is not a side issue. It was a major part of the ministry of the one in whose steps we are called to walk. Jesus suffered for us to enjoy the benefits of divine healing and health. We must not despise the work of the Lord here.
Divine Healing and Evangelism
Apostolic evangelism employs healing and deliverance. We see this in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. Philip, the only man named specifically as an evangelist in the New Testament, was known for his miracle ministry which involved the casting out of demons (See Acts 8:5-8). Jesus never sent out anyone to preach the gospel without at least indirectly implying that they were to heal the sick and cast out demons. See my booklet on “Our Mission as Christians” for more on this subject.
Why you can expect Divine Healing to work easier amongst Unbelievers
Experience has taught me that God is more willing to heal supernaturally when the gospel is preached amongst unbelievers. God will confirm his Word with signs following if we believe (Mark 16:20) and step out in boldness, expecting something to happen.
This is because divine healing is a demonstration of the goodness and compassion of God. It becomes a sign to people of the reality of God and their need to put their trust in him not only for healing and deliverance, but also for forgiveness and a new life.
If you have only ministered to Christians along the lines of divine healing, you may be discouraged by the lack of results. Do not let this discourage you from praying for unbelievers, who are usually easier to get healed. One reason for this is that God expects more from a Christian than he does from an unbeliever in terms of faith. Many Christians have been educated to accept their sicknesses, and are not open to change. An unbeliever however usually has no such religious misconceptions. They are open to receive anything as long as it costs them nothing! A Christian, however, may have been prayed for without apparent result a number of times, and may have gotten to the place where they almost believe they are doing you a favour by letting you also pray for them. In such cases the level of faith and expectancy is almost zero. It is better to wait for a clear indication from God before ministering to such people, or your prayer ministry may actually confirm them in their doubt and unbelief rather than doing any good.
Divine Healing and the Kingdom of God
Divine Healing may be regarded as a manifestation of the Kingdom of God. When God’s Kingdom comes to a person, sin, demons and sicknesses are forced to flee. While the Kingdom of God will not manifest perfectly until Jesus comes, we can experience a large measure of its blessings in part. The measure to which we experience these blessings usually depends on the prayer and obedience of the Christian community in the area.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There is no sickness in heaven, so it is always God’s will for us to pray for a removal of sickness from people on the earth, as long as we do it according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
May God bless you as you put into practice what you have learned here. I would be delighted to hear of the results you obtain in so doing!
Praise be to God!