God, healing and what can be expected
Does God supernaturally heal today?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES!!!
Scripture clearly teaches that if we need healing we can call on the Elders of the Church to annoint us for healing (James 5:14), that God has gifted the Church with those having the “Gift's of Healing” (1 Cor 12:9). In Acts we also see those empowered by the Spirit laying hands on the sick and seeing them healed (Acts 5:15 – 16, 28:8 – 9). The power of the Spirit is for all believers, “for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
BUT then why does the question regularly come “Why was ______ not healed when we prayed in faith?' or 'Why do faithful Christian's get sick and die?'.
There are those that teach that the only real difference between a person being sick and being healed is whether they place faith in God to heal. The claim goes 'Jesus died for our healing, sickness is a sign of the law and Jesus has given us victory over both, we need only walk in faith. God want's to heal you, the real issue lies in whether you 'take hold' of his promises for such. 'Rebuke the devil and tell him to get away from your healing'.
For the purposes of this post I will call this group by it's broad designation, the 'Word of Faith' movement or WOF. I am a Pentecostal Christian, I passionately believe in being spirit filled and empowered. I believe in praying in faith for healing, I believe that when one is sick we should pray in faithful expectation believing for healing. I do not however believe that scripture teaches that we will alway's see total physical redemption and healing during this life. I trust God with the outcome.
I have been exposed to WOF ideas for much of my life. The idea of gauranteed healing originated in the American Church through individuals such as Kenneth Hagin and it's roots are culturally reflective of american suburbia and contain problematic interpretations of scripture.
Hagin himself says
"I am fully convinced - I would die saying it is so - that it is the plan of Our Father God, in His great love and in His great mercy, that no believer should ever be sick; that every believer should live his full life span down here on this earth; and that every believer should finally just fall asleep in Jesus" (Kenneth E. Hagin, 21, Seven Things You Should Know about Divine Healing).
Before we even get to the claimed biblical support for such a position, we must address this issue logically as well. Death itself is simply a sign a person's cell's, their body, has degenerated so far it fails to continue working. Death itself is caused originally by sin, when someone is wrinkling it is because the largest organ in their body, their skin, is dying, it is sickness of the cells. When a person hair turns grey it is because they are dying. People don't die without something being wrong in their body. Kenneth's desire that he should just 'fall asleep in Jesus', implying that he could die not from a brokeness but just because Jesus takes him has no foundation either logically or biblically.
There are of course a number of key quotation's rolled out in support of the WOF position (which I will briefly address)
1. Isaiah 53:5 & 1 Peter 2:24 - 25
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
The WOF claim is simple, 'Jesus died that you might be healed, physical healing is contained within the atonement (Jesus' sacrifical death for us on the cross).' It looks straight forward but it is not. One of the first principles of biblical interpretation is allowing scripture to interpret scripture.
The Apostle Peter shows us clearly what this healing is.
In 1 Peter 2:24 – 25 he says
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
He quotes Isaiah 53:5 in clear reference to bearing our sins “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness”, in doing so “now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”. The healing referenced in Isaiah 53:5 is to the healing from our sin and the separation in such from the shepherd. It is not to physical healing as if it is gauranteed in this life because Jesus died.
2. Matt 8:16 – 17 & Isaiah 53:4
“When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. 16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
The WOF claim attached to this verse is primarily in regard to his healing “all the sick”, thus we are to believe that Jesus will always heal all who come to him. However, such a conclusion is not anywhere in this passage and the quotation of Isaiah 53:4 only points to Jesus fullfilling the prophetic declaration that he would heal, confirming his messiahship. Isaiah 53:4 does not point to healing of us as part of the atonement but to Jesus' healing of people during his earthly ministry
We also see such in the question also from John the Baptist when he asks of Jesus (through his own disciples)
“...“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Matt 11:3 - 6
Jesus healing of people was not so we could claim we could do so at all times but rather that it might confirm his messiahship.
3. Psalm 103:3 and the word Rapha
"Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases”
The WOF claim is that this Psalm promises to all believers that he will certainly heal all your physical disease, provided you ask or claim it in faith.
Firstly, whenever approaching the Psalms it must be understood that the genre is poetic and as such contains constant literary devices such as hyperbole. Hyperbole establishes emphasis rather than to be taken literally without any consideration. The intent of Psalm 103:3 is not to establish a doctrine of gauranteed healing but it's context speaks as an act of worship to the greatness of God and his ability to do what he desires.
Nonetheless, the reference often given to rapha (healing) in this and other verses is misplaced.
The Hebrew word “rapha” (often translated 'heal') is actually normally used in reference to the healing of the soul in the Old Testament.
For instance, Jeremiah 3:22 says
“Return, faithless people; I will cure (rapha) you of backsliding.”
Psalm 41:4 says
“I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal (rapha) me, for I have sinned against you.”
Hosea 11:3 says
“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed (rapha) them.”
Each of these and most of the 68 references to Rapha in the Old Testament are actually to the healing of the soul. To presume that Psalm 103:3 is gauranteeing healing at all times is against the intention of Psalm 103 (and the way poetic device is used), against the standard reference of Rapha and certainly against the expectation's seen through the Epistles in the New Testament.
4. Gal 3:13
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” Gal 3:13
The WOF reasoning that is built upon this sound's like this, 'We have been redeemed from the curse, sickness is part of the curse, sickness is not for believers but can be overcome through faith'.
In one sense such a claim is half true and such is the problem with these claims and why they can mislead. Sickness is part of the curse but no where in scripture does it tells us we can claim this 'redemption' in this life, in actual fact the opposite is true.
Absolute divine healing will be fully realised at the return of Christ and the restoration of all things.
Paul, in Romans 8:22 – 24 tells us...
"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved”
The ultimate redemption of “our body”, of the “whole creation” is gauranteed in Jesus death but it is not delivered yet but rather we, those that have the “first fruits of the Spirit” “wait”.
Paul also shows us in 1 Cor 15:52 - 56 that this ultimate fulfillment is at the second coming of Jesus.
“...in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Note the beautiful confession here by Paul, “he gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (57b). It is not a confession that says we are not stung by death now but rather death will ultimately be wiped away in Christ.
He also tells us in 2 Cor 4:15 - 17
“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:16)
“though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed”. Why can the Corinthians continue in hope? Maybe it is because they can claim their healing and renewal now? No, it is because though our “outer body is decaying (or wasting)”, it is “momentary” and it is a “light afflication” “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”.
Paul does not teach that we can live in perfect health at all times, that Jesus' death gaurantees the defeat of sickness for us in this life. He teaches that Jesus' death gaurantees that although we may face hardship, sickness, wasting, seeming defeat that we can be confident that the perishable we presently walk in will be clothed in the imperishable, that the sting of death will be taken away.
We can also see this when Paul encourages Timothy to “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” 1 Tim 5:23. Also we see he “left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” 2 Tim 4:20 He did not call them out for sin, or to specific faith for healing, or highlight that they already had healing and just needed to claim it. Neither did he chastise Timothy for having “frequent illness” rather he told him to drink some wine for his stomach, this was due to unpotable water causing sickness. He understood that sickness is at times part of the journey, if not the destination (Rev 21:4)
Those that teach the idea that God will always heal someone if we 'position correctly' often use scare tactics on those under their influence to think that if one does not hold to 'gauranteed healing in this life through the cross' it will “completely tear part a person's faith which is required to receive their healing”1. Such scare tactics are rubbish and spiritually abusive.
Scripture (as noted in this post) simply promises that God absolutely heals and even when he chooses not to in this life we can maintain hope knowing we will be “clothed with the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:53) as we wait for “the redemption of our bodies” Rom 8:23b.
So you mean God allows us to be sick? Or stay sick?
I know someone is thinking, 'so you mean God allows people to stay or get sick?' The answer is yes, such is clear from scripture. Read the book of Job and get back to me. God clearly allows Job to be struck with illness and to lose nearly everything (Job 2:1 - 10), not because of sin but in actual fact to show that he would remain faithful even when he is struck down.
Believe the Word of God over your own ideas, feelings or those of others that teach contrary to God's word in this matter.
God is able to heal, he does heal and will heal all afflication, he is simply not contained by time. He is not concerned that death may at times take people home before being 'Clothed in the imperishable”. The Scriptures do not teach that healing is gauranteed in this life through the atonement, it does, however, gaurantee that one day...
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Rev 21:4