Does God Always Heal Physical and Spiritual? - Page Two
What does Scripture say about suffering?
Having considered the Scriptures most often used to support healing in general and healing in the atonement, we should now try to arrive at a more biblical understanding of the relationship between the atonement, physical health and suffering. The Bible teaches that although Christ’s work on our behalf is finished, the total effect of our redemption is not yet complete. In Romans 8:30 we find that the redemptive work of God on our behalf includes predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The first three have already happened, but the fourth, while assured, has not yet taken place. That is why we read in the same chapter in Romans 8:23-24, “But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free. For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see?” What Paul is explaining to us here in very clear terms, is that the physical aspect of our redemption (glorification of our bodies, Philippians 3:21) is our great hope; something in the future that has not taken place yet. While Christ did buy perfect health for us at the cross by dying for our sins, it will not go into effect until the glorification of our bodies and cannot be claimed now.
It should be obvious that perfect health is not intended for us right now by the fact that all believers (including those who claim their healing) grow old and die. And how do we die if it happens over and over again? Is it by sickness, again itself being a form of disease? Thus, God has not ordained that sickness be totally removed from our experience yet, but it is a part of our hope that one day it permanently will be. Revelation 21:4, “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall be no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Those who teach that it is always God’s will to heal also advocate the doctrine that it is always God’s will for us to be prosperous. And little wonder, for the same sentiment is behind both. It is a sentiment that is not patient to wait for the day described in Revelation 21:4, that is unwilling to face the full extent of the cross that God has called us to, during the brief span of our days here. It cannot quite accept the fact that God has called us to many sufferings for a season.
Scripture teaches that suffering is a central part of God’s plan and a way of working with us here and now. Some Christians would rather disregard these scriptures or others that show we are not guaranteed a suffering free life, because they so desperately want to believe that they will always receive healing. This often appears to be an issue of fear. However, the Bible tells us to fear not as these times of trials are where we show God that no matter what happens we will still trust and have faith in Him knowing that He is there comforting us. The scriptures make it very clear that there are wonderful and glorious benefits for our sufferings, which will only be for a short while.
Let us imagine for a moment that God never allowed Christians to be sick or have any illness. What would happen if your non-Christian friend told you that they were extremely ill and in lots of pain? How could we have any compassion for them? Our response would probably be; “What is it like to be sick? What is pain?” Instead, we find that 2Corinthians 1:4-5 says, “who comforts us in all our suffering, so that we may be able to comfort others in all their suffering, since we ourselves are being comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ.” If we never experienced suffering, how could our characters ever have any depth? How could we ever have or understand hope? When we think about these things we understand what Paul says in Romans here.
Romans 5:3-4, “Not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
How different are things today? In the time of Christ, they boasted of their sufferings and yet today some do not want to accept suffering because they want to believe it is never God’s will for them to suffer in any way. Most spiritual and personal growth comes from overcoming adversities. Here are a few more samples of what could be cited to prove there are benefits for our sufferings:
- Romans 8:17-18 “…we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.”
- 2Corinthians 4:17 “And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble.”
- 2Corinthians 12:10 “That is why I take such pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- 1Peter 4:13 “Instead, because you are participating in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that you may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”
- 1Peter 4:19 “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should entrust their souls to a faithful Creator and continue to do what is good.”
- 1Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.”
- James 5:10 “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord. We consider those who endured to be blessed.”
If the prophets were examples to us, then shouldn’t we follow in their footsteps? One wonders what the prophets would have thought of a doctrine that says it is always God’s will for us to prosper physically, and it’s our own fault if we don’t, especially when one reads Hebrews 11:35-38, “...Others were brutally tortured but refused to accept release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Still others endured taunts and floggings, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins. They were needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world wasn’t worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.” These men hardly illustrate the current concept of spirituality which is measured by one’s wardrobe and car. This is not to deny that God does often prosper His children. Paul exemplified a well-balanced perspective when he wrote; “I know how to be humble, and I know how to prosper. In each and every situation I have learned the secret of being full and of going hungry, of having too much and of having too little.” Philippians 4:12.
When the Scriptural basis for healing in the atonement is proven faulty, its advocates often fall back upon the sentiment that it is inconceivable for our heavenly Father to ever will that we be sick. To this we must add, why would He not will us to be sick, except to spare us from suffering? We have just seen clearly that it is His will that we suffer in many ways during this life. Our suffering is inextricably connected to our mortal bodies and sin. As Paul said in 2Corinthians 4:10, “At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.”
All diseases find their completion in death, and yet God has not removed physical death from the experience of His children. It is ludicrous and without basis to suppose that the same God who ordained that we suffer for a short time in these degenerating, death bound bodies would at the same time ordain that we have perfect health. It seems obvious that if God wanted us to have perfect health now, He would have given us a glorified and immortal body now. See Philippians 3:20-21.
Job said, “Man, that is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble.” Job 14:1. This truth holds for both believer and non-believer, yet some seek to escape the many troubles of the world by denying their very existence. Many of these Christians believe one or more of these three points. (1) Denial of sickness, (2) belief that it is always God’s will that we prosper, and (3) inflexible belief that through the power of the spoken word one creates his own experience, either positive or negative. These Christians refuse to acknowledge the obvious existence of their own ailments, offering some explanation. They often say, “I’ve been healed. What you see are only the symptoms lingering on.” No one has ever offered a satisfactory explanation as to what good it does to be healed of a cold if the symptoms remain! It becomes clear that because such people refuse to acknowledge reality they begin to live in a world of unreality. Sadly, they wonder why their beliefs don’t work and then become totally confused and disillusioned rather than just trusting God.
The Bible said the time would come when people would not listen to sound doctrine and would only hear what tickles their ears. This faith movement falls into this category. Many do not want to hear that we may suffer in this life. They would rather hear that God always heals now. 2Timothy 4:3, “The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear.”
Those who deny that it could ever be God’s will for us to be sick insist also that Satan is always the author of sickness. It is true that we need to be discerning about sickness, for Satan could be its source, Luke 13:16. However, it is unbiblical to say that God Himself has never sent sickness upon people. As it turns out, there are many more instances in Scripture where God is identified as the source of physical affliction than there are instances of Satan being so identified. The big question is, does God still send sickness upon His own? Let’s now consider this question in detail.
The relationship between Sin, Sickness, Forgiveness and Healing
The New Testament shows the ministry of Jesus included preaching, teaching and healing. He came to restore a broken relationship between man and God. He preached the forgiveness of sin and healed the wounds of the people. Our own interaction with God is one of recognition and repentance of sin, healing, restoration and forgiveness. As we see the character of God through Jesus, we see a relationship between sin and sickness and between healing and forgiveness.
What is Sin?
- Sin first occurred through Adam by disobedience to God. (Romans 5:12-19; 2Corinthians 11:3)
- God observed that man’s heart was tainted by evil. (Genesis 6:5)
- All mankind is affected by sin. (1Kings 8:46)
- Sin is evidenced by the breakdown in relationship of man to God.
- Sin is revolt against the holiness and sovereign will of God.
- It is both a condition of the spirit, soul and body (Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 17:9) and the practical outworking of that condition in thoughts, words, and deeds.
- The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin results in spiritual and physical death.
- The root of sin is in the human heart. (Mark 7:20-23, Romans 6:15-23)
- Man is individually accountable for his own sin. (Ezekiel 18:4, 19-20)
What is Sickness?
Sickness or disease is the absence of health. Absence of health may be physical (i.e. viral or bacterial infection or a broken bone as a result of an accident), emotional (i.e. anxiety or depression) or spiritual i.e. from satanic attacks, (Acts 10:38, Luke 13:16) or from God’s discipline.
- Psalms 119:67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word.”
- Psalms 119:75 “I know, O LORD, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me.”
- Psalms 119:91 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.”
What is Divine Healing?
Divine healing is a full restoration of health from the sickness concerned, by a direct interaction from God. It has no connection with the natural laws of healing i.e. through the use of medicine, surgery, or other natural means, in that there is a supernatural component to the restoration of health. Divine healing involves more than just positive thinking or a prayer of faith, James 5:15. The Bible records numerous instances of divine healing in both Old and New Testaments.
Where does Sickness come from?
According to the Bible, sickness first came into the world with the fall of man. In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam that if he ate from the tree of knowledge he would surely die. When Adam ate from the tree of knowledge his human spirit became separated from God and physical death became a reality. Genesis 3:17 and Romans 5:17. So back to the big question, does sickness come from God or Satan or are there any other possibilities? The Bible seems to give at least three answers to this question.
God and Sickness
Scripture shows numerous instances that while living in Old Testament times before the cross that God brought disease upon His people as a punishment for their flagrant acts of disobedience. On a number of occasions, God specifically warns his people about the diseases that he will bring upon his own disobedient people. In Deuteronomy 28:22, He even names the types of disease he will bring upon them: “...with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation...” While it was the disobedience that caused the disease, it is still clear that God was responsible, or at the very least allowed disease to attack his people. Here are just a few of those numerous examples:
- Exodus 4:11 “And the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth; Or Who makes him dumb or deaf? or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’”
- Exodus 15:26 “He said, “If you will obey me completely by doing what I consider right and by keeping my commands, I will not punish you with any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the LORD, the one who heals you.”
- Numbers 11:33 “While there was still plenty of meat for them to eat, the LORD became angry with the people and caused an epidemic to break out among them.”
- 2Kings 15:5 “And the Lord struck the King, so that he was a leper to the day of his death.”
- 2Chronicles 21:14 “As a result, the LORD will severely punish your people, your children, and your wives, and will destroy your possessions. You yourself will suffer a painful intestinal disease that will grow worse day by day.”
- Isaiah 10:16 “The LORD Almighty is going to send disease to punish those who are now well-fed. In their bodies there will be a fire that burns and burns.”
Satan and Sickness
In Job 2:7, Satan is responsible for terrible skin boils all over Job’s body. It should be well noted that Satan was not able to inflict any harm onto Job or his family without God’s permission and was not permitted to take Job’s life. See Job 1:7-12 and Job 2:2-6. Further mention of Satan’s role in sickness is seen in Acts 10:38 and throughout the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles restore people to health in opposition to Satan. In Luke 13:11-13, Jesus heals a crippled woman who had been affected by a spirit belonging to Satan for eighteen years.
Sickness from undefined causes
The third category of sickness seen in the Bible is where neither God or Satan are responsible. In John 9, a blind man comes before Jesus. His disciples ask “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus responds neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” It is clear from Jesus’ words that the man’s blindness was not from a source of sin, which also implies that some sickness then was a result of sin.
The relationship between Sin and Sickness
Is all Sickness from God as result of Sin? Based on the scriptures and John 9 the answer is NO. It is however, obvious that sin can cause sickness that is not brought directly from God such as AIDS from adultery or cancer from smoking as the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression can produce illness of the mind and the body.
Some would argue that there must be sin buried deep within the mind or the history of the person that explains their lack of health or that a lack of faith (which becomes a sin in itself) is responsible for not recovering from sickness. Some would also see an absence of healing due to unconfessed sin, or would say admitting physical symptoms is a “negative confession” that forfeits healing. Some say it is wrong for us to have diseases in our body when Jesus is said to have borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4 previously discussed and explained.) and that the believer who is not healed is out of God’s will, due to unbelief or sin. Some would say that because Matthew 9:2 says, “All at once some people brought him a paralyzed man lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Be courageous, son! Your sins are forgiven.” and because James 5:15 reads, “And the prayer offered in faith will save the person who is sick. The Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” that sickness is a result of sin even despite what is written in John 9. What is being overlooked here is that the most important thing to God is spiritual healing, as without that we are doomed for eternity. So would Jesus heal you physically and say “well your physical sickness is gone but I am sorry to say your soul is still sick so you are doomed?” Of course not! The point is that spiritual healing is obviously far more important and therefore goes hand in hand with the physical healing. He won’t do one without the other. Note that James 5:15 says, “…and if he has committed any sins”. Hebrews 12:6-9 shows that God disciplines the children he loves, as do our own fathers. As a father or mother would you discipline your own or anybody else’s children for that matter by inflicting sickness on them? As for myself, I would never consider such a thing and I would also never consider that our loving, merciful heavenly father would do that to us either living under His grace.
Just imagine, if God did punish all His children by sickness today even while under his unmerited and undeserved grace, I think it would be pretty safe to say that all Christians would be fairly consistently sick most of our lives. A biblical perspective reminds us that not all sickness is caused by sin.
Does Sin always cause Sickness?
Sin can certainly cause damage to spirit, soul and or the body. If a person takes illegal drugs, injury inevitably occurs and emotional and physical health will most likely suffer. Loss of appetite, neurological damage, and even death occur because of the physical harm sustained. The damage is directly attributable to a sinful lifestyle. Obsession with pornography and sexual immorality produces damage to the emotional health of an individual. Feelings of guilt, secretiveness, and lying may not produce physical harm initially (although there is plenty of material that links guilt with all sorts of physical disorders) but can certainly produce forms of emotional disturbance.
There are many circumstances where people feel that sickness was a result of Satan. This does not mean that every sickness needs deliverance, but rather that Satan was involved directly or indirectly in the breaking of laws which opened the door for sickness. Almost all sickness can be traced to the result of laws broken, either in the spirit realm, the soul realm, or the physical realm.
Does God still punish Sin by Sickness?
As we have already seen several times now, sin is often spoken of as a disease, and redemption from it as a restoration from a deadly bodily disease. The apostle Peter said in 1Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” As previously explained, the healing here referred to, is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Forgiveness of sin and restoration to the favour of God are not infrequently represented as an act of healing.
The figure is derived from the fact that awakened and convicted sinners are often represented as crushed, broken, bruised by the weight of their transgressions, and the removal of the load of sin is represented as an act of healing. Sin is not only a crime for which we were condemned to die, and which Christ purchased for us the pardon of, but it is a disease which tends directly to the death of our souls, and which Christ provided the cure for. The apostle Peter was referring to Isaiah 53:5 when he wrote, “…by whose stripes ye were healed...” To understand this fully, refer also to Matthew 8:16-17 which says, “…He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all those who were sick. This was to fulfill what was declared by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “It was he who took our illnesses away and removed our diseases.” Matthew was quoting Isaiah 53:4 when he wrote this which says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” and the healing ministry of Jesus fulfilled this. The word Grief here means disease or sickness. As sickness was sometimes the result of sin, it refers to Christ bearing our grief’s and sorrows, which were not for his sins but his people; and so the apostle interprets them as Christ bearing our sins in his own body on the tree. Galatians 3:13 says “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
To further clarify, Isaiah 53:4 says that he bore our sicknesses, and Isaiah 53:5 says how, by his stripes we are healed of sin by Jesus being wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Under the theocracy of Israel, God ruled the people directly and commanded punishment immediately for certain flagrant acts of disobedience. As Christ freed us from the consequences of sin at Calvary, today punishment is delayed until the Day of Judgment for those without Christ.
Forgiveness and Healing
Just as love comes from God (for God is love, 1 John 4:7-8) and demonstrates not only God’s nature but also his pattern for our own lives, so also do we see a need to pattern our lives around his forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” See also 2Corinthians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 12:14-15.
In every aspect of man’s interaction with God throughout the Old and New Testament we see an aspect of forgiveness in the character of God. Some of the most striking examples are seen in the life of Jesus, for example where he saves the adulterous woman from being stoned. John 8:3-11. At perhaps the most shameful time in human history, Jesus, whilst dying on the cross, asked his heavenly father to “...forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34. When we forgive, the character of God is seen, and something special happens, a form of Healing.
As children of God, the more we know the Father the more we become like Him. Love and forgiveness become part of our nature. However, this is not necessarily an automatic thing. Our emotions, attitudes, or current situations often produce the opposite of love or forgiveness. Forgiveness allows healing and enables God to work in people’s lives that have been hurt. Illness on the other hand affects both mind and body. We must choose our response to a situation.
In conclusion to this topic, while there is a connection between sickness and sin, the relationship between the two varies with each individual and each circumstance. A balanced view will provide for different types of relationships. Sin is present in all mankind but may or may not induce sickness to man (body, soul or spirit). Some would say that all sickness ultimately has its roots in sin. The Bible teaches that whilst all have sin, that not all sickness is directly caused by sin. The origin of sickness is not always clear, it seems to be a tool that is frequently attributed to Satan, more often than not wrongly, and used to be punishment from God. We can clearly see that God wishes us to have wholeness and health, but is more important to Him to heal us of sin than of physical illness.
Does Scripture show that God always heals today?
The key point of difference with Kenneth Hagin, Ken Copeland and the others in this guaranteed healing movement, is that we are convinced from our study of Scripture that healing is not simply a mechanical process of the believer repenting (if necessary), believing, and receiving, which if we’re not healed makes it undoubtedly our responsibility. There is also an element of the sovereignty of God in all this. As John says, “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1John 5:14.
The undeniable biblical truth is, it is not always God’s will to heal us because at times He has a positive purpose in affliction. God allowed affliction to come upon Job for the purpose of proving the genuineness of Job’s commitment to Him. Job 1:6-2:10. Some argue that while God may bring affliction upon us for a positive purpose, physical disease is not included among the ways in which He deals with His children, except in judgment. However, God Himself stated that Job did nothing to deserve the trials that came upon Him Job 2:3, and yet Job’s most severe affliction was a physical disorder, “sore boils from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head.” Job 2:7. It may be countered that this incident was in the Old Testament, before the atonement guaranteed perfect health for all, as they believe. However, it appears the Apostle James did not see things this way. He showed God’s dealings with Job, and Job’s endurance through them, as a pattern and example for New Testament believers. James 5:10-11, “My friends, remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering. We call them happy because they endured. You have heard of Job’s patience, and you know how the Lord provided for him in the end. For the Lord is full of mercy and compassion.” To any who doubt that the Lord had a hand in Job’s afflictions, Job 42:11 shows clearly what the inspired author (not Satan or human error) says concerning Job, “…They expressed their sympathy and comforted him for all the troubles the LORD had brought on him…” Therefore, we see that for a constructive purpose God brought or permitted physical affliction to come upon Job.
Another undeniable fact is that God also allowed affliction to come upon Paul, not answering his prayer for deliverance, so that Paul would not become too high minded as a result of the visions and revelations he had, 2Corinthians 12:7-10. Some people’s response to this passage, which is typical of the healing movement is; “That was Paul’s estimate of the situation. God did not tell him that He gave him that to keep him humble, but Paul was a man who was prone to brag and boast. Therefore he took it upon himself to believe all of this that was coming upon him was going to help him to stay humble.” In this statement, we find an alarming lack of respect for the authority of the inspired authors of Scripture. See 2Timothy 3:16 There is absolutely nothing within the context of this passage to qualify this statement of Paul’s as being merely his own opinion. See Galatians 1:11-12.
Paul makes the statement with the full authority that by virtue of inspiration was rightfully his. If by our human rationalizing that Paul was one prone to boast about himself (Paul said he does not and therefore this finds no basis in Scripture), we have the freedom to dismiss what he said in verse seven as being misguided and we can also then dismiss anything else he said that does not fit into our doctrinal scheme. Once this happens, our basis of trust in the Scripture has become effectively undermined. However, we find that Paul derived this estimate of the situation from the Lord’s answer to his prayers: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” (Verse 9)
Paul learned to be content with his affliction, for the Lord taught him that at the very moment that he was weakest in himself, the power of the Lord would be most evident through him, bringing glory to God rather than Paul (verses 9-10). This lesson desperately needs to be learned by many who are being influenced by the false doctrines that claim healing and prosperity always now.
There have always been times, even in the Bible, when God’s people have had to accept and live with illness. Paul gave medicinal advice to Timothy rather than saying to him, “Timothy, claim your healing.” Instead, what Paul said to Timothy in 1Timothy 5:23 was, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and frequent ailments.”
This verse should have special significance to those who think the Bible supports some of the extreme teachings of our day. Where is Paul’s word of faith and positive confession? By giving medicinal advice and telling Timothy he has frequent ailments (thus acknowledging their ongoing existence rather than speaking healing into being) Paul is completely out of line with the current wind of doctrine.
As Kenneth Hagin puts it, “People confess their lack and build up a sense of lack in themselves. As they confess these things, these lacks gain ascendancy in their lives.”
This is not to deny that there is some psychological truth in what Hagin is saying. However, many have tried to turn this into an unfailing spiritual principle that is so exacting that one must always be painfully conscious of every word he or she says, for fear of speaking something destructive into being. With a little research on the occult, one can see that such a belief in the creative power of human words is much more related to occult philosophy than Biblical theology.
Paul also wrote, “I left Trophimus in Miletus, because he was sick.” 2Timothy 4:20. In both cases, we find that sickness had an effect upon the ministry of the apostles, even as many have to make adjustments in their ministries because of sickness today.
Also, Epaphroditus was sick in the presence of Paul and Paul implies no expectation of his healing, but rather states that his recovery was due to the mercy (and not obligation) of God. Philippians 2:25–27, “I have thought it necessary to send to you our brother Epaphroditus, who has worked and fought by my side and who has served as your messenger in helping me. He is anxious to see you all and is very upset because you had heard that he was sick. Indeed he was sick and almost died. But God had pity on him, and not only on him but on me, too, and spared me an even greater sorrow.”
There will be some people who will no doubt want to argue that Paul was unable to obtain healing for Trophimus because of Trophimus’s lack of faith, as some say that one must have faith for his own healing, and the great faith of another cannot overcome one’s own belief. However, the same people are at a loss to explain why Paul himself had to endure an illness, and it would be out right stupidity to doubt Paul’s faith. Galatians 4:13–15 says, “You remember why I preached the gospel to you the first time; it was because I was sick. But even though my physical condition was a great trial to you, you did not despise or reject me. Instead, you received me as you would an angel from heaven; you received me as you would Christ Jesus. You were so happy! What has happened? I myself can say that you would have taken out your own eyes, if you could, and given them to me.”
Paul’s reference to his eyes is a clear indication that his illness had something to do with his eyes, and the concern and sympathy of the Galatians indicates that he had not been healed. Perhaps when Paul says that they did not despise his bodily condition, he means that they did not allow an unhealed illness to prevent them from receiving the authority and authenticity of his apostleship.
To some, the only answer to the above verses that could be given in defence is an insult to Paul. It is suggested Paul was walking in unbelief. One can only respond that Paul is an example for all believers to follow. 1Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” How could Paul, the person who received the Gospel directly from Christ, possibly lack faith? Galatians 1:11-12, “Let me tell you, my friends, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any human being, nor did anyone teach it to me. It was Jesus Christ himself who revealed it to me.” If Paul could not reach the level of faith required to live according to the current teaching, then what hope do we have? Jesus tells us that a disciple is not above his teacher, but it is enough for him to become as his teacher, Matthew 10:24-25. If Paul, our example, could not pass the test of faith, then there is something wrong with God’s program. Did Paul really lack faith? Nonsense! This undermines the authority of Scripture and makes the experience of human beings become the criteria for the truth. Did God say to Paul he would never suffer? No! Acts 9:15 says, “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name to the gentiles and their kings and to the descendants of Israel. For I am going to show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
The issue of Faith
Those who believe God always heals say that those who do not get healed lack faith. Yet, all those that came to Jesus or even managed to touch Jesus were healed. Did anyone ever come to Jesus for healing and not get healed? Does the Bible show any instance of Jesus saying, “sorry, your faith is not strong enough, you will just have to remain sick?” All those that came to the apostles were also healed where it was to glorify God and advance His kingdom. Acts 19:12 records that “God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them.” Acts 20 tells us he even raised the dead! And in Acts 5 people carried their sick into the streets on stretchers so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them and they would be healed.
Some say not all had enough faith to be healed based on Matthew 13:54-58. It states, “He went to his hometown and began teaching the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were amazed and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miracles? This is the builder’s son, isn’t it? His mother is named Mary, isn’t she? His brothers are James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, aren’t they? And his sisters are all with us, aren’t they? So where did this man get all these things?” And they were offended by him. But Jesus told them, “A prophet is without honor only in his hometown and in his own home.” He did not perform many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
Regardless of which Bible translation you read on Matthew, it does not say that Jesus could not it says he did not. It was a personal choice. God does not force us to accept him or his healing if we do not want it. He gives us the free will to choose. It wasn’t that they had no faith for Jesus to heal them as they did not even approach him for healing because they rejected him. This situation is not very different from expecting an atheist to go and ask Jesus for Healing, it simply just does not happen. This is obviously totally different from a convert asking Jesus for healing and not having enough faith to receive it. It was not unbelief for healing but unbelief in who Jesus was and it wasn’t that His power was limited by the belief or unbelief of people but they were so prejudiced against him, that they were not in a condition to be convinced. They would have said any miracles were sorcery, or of the devil. See John 10:20. It would have been of no use, therefore, in proving to them that he was from God by working miracles. He gave sufficient proof of his mission, and left them in their unbelief without excuse. The fact Jesus was not limited by unbelief is shown by Matthew’s statement, “he did not perform many miracles” which implies that he did perform some miracles. Mark tells us, “…He laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them,” Mark 6:5.
Almost, if not one hundred percent of people that came for healing in the time of Christ were healed. In my lifetime I have seen a multitude of people prayed for with some saying they are healed but have not yet seen one totally indisputable divine healing. Quite a contrast! Either people in the first century had remarkable faith and people today have little faith or God is not doing as many miracles today. I believe it is the latter and that a broad look at scripture shows us why.
Why were there more miracles in the time of Jesus?
The scripture leaves us with no doubt whatsoever that Jesus performed miracles in order that people believed that he was the Son of God. If not for the miracles we would not have the Church today, as none would have believed he was Lord. John 4:48 says, “Jesus said to him, “None of you will ever believe unless you see miracles and wonders.” Here are a few scriptures from the book of John and one from Mark that show clearly the reasons for miracles:
- John 2:11 “Jesus performed this first miracle in Cana in Galilee; there he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.”
- John 2:23 “While Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in him as they saw the miracles he performed.”
- John 3:2 “He came to Jesus one night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that God has sent you as a teacher. No one can perform the miracles you perform unless God is with him.”
- John 6:14 “Seeing this miracle that Jesus had performed, the people there said, “Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!”
- John 10:38 “But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, you should at least believe my deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in me and that I am in the Father.”
- Mark 16:20 “The disciples went and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and proved that their preaching was true by the miracles that were performed.”
After Jesus ascended to the Father, the disciple’s work was to go into all the world and preach the gospel and establish the kingdom of God on earth, which of course is the Church. The disciples were going to meet with the same problem Jesus had in that people would not believe unless miracles were performed. As it was the Pharisees wanted to kill Peter and John for healing the crippled man at the temple gate, but they could not because of the miracle. So all the Pharisees could say was, “What shall we do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows that this extraordinary miracle has been performed by them, and we cannot deny it.” Acts 4:16.
Not long before Jesus was crucified, Jesus began to prepare his apostles for the Great Commission. In a private conversation Jesus had with his apostles He said, “And I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son.” John 14:13. This promise was made to his apostles alone and not to us and is shown by the fact that they could in Jesus’ name heal all the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons and many other miracles as they were so empowered, Luke 9:1. This was done so that many would believe. Today all Christians are not performing these same miracles as freely as Jesus’ apostles could which no one can deny.
Those who believe God heals all the time say that we all have the same power of the apostles and can all do the same miracles. The Bible shows us clearly that we do not all have the same power, and that it was given, where necessary in order that the people believed and the Church would be established. Before Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick, in Luke 9:1 he “called the twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.”
Acts 6:8 shows “Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people.” The apostles also had the authority to give this power to others for the same reason as shown in Acts 14:3 which says, “The apostles stayed there for a long time, speaking boldly about the Lord, who proved that their message about his grace was true by giving them the power to perform miracles and wonders.”
Paul also clarified to the Church in Corinth that not all people were empowered by God to do mighty miracles. Miracles were indeed a primary tool used by God to get people’s attention, and have them believe so that he could achieve His plan for us. Paul says in 1Corinthians 12:29, “They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles.”
Studying the book of Acts it can also be seen that God’s hand was on the situation as we see how He constantly saved the lives of Peter and Paul and the number of times that he sent Angels to release them from jail. Why was John the Baptist not freed from jail? Why was Stephen stoned to death, while Paul was stoned and yet miraculously lived? Why was James killed with the sword? I can’t easily back up my thoughts with scripture but believe the answer is obvious in that their work was complete and so God allowed them to rest until the resurrection were they would spend eternity in His loving arms.
Peter and Paul on the other hand were undoubtedly key persons in establishing the Church and so God protected them from death until such time that their work was done. Peter had made a confession that Jesus was the Messiah the Son of the living God, Matthew 16:16-19. His confession of the divinity of our Lord was the first made by man. Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, (verse 19) i.e. God chose him among all the apostles, that people should first hear the Gospel and believe. Peter first opened the kingdom of heaven to the Jews in his sermon at the great Pentecost and to the Gentiles when he preached to Cornelius at Cæsarea. As for Paul, he established the Church in many locations as shown by all the books he wrote in the New Testament. To summarise all this, God utilises miracles and people accordingly where it benefits His kingdom. Here are a few more scriptures that further emphasize the effects and reasons for the miracles:
- Acts 2:22 “Listen to these words, fellow Israelites! Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose divine authority was clearly proven to you by all the miracles and wonders which God performed through him. You yourselves know this, for it happened here among you.”
- Acts 2:43 “Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe.”
- Acts 8:13 “Simon himself also believed; and after being baptized, he stayed close to Philip and was astounded when he saw the great wonders and miracles that were being performed.”
- Acts 8:6 “The crowds paid close attention to what Philip said, as they listened to him and saw the miracles that he performed.”
- 2Corinthians 12:12 “The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience.”
- Hebrews 2:4 “while God added his testimony through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
The effects on all who saw the miracles were obvious by the number of people believing the gospel. Even as the Church was just beginning to be established the number of people who believed was already in the thousands. Acts 2:41 says, “Many of them believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day.” Acts 4:4 says, “But many who heard the message believed; and the number grew to about five thousand.”
What would happen if all these miracles were done today?
It is easy to see in scripture that without the large number of healings and other miracles that the Church indeed would not have been established. But what about today? What would happen if we had the same power that was given by God for the establishing the Church? Remember all that came to Jesus or the disciples were healed so that his name would be glorified.
I would say it would be safe to say that the first problem would be a worldwide crisis, starting with unemployment. All hospitals would shut down putting thousands of office staff out of work. All doctors and nurses and surgeons and other medical personal would be out of work. This would no doubt run into hundreds of thousands of people. What would happen to all the empty Hospitals?
The next thing that would happen is also obvious in that the media would be running non-stop footage for weeks, talking about all the amazing miracles of everyone healed and all the morgues being empty as all the dead were raised. The reports would be something like “God does exist, people all over the world that were sick are now well, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and all the dead have been raised.” This would also produce a population problem, as everyone that died could be raised from the dead. People would not have any doubt that God existed and faith would no longer have its rightful place, as almost all would have no doubt that God existed.
The next thing of course is that the Churches would not be able to take the numbers, as all would be constantly flocking to the Church for their miracle every time they were sick or in need of some other miracle like raising the dead, regardless to whether they loved God or not. One might say that this is a good thing as many would be saved and Churches could be held outdoors and in houses to cater for what would be almost the entire population. Many good people no doubt would be saved, and would accept Christ as their Lord and saviour. However, there would also be evil people that would not love God and would just want eternal life, which they would not get. This cannot be what God wants or he would do it, and the fact that he does not shows that it is not his will as the Church is now established and God would rather we come to him in faith and love.
Here are just a few scriptures, and there are hundreds that show how important faith is to God. He wants us to love and worship Him for whom He is, not because of what He can give or do for us.
- Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things we hope for, the certainty of things we cannot see.”
- Hebrews 11:6 “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently search for him.”
- Romans 1:17 “For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
- 2Corinthians 5:7 “For our life is a matter of faith, not of sight.”
- Romans 5:1 “Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Romans 10:17 “So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.”
- John 20:29 “Jesus said to him, “Is it because you have seen me that you have believed? How blessed are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!”
The Problem of believing that God always heals us
One very real problem is that the emphasis that is placed upon Christ bearing our diseases at Calvary undermines the biblical emphasis upon Christ bearing our sins. Whereas the preaching that we read in the New Testament is always centred around Christ’s death or our sins and resurrection for our justification, Romans 4:25. One finds that the preaching and even the casual conversation of this current movement is dominated by the subject of bodily healing. Followers of the movement display practically an obsession with the topics of healing and confession, as though these subjects were the gospel and there is little else in the Bible worthy of much discussion. Even if these doctrines were Biblical, many who hold them would be guilty of being extremely unbalanced, not giving enough attention to many important aspects of Christian faith and living.
The most devastating result of all is that people can lose their victory in Christ, and become so shaken in their faith that they lose hope altogether and even their salvation because someone’s formula for healing didn’t work. Some will always look for a quick and easy way out of their problems rather than the slow and sometimes painful process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. When we blame absence of healing on our faith, our spiritual growth is retarded. All that went to Jesus had enough faith to be healed, why should we be any different? By knowing God sometimes says “no” or “wait” we can go on to achieve so much more, rejoicing that our faith is strong enough.
To have the audacity to tell one of God’s children that if they are sick it is because of their own sin or lack of faith is to abound in presumptuousness, and be bankrupt in compassion. In my life, I have heard of more than one person who demonstrated this insensitivity until God dealt with them by laying them flat on their back, and when none of their principles would work they suddenly developed empathy for those they had once judged. We never see it portrayed anywhere in Scripture that perfect health is the sign of spirituality. To set up such a standard is to divert God’s people from the spiritual standard that Scripture does set forth such as in 2Peter 1:5-9.
Ken Copeland and others teach that we must resist sickness in the same way that we resist sin. This is very disturbing, as we have seen too many good Christians striving to believe their sickness away, and finally collapsing into self-condemnation and utter discouragement over their lack of faith or the sin in their lives. There was probably a divine purpose for that sickness in their lives and it would have been a lot easier for them, if after they prayed in faith and nothing happened, to have stood firm in faith and ceased striving and simply rested in the comforting sovereignty of God.
There are always going to be those that quote Mark 11:23, that says that we should believe that we have received and to just stand in faith and wait for the manifestation of the healing. To exercise your faith like this is good practice, but these people should not ignore the fact that the scripture shows us very clearly that God does sometimes say no. Some people so strongly want to believe that God will always say yes to healing, that they find ways to justify away in their own mind these scriptures and see only what they feel comfortable in seeing. While standing in faith however, we must consider that God may choose to heal us gradually keeping our faith in action.
Does God always heal when asked? No! An outstanding example of this is Paul. In 2Corinthians 12:7-9 we have Paul’s account of his infirmities. Paul asked three times that he be healed, and the Lord told him, “No.” God told Paul why he said no and it was definitely not due to inadequate faith.
Did Biblical people suffer illness? Yes. Look up the following for a reminder. Galatians 4:13, Philippians 2:25-27, 1Timothy 5:23 and 2Timothy 4:20. We cannot put our focus just on the verses related to healing that we like and say that God always heals and ignore the scriptures that show clearly He does sometimes say no. We must look at the Bible as a whole to fully understand God’s sovereign will in this area.
Does God still heal today? Of course He does, but only when our prayers are in line with His will, 1John 5:14. I believe that God would also think it wise to seek what medical help is available to us and if we choose that path, we should ask for God’s blessing on the work of the physicians.
For those who still believe that God always heals now today, here are some questions to think very seriously about. If God says No, won’t His answer have a perfect reason? Isn’t it a good thing to learn endurance, patience and develop compassion? Aren’t there eternal benefits with waiting for the time when there will be no more crying, pain or death? Isn’t it a good thing to learn what hope is by looking forward to this time of glorification of our bodies? Knowing God sometimes says wait, when we don’t receive healing won’t we have more peace knowing that our faith is strong enough and God has purpose in our temporary suffering? If this suffering is improving our character and teaching us valuable lessons, isn’t that a good thing? Would you rather have life handed to you on a silver platter and not have any appreciation for eternity to come? The Bible says we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory and that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the tremendous and eternal glory that will be revealed to us. Our current time here on Earth in these mortal bodies of ours is but a mere microscopic speck in time.
God may use sickness and pain as opportunities to build in us the virtues of humility and dependence upon Him. Many have testified how sickness afforded them opportunities for proving and improving their faith as well as proving God’s love and faithfulness to them. This is something that I can personally speak of from my own experience. I would not be on fire for God in the way I am today if God chose to heal me instantly. We can happily pray in faith, but it will ultimately be God’s will that will be done, not our will be done. For there are circumstances in which God allows illness. Matthew Henry said, “Sometimes Christ sees that we need sickness for the good of our souls more than healing for the good of our bodies.”
As for the name it and claim it faith healing movement, many Christians are deeply involved. They truly love the Lord and want to serve Him. Yet the evidence is clear that the message being taught by leaders of the movement is unbiblical. It is spiritually dangerous to sit under the teaching of anyone who distorts the basic gospel message. This is especially true when we consider the progressive, evolving nature of these teachings. The ultimate extent of error that the faith teachers will reach has not likely been revealed yet. The Church must not tolerate teaching that simply sounds good to the ears. We need sound doctrine and instruction in the truth, 2Timothy 4:3-5. False teachers must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, Titus 1:7-11.
After being motivated to go to this extent to demonstrate that it is not always God’s will to heal, we do want to close on a positive note that divine healing is for today. We see no Scriptural basis to doubt that we can expect to see healing take place here and now. Healing should be a regular part of the life of all Churches James 5:14-16. We also believe that faith plays an important part in receiving healing, and that the Church has much to learn about faith, and how to more effectively receive it for healing. We feel that many who saw this need embraced the healing in the atonement doctrine because it seemed to offer a more solid basis for faith. Unfortunately however, this basis is not the Scriptural basis and has therefore created more problems than one could ever imagine.
If we have no guarantee that it is always God’s will to heal, how then can we pray in faith for healing? In the same way that we pray in faith for other things which Scripture does not specifically promise us. We may pray that the Lord would give us a job at a certain business, but we cannot know for sure if it’s His will that we work there unless He personally assures us of it through His Spirit. Faith is a supernatural gift (Ephesians 2:8) that begins with God. Thus when it is God’s will for a healing (which I believe it often would be), if we are open and receptive to Him, a supernatural assurance from Him will come upon us. Christians need to learn to be more receptive and responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit working in our faith, so that through a sovereign act of God, many will continually be healed and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified. I pray this gives peace and clarity on the question, does God always heal today.