Healing Flows in Two Streams
I have always been fascinated by the healing miracles in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The way the Holy Spirit worked with the apostles was really exciting. However, I was always puzzled by James 5. I could not see how it fitted with the rest of the teaching about healing in the New Testament. James' message seemed so tame in comparison to Acts and the Gospels. A couple of years ago, I discovered that there are two streams of teaching about healing in the Bible, and suddenly everything fell into place. If we split the teaching of the scriptures into these two streams, God's strategy for healing makes more sense.
A. Healing and Evangelism
The gift of healing is primarily for unbelievers as a demonstration of the love of God. The Gospels and Acts describe how the gift of healing works in evangelism. Jesus brought good news to apostate Israel, so his ministry often demonstrated this type of healing.
B. Healing and Believers
The second healing theme explains how God's people can walk in health. Healing is part of salvation, so it should be a normal part of every believer's life. James is a key passage in this second stream.
The healing of unbelievers and believers has a different basis. One is based on mercy and the other on covenant.
- Healing of the unbeliever is based on the mercy of God.
- Healing of the believer is based on the covenant.
Unbelievers are in the kingdom of darkness, so it is normal for them to be sick. They can only be healed, if God breaks in with power and mercy that they do not deserve. They need the gospel to get out of the kingdom of darkness.
God will sometimes extend mercy to an unbeliever to prove his existence and mercy and love. He does not do this just for the benefit of the person healed, but for all those who see the miracle. He releases his power to shake people up and make them ready to receive the gospel.
On the other hand, Christians get sick, when something is wrong. They have not received everything that they are entitled too. Christians are living in Christ, so they should be experiencing all the benefits of the cross. They are entitled to the healing earned when strips of flesh were ripped off Jesus' back. This makes it odd for Christians to be sick.
The solution is not physical power, but removing the obstacle that is preventing the Christian from receiving what Jesus has earned for them. If they cannot sort that out on their own, they will need help from someone else with greater faith or wisdom. This is why the scriptures tell sick Christians to go to their elders (James 5). A variety of things can make a Christian sick: lack of faith, sin, demons, ignorance of the gospel or spiritual strongholds. Their elders should seek God for the reason. When they understand the cause, they can deal with it and allow the sick person to receive the health that Jesus has bought for them.
The cause of sickness is different for unbelievers and believers, so the solution must be different. Their healing is appropriated in different ways.
Return to Healing: Insights for Christian Elders.