Over the last few years, I have been wrestling with the issue of Christian Healing. I have watched some really strong Christians being beaten about by serious sickness. Although they have kept a good attitude, their sickness does not seem to have glorified God. Rather, the effectiveness of their ministry has been severely limited. Their experience has really bugged me, because it does not fit with the scriptural promises about healing.
The Bible seems to be really clear. Jesus' healing includes both forgiveness and healing of sickness. For example, Psalm 103:2-4 says:
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion.
Forgiveness and healing are part of the same package. Jesus confirmed this by making the healing of the sick an important part of his ministry.
Our lack of victory over sickness raises a serious question for me. If healing is not a core part of our salvation, why did Jesus spend so much time healing the sick? If salvation does not include healing, his emphasis on healing was just giving a false hope. One suggestion is that God gave Jesus healing power to authenticate his ministry. This might be true, but surely the Holy Spirit needs to have his ministry authenticated as well?
Victory over sickness and eternal life both depend on the work of the cross, so I have to ask this question. If we cannot obtain victory over sickness through the cross, how can we be certain of eternal life based on the work of the cross? Actually, I am certain about eternal life, so I can only conclude that the problem is with our understanding of healing and salvation. Our gospel of healing seems to be deficient. Is there something missing?
While wrestling with these questions, I have also searched the scriptures. During this search, I found some important keys that I hope will empower God's people to greater victory over sickness.
Key 1: Two Streams
I have always been fascinated the healing miracles in the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The way the Holy Spirit worked was really exciting. However, I was always really puzzled by James 5. I could not see how it fitted with the rest of 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 theology about healing in the Bible and then suddenly everything fell into place. If we split the teaching of the scripture into these two streams, we get a clearer understanding of God's healing. The two themes are:
- Healing and Evangelism
- Healing and Believers
The gift of healing is primarily for unbelievers as a demonstration of the love of God. A major theme of the New Testament describes how the gift of healing works in evangelism. Jesus brought good news to apostate Israel, so his ministry demonstrated this type of healing.
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 actually a key passage in the second stream.
My understanding of healing was confirmed when I heard that TL Osborne said,
- Healing of the unbeliever is based on the mercy of God
- Healing of the believer is based on the covenant.
The healing of an unbeliever and a believer have a different basis in the work of Christ. One is based on mercy and the other is based on 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 healing power and mercy that they do not deserve. On the other hand, 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. Therefore, it is abnormal for Christians to be sick. If Christians are sick something is wrong.
Unbelievers need the gospel to be freed from the kingdom of darkness. God will sometime 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.
Christians get sick because they have not received something that they are entitled too. The solution is not physical power, but removing the obstacle that is preventing them from receiving what Jesus has earned for them. If they sort that out on their own, they will need help from someone else with greater faith or wisdom. This is why scriptures tell sick Christians to go to their elders (James 5). There are a variety of reasons why a Christian is sick: lack of faith, sin, a demon, ignorance of the gospel or spiritual strongholds. The elders will seek God for the reason. When they know what it is, they can deal with it and allow the sick person to receive the health that Jesus has bought from them.
The cause of sickness is different for unbelievers and believers, so the solution must be different. Healing is appropriated in different ways.
This material has now been updated in book called
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders.