Sign Gifts - Healing

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THE GIFT OF HEALING

This study seeks to explore the “sign” or “miraculous” gifts of the Spirit as they are recorded in the Bible. In doing so we hope to learn what these gifts are, how they are used, and if they continue to be practiced today. To accomplish this goal, we must turn to the only source of authority on this matter, the Bible. This will be essential if we are to arrive at a biblical understanding of spiritual gifts in a time where there is much confusion and controversy over this matter. Since God is the One who gives and empowers these gifts, God has the final say in all matters relating to spiritual gifts. In doing so, we avoid the misdirection that often comes when Scriptural teaching is replaced with human wisdom, opinion, emotions, desires, and experiences. 

It should be noted that it is not our intent in this portion of our study to determine the purpose or duration of these gifts. Our goal is to simply identify the gifts and observe how they functioned in New Testament times. We will deal with purpose and duration of the gifts at a later time. In this segment we will be looking at the gift of Healings (1 Cor. 12:9).

The Greek word used to identify this gift, “healings”, is normally used to refer to the healing of the physical body through one of three methods. 

1) The restorative powers of the body. God designed the human body with the ability to fight off sickness or illness and to repair itself from injury. This is not a gift of the Spirit as all humans, believers and non believers are born with this ability.

2) The remedy or medicine of man. God has given techniques and medicines that aid the body in its efforts to restore itself to health. Some individuals seem to be especially gifted in this area however the work of medical care is not the gift of the Spirit as it may be practiced by both believers and non believers. 

3) The divine intervention of God. This is God’s intervention when the previous two methods fail. The body is overwhelmed and medical treatment has reached its limits. The only hope left for recovery is if God supernaturally intervenes. This should not be confused with the gift of the spirit for the following reasons. 

A) This healing is potentially available to all believers regardless of their gifts. This healing takes place a part from the gift of healings. It usually is the result of the prayer of one or more Saints and may even involve the ministry of the elders of the Church. (James 5:14-15).

B) This healing usually takes place without any outward manifestation. No one touches the sick and he is instantly healed. No light appears from heaven or any other supernatural manifestation from God. The individual is sick or injured, the doctors say they can do no more, the Saints pray and to the surprise of many the individual recovers. 

C) This healing is not confined to the period after Pentecost. This type of healing is found prior to Christ’s Coming whereas the gifts of the Spirit are something that began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. 

The gift of “healings” is a specialized biblical use of the term “healing.” It speaks of a gift that a believer receives from the Spirit at salvation and enables them bring instant healing of all manner of sickness and injury. Let us look at a few examples of this gift in action

A) Acts 3:1-10: Peter heals a lame man who had been lame from birth

B) Acts 5:16: the Apostles heal all the sick and demon possessed from the surrounding cities of Jerusalem

C) Acts 8:7: Philip in the city of Samaria casts out demons and heals the disabled, the paralyzed, and the lame

D) Acts 14:8-10: Paul heals a man lame from birth

E) Acts 19:12: Handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul has touched are taken to others to heal the sick and cast out demons (Please note that in verse 11 this particular miracle is associated with Paul only and no one else)

F) Acts 28:8-9: Paul on the island of Malta heals a man with an illness and then heals everyone who was brought to him

From these examples as well as some additional passages of Scripture we can determine the following features about how this marvelous gift was used by First Century Church. 

1) This gift of Healings was not intended by God to heal everyone who was sick. The false idea that God gave the gift of healing to the Church because it was God’s intention for all believers to be delivered from sickness and disabilities does not hold up to the teaching of Scripture. As we will see in a later segment of our study, the exercise of the gift of healing is limited to a specific purpose of God. If the purpose can not be served the gift can not be exercised. Let’s examine a few passages that support this fact.

A) 1 Cor. 12:9: Paul writes that some in the Corinthian Church had the gift of healing yet Paul in the same book indicates that some were sick, weak and had even died (1 Cor. 11:29). The cause of this suffering was unrepentant sin. Likewise in 1 Cor. 5:4-5, Paul commands the Church to turn a publicly sinning brother over to Satan for the “destruction of the flesh that his Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” We therefore draw the conclusion that when there is public and/or unrepentant sin in the life of a believer, God at times decides it is better for them to be sick, weak and even die as a form of chastisement. This is further brought out in 1 Jn. 5:16-17 where John says not to pray for the believer who commits a sin that leads to death. The same idea is in the mind of James when he speaks of the anointing of the sick in James 5:14-15 for he says, “And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven”. James further drives this home when he finishes his discourse by talking about covering a multitude of sins and saving a soul from death (19-20).

B) 2 Cor. 12:7-10: Paul who had the gift of healings more than any one else (Acts 19:11-12) could not heal himself. He prayed earnestly that God might take away a thorn in the flesh three times but God said no. Some say this was not an illness but demon persecution and it that is partially true. However, this persecution manifested itself in the form of a physical “infirmity” (9). God choose to allow Paul to physical suffer rather than to heal so that the power of Christ might rest on Paul (9-10). God often substitutes grace for healing. 

C) Phil. 2:26-27 speaks of Epaphroditus, a co-worker of Paul’s who was close to death but God in His mercy healed Him. Paul said he feared he would loose this close brother however, if Paul had the gift to heal, why did he not use it to heal Epaphroditus? Why would Paul have feared if he knew he had the ability to heal him? There is only one answer. God had restricted the gift of healing to be used for only one specific purpose and that purpose could not be served in the healing of Epaphroditus. Therefore, Paul could not use his gift of healing to help his brother. Paul knew this was a situation where this man’s fate lay in the hands of God and God alone and he feared that God might choose to take him in death.

D) 1 Tim. 5:23: Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. We saw earlier in Acts 19 that Paul sent cloth he had touched to heal others. Why did he not send such a cloth to Timothy along with his letter to heal him? The reason was the same as with Epaphroditus. Timothy’s healing would meet the purpose set aside for the gift of healing. It was God’s will for Timothy to endure some physical suffering for God’s glory.

E) 2 Tim. 4:20 Paul indicates he left another co-worker in Miletus because he was sick and could not travel. If Paul had the power to heal why did he have to leave him behind? Once again Paul was not allowed to use his gift because the circumstance did not serve the purpose for which the gift of healings was designed. It was God’s will to for Paul to leave Torphimus sick.

Someone will at this point bring up the passage in 1 Peter 2:24 which says, “by His stripes you are healed.” This statement indicates that in the work of Christ there is full redemption of the whole man; body, soul and spirit. However, this verse does not tell us when this work of redemption will be completed. It does not say that it is to take place in at the moment of salvation or at a certain mile stone in the Christian’s life. We have to turn to the words of Paul in Romans 8:19-25 to find the answer to this question. In addressing the removal sin’s curse upon Creation, Paul includes the timing of the complete redemption of our bodies. Our bodies will know complete redemption, freedom from suffering, illness, injury, and aging, at the resurrection and rapture of the Church. Consider these words of Paul.

Rom 8:23-24, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” NKJV

2) The gift of Healings was not dependent upon the recipient’s faith. Often it has been argued that the reason the gift of healing is ineffective is because the sick lack the faith to be healed. This too is a false idea that can not be supported by Scripture. Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that faith at times does not play a roll in healing but it has never been a requirement. Take a look Acts 3:1-4 when Peter heals the lame man. He has no clue what Peter is going to do nor is there any mention of faith on his part. Peter merely commands him to stand and the man finds the Spirit places within him an irresistible urge to stand and walk to his amazement and that of those who knew him. No faith, just the work of God. This is the case in most that are healed by the gift of healings. 

3) The gift of Healings was capable of healing all types of illness and disabilities. There is no disability, illness, deformity, or injury that God can not heal. We see this during our Lord’s ministry as He healed all that were brought to Him.

Matt 4:24, “And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” KJV

Matt 9:35-36, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” NKJV

The gift of healings given after the Day of Pentecost was equally capable. The apostles were able to heal everyone brought to them regardless their condition.

Acts 5:16, “Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” NKJV

Acts 28:8-10, “Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.” NKJV

I bring this point up for a particular purpose. The modern day faith healers who claim to have the gift of healings come up short when it comes to those they can heal. We do not see people who quadriplegics being healed. We do not see people with limps, fingers, or toes missing healed. We do not see people severely sacred by fire healed. We do not see the retarded or autistic healed. I would put this challenge forth to anyone willing to take it up. If anyone today possesses the gift of healings as spoken of in the New Testament, prove it by going into a hospital and heal everyone in the building. Let them heal the amputees of war, the paraplegics, the mentally impaired, and the physically scarred. You will never see these individuals on the stage at the healer’s crusade. Why not? The conclusion we must draw is if they can not heal all types of illness, suffering, deformity, and injury, they must not have the gift of healings. I have often chuckled when I watch one of the faith healers who is getting older reach for his glasses as he reads from the Bible. 

4) The gift of healings was not intended to replace the natural healing power God designed into our bodies nor was it intended to by pass the work of medical doctors. God has allowed man to advance far in his knowledge of the body and his ability to heal. God expects us to use this knowledge and expertise to live as healthy a life as possible. We see this in the statement made by Paul in Col. 4:14 when he describes Luke as the “beloved physician.” Luke, an important co-worker of Paul, carried on his own work as a physician and was greatly loved by many who had profited from his work. What most people do not realize is that the level of medical knowledge and treatment in the day of Paul was not surpassed by modern medicine until the 1940s. To put it another way, you could expect the same medical treatment in many areas of medicine from the physician Luke as you would have from a Doctor practicing medicine in 1940. God never tells Christians if they will just have faith they will be healed. God never tells Christians they should not see doctors.

When I was in Seminary, I worked with a few co-workers who were attending a church which at the time taught that God intended for all Christians to be well and that going to see a doctor was not only unnecessary, but it was sin. I remember one day one of these co-workers came limping into work. Everyone asked what had happened and he said that the devil had tripped him and he sprained his ankle. Then he continued by telling everyone that “praise the Lord, God had healed his ankle” as he limped away. The unbelievers had a field day laughing at him. He was so afraid if he did believe God would heal him that he would not be healed. Four days later, he was walking normally again. Had God miraculously healed him? No. His body’s ability to heal itself and restored his ankle to health just as it does in everyone else. 

5) The Gift of Healings always involved instantaneous healing. When a person was healed by someone with this gift, their healing is immediate and complete. Take someone who was born unable to walk. He not only is given the ability to walk but also the skill or knowledge of how to use that ability to walk. We are not born knowing how to walk. As infants, we have to learn to walk over a period of trial and error. The healing these people experienced did more than correct the problem but also gave them the life experiences necessary to use them.

Occasionally a medical break through makes it possible for someone who was born blind to see. Even though they are now able to see light, it takes time for them to be able to tell the difference between a tree and a person. Like a new born, they have no frame of reference from life experience from which to draw. However, when God heals a person, all of these factors are brought together from the moment of healing.

6) The Gift of Healings never involved money. It was never used to build multi-million dollar ministries, to enhance personal bank accounts, or to make one famous. This behavior often associated with modern healers is a troubling problem development.

Does God heal people today? The answer is yes. Is it always God’s will for people to be healed? No. God at times uses illness and injury in a believer’s life to serve His purposes. Are there believers today with the gift of Healings? I will leave that question for a later study. However, in light of what we have learned so far about the gift of healings, if some have it today I have yet to find one who is practicing it in a manner consistent with the Scriptures.