1. The issue of divine healing has been confused by the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement.
The absolute promise of healing has always been a part of this movement. Following are a few examples:
John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907)
Dowie was the father of modern healing movement. In 1901 founded Zion City north of Chicago as a place of healing. His magazine Leaves of Healing had a worldwide distribution and a vast influence. He taught that healing is promised because of Christ’s atonement. He did not believe in seeking medical care and taught that doctors are of the devil. Three of the original eight members of the Assemblies of God general council were from Zion City.
Charles Parham (1873-1929)
He founded the Bethel Healing Home in Topeka, Kansas, in January 1901. He, too, believed that healing is promised because of Christ’s atonement.
Aimee Semple Mcpherson (1890-1944)
She taught that the Gospel promises physical healing. She claimed that God showed her in a vision that the Gospel is for body and soul and spirit. In 1923, she founded the “foursquare” gospel church. The “foursquare” gospel is that Jesus is Savior, Baptizer in Holy Spirit, Healer, and Coming King.
Oral Roberts (1918-2009)
His first book in 1947 was titled If You Need Healing--Do These Things! He listed six steps to deliverance, the first being, “Know that God’s will is to heal you.”
Kenneth Hagin, Sr. (1917-2003)
He taught, “Like salvation, healing is a gift. As children of God, we need to realize that healing belongs to us.”
He says that “Sickness is of the devil ... God has never used sickness to discipline His children ... I don’t care how old we are, it’s His will to take us home healed, well, whole, and delivered.”
He says, “It is God’s will to heal every person” (Calgary Herald, Calgary, Alberta, June 6, 1987).
2. The Bible nowhere condemns doctors and medicine, but it does warn about trusting in man rather than God.
See 2 Chronicles 16:12.
3. The healing ministry of Christ was unique.
Christ’s healing ministry was not an example that we are to imitate. Christ healed to prove that He was the Messiah. See John 5:36; 10:37-38; 14:11; 15:24; 20:30-31.
4. The healing ministry of the Apostles was also unique.
Like Christ, the apostles did not do miracles as a pattern for other believers to imitate. They did miracles as signs of their apostleship. By the miracles, they proved that they were called of God to be apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12).
See Mark 3:14-15; Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12, 15; 19:12.
The apostles laid the foundation for the church (Eph. 2:20), and when they died their sign gifts ceased, because they were no longer needed. If the sign miracles were operative throughout the church age, they could not have been effective as apostolic sign gifts.
Even in the early churches, all Christians could not do the miracles. The only exceptions were a few men upon whom the apostles had laid hands. There was no general miracle-working experience among the first churches. If there had been, Paul could not have pointed to his miracle-working ability as a special sign. If all could have performed miracles as a matter of course, the Christians at Joppa would not have called for Peter to come from Lydda and raise Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). Peter’s miracle that day was the “sign of an apostle.”
5. The proper method of ministering to the sick in the churches is described in James 5:13-18.
a. Consider the ministers
Here the elders of the church are called to minister to the sick rather than someone with the gift of healing. The elders do not rebuke the sickness or cast out devils, but they simply anoint the sick person with oil and pray for him.
b. Consider the sickness
The word “sick” in verses 14-15 does not refer to a minor thing like a cold. Verse 15 indicates that James is referring to a type of sickness that causes one to be bedridden, because it says “the Lord shall raise him up.” You don’t have to be “raised up” unless you are bedridden or otherwise have a pretty serious illness.
c. Consider the call (“let him call,” Jam. 5:14).
The sick person must take the initiative in this matter. James does not give support for the elders running around with their oil, anointing all and sundry.
d. Consider the context (“call the elders of the church,” Jam. 5:14).
This is not a healing ministry or campaign. It is not a sacrament performed by a priest. The practice described by James assumes membership in a church. Those who despise pastor-elders and think they don’t need to be members of a church are shut out from this practice.
e. Consider the procedure (Jam. 5:14-16)
First, the sick person is to confess his faults (Jam. 5:16).
Sin can bring sickness. See John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 11:29-30. Observe that we are instructed to confess our faults, not our sins. The standard Greek word for sin is harmartia, but that is not used here. Instead, James uses the word paraptoma, which refers to “a side-slip, lapse, deviation, or error” (Strong). Elsewhere it is translated “fall” (Rom. 11:11), “offence” (Rom. 4:25), “trespass” (Mt. 6:14). James is instructing us to confess those faults that are committed against other brethren. He is not asking us to confess our deepest sins that we have committed against God. Those are confessed to God directly. We confess faults to man that we have committed against man, and we confess sins to God that we have committed against God. “The confession referred to is for ‘faults’ with reference to ‘one another,’ that is, where one has injured another; and nothing is said of confessing faults to those whom we have not injured at all” (Barnes). Modern versions such as the NIV and NASV erroneously read “sin” instead of “faults” in James 5:16 because they follow the corrupt Westcott-Hort Greek text which replaces the word paraptoma with hamartia.
The confession of faults can bring spiritual victory. When I was a young Christian I was struggling to quit smoking and had been defeated many times. Finally I stood up during a Wednesday prayer meeting and confessed this to the church and asked them to pray, and I have never smoked since then. God gave me the victory over that stubborn habit through confession and prayer.
Secondly, the sick person is to be anointed with oil in the name of the Lord (Jam. 5:14).
By invoking the name of the Lord, James is saying that this procedure is to be done by the Lord’s authority. To anoint in the name of the Lord is to acknowledge that only by His power are people blessed; we have no power in ourselves and there is no power in religious rituals.
The fact that the sick is anointed in the name of the Lord shows it is not a matter of using oil as a remedy for sickness (as in Luke 10:34). It is a matter, rather, of anointing with oil ceremonially, as a symbol and testimony of the Lord’s healing power. In the Old Testament the anointing of oil was symbolic of the Holy Spirit. “Oil was a fitting symbol of the Spirit, or spiritual principle of life, by virtue of its power to sustain and fortify the vital energy; and the anointing oil, which was prepared according to divine instructions, was therefore a symbol of the Spirit of God, as the principle of spiritual life which proceeds from God and fills the natural being of the creature with the powers of divine life” (People’s Bible Encyclopedia).
Since James does not say what kind of oil is to be used or how the anointing is to be done, this is up to each church to decide. It could be olive oil, baby oil, or vegetable oil. The elders might anoint the head, the forehead, or the head, hand, and foot. If the exact type of oil and exact type of anointing were a necessary part of the procedure, the Bible would have been more specific.
Third, the sick is to be prayed for (Jam. 5:14). Prayer is mentioned seven times in James 5:13-18; thus, the emphasis is on prayer rather than on the oil or the anointing.
What is the prayer of faith? It is not faith that God will surely heal but faith that God will accomplish His perfect will. Compare Hebrews 11:6. God requires that we believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This is what we must believe. The prayer of faith is faith in God’s goodness to do what is right and best in His perfect will in that particular situation. The first principle of prayer is that it must be submitted to God’s will (“if we ask anything according to his will,” 1 John 5:14-15). This is what Jesus taught (“thy will be done,” Mat. 6:9-10).
Faith obeys even when it does not understand everything. We don’t have to understand why we should follow this procedure; we only have to obey.
f. Consider the promise
First, this is not a promise of healing in all cases. To properly interpret the Bible, we must compare Scripture with Scripture, and elsewhere we see that God does not always heal..
Timothy was not healed supernaturally of his often infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23).
Trophimus was not healed when he was sick in Miletum (2 Tim. 4:20).
Paul was not healed of the sickness described in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. The Greek word for “infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:10) is elsewhere translated “sickness” (Jn. 11:4) and “disease” (Acts 28:9; 1 Tim. 6:20). Three times Paul asked God to take away this affliction, but the Bible says He refused to do so. Paul was told that this infirmity was something God wanted him to have for his spiritual well-being. Upon learning this, Paul surrendered to God’s will and wisely said: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). This is a perfect example for Christians today. We should pray for healing and release from other kinds of trials, but when God does not heal and does not release us, we must bow to His will and accept that situation as something from the hand of God. This is not lack of faith; it is wise obedience to the sovereignty of Almighty God.
Second, James does not promise immediate healing. James does not say when or how God will do this.
Third, observe that James does not say God will “heal the sick”; he says God will “save the sick” (Jam. 5:15). There is more to saving the sick than merely healing his physical body. In Isaiah 63:9 it refers to all that God does for us. There is also spiritual healing (Heb. 12:13). God saved Paul in the situation described in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 by giving him wisdom to accept the trial. We know that God often does heal the sick, but biblical prayer is asking rather than demanding. If the “prayer of faith” always healed the sick, no believer would die, whereas we know that every single believer in the past 2,000 years has died. Further, Paul looked upon death as an advantage (Phil. 1:23).
6. Pentecostal-Charismatic healers cannot heal.
In spite of their claims, the Pentecostal-Charismatic “healers” are not more successful in healing than any other believers. The documentation for the following facts can be found in our book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements, which is available from Way of Life Literature in both print and eBook versions.
His daughter was severely burned and died because he refused to allow medical treatment.
The March 1952 issue of his magazine Healing Waters had “three great medical doctors” on cover bragging on Roberts, but this was exposed as a lie. They weren’t real doctors. Pastor Carroll Stegall investigated Roberts’ healing claims and found no change in anyone. A Toronto doctor examined 32 people that were supposedly healed through Roberts’ ministry and found no case of healing. At least one had died. At a healing meeting in Texas in 1950, a storm knocked the healing tent down and 50 people had to go to the hospital. Between 1951 and 1959 five people died in Robert’s healing meetings. In 1977 Roberts’ claimed God commanded him to build a hospital, and in 1980 he claimed he saw a 900-foot-tall Jesus who promised He would pay all the bills for the hospital and that it would be a success; but in 1989, the hospital closed because of debts.
His healing campaigns in 1946 were the start of the modern Pentecostal healing revival. He claimed that an angel always stood by him and told him what to say. He said that he could distinguish types of sickness by vibrations in his hand. We have the personal testimony of Alfred Pohl, a former Pentecostal, who worked in one of Branham’s crusades in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Pohl prayed for the bed-ridden patients who were transported to the meeting and he declared all of them healed, but many died soon thereafter. A local newspaper checked on the reported healings and couldn’t fine one genuine case.
Surgeon William Nolen published the book A Doctor in Search of a Miracle about his attempt to find cases of people who were genuinely healed through Kuhlman’s ministry. He did not find any such cases.
Kurt Koch examined 28 alleged healings that occurred under Kuhlman’s ministry in Minneapolis but he did not find even “one clear case of healing from an organic disease.”
John Wimber (1934-1997)
Wimber was the leader of the Vineyard churches. He conducted signs and wonders conferences and taught that every Christian should lay hands on the sick and heal them. At a conference in Indianapolis in 1990 that I attended he said that God had sent healing angels, but I didn’t see any healings of those who were in wheelchairs. After a Wimber crusade in England, five medical doctors found no genuine healings and called his ministry “hypnosis.” In an interview with a magazine in Australia in 1990, Wimber said he could heal headaches but that he did not have success with serious sicknesses.
Charles and Francis Hunter
They had a wide-reaching healing ministry and claimed that healing is promised by God and that every Christian can heal others. During one healing crusade in the Philippines, Frances Hunter had to go to the doctor for a sickness, and another time she had to be transported home in a wheelchair. Charles Hunter claimed that he could heal baldness, but he was bald until his death.
7. The Bible warns of false miracles at the end of the age.
Every time the New Testament mentions miracles in the context of the end of the church age, it is always referring to false, demonic miracles. Jesus’ warned that false teachers would be so clever and convincing that they would deceive the very elect if possible.
See Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians. 2:7-9; Revelation 13:13-14.
8. We do believe in divine healing, but we do not believe that there is absolute promise of healing. God often heals, but He does not always heal.
I have personally experienced divine healing. In the 1980s I was healed almost instantly of a serious intestinal sickness through the prayers of a pastor friend. I had contracted the intestinal sickness in Nepal, and usually it is healed only through antibiotics. Most recently, I came down with acute pancreatitis, which is a very serious sickness and can even result in death, but many people prayed for me and in a few days I was able to travel around the world and preach dozens of times in Bible conferences in perfect health no ill effects.
Our friend Paul Timmerman experienced divine healing in 1971. While working as a seaplane and helicopter pilot with the U.S. Coast Guard he developed growths on the inside of his wrists about 1.5 inch high, which hindered his ability to fly. After medical tests it was determined that the growths should be removed surgically and he entered the hospital for this purpose. After preparation for an early morning surgery, he spent the night in the hospital. He asked the Lord to heal him supernaturally if it was His will, and in the morning the doctors were amazed to find no growths.
Evangelist Al Lacy’s wife had a kidney removed, and eight years later her remaining kidney was diagnosed as being almost dead. Doctors said she had one year to live at the maximum. Lacy called the church’s deacons and they anointed her with oil and prayed and she had lived more than 25 years when he gave this testimony in Bible Baptist Church of Oak Harbor, Washington, in the early 1990s.
9. The believer is called to live by faith, not by sight, in this present world.
See Romans 8:24; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 5:4-7; Hebrews 11:1, 6, 13.
We do not yet possess our full salvation, but we look forward to it by faith. Each believer should emulate the attitude of the hymn writer Fanny Crosby. She was blind from birth, but she did not complain. As a child she wrote the following:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
That other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.
VERSES USED TO SUPPORT THE PENTECOSTAL DOCTRINE OF HEALING
The emphasis of Isaiah 53:5 is on spiritual healing. Compare 1 Peter 2:24.
Salvation has two parts: spiritual, which is the major part of salvation we enjoy in this life, and physical, which we will enjoy in the next life. Much of our salvation is still future. See Romans 8:22-25. This passage describes the Christian life in this present world as suffering (v. 18), waiting (v. 19), bondage to this present body of sin (v. 21), and groaning (v. 22).
First, it can’t mean that believers will do greater miracles than Christ did, because no greater miracles could be done. Further, no one since then has been able to do such miracles.
What John 14:12 means is that the believers would do greater works than Christ, not greater miracles. The greater works are such things as preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth and seeing multitudes saved.
The two most important methods of Bible interpretation are context and comparing Scripture with Scripture.
When we examine the context of Psalm 103:3, we see that the Psalmist is describing God’s general goodness to believers. The statement that He heals all our diseases does not mean that He always heals every disease any more than the statement in verse five means that He always renews our youth. We know that believers, like unbelievers, grow old, get sick, and die. That is because the wages of sin is death and each of us has sinned (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
Further, when we compare Scripture with Scripture, we know that there are cases in which God doesn’t heal. We have already seen three such cases in the New Testament: Timothy (1 Tim. 5:23), Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
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