When Jesus walked on this earth, He healed the sick. He healed everyone who came for healing to Him: “they brought him all the sick… and He healed them” (Matthew 4:24). Later, we read of healing miracles performed by the apostles.
They seem to happen less often than in the ministry of Jesus, and on a smaller scale. Paul performed mass healing in Ephesus: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). However, there were also many instances when Paul could not heal. He could not heal Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20); Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:27); and himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The gift of healing
In James, we read about how a prayer of faith by the elders of the church saves the sick (James 5:14-16). When Paul writes to the Corinthians he seems to imply that some of the members of the church have a gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9). An important question is whether the gift of healing is still in operation today. The answer to that is not easy. To start with, it is not so clear how this gift functioned even in the New Testament period. Some people teach that the miraculous gifts ended with the time of the apostles. While there might be some truth in that – miracles at least became much less common in later times – the biblical foundation for it is not convincing. But on the other hand, people who now claim to have the gift of healing are very unconvincing. That a gift of the Holy Spirit existed in the New Testament period, is not yet proof that it has to exist today. Apostleship is a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:28) that was clearly temporary.
A balanced biblical view on healing
To have a balanced biblical view on healing it is good to keep in mind the following points:
- God heals. Normally He will use the systems that He created in our bodies to fight disease and the work of doctors. These are also healings that we receive from the Lord and we praise Him for them.
- God heals. Praying to God for healing is a natural thing to do for any Christian, and God may answer these prayers through natural recovery, through the work of doctors, or through miraculous healing. We may not always be able to distinguish between them.
- Faith to be healed is, contrary to the teaching of most faith healers, not a condition for receiving miraculous healing. In only 10 of the 35 miracles of Jesus that we read about in the gospels, faith was exercised by the person experiencing the miracle.
- The teaching that God wants to heal all diseases of His children has no basis in the Bible. It also flies in the face of experience. It makes Christians with handicaps or chronic diseases doubt their faith. Therefore it is a doctrine of the devil, tempting us to expect a paradise on earth before the return of the Lord Jesus. But the deliverance of our bodies will have to wait until the new earth.
- Sickness can be God’s will. God is sovereign over His creation, including over our health. He may use sickness to build our faith. Our healthy faith is more important to God than our healthy body.
- Large-scale healing meetings are to be avoided. Typically the teaching is unbiblical, promising too much and putting the blame on a lack of faith of the sick if they are not healed. The claims of healing during these meetings are almost without exception revealed as fake when researched.
While God can and does heal in answer to our prayers, we should never forget that the most precious blessing He gives is not healing, which is earthly and temporary. The most precious blessings are spiritual and eternal. Our suffering, even our sickness, might well prepare us to receive these spiritual blessings.