Gifts of the Spirit Study:
Gifts of Healing
“to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,”
– 1 Corinthians 12:9 [emphasis added]
Aside from tongues, the gift of healing probably generates the most controversy today. At one time in my life, though I believed in the accounts of healing in the Bible, I was more than a little skeptical of accounts of modern-day miraculous healings. To me, they were urban myths and the products of televangelists who had more to sell than they had to give. My feelings on the matter have changed, partly due to study of the Bible, and partly because I’ve experienced the gift of healing first-hand.
God created material as well as immaterial, corporal as well as spiritual. He not only gave us eternal souls, but He also gave us physical bodies. As Christians, we sometimes neglect the importance of our physical health as we focus on nourishing our spiritual selves. The Bible is clear that we must care for both aspects of ourselves – physical as well as spiritual. For one thing, our bodies are creations of Almighty God. To disrespect His creation is to indirectly disrespect our Creator.
1 Corinthians 6:13 tells us our bodies are “for the Lord .” In verse 15 of the same chapter, Paul says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? ” Later, in verses 19 and 20, he said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body .” If our bodies were not important, why then would Jesus have healed so many? The answer, scripturally, is that our bodies are important. Just as Jesus offered his body as a sacrifice for our sins, Paul told us in Romans 12:1 to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God… ”
Since we’ve established that our bodies are important, it follows that the health of our bodies is also important. That is one reason why Jesus performed so many healings. That’s one reason why Paul also performed many healings. That’s why healing is listed among the gifts of the Spirit. That’s also why James wrote: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed, ” (James 5:14-16).
Why do some reject this form of healing today? Some are intimidated by the possibility that their prayers for healing will go unanswered. Others have had their hopes raised for a miraculous healing, only to have them dashed. This can be quite troublesome to some people. The fact is that no matter who anoints, no matter who lays on hands, no matter who offers up the prayer, only God heals. In His infinite wisdom, He sometimes chooses to not heal someone in this way. While this may seem terribly unfair to some people, we must remember that His ways are higher than our ways. He has a purpose for everything, even if we don’t understand it. Someday we will. I know some people who have had their lives, their spiritual lives, shaped
by a physical affliction. A physical healing may not yield the most positive results in every case. But we must not shy away from interceding in prayer for the afflicted, just because God’s answer might be “no.”
Another stumbling block can revolve around the issues of sin and faith. Some misinterpret the passage from James as meaning that physical ailments are the result of sin. They fail to heed the modifier “if.” “IF he has sinned ,” should not be misconstrued. The passage does not indicate that physical illness is always (or even usually ) a consequence of a sin.
My wife and I once knew a guy we’ll call “Bud.” Bud had a relatively minor case of Down’s Syndrome, but it wasn’t very obvious. Bud had some people lay hands on him and pray for his healing. When God did not intervene and perform a healing miracle with Bud, these people accused Bud of lacking faith. While faith does play a role in healing, these people went over the edge. Their behavior suggested that by offering a prayer of healing, God was obligated to heal Bud. Divine healing is a mercy that God extends as He wills – it is not an inherent right. As sinners, none of us truly deserves to be divinely healed of our physical afflictions. When Bud’s healing did not come, these people, who were convinced of the solidity of their own faith in offering the prayer, cast the blame on Bud for not having enough faith to receive the healing. This attitude that God is somehow obliged to heal us upon demand is arrogance in a most destructive form.
Faith does play a role, or at least faith in some form is mentioned in most instances of healing in the New Testament. On occasion, the faith of the person being healed was a factor (Matthew 9:22). At other times, the faith of a friend or family member contributed (Matthew 15:28; Mark 2:5,11). The faith of the person who prays for the healing figures into the equation (Mark 9:17-24, James 5:15). The important thing to remember is that God wants us to be well, and it is in His will whether He intervenes to perform a healing.
So what of the gift of healing? The Bible speaks of no such thing. Before you send me an email, let me explain. The Bible does not refer to “THE gift of healing.” Rather, “gifts” is mentioned in plural form, and without the definitive “the .” This may suggest, as I believe it does, that healing is a transient or occasional gift. In other words (and with full apologies to “faith healers”), healing is a gift that can be exercised by any person, according to the will of the Holy Spirit. This gift is not necessarily permanent or 100% successful with any one person. Even Paul, who healed many, was unable to heal Epaphroditis (Philippians 2:25-30). Scripturally, it appears that only Jesus was able to heal every time.
James exhorts us to call on gifts of healing pray for the sick and infirm. We must pray expectantly and with faith, but we must not pray presumptuously and arrogantly. God can use us to perform miraculous healings, but this will only happen according to His will and timing, not ours. I have heard of cancer that goes into remission subsequent to prayers for healing. I have experienced healing from less serious maladies after having hands laid on me and prayers offered for my healing. Even medical journals are recognizing that miraculous healings do occur among people of faith. Gifts of healing present us with the awesome opportunity to share in the rich healing mercies of our Lord. Be faithful in exercising these gifts, and know that God’s purposes will be done.