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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
Word of Faith/ Healing

 

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Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement... Part II

Carol Brooks

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel to you other than what we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8

PART 1 (ON THE PREVIOUS PAGE)

Introduction
God No Longer Heals Today / God Can And Does Heal Today.
Healing Is/Is Not Guaranteed Under The Atonement

When Healing Doesn't Happen

"Proof" Texts
Isaiah 53
1Peter 2:24
Matthew 8:16-17
The Word Save in Luke 19:10

*********

PART 2 (ON THIS PAGE)

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, and for ever

Greater Works

Authenticating The Coming of The Messiah and The Advent of the Kingdom
Jesus Foretold His Own Mission
The Significance of Jesus' Message To John
Forgiveness of Sins
The Advent of The Kingdom
So You May Believe

Establishing The Kingdom
Paul's Thorn In The Flesh

"Faith" Healing

Is Sickness Always a Result of Sin?

Does God Heal Today?
What Happened to ‘According To His Will’?

The Less Spectacular Unrecognized Miracles

The Kingdom.. Now and Then

Conclusion
If You Aren't Healed .. Logic Dictates that You Aren't Saved
Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement? Yes It Is. But....

 


Hebrews 13:8
states

    .."Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever".

In other words, if Jesus healed during His time on earth He, being unchanging, has to continue the pattern and heal people today. But can we really apply these words to the subject of healing, or are we taking a verse out of context yet again. [See Context Is Crucial].

The subject of Jesus being unchanging runs through the entire book of Hebrews, first touched on in chapter one when the author first begins to develop the theme of Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest who ushering in the New Covenant, became the once-for-all offering for sin...

    10 And, “You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the works of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you continue. And they will all grow old like a garment, 12 and like a robe you will fold them up and like a garment they will be changed, but you are the same and your years will never run out" (Hebrews 1:10-12).

However Jesus underwent a huge change when he was incarnated as man. For the first time He was subject to the same earthly temptations that man is subject to, and bore the scars of physical abuse even after the resurrection. In fact, without the Incarnation, Jesus would not have been able to become the sacrifice for our sins and our great High Priest. The importance of the incarnation is first spoken of in Hebrews chapter 2.

    [14] Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; [15] and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. [16] For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. [17] Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. [18] For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. [Hebrews 2:14-18]

So in order to properly understand what the author means when He says Jesus Christ is unchanging, we cannot pull one verse out of context but, instead, have to look at the book of Hebrews as a whole.


Central Theme of Hebrews
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish converts who seemed to be in danger of apostatizing from Christianity and re-embracing Judaism, something the author of Hebrews was obviously very concerned about. [See 1:1-3, 3:15, 4:1, 6:1-8; and 10:26-35] Some of these recent converts were being "carried away' by false teaching on food and other subjects, which were as unnecessary as they were false.

Since perseverance in the faith is a major concern of the author, one of the main purposes of the book of Hebrews is to establish the superiority of Christianity, based on the sonship of Christ and His high priesthood. In fact the theme of Christ as High Priest runs through the Epistle from beginning to end, with emphasis on the fact that our Great High Priest does not change. The author encourages these new believers to persevere by showing that their Saviour was always the same, and will always be the same.

In other words, God's nature or character is immutable... it remains constant. He is neither whimsical nor capricious, changing His mind about anything or everything whenever He feels the notion to do so, which would make Him a most unreliable being that man would have little or no reason to trust. On the contrary it is an constant assurance in Scripture that He is the rock without which we would have no where to stand. [Also See Does God Change His Mind? ]

So when Hebrews 13:8 says .."Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever." it means that

Jesus' priestly ministry is eternal, and the benefits of Calvary are not only certain, but everlastingly secure. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, our Great High Priest who does not change. The very fact that the New Covenant is established upon an immovable foundation gives us every reason to finish the race set before us, knowing that an unshakable kingdom awaits us. 

The context in no way suggests that what God chooses to do in one period of in history has to necessarily be repeated in another.  An overview of the Scriptures shows that as God's plans unfolds, different periods are characterized by different elements and emphases. The arrival of the Messiah, the advent and establishing of the Kingdom was a time so pivotal and so momentous that one would be foolish not to expect that this period would be characterized by unique features and events. Which is why the modern church has not been given the ability to perform miracles on the scale of those that took place in Jesus' lifetime, and in the first years of the church.

This brings us to yet another verse used by proponents of the health wealth gospel.


Greater Works
John 14:12 says

    Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. [John 14:12]

It is argued that Jesus healed everyone who came to Him for healing, and since He said that we would do greater, works than He did, everyone we pray for to be healed, should be healed.

However there are several inescapable problems with this reasoning. The word "greater" can only refer to either quantity or quality, or a combination thereof. However the works of the apostles did not exceed those of Jesus in power nor number. Jesus healed the sick and so did some of the other apostles. Raising the dead is arguably is the ultimate supernatural miracle, which both Peter and Paul performed. However there is no record of them raising more dead people than Jesus did.

And, in spite of all the hype to the contrary, no person, group nor period since the apostles has seen any increase in number or quality of miracles. Not only were Jesus' miracles not exceeded by those of the apostles, but the modern church has fallen far short of "greater works". It is patently obvious that not every sick person prayed for, even by the leaders of the Health-Wealth gospel, is healed. In fact it would be accurate to say that regardless of grandiose claims to the contrary, most people prayed for today are not miraculously healed.

So, if Jesus was referring only to physical healing when He told the apostles that they would do "greater" works than He did, He was guilty of false prophesy. And since we can safely rule out that possibility, we have to face the fact that the word "greater" cannot refer to the miracles themselves. So what then did Jesus mean?

The only accomplishment of the apostles that was "greater" than that of the Messiah was the sheer numbers that became believers through their preaching (also authenticated by miracles). The ministry of Christ was confined to a relatively small geographical area and witnessed by few. Whereas immense multitudes were brought to God by the ministry of the apostles who took the Gospel to the Gentiles, as well as beyond the boundaries of Judea... this establishing the foundations of the church in all the earth.

The word "greater" here is used, therefore, not to denote the number of miracles or how much power it took to accomplish them, but the effect that they would have on mankind.

Which brings us to the reasons Jesus and the apostles healed as part of their ministry.


Authenticating The Coming of The Messiah and The Advent of the Kingdom

Jesus Foretold His Own Mission
While there is no question that some of the healings took place simply because Jesus had immense compassion for the suffering, most of the miracles He performed were to done to authenticate His message and mission.. to show that He was indeed the Messiah. Luke tells us that at the very outset of His public ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue as was His custom, but this time He stood up to read. Handed to Him was the Isaiah scroll which Jesus opened to the place He was looking for. The words that Luke attributed to our Lord in the synagogue in Nazareth that day were paraphrased from Isaiah 61:1-2a.

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, [Luke 4:18]

Although when Isaiah wrote these words, he was writing of his own mission to the Jews, Jesus reinterpreted the passage as being a prophecy of His own mission.

    Note 1: There is absolutely nothing unusual about this as Scripture is replete with typology, which is a representation by one thing of another. A "type" is a factual happening in history, which is a glimpse of one or more actual events yet to come, although this significance is not always apparent at the original occurrence. Western ideas of prophecy involve prediction and fulfillment. The Hebrew idea of prophecy is a pattern that is repeated, multiple fulfillments with one ultimate fulfillment. Each of the multiple fulfillments is both a type of, and a lesson on, the ultimate fulfillment. [See Prophecy and Typology]

    Note 2: It is doubtful that the words that Luke has attributed to our Lord in the synagogue in Nazareth were the only ones included in the Scripture reading for that day, but were the heart of the text which Jesus read. The essential meaning of the words that Luke chose to emphasize was that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah based on several areas of Isaiah's prophecy and it's fulfillment in His life and works. Jesus' subsequent ministry was 1) in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14), a fulfillment of Isaiah's words "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me". 2) The focus of Jesus' work was preaching the "good tidings" that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17). 3) Jesus also focused on the poor and the downtrodden and He released the "captive"  ensnared in his own sins. As Jesus said in Mark 2:17, it was the sinners that needed to be set free not the righteous, and it was those sinners that He came to call. Finally it also has to be noted that the citation from Isaiah stops just before the words... "And a day of vengeance of our God" simply because Jesus' work on earth at that time did not include bringing vengeance on the enemies of God.

Jesus Himself declared his miracles to be evidence he had come from God and was God.

    "The works which the Father has given Me to finish the very works that I do  bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me"  (John 5:36).


The Significance of Jesus' Message To John
When John the Baptist sent men to ask Jesus if He was "the Coming One" or whether they were to look for another. Jesus' reply was simply to point them in the direction of the miraculous works He had done...

    “Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them.” (verse 22)

Jesus' point is that He is doing things that the prophets predicted would be accomplished by the Messiah at the coming of the Kingdom. These miracles were unequivocal proof given to the nation of Israel that he was the long-awaited Messiah sent from God (Jesus' occasional healing of Gentiles was the exception rather than the rule... almost all that He did was done within the context of His ministry to the Jews). Among other miracles, Jesus restored sight to the blind in not a few instances.

    And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in Jehovah, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. [Isaiah 29:18-19]

    Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. [Isaiah 35:4-6] 

    I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. [Isaiah 42:6-7]


Forgiveness of Sins
Matthew 9:1-7 recounts the healing of the man stricken with palsy. However, Jesus' first words to the man were "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven". The Scribes knew full well that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7), and that Jesus was here ascribing Divine status to Himself.  And when the scribes accused Him of blasphemy, Jesus  instantaneously and miraculously healed the man of his illness, which was done in order to prove to the scribes that the same power He used to to physically heal the man gave Him the right and authority to forgive sin. The First century Jew would not have failed to grasp the significance of the parallelism of healing and the forgiveness of sins, which was fundamental Old Testament teaching. In fact as the quote from Malachi shows they were waiting for One who would heal the soul:

    There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine indignation; Neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin. [Psalm 38:3] 

    'O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against You' [Psalm 41:4]

    "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases" [Psalm 103:2-3]

    For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him; I hid my face and was wroth; and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. [Isaiah 57:17-18] 

    '"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts,. "That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves"' [Malachi 4 :1-4].


The Advent of The Kingdom
Similarly, Jesus claims that His supernatural works do not just prove who He is, but indicate the presence of the Kingdom, the miracles being part of the reality of the Kingdom. 

    But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. Matthew 12:28).

So You May Believe
And certainly the miracles did cause many to believe. For example,

    When Jesus stilled the storm, the disciples cried out, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27).

    "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, during the feast, many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did". [John 2:23]

    When the Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said, "We know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (John 3:2).

    When Jesus fed thousands from five loaves of bread and two fishes, the people said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world" (John 6:14).

    The apostle Peter stressed this point to the assembled throng on Pentecost "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst" (Acts 2:22).

John makes it clear that some of the miracles were recorded so that people, who did not see these signs and wonders for themselves, would believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

    "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:33- 31).


Establishing The Kingdom
While Jesus' arrival on earth heralded the advent of the Kingdom, His time here was short. As Ephesians 2:20 tells us, while Jesus was the cornerstone, the apostles as His accredited representatives played a unique role in establishing the foundations of the church.

    being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; [Ephesians 2:20] 

The first apostles also healed and performed other miracles to authenticate their ministry, even if in a much more limited way than the Lord. Certainly it is clear from several passages of the New Testament that the working of miracles was distinctly, if not solely, a ministry of the apostles. For example Luke says

    And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. [Acts 5:12]

    And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: [Acts 19:11] 

In fact miracles were called the signs of an apostle

    Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works. [2 Corinthians 12:12]

Which is probably why, when the disciple Tabitha fell sick and died, the local believers could do nothing to revive her, so laid her out in an upper room. However when they heard that Peter was nearby in Joppa, they sent for him. It was the apostle who brought her back to life.

Look at it this way.. if everyone and his brother went around healing the sick and raising the dead, then there was absolutely nothing to distinguish Jesus and the apostles from anyone else. The miracles they performed would have done nothing towards proving that they were God sent. Instead as the author of Hebrews said.. the signs and wonders were a sign of God bearing witness with them.

    God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will. [Hebrews 2:4] 

Besides which, even Paul didn't heal everyone who was ill, least of all himself. Philippians 2:25-27 recounts the story of Epaphroditus who almost died. His recovery had nothing to do with Paul. Nor did Paul heal Timothy of what seemed to be recurring stomach problems, but suggested that he take some wine for his ailments.. which in those days was pretty much a 'medical' recommendation (1 Timothy 5:23).


Paul's Thorn In The Flesh
Finally, we know that God does not intend everyone to be healed because Paul himself suffered from a condition which he prayed about, but God chose not to heal him. If Paul, in the quote below, is referring to physical illness, and we certainly cannot accuse him of a lack of faith, it provides conclusive evidence that God does not always heal faithful believers and, in fact, sometimes has a definite purpose for allowing the incapacity to continue.

    To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (Greek astheneia)." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses (Greek astheneia), so that Christ's power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Some deny that the "thorn in the flesh" Paul talks about is a physical ailment, but refers instead to oppression or persecution. However astheneia, used some 24 times in the New Testament and often translated weaknesses, is used in two ways in the New Testament. In many instances it refers to the corruptible aspects of this present life. For example

    I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. [Romans 6:19] 

    And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; [Romans 8:26] 

    it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: [1Corinthians 15:43]

Whereas in other verses astheneia refers to some form of physical illnesses. For example...

    But so much the more went abroad the report concerning him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their infirmities. [Luke 5:15 ]

    And behold, a woman that had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years; and she was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up. [Luke 13:11]

    And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. [John 5:5] 

    But when Jesus heard it, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby. [John 11:4]

    And when this was done, the rest also that had diseases in the island came, and were cured: [Acts 28:9] 

    Be no longer a drinker of water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. [1Timothy 5:23]


The Council of Nicea
When the famous Council of Nicea was held in AD 325, it was attended by some three-hundred bishops from around the empire. Accounts of this gathering state that a great many of the delegates were crippled, often without limbs, and came limping in on crutches, having suffered physical abuses in the persecutions. But there was no healing service. They were there to settle another issue.


"Faith" Healing
As said before, Word-faith teachers who equate health and wealth with godliness and faith lay the blame for the lack of healing squarely at the door of the person or people who are claiming the healing, telling people who are already hurting that either their faith, the faith of the people praying, or the faith of the community is not strong enough.

If they had had more faith, if they had believed as they should have, they would have been made well. They are to blame since they have failed to appropriate the healing that God has offered them.

However is this true? While the first apostles also healed to authenticate their ministry, faith was not always involved.

The Beggar at The Gate
For example Acts 3:1-8 tells the story of a man crippled from birth who was daily carried to the door of the temple where he used to beg alms from people.  On this particular day, he saw Peter and John entering the temple and asked them for money. When Peter told him to look at them, he paid attention expecting to receive some money from them. However Peter had something very different in mind. His words to the beggar were "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Peter then took the man by the right hand, and raised him up: and immediately his feet and his ankle-bones received strength. He stood, and began to walk, then entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

Nothing in this text even remotely suggests that this man had "faith in Christ"  or that he was even expecting to be healed! The text clearly shows that the only thing he expected was a monetary handout from Peter and John. However not only are we told that this man became a believer that day but since he was a familiar figure to temple goers, all the people who saw him walking and praising God" were astonished and congregated in Solomon's porch. This gave Peter the perfect opportunity to preach the Gospel, telling them that the man had been healed by Jesus, the Prince of life whom they had killed. He then urged them to repent so that their sins may be blotted out and there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. [Acts 3:9-26]


The Man Beside The Pool in Bethesda
To be sure Jesus and the apostles were never seen to have turned away any person who came to them for healing but on the other hand neither did they heal all the sick people they came into contact with.

For example in John 5: 1-9 states that when Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews, He came to a pool called Bethesda, located near the Sheep Gate where a "multitude" of blind, lame sick and feeble people lay. But, as far as we know, Jesus only healed one person, a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.. We are not told why Jesus picked this man to heal, nor why Jesus did not heal any of the other people gathered there that day, but it is obvious that the man did not know who Jesus was. [There seems to be more to the story of the pool at Bethesda than meets the eye. [See Footnote I below]


Is Sickness Always a Result of Sin?

The Case of Job
Job is a prime Old Testament illustration that sins do not necessarily bring calamity upon people. A wealthy man, he is described in the opening chapters of the book of Job as " perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil" [Job 1:1]

The question here is not whether Job actually lived and the events related are historically true, but the fact that Satan accuses him to God as a selfish person, who served God only because he lived such a comfortable life. God then permits satan to take from him every single one of his possessions, including his children, his servants and his herds of sheep and camels. Furthermore Job himself was afflicted with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

But yet, God's description of Job never changes. In speaking to satan about Job God once again calls him a "perfect and upright" man in verse 2:3) who did not sin nor foolishly charge God [Vs. 13-22].

In short Job steadfastly maintained that he had done nothing to bring on his misfortunes and sickness, although his three friends could not figure out why Job would be afflicted in such a way if he had not sinned. Job's later repentance was not related to sin but to not understanding how powerful, holy, and exalted God really was.


Jesus
In the above example of Jesus healing the man who had laid by the pool for many years, John goes on to tell us that Jesus later found this man in the temple and said unto him,

    "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee". [John 5:14]

While we do not know if the reason the healed man returned to the temple was to give thanks for his miracle, what do know is that the implication of Jesus' words was that sin was the cause of his sickness. Jesus also warns the man not to repeat whatever it was he had been doing.

On the other hand, on another occasion, some of the crowd told Jesus that the Roman governor Pilate, for reasons unknown, had worshippers killed while they were offering sacrifices at the temple.

    Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." [Luke 13:1-5]

Then, as now, people probably felt that the victims had to have been really bad sinners to have suffered and died as they did. Jesus not only soundly refuted this idea, but warned His listeners that unless they repented, they too would perish in the same way. He then reinforced His point with the example of an accident in which 18 people were killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed on them, saying that those that perished in this tragedy were no worse culprits than all other men in Jerusalem.

Jesus is clearly discrediting the idea that there is an automatic connection between suffering and the morality of the people involved. [See Natural Disasters and a Benevolent God?]

 Moreover, in John 9:1-7 He is equally clear that there is no automatic connection between sickness (or disability) and sin.

    As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, ‘Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay. And said unto him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,’ (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” John 9:3–7

Notice that the disciples automatically assumed that the man was blind because of sin, but did not know who's sin had caused the affliction.

Although some may understandably feel that allowing the man to be born blind in order "that the works of God should be made manifest in him" was a cruel thing to so, we cannot disallow that it may have been this miracle that caused the man (and who knows how many others who witnessed the miracle) to become a believer. He may have traded some years of blindness for an eternity of perfect vision.

Again in his instructions to the church regarding sick people, James says [Emphasis Added]

    Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. [James 5:14-15] 

James is certainly reinforcing Jesus' teaching that sicknesses are not always the result of sin.


Does God Heal Today?
As shown the miracles performed by Jesus were largely done, in accordance with the foretelling of the prophets, as a sign, or unequivocal proof to the nation of Israel that he was the long-awaited Messiah sent from God who had the power to forgive sins. After His resurrection, the apostles as His accredited representatives played a unique role in establishing the foundations of the church. They too healed and performed other miracles to authenticate their ministry. However there came a point in time when the church was established, and all the 'signs' had been recorded in the Scriptures so that we too would believe that Jesus was the Son of God..

Which leaves the question of whether or not God has continued miraculously healing through the continued life of the church into our present time. That He has should be very evident from the apostle James' very simple instructions to the church regarding sick people. He says

    Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. [James 5:14-15] 

It cannot be supposed that James was instructing them to call the apostles to the bed side of sick people, since it is highly unlikely that they would always be within reach or available. Therefore it had to be the elders of the church, not the apostles who pray and anoint with oil with the purpose of bringing physical healing. Besides which as commentator Albert Barnes said...

    instructions like this were designed to have a permanent character, and to be applicable to the church at all times and in all places. The reference, therefore, is doubtless to the ordinary religious teachers of the congregation; the officers of the church intrusted with its spiritual interests. The spirit of the command would embrace those who are pastors, and any others to whom the spiritual interests of the congregation are confided - ruling elders, deacons, etc. If the allusion is to the ordinary officers of the church, it is evident that the cure to be hoped for James 5:15 was not miraculous, but was that to be expected in the use of appropriate means accompanied by prayer.

This passage from James is often used in the attempt to support preconceived theories, but it is actually impossible to reconcile James' words with the Charismatic 'faith-healing' of today. It is dishonest to tie James' words in with the atonement since he says absolutely nothing about it. God still heals today, if it is His will to do so, not through "miracle crusades" or miracle ministries, but through the prayer for, and anointing of, the sick person by the elders of the local churches. The church became the designated place for the healings that people will always need while in our present fallible bodies.

However it can not be asserted strongly enough that this passage can not be taken in a literal and absolute sense, simply because if the sick person always recovered.. if every disease and infirmity were always healed by the prayers of the elders... then believers would never die. Even if healing does take place it is only a temporary solution. Even Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus Himself had to eventually die again.

Also to be noted are the accounts of some miracles taking place through the ministries of people preaching the Gospel in remote areas, which only serves to make the point. Perhaps these too are happening so that people who have never heard the Gospel, and where there is no church, would believe. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the gift of healing mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:28 has been withdrawn from the church.


Whatever Happened To ‘According To His Will’?
How in the world do people pick up on Biblical verses that seem to provide them with "proof" that all they have to do to have a prayer answered is to strongly believe that it will be answered, reducing God to a magic genie that exists to do their bidding. Yet they completely ignore the fact that no less an authority than Jesus Himself taught us to pray "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" [Matthew 6:10].

Additionally, how do they disregard the fact that in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus "exceeding sorrowful" fell on his face, and prayed... My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me". But even under those extreme circumstances, He added the words "nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" [Matthew 26:39] Emphasis Added].

What happened to John's very clear words [Emphasis Added]

    "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14).

In fact these words of John should serve as a 'control text' for all prayer. which, of course, does not mean that we can infallibly know what God's will is every time we pray for something, but should serve to remind us that God can answer our prayer in three ways. He can say... "Yes"', He can say... "No", or "He can say... Wait". As so well said by Alan Morrison..

    One of the primary purposes of prayer is to teach us to be dependent on the will of God for all things, not that we can manipulate God into providing anything we desire. [10]

But there is more..


The Less Spectacular Unrecognized Miracles
It seems that all too many of us are focused on miraculous instantaneous healings, and if someone isn't healed before our very eyes we don't think God has done anything. But there are a variety of ways God heals and a variety of types of healing as pointed out in a message preached by Nadine E. Ridley at Christ The King Lutheran Church, in Vestal, NY.

She bring up the case of Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, related in 2 Kings 5. Namaan was called a "great" and "honorable" man, through whom the Lord gave victory to Syria. However we are also told that Namaan was a leper. The maid who waited on Naaman's wife was a captive from Israel, who told her mistress that she knew of a prophet in Samaria that could heal Namaan of his leprosy. Hearing this the king of Syria sent Namaan to the king of Israel with a letter and many gifts, which upset the king since he had no way to cure Namaan. However the prophet Elisha hearing that Namaan had made the trip to Israel expecting to be cured, told the king to send Namaan to him "and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."

To make a long story short Elisha didn't even come out of his house to cure Naaman, but sent a messenger out to  tell Namaan to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times, and his flesh would become clean. Certainly very simple instructions. However this was not what Namaan was expecting and he was far from pleased. He considered that Elisha should have come out and waved his hand over Namaan and cured him. Besides which he considered the rivers in his own land better than the Jordan, and figured he could wash in them and be clean.

He wanted the miraculous that did not entail him having to do anything.

He wanted it his way. 

And as the story goes...." he turned and went away in a rage".

The problem was he still had leprosy. 

Luckily for him, he had servants who, probably putting their jobs on the line, persuaded him to do as Elisha instructed. Namaan finally dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and was made whole. As Ms. Ridley says

    Why do we try to make things more complicated than they have to be? Why do we question the easy solutions God gives us and look for something more? Personally, I think God offers us the opportunity to be healed in so many different ways but we don't accept the healing God offers. We think something big ought to be happening. We look for this huge miracle, when every day, God is offering us an opportunity for our lives to be changed for the better, God is offering us healing and we look away, expecting something more.

    Were an awful lot like Naaman in so many different ways. We ask God to bring us healing, but then we try to direct God's hand, to make sure God does things our way. We ask God to bring healing into our lives or others, but when God asks for participation, when God asks us to make changes in our lives, we stomp away, all huffy and out of sorts because that's not the kind of healing we want or were expecting. We don't expect healing to happen because of some change that we make in our lives, but we expect it to happen because of some miraculous snap of Gods fingers, some magic touch, some spiritual intervention.

    I'm not saying that kind of healing doesn't happen. But if you look at the story of Naaman, you realize that Naaman had to be willing to take some action. Naaman had to be willing to do what was asked of him. Naaman had to be obedient for healing to occur.

    Healing requires obedience. If your health care provider gives you pills to take, you have to follow a schedule. If the therapist requires you to come in for therapy, whether it's physical therapy or counseling, that takes discipline. If you want to get well, you have to follow the rules, you have to follow orders, you have to be obedient. And the same is true when we ask God to bring us healing.

    Healing from God requires obedience. We have to be willing to submit our wills to the will of God. We have to be willing to trust that God knows what's best for us. We have to be willing to give up what's damaging to us, to set aside habits that are bad and develop new and healthier habits. We have to be willing to take on new disciplines that help us stay connected with God. And we have to be willing to listen to listen to the voice of God, to listen to what we might not want to hear, to follow directions that may seen too insignificant to make a difference, or so big they're overwhelming. Healing requires obedience and healing requires humility.

She goes on to say...

    Healing requires us to be open to the whole assortment of ways God works in the world and God works in our lives. We have to be open to not only the big miracles, but to the small changes that occur – the changes in attitude that make us feel better or see the world differently, the feeling of hope when there was only despair, the call of a friend who lends support when we feel alone, a kind word, a gentle touch, a change in medication, a visit, a shared story, a note, a card, a prayer, a whispered word of encouragement.

    I’ve been in the healing business long enough, as a nurse, as a chaplain, and as a pastor, to know that healing happens in ways you never expect, through people you'd never think of.

    Some people think that the actual healings of Jesus ended two thousand years ago. Jesus healed, he gave his disciples power to heal and that was it. When Jesus was gone from this earth, the power to heal was taken over by medicine, health care systems and HMOs. But that's not what I've learned about healing in my lifetime. It's been a hard lesson sometimes, but I've learned that in the midst of someone's horrible pain, or a terrible tragedy, an "ah-ha” moment may occur. A situation may happen that allows or forces someone to examine their life, to take stock of what's going on, to think about what direction they want their life to take, to let go of old hatred or resentments, to stop nursing grudges that make your belly ache or make your heart break. And when that “ah-ha” moment occurs, you know that God is working Gods healing in your life.

    God's healing didn't end two thousand years ago. It's happening today, in more ways than we can imagine. And it can happen in your life, too. It takes work and it takes a willingness to want to be healed. It takes a little humility, some obedience, and a grain of faith. But God wants God's people to be healed. God doesn't want us to live broken lives. God wants us to have healing and wholeness and offers us the opportunity to receive healing every day of our lives, we only need to ask and expect the unexpected.

    That's the miracle of healing. That it's still happening today – in your life and in mine, and in this fallen and broken world.  Where do you need healing in your life? God is waiting for you to ask and eagerly wants to offer you healing in so many different ways. [11]


The Kingdom.. Now and Then
In Romans 8, Paul clearly states that Christians will suffer with Christ... He suffered and His followers will also suffer. This echoes Jesus' words as recorded by John.

    The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him [Romans 8:16-17]

    Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. [John 15:20]

From the time of Adam's sin, and through many centuries of continued evil, all creation has been deteriorating. From the day he is born, man too begins the irreversible process of decaying and dying, no matter how hard we try to stay or reverse the process. We live in a fallen world clearly, and painfully, illustrated by Paul in Roman 8, in which he talks about the  “groaning” (the universal expression of response to suffering and agony) of both creation and believers. Although the inward man is being renewed every day, our bodies are subject to decay and death which is part of the human condition.

However Paul points out that this condition is temporary. Although Jesus ushered in the Kingdom, it has certainly not arrived in it's entirety. When the reign of God is fully established at the second coming of our Lord, Satan will be defeated, the dead will live and illness  or any other kind of suffering will forever be banished. Both the Christian and creation await the day when the present chaotic conditions will come to an end, and peace and tranquility restored.

Man's sin condemned both himself and all of creation to decay, corruption and death. Jesus' righteousness will redeem both, with all things restored at His second coming.

    ...creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [Romans 8:21-23]

    So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. [1 Corinthians 15:42-44]

    Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? [1 Corinthians 15:51-55]

    Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; [2 Corinthians 4:16-17] 

And as both Jesus and Paul further point out... any suffering in this present time pales into insignificance when compared with the glory of the world to come.

    "It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire" (Matthew 18:8)

    and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. [Romans 8:17-18] 

When compared to our eternal state our physical condition in this world is relatively unimportant. As Jesus said, it is infinitely better to enter eternal life sick or maimed and be made well and whole, than to enter hell for all eternity. It is a sobering thought that on the Day of Judgment, there will be many professing Christians who will say to Jesus: "Lord, Lord, have we not... done many wonders in Your name?" But He will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23).

But, this is not to say that Christians will walk around all the time sighing and moaning. As said by Bob Deffinbaugh, pastor of Community Bible Chapel in Richardson, Texas

    Do not misunderstand; it should not be said that our lives as Christians are characterized only by suffering and groaning. We have peace with God, presently. We have joy in the midst of sorrow. We have the benefit of many blessings which come from the hand of a gracious and loving God, now, as well as those yet to come in the future. But when all is said and done, God does not intend for us to be content with what we are. Our present imperfection and groanings are designed to prepare us for our future sonship. We must first be tested and proven character must be developed in us before He gives us the privilege of reigning with Christ. Suffering is preparatory to sonship. Groaning is a prerequisite to glory. We must place our hope in things to come, those things which God has promised. Because this hope is not presently seen, we must fix our hope by means of faith and not by sight. God intends for those things we see as wrong within us and in the world in which we live to create in us a hunger for heaven.

    Some hold a view of the Christian life and walking in the Spirit which finds groaning inappropriate. Being Spirit-filled is synonymous with constant effervescence and an almost giddy happiness all of the time. Suffering and groaning are thought to be the experience only of the lost or of the unspiritual. Sad though it may be, only the lost can expect life to be lived without sadness and suffering and groaning. When those who are successful and comfortable in this life see life as a bowl of cherries, they are not looking at life as it really is. They are looking through eyes which are blinded to the imperfection of this world due to man’s sin. [12]


Finally..
If You Aren't Healed .. Logic Dictates that You Aren't Saved
If healing is considered to be a present benefit of the atonement, then it logically follows that those that pray for healing but do not receive it cannot be assured of their salvation either. In other words if we are supposed to currently have physical and spiritual healing as part and parcel of the atonement, then an absence of physical restoration indicates an absence of spiritual restoration.

Furthermore if, as is often claimed, the person simply does not have enough faith to be healed or to receive their healing, then how can we assume that they have enough faith to receive salvation, which is a much larger issue by far.


Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement? Yes It Is,  But...
One of the assumptions consistently and universally made is that humans are divided into components... physical, emotional/mental and spiritual or, if you prefer, body, mind, and spirit. [See
Footnote II] However there is a fundamental mistake being made by both sides of the Healing in the Atonement issue.

    Those who do not believe that physical healing is included in the atonement assume that spiritual healing has taken place, but we will not be free from all physical defects and illnesses until we receive our resurrected bodies. In our present life, the atonement is seen as being significant only for our spiritual dimension.

    Those that believe that physical healing is included in the atonement correctly club together physical and spiritual healing. However their error is in assuming that both healings take place in the here and now.

However, what we fail to recognize is that total redemption/atonement takes place in two stages.

Since it is obvious that complete physical healing has not yet taken place, some believe that Jesus came the first time to bear the sins of His people (spiritual redemption), and that He will come the second time to make all thing new (physical redemption). This is not the case.

Note what Paul says at the very end of his epistle to the Thessalonians.

    And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly (holokleros); and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire (holokleros), without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it. [1Thesslonians 5:23-54] 

Both Greek word above are derived from a single Greek word holos, which means whole, complete or all, leaving little question that redemption applies to every facet of the person. When God makes you whole, He will make every single dimension of you whole ... body, mind and spirit will all be healed... Once and for all.

When Jesus Christ came to earth, the Kingdom of God began to break in on earth, however the Kingdom is partially, not fully here. Therefore while all facets of healing are present in varying degrees. Not until the kingdom is fully realized.. when it comes in full glory at the Second Coming of our Lord... when the atonement is complete, will we finally have spiritual redemption, emotional healing and perfect physical bodies. [See The Two Phase Atonement]

As said by Sam Storms of enjoying god ministries

    May we conclude that there is healing in the atonement? Of course! Were it not for Jesus making atonement for sin, we would have no hope of healing in any form, either now or later. The redemptive suffering of Jesus at Calvary is the foundation and source of every blessing, whether spiritual or physical. * Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there is healing through the atonement rather than in the atonement, insofar as the atoning death of Jesus is the basis for God healing us. In this way we avoid suggesting that because of Jesus' death we are guaranteed healing in this life. [13]

So to once again bring up the question of why some people are healed while others are not... while we do not know on what basis God chooses to heal, but...

    When people are healed it cannot be seen as preferential treatment. They are healed as a token and forerunner of the Kingdom. It is an affirming sign to believers and a witness to unbelievers.

    When people are not healed it cannot be seen as a lack of love on God's part.  Healing will come, not when we demand it, but in God's own time. If not in this life then in the world to come.

Until that time, we walk by faith, trusting the God who has promised perfect health at the resurrection of the body.

 

Footnote I
The story told is John 5:2-4, which forms the background for Jesus' healing of the man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, is actually rather strange.

    Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole, with whatsoever disease he was holden. [John 5:2-4]

Several ancient manuscripts omit the words "of the Lord" simply stating that an angel would trouble the waters. And, on consideration, it makes more sense that the angel, whoever or whatever he was, would not have come from the Lord. For several reasons...

    Only the person who could get into the pool first would be healed, which means that when the waters were stirred, pandemonium probably broke out, with a free for all scramble to get in the waters. It is not only possible, but very probable, that the person who could push, or shove others out of the way would be the first in. 

    This comes across as more than barbaric, since the ones who were the most sick or feeble stood no chance of ever being healed. God never ever healed in this fashion, but very specifically.. He would not send an angel there to heal the one who could elbow all others out of the way, leaving all the others bitterly disappointed..

    This stirring of the waters took place between the Old Testament and the New.. a period of 400 years of silence from God and the prophets. It was Jesus alone who broke this silence.

    The man that Jesus healed had been infirm for 38 years and had been waiting by the pool for a long time. One has to wonder if Jesus healed him simply because he had been there the longest, which would have been just the opposite of how healings took place at the pool. Besides which Jesus healed the man, not by helping him onto the water, but by a word.

For these reasons one has to suspect that it was not one of God's angels "troubling" the waters, but either local superstition, or something more sinister, considering that there are other ’angels’ besides God’s angels. [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote II
Some believe that the soul and the spirit are two separate and different facets of our lives, However if this were true one would expect to find this emphasized in the Scriptures. However the opposite is the case. For example, in both the book of Job and Isaiah there are two passages which show the parallels between soul and spirit.

    Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. [Job 7:11] 

    With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee earnestly: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. [Isaiah 26:9]

And the sense one gets from the Hebrews text which apparently refers to a difference between soul and spirit, is that it is actually a metaphor that emphasizes the difficulty of dividing soul and spirit, or joints and marrow. In other words they are so joined together that distinguishing between them is difficult.

    For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12]  [PLACE IN TEXT]


End Notes
[10] Alan Morrison. With Healing In His Wings...An Understanding of the Ministry of Healing of Jesus and the Apostles. Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 Diakrisis International

[11] Does God Heal Today?. A Sermon Preached by Nadine E. Ridley at Christ The King Lutheran Church,  Vestal, NY. The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost. August 6, 2006.
http://www.ctkmedia.biz/group_55/S3BZUX6MFP2VGZER4QRBBVQNQYK2PS79/06-08-06.ner.pdf

[12] Bob Deffinbaugh. From Groaning to Glory (Romans 8:18-27).
http://bible.org/seriespage/groaning-glory-romans-818-27

[13] Sam Storms. Healing and Old Testament Prophets.
http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/healing-and-old-testament-prophets/
 

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Part I of Healing In The Atonement

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