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Healing and Sickness in the Epistles – Part I

After seven blog articles re: healing in the Old Testament, and three in the New Testament, I trust we all realize our God cares about our bodies and that He is the same Healer today that He has always been.

In this next to last one I want to highlight some truths from the epistles re: the role or ministry of healing and some thoughts on sickness. And I want to start with Romans 15:18,19, wherein Paul gives some insight into how he was able to “fully preach the gospel of Christ” throughout his known region, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit;….”. As we see from what Luke tells us about Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts, he often healed the sick and sometimes cast out demons wherever he ministered. His passion was proclaiming Christ and the gospel and seeing people become disciples of Jesus. Part of his method was healing the sick, and in one case God allowed a poisonous and deadly viper to bite him in front of everyone so they could see him totally unaffected by it, which opened them up to Paul’s message (see Acts 28:3-6).

When Paul was trying to help the fleshly, human focused Corinthian believers learn the ways of God, he noted, “…my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” I Corinthians 2:4,5 My sense is this demonstration was different wherever he ministered and included power in his preaching (not polish, but power for conviction and revelation and transformation), healing the sick, even raising the dead when Eutyches fell out of a window and died (see Acts 20:7-12), etc.

Please note from I Cor. 11:29,30, “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” that sickness and even death (“sleep”) in some cases is a form of punishment/discipline for those who misuse or abuse the Lord’s supper. Thus it is possible that one reason some times why a person we pray for might not be healed is they are under God’s discipline until they repent. God help us all take communion more seriously and see it the way God would have us see it!

In I Corinthians 12 Paul goes to great lengths to show the beauty and diversity of the body of Christ, which is especially seen in the diverse giftings the Holy Spirit bestows on each of His children. In vs. 8-10 we find a list of spiritual gifts and I would like to say a few words about some of them in relation to healing the sick. First in vs. 8 Paul states, “For to one is given… the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit,”. In our experience the operation of this gift is most often seen in a worship or prayer gathering (small or large) wherein someone while worshipping or praying and waiting on the Lord is given knowledge about someone’s physical condition that they could not have known unless God revealed it to them. That knowledge is given by God to direct them to the person with that condition and it stimulates faith in both the person receiving it and the person with the condition so that healing of that condition can take place. We’ve experienced this in our worship services from time to time (including this last Sunday) and people have been healed from their condition through this means/gift.

Vs. 9, “to another faith by the same Spirit”. The gift of faith is a wonderful gift that enables a person to do things and attempt things that the average believer or the believer without that gift would not probably attempt to do. It is a Spirit produced inner confidence that enables a believer to attempt and do God sized things. One of those things can be healing the sick, though this gift is not confined to just that.

Vs. 9, “and to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,”. The gift of healing is a gift that enables a believer to heal the sick in far greater capacity and effectiveness than the average believer without the gift. (It is a very similar dynamic to those who have been given the gift of evangelism in that we are all to evangelize, but some are far more effective largely because they operate in the gift of evangelism). Some of the more noteable people who have operated with this gift of healing in my lifetime are Jackie Pullinger, John Wimber and Bill Johnson. I recently read the six volume biography on William Branham by Owen Jorgensen and was astounded at what God did through this man in terms of healing the sick and saving the lost via the gift of healing. I believe God raises up these kinds of people (noted above) from time to time to wake the body of Christ up and help us see God has not changed and still desires to heal the sick. I also believe that most people with this gift will not have the notoriety that the above mentioned people have. Most believers with this gift will probably mostly be used in their own community or city in a much quieter non pronounced way.

Vs. 10 “and to another the effecting of miracles,…” This gift enables a believer to do both more miracles and greater miracles than the average believer or believer without the gift. They could be miracles of healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, multiplying food, etc., etc.

Vs. 10 (skipping gift of prophecy for now), “and to another the distinguishing of spirits”. This gift enables a believer to discern what’s beneath the surface of a person’s condition or problem. It also can enable them to discern what is going on in a situation perhaps in a family, church service, meeting, etc., that others might not discern. My wife operates in this gift and God has used it to help me get to the roots of some issues in my own life that I could not see on my own. This gift comes in handy when praying for a sick person when there are emotional or spiritual or mental or generational things contributing to their physical condition.

The main point of I Corinthians 12:28-31 is that offices such as being an “apostle” and gifts such as “helps” are given by God. No one has all these gifts. We are members of “Christ’s body” before we are members of “The Well – Los Osos”. It is all His doing and we shouldn’t compare or be jealous of another’s gift or office, and find our identity in these things.

The only thing I want to mention from II Corinthians is in chapter 12:9, 10 “weaknesses” or Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” mentioned in vs. 7 was probably not a sickness or disease based on the context which has to do more with all of the difficulties and persecutions Paul endured due to his proclaiming of Christ and Him crucified. One scholar believes the “thorn” was a band of Judaizers that followed him wherever he went and made life miserable for him.

The exercising of gifts and working of miracles in and through the church in Galatia evidently was not uncommon as can be seen in Gal. 3:5 “So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” The issue at hand was their tendency to resort to the flesh or to living by the Law rather than living by faith in humble dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants to continue to heal the sick and cast out demons and do other miracles as necessary among all the nations. But for Him to use us we must stay simple and childlike in our faith and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

No real discussion of healing or sickness in the book of Ephesians, but I love the potential and power of corporate prayer that Paul appeals to in Eph. 6:18 as it can relate to seeing sickness and disease healed (among many other things), “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” Over the last 34 years or so wherein I have learned that God still heals, I have seen or heard of probably hundreds of people healed through someone spreading the word that someone is sick, diseased or badly injured and then folks from all over begin to pray. We all need to be reminded from time to time that when Jesus promised greater works than even He accomplished, first He was speaking to His disciples (not an individual), and He was highlighting the power of corporate prayer, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14 People ask me all the time to pray for someone to be healed, and I am glad to join the growing chorus of petitions. The sad thing to me in all of this is how often I have seen someone ask for prayer for their relative or close friend, and then never send out a report that the person was healed, even though I learn through some other way that they are fine now.

In light of the power of God released through corporate prayer, please do continue to pray for my older brother Danny to be fully healed from his hearing loss and from his brain cancer. Chemo has greatly weakened him. Constant nausea has caused him to lose weight and strength. And he has fallen twice in the last week. Thank you!!!

No real discussion about healing or the gift of in the letter to the church in Philippi, but Paul’s comments about Epaphroditus are instructive. Phil. – 2:25-27 “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” Is this an example of what we spoke of in the prior paragraph? Could it be that God bestowed mercy and healing at least partially because these believers in Philippi prayed for their beloved Epaphroditus once they heard of his sickness? And please note that when God heals it not only blesses the sick or injured person, but those who are linked to him as well, as it did to Paul.

No real discussion in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae re: healing. He does refer to Luke as “the beloved physician” in Col. 4:14. Did you know that Luke was one of Paul’s traveling companions? What an amazing combo these two probably were as Paul prayed and ministered healing by the Spirit and Luke I’m sure contributed to healing by his medical skills. I’m sure Dr. Luke also prayed at times when the situation was beyond anything Dr. Luke could do. We thank God for doctors and medicine. The Bible certainly isn’t anti such. The tragedy is that some have more faith in them than they have faith in God for healing, when ultimately only God heals, and every healing ultimately comes from Him.

May the Holy Spirit continue to give us revelation and understanding regarding this subject and may He increase our anointing to heal the sick as He leads us to do so in Jesus’s name. Amen!

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