The Healing God
In Acts 9:32-43 we see Peter miraculously heal Aeneas and Tabitha. What is healing and is it for today? This week we look at six of the most common questions related to healing. What we’ll see is that Jesus is still at work, advancing his purposes, through his faith-filled people. Jesus is the same today as he was then and delights to give good gifts to his undeserving children. He is the Healing God.
The books of Acts is the second volume of a two volume set written by Luke the physician, a close traveling companion and apostolic assistant to the Apostle Paul. He tells us in the beginning of his gospel account (Gospel of Luke) that, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…” (Luke 1:1-3) Luke’s gospel records all that Jesus began to do and teach during his earthly ministry, while Acts records all that Jesus continued to do, from heaven, through his people. The book has traditionally been called the Acts of the Apostles. The next three chapters could rightly be called the Acts of the Apostle Peter, as the story zooms in on one of Jesus’ closest disciples, before the story turns back to the Apostle Paul in Acts 13.
Today, in Acts 9:32-43, we have two accounts of healing. You may be aware that the topic of “healing” is widely debated, frequently abused and regularly misunderstood. This often leaves the majority of Christians confused, and subsequently silent, on the issue. So, as a forewarning, this might stretch some of you in your thinking and understanding. We want to handle major issues with conviction, minor issues with grace and, in all things, exercise love. Healing is a minor issue, so we can graciously agree to disagree. Many love Jesus and land differently that we do. We still love and respect them as brothers and sisters in Christ. My only request is that if you do disagree, please do so graciously and biblically. We want to interpret our experiences through the Bible, not interpret the Bible through our experiences.
The big idea today is that Jesus is still at work, advancing his purposes, through his faith-filled people. Jesus is the same today as he was then and delights to give good gifts to his undeserving children. Let’s look at the six most common questions about healing in the Bible.
Question #1: Is healing for today?
Cessationists believe the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues, healing, etc) ceased to function early on in church history. Continuationists believe that the miraculous gifts remain available to the church today by Holy Spirit.
- Both AGREE that God originally created all things good.
- Both AGREE that all physical sickness, disease and illness are a result of the Fall (Gen3) and the outworking of curse into creation.
- Both AGREE that Jesus will eventually bring about complete healing of our bodies and the world.
- Both AGREE that Jesus, the apostles and others had vibrant healing ministries.
The DISAGREEMENT arises when it comes to today. Is what we have here in Acts prescriptive or descriptive? is it unique or continuing? I believe the answer is “yes”, both. This passage is descriptive of a unique extra-ordinary outpouring of the Spirit on early church. It was as though God was pouring Gospel-gasoline to aid in the spread of the gospel and establishment of the church. Keep in mind they did not have the New Testament, at that point in time, so God used these supernatural acts to confirm His word through his people.
Yet, this passage is also prescriptive of what God is like and still able to do by the Holy Spirit today. Let’s look at four reasons to believe this:
First, in 1Cor 12, the Apostle Paul lists “gifts of healings” in his extensive list of spiritual gifts. Why would he say that if it was not going to be available? While there are no more apostles, there are gifts of healing operative in the church today. Does everyone have them? No, but everyone is a candidate. Isn’t is possible to overreact and believe there is no healing? I wonder how many sleeping gifts of healing are in our church right now.
Second, James 5:14 says that “If anyone among you is sick? Let him call for the elders of the church…” for healing. Why would he say that if it was only going to be a temporary thing?
Third, in Mt 6:13, the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to pray, “Deliver us from evil”. Surely “evil” includes sickness, illness and disease.
Fourth, God has not changed. God remains a merciful, gracious God who is willing and available to work in ways according to his sovereign will.
Question #2: What are God’s purposes in healing?
- Healing is often used as a “sign” to authenticate the gospel and demonstrating that the kingdom of God has come. That’s a significant purpose here in Acts.
- Healing serves as a foretaste of the perfect health that will be ours for all eternity.
- Healing demonstrates that God is merciful towards those in need.
- Healing enables people to serve, who would otherwise remain in state of sickness or physical impairment.
- Healing creates a unique opportunity for God to be glorified, making him look as good, powerful and merciful as He is.
Question #3: What is normally involved in healing?
Healing often involves the laying on of hands. “[Jesus] laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” Lk 4:40
Healing also is said to involve anointing with oil. This is not a reference to magic oil, but a physical symbol of the Spirits presence and power. Mk6:13 disciples “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them”Jas 5:14-15 “If any among u sick? Let him call for the elders of the church…anointing him with oil in name of the Lord”
Perhaps most crucial to healing is the role of faith. Not always, but in most cases Jesus healed people because of someone’s faith or the faith of family/friends. Generally speaking, the New Testament refers to three dimensions of faith, or three circumstances in which faith is exercised.
Conversion faith: This is faith/trust/confidence in Jesus Christ as savior. Every Christian has this kind of faith. (Eph 2:8,9)
Continuing faith: Continuing faith/trust is the faith that is exercised daily as we look confidently to God to work in and through us. Every Christian exercises this faith in various degrees. Some Christians are more/less confident in the goodness and greatness of God on a daily basis. Examples include the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5), Heb 11, etc.
Charismatic faith: This type of faith is what Paul refers to as the “gift of faith” (1Cor12:9). This faith is often a spontaneous, God-given trigger for other supernatural activities (i.e. healing, etc). Unlike the previous two, this is not given to every member of the body of Christ. However, any member is a potential candidate. Sam Storms defines charismatic faith this way:
“Gift of faith is that mysterious surge of confidence that rises within a person in a particular situation of need or challenge and which gives an extraordinary certainty and assurance that God is about to act through a word or an action.” 54,55
This is not a nebulous faith, but a faith/trust that Jesus is your soul’s only ultimate source of hope and healing. It is a faith/trust that God is able to heal, desires to heal and doesheal and can heal, right now.
Question #4: How should we pray for healing?
James 5 makes reference to calling on the elders of your church to ask for your healing. This involves a simple, faith-filled, humble ask. You don’t need to squint, yell or squeeze out a tear. Pray for God to be glorified, and faith deepened, whether he chooses to heal or not. All healing is subject to the will of God, not the one doing the praying for healing.
Errors to Avoid.
- Error #1 Not praying for healing at all. I believe that is unbiblical and out of line with the heart of God.
- Error #2 Believing God seldom heals today. Saying things like, “You should keep your expectations low.”
- Error #3 Believing God always heals if we have enough faith. That is just cruel and unbiblical. There is no guarantee.
- Error #4 Not taking medicine. It’s all God’s. Use it.
- Error #5 Always blaming sickness on sin or lack of faith. Some sickness is because of sin, but not all. We should ret rid of idea that if we get sick, we must be in sin. If it is due to sin, then repent, receive fresh grace and move on.
Jn9:1-3 Man blind from birth. “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him”
Jn11:3 Lazarus “One who you love is sick”
In the end it is best to believe it is very possible God will heal, but not guaranteed. Some will experience healing, some will experience continued illness. God is sovereign over both.
Question #5: What if God does not heal?
At times God will not heal because of his own sovereign purposes. In those cases, we have to remember Rom 8:28 “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”. We don’t know what it is, but God didn’t heal him. There are others we know were sick and Paul also wasn’t able to heal, such as Epaphroditus (Phi 2:25-30), Timothy (1Tim5:23), Trophimus (2Tim4:20).
Why does he allow sickness? God often uses sickness to draw us closer to him and increase our obedience
Ps 119:67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word
Ps 119:71 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In general, the Bible encourages us to eagerly and earnestly seek God for healing. Then continue to trust him to bring good, whether he heals or not. Jesus healed people because he loved them and the Bible says that has not changed.
Question #6: What does healing tell us about God?
Yes, it tells us he is a God of love, mercy, grace and compassion. But, even more, it tells us that nothing is impossible for him. Nothing can stop his purposes – not even death. Jesus can do anything, anywhere, anytime to anyone. The Bible describes God as perfectly good, eternally happy, all-powerful, everywhere-present, holy, just, gracious and LIVING. He is alive. That means, as followers of Jesus, we get to live with the confident expectation that God can turns things around.
This is why cynicism is so devastating to the Christian life. It is a subtle admittance that God is not who He says He is. Cynicism or fatalism is often just unbelief masked as intellectualism. We often just use cynicism to justify our unbelief. We say things like, “The way things are is the way things are always going to be…life, spouse, kids, sin, life…that’s that” We’ll often take it a step further, “It will probably be this way forever, in fact it will probably be worse”
But, if you read the Bible at all, Acts in particular, there is no way you can come up with that as an application point. Jesus is NOT dead, distant, disconnected, silent, weak, disinterested or disheartened. He is bursting with life, creativity, passion, power and perfect promises. You can’t contain him, stop him, or go before him. He’s already there. You can’t hide. He knows where you are, what you are doing, at all time. He knows you entirely, even better than you know yourself. He can break into your life with heart-stopping suddenness and change you forever. Hope is never lost when Jesus is on the scene and he is always on the scene; He made the scene.
“Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.” Hab 1:5
Acts written to show us Jesus is still at work, advancing his purposes, through His faith-filled people. He can and does turn things around, globally and personally. The point of Bible, Acts and the Christian life is that Jesus is alive, in complete control, and able to do above and beyond all we imagine. The world is not a machine, but a drama that is written, directed, produced by Jesus Christ as lead actor. He has surprises stored up for you that you’ve never dreamt of.
Jesus’ gospel says that we are all spiritual Dorcus’. Spiritually dead, impaired and in need of intervention. Jesus is that intervention. Even as a Christian, you have points of spiritual deadness and paralysis. Maybe you’re gripped by fear, control, lust, anger, pride or despair. Whatever condition you are in today…he is willing to heal. Jesus came to make you whole. Trust him. Jesus is still at work, advancing his purposes, through His faith-filled people. Together, let’s pray expectantly and humbly to a merciful God who delights to give us what we don’t deserve. May all the residents of Seattle – like Lydda, Sharon and Joppa – turn to the Lord.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the work of miracles…” 1 Cor 12:7ff
“Is anyone 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 will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:14-16
“If Jesus truly reveals the character of God to us, then we may cease speculating about and arguing over God’s will in sickness and healing. Jesus healed people because he loved them. Very simply, he had compassion for them; he was on their side; he wanted to solve their problems” Ken Blue, Authority to Heal, 72,78
“The fact that healing is an expression of divine mercy (Phil 2:27) means that it should never be viewed as a right. Healing is not the payment of a debt. God does not owe us healing. We don’t deserve healing. I believe w should have faith for healing. But there is a vast difference between faith in divine mercy and presumption based on an alleged right.” Sam Storms, The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, 63
“Healing miracles of Jesus demonstrate that God at times is willing to grant a partial foretaste of the perfect health that will be ours for eternity.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1063