God’s Health Care: Remembering and Continuing in the Healing Ministry of Jesus

I once heard a story that happened during the 1973-1974 revival in Canada. Believers from many denominations were meeting and praying together, and someone prayed for the wife of a pastor whose church did not believe in healing to be healed. Barely had the prayer been uttered before she cried out, “Wait! We don’t believe in that!” But as it turned out, she was healed before she stopped speaking.

For many years, I have been involved in Christian and Missionary Alliance churches, have earned a Master of Divinity degree in one of their seminaries, and have served as a pastor of several Alliance churches. Yet I wonder sometimes whether there is continuing adherence in practice to the core belief in Christ as Healer today.

Here are some questions for consideration.

  • How many pastors have ever preached even one sermon on one of the core passages that deal with healing in the atonement (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24, Matthew 8:15-17)?
  • How many pastors have preached on James 5:15-17, the key passage that deals with the practice of anointing with oil and prayer by the elders for healing?
  • How often is the Lord for the body (I Corinthians 6:19-20) mentioned in current preaching and teaching, with its implications for reasonably healthy care of the body in eating, exercise and medical care, and avoiding practices which cannot be said with good conscience to glorify God?
  • How many elders participate in this ministry of anointing with oil and prayer in their churches, and how many believe in its being valid today?
  • How many churches regularly have opportunities in their services for people who attend to request anointing and prayer for healing?
  • How many opportunities are being given to people who have been healed to speak to glorify the God who has healed them?
  • How many pastors, church leaders and Sunday School teachers have read A. B. Simpson’s The Gospel of Healing, or T.J;. McCrossan’s Bodily Healing and the Atonement, or F. F. Bosworth’s Christ the Healer,  or Keith Bailey’s The Children’s Bread, or Richard Sipley’s Understanding Divine Healing, or Andrew Murray’s Divine Healing, or A. J. Gordon’s The Ministry of Divine Healing, or considered these books as possible resources for preaching and teaching? (They are all on my bookshelf. Considerable testimony on healing on the mission field is also in Rosalind Goforth’s books about her and her husband Jonathan’s ministry in Korea. Kurt Koch also has considerable testimonies of healings as part of his reports on revivals in Indonesia and Canada, among others.)

I personally only want God to be glorified in the ministry of preaching, teaching and praying for healing as part of the ministry of Christ through the church today. I abhor any attempts at personal showmanship or any methods in which someone may try to distract the attention from Jesus Christ as the healer (John 14:11-14). I would, moreover, challenge anyone to read and consider the scriptures first on this topic, as on any other. It’s unfortunate that what I consider a completely silly and too often unchallenged overspecification of I Corinthians 13:9-10 has been used to try to assert that the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy have ceased and signs, wonders and the ministry of healing as well (though that’s not even addressed in that passage). But I’m convinced that a fair reading of the scriptures will justify these conclusions:

  • Bodily healing is included in the atonement as part of its present benefits for the believer today.
  • The benefit of bodily healing in the atonement does not mean complete and perfect healing and health today any more than the forgiveness of sin and freedom from the power of sin means sinless perfection for the present day believer.
  • God will continue to bear testimony to the truth of his gospel by providing sign healings even to unbelievers today.
  • Prayer and the anointing of oil for the sick is a continuing ministry of the elders of the church today.
  • Christian sanctification means growing in holiness in body, soul and spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23).

Therefore, if we believe it, let’s preach it and practice the truth of Christ as Healer for today without either embarrassment or showmanship. He does continue to heal today, and the glory of his healing stands as a witness to his power to save fully and completely from sin and all its effects upon our lives.

 *** PLEASE NOTE: I am fully aware that there are brothers and sisters in Christ that do believe that the gift of tongues, prophecy and healings have ceased. Again, I would ask them to continue to look at the scriptures. Nevertheless if they find themselves in a church which does believe that the gifts of tongues and prophecy continue and that Christ continues to heal today, I would ask them, with concern for avoiding divisiveness in their local church and denomination, and to avoid making false an unethical promises in any kind of membership or leadership vows, please find a church and a denomination which believes as you believe, and minister and serve Christ there. Continue to love and serve Christ and your brothers and sisters, but have the courage of your convictions and serve where you can fully assent to the doctrines and mission of your local church and denomination.

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Foolish Fixups

Updated!
 
About two decades ago I left the grounds of the Christian camp where I was, as a pastor, required to put in my week of service (Russian katorga). I went off to lunch by myself in the middle of the week. The reason that I left was because at every meal since I had arrived someone was trying to fix me up with some single woman that that person knew somewhere. Yes, I was single at the time, and have remained so. The constant fixup attempts in every conversation became unbearable, and no one seemed to be interested in anything else.
 
One of the biggest obstacles to single people — the never married, divorced and widowed — becoming involved in the mainstream of church life is this horrible tendency of some in the church to try to fix up any single man or woman that they might happen to meet with any other single person of the opposite sex that they might happen to know. This, and the habit of isolating singles off in their own little groups, are what I would say are the reasons that many single people find churches difficult to attend and become involved with.
 
Here are the reasons why I find this habit foolish.
 
  • It is an attempt to play God in the life of another believer. The Bible says, ‘ . . . a prudent wife is from the LORD’ (Proverbs 19:4; see also 18:24, Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • These fixups are often attempted with utter indifference to the expressed wishes and desires of those who are the objects of the fixups.
  • The marriages of those attempting the fixup are often not very stable nor appealing on scriptural grounds.
  • The fixups are often attempted with utter disregard for differences in age, spiritual maturity, vocation, and education that would obviously make a long and stable marriage extremely improbable. Sometimes this is even utter disregard for the matter of personal salvation, where one of those in the attempted fixup is not even a believer in Christ.
  • Sometimes the fixups are attempted with utter disregard for the actual issues in the life of one or both people involved in the fixup. For instance, I have consistently refused dating and long term relationships with women who have problems with obesity. It is not out of a desire to humiliate them, since I have rather sought to treat them as sisters in Christ. Rather, it is because I do not find obesity attractive, and, as a gym rat myself, I have sought to keep myself physically fit and healthy for many years now. Dating relationships are not fixes for obesity, vocational instability, addictions, or personal immaturity, but rather these issues need to be addressed as preparation before a stable dating relationship and possible Christian marriage.
  • Often the person attempting the fixup becomes obsessed with the outcome, and tries either to force or manipulate a relationship where neither party really wants one. The pride and self justification of the person doing the fixup becomes involved with trying to force an unwanted and unscriptural outcome in the life of other adults, without the wisdom nor the authority to do so.
  • Sometimes this behavior seems also to be characteristic of those attempting to enhance their own reputation, and this is evident where those attempting the fixup talk about it with others in social situations.
  • There is almost no relationship with the person doing the fixup, or whatever there is is extremely shallow and superficial. The person attempting the fixup usually knows almost nothing about me first hand, and has never attempted to build a relationship over a period of time to attempt to get to know me well. This person never knows much about my spiritual history, my dating history, my goals for the future, and so on.
  • Extremely immature behavior, most comparable to those in their early teens, often comes from the person attempting the fixup, such as girlish giggling or smarmy smirks.
  • Sometimes refusal of a fixup even results in disgraceful, vindictive slander. For instance, in two of the three times in which professing Christians have slandered me as being a homosexual, it came after I refused that person’s attempted interference in my dating life. (Homosexuality has never even been a serious temptation to me.)
  • I’ve often found that the most determined people who attempt fixups are those who were married shortly after high school and who cannot imagine that adulthood, maturity and singleness can coexist in the same person. I can only wonder what these will say to Jesus when they meet face to face.

I cannot believe that this kind of behavior can be excused as springing from love, since love is not proud, does not act inappropriately and is not self seeking (I Corinthians 13:4-5). Because of this, my own personal policy is that I do not accept attempts at dating fixups, and I strongly refuse anyone who persists once I have made my wishes known. Unfortunately this still does not stop some extremely devious and stubborn people, and they will attempt an ‘end around’ around this refusal. This policy, though, is not open to negotiation.

I have heard some accounts from fellow believers on some fixup attempts that did succeed. Those who attempt the obsessive kinds of fixups which I have just described almost never follow even one of the common factors for success. Here are the common factors that I’ve noted in their stories.

  • The person attempting the fixup usually has usually come to know both parties well over a long period of time. He or she knows the spiritual history, dating history, and goals and desires for the future of both parties. There’s a genuine relationship of deep Christian love already in place.
  • The person attempting the fixup usually speaks to the man first, and allows him to call the woman, make the introduction, seek a safe first acquaintance date for lunch or a cup of coffee, etc.
  • The person attempting the fixup does not let his or her ego or reputation become involved with the outcome; there is no obsession with ‘getting those two together.’ If the two parties do not hit it off, it is not a personal defeat or a black mark against the reputation of the person who made the fixup. Moreover, the relationship that this person built with both parties continues as before despite the relationship not blossoming into marriage.
  • Finally, you never hear about the fixup except from the one or both of the two people who have found the fixup to be successful. The person who attempted the fixup does not boast about it or talk about it to others.

In other words, the person attempting the fixup in this case is acting much more in tune with Christian maturity, wisdom and scriptural love. The fixup was not the priority. Following Christ and mature, respectful consideration for the single brother in Christ and the single sister in Christ were the priorities.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.