What About Sickness? Are All Christians To Be Healed By God?
A cruel and diabolical Word Faith teaching is that it is your own fault for being sick. They teach that it is because of your lack of faith and/or knowledge if you are sick or poor. They teach a Christian should not be sick and that we can claim our healing by faith and God will always heal us. This vicious and unbiblical teaching does nothing but heap guilt upon those that are ill and infirmed.
Can you imagine the gall to tell a person to their face that the reason they are sick with cancer is because of their lack of faith? Can you imagine the cruelty in telling a person bound to a wheelchair that if they had enough "faith" they would "Rise and be healed?"
Are there any instances of believers in the Bible that asked God for a healing and were refused? Are there any instances of believers in the Bible that remained sick or died from a sickness?
The Apostle Paul:
The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh that was particularly troublesome. He asked the Lord three times to take it away but God said, "no." Despite God's refusal to heal him, Paul rejoiced because of his infirmities:
"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong," 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.
"Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus," Galatians 4:13-14.
From this passage of Scritpure it is crystal clear that a sickness can lead us to a deeper love of God. It can lead to spiritual growth and our better serving and honoring Him. To say that God wants everybody healed contradicts the clear teachings of His Word.
Charles Spurgeon said this about his battle with gout: "I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain."
King David said this about his afflictions:
"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees...I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me," Psalm 119:71, 75.
"The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death,"
"Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word,"
In the 14th chapter of the Book of Acts the Christians are exhorted to continue in the faith despite their many tribulations: "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,"
Jesus Himself told us that we will have tribulation in this life:
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,"
The Great Prophet Elisha:
Elisha had a double portion of the annointing of Elijah. He raised people from the dead and God did many other miracles through him as well. Despite this double annointing Elisha himself died from sickness and was not healed by God. Here is the scripture: "Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died,"
2 Kings 13:14.
Timothy's spiritual father was the greatest of all the apostles, Paul. He spent alot of time learning from Paul's life and doctrine. Surely, if it is God's will for every sick christian to be healed Paul would have healed Timothy's stomach condition. Instead of a miraculous healing, Paul advised him to take that days solution for that particular ailment: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities," 1 Timothy 5:23.
Again we have a friend and companion of the great Apostle Paul that he could not or would not heal. Do you honestly think that if Paul could have healed his friend that he would have refused to do so? At the very least Paul could have left an apron or handkerchief to heal his friend (Acs 19:11-12).
God himself refused to heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh. Here is the scripture where Paul speaks of his friends sickness: "Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick," 2 Timothy 4:20.
Sin and sickness entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12) and his disobedience to God. God warned Adam the day that he did eat of the tree you will die (spiritually and physically). "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," Genesis 2:16-17.
So please do not blame God for sickness and death, our disobedience through Adam brought death into the world. Our bodies are prone to decay and sickness through the natural aging process. It could be the result of a bad diet, lack of exercise or a variety of other reasons that happen over time to each and every one of us. Whatever the case God will give you the strength you need to see you through your valley.
Our faith is God is not dependant upon our circumstances. We are pilgrims and seek a kingdom that is not of this world. We seek a heavenly habitation, where there will be no more tears, death, or pain. God describes what heaven will be like, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away," Revelation 21:4.
If we experience sickness and death we must say with Job no matter how hard and difficult it may be at the time:
"And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD...Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil (Calamity)? In all this did not Job sin with his lips...Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him," Job 1:21, 2:9-10, 13:15.
Meditate on this moving statement from Habakkuk in which he puts his joy in God despite any wickedness or trouble that may happen to him. His joy comes from knowing and serving God not from his circumstances:
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation," Habakkuk 3:17-18.
ISAIAH 53:4–5—Does this passage indicate that physical healing during mortal life is guaranteed in the atonement, as Word-Faith teachers often argue?
Isaiah 53:4–5 states, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (nasb). Word-Faith teachers believe this passage means that physical healing during mortal life is guaranteed in the atonement. Hence, a true believer should never be sick. It is up to the believer to appropriate the guaranteed healing that has been made available in the atonement. If the believer has unbelief or sin, then this available healing is thereby prevented.
CORRECTING THE MISINTERPRETATION:
While ultimate physical healing is in the atonement (a healing we will enjoy in our resurrection bodies), healing of our bodies while in the mortal state (prior to our death and resurrection) is not guaranteed in the atonement.
Moreover, it is important to note that the Hebrew word for “healing” (napha) can refer not just to physical healing but to spiritual healing. The context of Isaiah 53:4 indicates that spiritual healing is in view. In verse 5 we are clearly told, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (v. 5, emphasis added). Because “transgressions” and “iniquities” set the context, spiritual healing from the misery of sin is in view.
Numerous verses in Scripture substantiate the view that physical healing in mortal life is not guaranteed in the atonement and that it is not always God’s will to heal. The apostle Paul couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23) nor could he heal Trophimus at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20) or Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25–27). Paul spoke of “a bodily illness” he had (Gal. 4:13–15). He also suffered a “thorn in the flesh” which God allowed him to retain (2 Cor. 12:7–9). God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering (Job 1–2). In none of these cases is it stated that the sickness was caused by sin or unbelief. Nor did Paul or any of the others act as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement. They accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace for sustenance. It is noteworthy that on two occasions Jesus said that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 9:3; 11:4).
Other Scripture reveals that our physical bodies are continuously running down and suffering various ailments. Our present bodies are said to be perishable and weak (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Paul said “our outer man is decaying” (2 Cor. 4:16). Death and disease will be a part of the human condition until that time when we receive resurrection bodies that are immune to such frailties (1 Cor. 15:51–55).
PHILIPPIANS 2:25—If Paul had the gift of healing, why couldn’t he heal his coworker, Epaphroditus?
Word-Faith teachers say that full physical healing in this life is guaranteed in the atonement and that it is God’s will for every single person to be healed of all physical afflictions. In the Book of Acts, Paul healed the sick and raised the dead (20:9–10). On one occasion he even healed everyone in an entire city (28:9). But here, he apparently could not even heal a needed coworker.
CORRECTING THE MISINTERPRETATION:
Some believe that possessing the gift of healing did not guarantee that one could always heal everyone. On one occasion the disciples could not heal a demon-possessed young man (Matt. 17:16). They insist that the gift of healing did not make a person 100-percent successful, any more than the gift of teaching makes one infallible.
Others insist that the gift of healing was always successful, noting that Jesus healed the young man (Matt. 17:14–20) and rebuked the disciples for not exercising their God-given power to do it (vv. 17–18). They claim that the gift of healing was 100-percent successful, in the same way that no one with the gift of prophecy ever uttered a false prophecy. For a false prophecy was a proof that someone did not possess the true gift of prophecy (cf. Deut. 18:22).
The reason Epaphroditus was not healed is not stated in the text. But neither does it say Paul attempted to heal him and failed. Since no exercise of the gift of healing is recorded past about a.d. 60 (Acts 28:8), it may be that the special apostolic gift of healing (cf. 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4) had passed away by this time (c. a.d. 61). It is not listed in the much briefer list of gifts in Ephesians 4, as it was earlier in 1 Corinthians 12:28.
From any perspective the Word-Faith claim that full physical healing (in this life) is guaranteed in the atonement is incorrect. We will be ultimately healed when we receive our resurrection bodies—and that is guaranteed in the atonement.
Dr. J Vernon McGee adds:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses [Matthew 8:17].
This quotation is from Isaiah 53:4. Probably this verse is used by so-called faith healers more than any other verse. They claim that physical healing is in the atonement, and they use this verse to support their position.
Let’s turn the pages back to Isaiah and look at this verse, because I do not believe it gives sanction to the modern healing movement at all.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” Isaiah 53:4-5.
Of what are we healed? This passage from Isaiah clearly states that we are healed of our transgressions and iniquities. You say to me, “Are you sure about that?” I know this is what these verses are talking about because Peter says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed,” 1 Peter 2:24. Healed of what? “Sins.” Peter is making it very clear that he is talking about sin.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53:6. It was your inquity and mine which was laid upon Him. Obviously, Isaiah is referring to the fact that Christ would grapple with the great fundamental problem of sin.
To contend that healing is in the Atonement is beside the point. So is a glorified body in the Atonement, but I don’t have mine yet. Do you? Also, a new earth with the curse removed is in the Atonement of Christ, but it is obvious that we don’t have these yet. In this day when sin and Satan still hold sway, there is no release from sickness as an imperative of the Atonement.
Why did Paul urge Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach? Why didn’t he urge him to get his healing in the Atonement? Why didn’t James urge the saints to claim the Atonement when he asked them to call in the elders to pray (James 5:13-15)? Why didn’t Paul claim healing in the Atonement when he mentioned the fact that there was given to him a thorn in the flesh?
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
There are other examples recorded concerning this subject. Paul, in Philippians, had a regular hospital on his hands. Epaphroditus had been ill (Philippians 2:25-27), and Paul did not use the Atonement to claim healing.
My friend, we need to face the fact that it is not always God’s will to heal. However, sometimes it is God’s will to heal. Instead of going to a tent or an auditorium where healing services are advertised, why don’t you go directly to the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ?
Find out if the healing is in His will for you. I believe in divine healing but not in so-called divine healers. Instead of going to an individual down here on earth who claims to have power, I prefer to take my case to the Great Physician and say with the leper, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Then whether we are healed or not healed, He gets the glory. And we want Him to have that.
Apparently, Paul knew nothing of this modern cultism of seeking healing in the Atonement. God can and does heal today, but not through so-called faith healers."
(Dr. J Vernon McGee, Commentary on Matthew 8:17)
“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one,” Acts 5:15-16.
May I compare this to modern faith healing? Modern faith healers never heal all the people who come to them. Have you ever noticed that? The apostles had sign gifts, friend. No one in the church since then has had those gifts. People were healed, every one of them. They emptied the hospitals. This was the power of the early church.
We must remember that at that time there was no written New Testament. The church is built on Jesus Christ—He is the Cornerstone—and the apostles were witnesses to Christ. The sign gifts were given to them to demonstrate the fact that they spoke with God’s authority. Today we have a written New Testament as our authority.
(Dr. J Vernon McGee, Commentary on Acts 5:15-16)
“And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there,” Matthew 19:2. I want to put two words together and emphasize what has been emphasized before several times. One word is multitudes and the other word is healed. It was not just a few people that were healed; multitudes were healed. I am more and more impressed by this as time goes on. If you are going to be a faith healer; brother, you ought to go to the hospitals and empty them. That is what our Lord did when he passed by; if anyone wanted to be healed, they could be healed. Multitudes were healed!
(Dr. J Vernon McGee, Commentary on Matthew 19:2)
Dr. John MacArthur: Does God Stll Heal?
"And a final note; according to Scripture, those who possess those abilities to heal could use their gift at will. That's not true of the contemporary healers because they don't have that gift. They play games with people's minds--the power of suggestion. They prey upon people, making them believe things that aren't really true and they use deception. Look at the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 2, he mentions that his good friend Epaphroditus was very sick. Now, Paul had previously displayed the ability to heal, but he doesn't heal Epaphroditus. It's fair to say that, maybe, that gift was passing out of operation, but it is sure fair to say that the gift of healing was never (listen carefully) intended to keep Christians happy and healthy!
In fact, you look through the New Testament and find out how many healings occurred to believers--absolutely rare--Peter's wife mother, Dorcas. [But there were] masses of unbelievers; masses of people who may or may not have believed anything about Christ or the Apostles. But it surely wasn't given to keep everybody in the Church healthy; and yet today it is being portrayed as something that is supposed to be done for believers to keep them healthy, to show them that in the atonement is their healing: totally foreign to Scripture.
Second Timothy 4:20, Paul mentioned he that he left Trophimus sick at Miletus; now, why leave a good friend sick? Why did he leave his Christian friend sick? Why didn't he heal him? Well, maybe he didn't have that ability as the time passed on out of the Apostolic era, but for sure he recognized that healing was not something you run around doing for your Christian friends.
It was never intended as a permanent way to keep the Church healthy; yet today Charismatics teach that God wants every Christian well all the time. If that is true, then why did He let them get sick to start with? It seems a basic question. God didn't give you an HMO in your salvation, a sort of supernatural HMO that works automatically. God heals when He wants and when He wishes, but that's up to Him.
Has God promised to heal everybody who has faith? He doesn't promise that He will always heal, but I think the Christian can look to heaven for healing.
Now, I want to turn the table a little bit as I close in the next couple of minutes. I think that we can go to the Lord for healing. I think that we can pray to Him for deliverance from disease, and I do believe that there are times when God touches us. Sometimes He heals through medicine, sometimes He heals through surgery, sometimes He heals through natural process working in the body.
The body is an amazing self-healing thing. And sometimes He may just heal supernaturally because it is His will, and we can look to heaven for that. We can cry out to God in our sickness and ask for His healing. I would suggest that there are three reasons why we could expect that God might heal:
1. He might heal because of His person.
You remember his Old Testament name, that wonderful name: it's really Yahweh Rapecca (sp.)--The Lord that Heals. God heals because of His person. "I the Lord am your healer," He told the Israelites. And the very fact that when Jesus came into the world He could have done a lot of different miracles. I mean if He wanted to convince people about His Messiahship He could have just flown around, and He could have said, "See, I can do this, and who else can do this?" Or He could have jumped a building at a single bound, or flown faster than a speeding bullet, or He could have put on a "Superman Show" and everybody would have been in awe of that. But why did he choose to heal people? Because He was demonstrating His compassion, and a compassionate God has a heart to heal. And I think that we have experienced that at times in our life; God raises up someone from sickness.
2. God heals because of His promise.
He says, "Whatever we ask in His name, believing and according to His will, He will do it." And there must be times when He will do that. There is certainly a description in James 5 of a broken, shattered, devastated person, who goes in for prayer. The elders gather around that individual and while the pain of that situation is spiritual it has tremendous physical ramifications, and through prayer that person is restored. "The effectual fervent prayer avails much." If in God's will He has designed that [then] He will do that because of His promise.
3. God heals because that is His pattern.
It is true that in the atonement God bore our diseases, Matthew 8 says it. Matthew 8 says, "He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases." Now, we have already discussed 1 Peter 2:24 and I won't do it again; it doesn't mean that healing for every sickness is in the atonement for now! But healing for every sickness is in the atonement for someday--isn't it? And someday He will remove all of those diseases. Ultimately, eternally we will be delivered from sickness and infirmity. And it may just be that He would chose because of that pattern of providing a salvation that ultimately delivers us from bodily infirmity when we get a glorified body, that maybe He will give us a taste of "Glory Divine."
God may heal. That poses the final question, "Should a Christian go to the doctor?" And we come all the way back to Hobart Freeman again. We would never advocate such idiocy. You say, "Well, does the Bible say anything about this?" Sure, read Isaiah 38. Not now. I knew that you would do that; your heads just go right down--that's good. Pavlov's dogs! Just instant response. That's not derogatory, by the way, that's trained response.
In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah was deathly ill, and you remember the king was crying, and he was crying tears, and then he was crying to the Lord, and God answered his request. And he says this, "Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover." Isn't that good? That's what we used to call a poultice. Right? Now, God is saying, "Do the medical thing." In Matthew 9:12, Jesus confirmed the same idea when He said this, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick." And so the Lord has given us that instruction also.
Now, in closing, I simply say, I want to reiterate that I believe that God can heal. God can do anything He wants to do. I do not believe the gift of healing is for today because it was to authenticate the Biblical message and messenger. That is in place; it needs no more authentication then the authentication given to it by the Spirit of God to the heart of the reader. But I do believe that God may in His grace chose to heal, and we have every right to pray for that, and at the same time seek the finest medical help that we can because to Lord desires us to do that as well.
Let's pray. Father, thank you for letting us cover all of this tonight. Our minds are full of these considerations. Lord, we would not at all be ungracious to the many people who are victims of these kinds of things. And even Lord, there may be some in these movements who are well meaning and well intentioned, who for some reason or other believe that these things really are happening.
Lord, we would pray for those who have a true and a pure intention, and who are genuinely believing that this is true, that You would show them the truth of Your word and help them to see the light. And then Lord, for those who are just playing with the hearts and minds and the wallets of people, that you would cause them to be struck with the truth of what they are doing. To be literally stopped in their tracks by the fear of God, as they would misrepresent You.
Lord, we pray for Your Church to be discerning, clear minded. And then Lord, even as we close tonight, we would remember to pray for those in our congregation who have physical illness, disability, physical pain and suffering, some with even the diagnosis of a fatal disease, that Lord, You would be gracious to them. We know that You are going to heal them someday, and if it would suit Your glorious purpose and bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ, we would ask that you heal them now; that You might receive glory for that. But if not, that You might give them the grace to acknowledge Your perfect will. And help us to know Lord that it is not through these kinds of miraculous things that people are going to believe the truth. It is through hearing about Jesus Christ and reading the Scripture and having it presented to them, not only on the page but through the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, that they shall come to the truth. And so may we faithfully proclaim this word, which can authenticate itself by the Holy Spirit to the heart of one who hears.
Thank You again Father for the clear word that You do care and that there is a day of healing coming for us all. We rejoice in anticipation of it, in Christ's name. Amen."
"Some of you, dear friends, do not possess the great treasure of health. Wearisome days and nights are appointed you. Your bones are become an almanac, in which you note the changes of the weather. There is much about you that is fitted to excite pity. But I pray that you may have the blessing indeed, and I know what that is. I can heartily sympathize with a sister who said to me the other day, “I had such nearness to God when I was sick, such full assurance, and such joy in the Lord, and I regret to say I have lost it now; that I could almost wish to be ill again, if thereby I might have a renewal of communion with God.”
I have oftentimes looked gratefully back to my sick chamber. I am certain that I never did grow in grace one half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. It ought not to be so. Our joyous mercies ought to be great fertilizers to our spirit; but frequently our griefs are more salutary than our joys. The pruning knife is best for some of us. Well, after all, whatever you have to suffer, of weakness, of debility, of pain, and anguish, may it be so attended with the divine presence, that this light affliction may work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and so you may be blessed indeed," Charles H. Spurgeon, "The Prayer of Jabez, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” 1 Chronicles 4:10.