Healing - What saith the Scriptures?
J. M. Davies, Canada
This symptomatic of the times that: the subject of healing is being discussed in periodicals of all kinds. Committees and commissions have been appointed by various denominations to inquire and report with regard to the matter of spiritual healing and healing-campaigns. The British Methodist conference and the Presbyterian Church of S. Africa have debated and vetoed such campaigns. The magazine " Prophecy " in its July 19S4 issue draws attention to the commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to investigate the seemingly growing number of reports of cases of healing. The subject is being forced upon the attention of the Christian public, and the public in general, by the much-publicized campaigns conducted with such a fanfare and zeal in so many countries by the advocates of ' healing by the laying on of hands ' as being an essential accompaniment of the preaching of the gospel, and also by (he claims they make to remarkable and miraculous cures at such gatherings. The " Full-Gospel " or the " Foursquare Gospel " group insist in their manifesto that (1) Christ is Saviour; (2) Christ is the Baptizer; (3) Christ is the Healer ; (4) Christ is the coming King.
Now the Scriptures very definitely emphasize a foursquare gospel, but not the one just quoted. It is based on the four great facts of the Christian faith ; the death, the resurrection, ascension or exaltation, and the return of our Lord. Luke summarizes them for us in his introduction to the book of the Acts (Acts 1. 1-11). Peter makes them the subject of his preaching on the day of Pentecost, and underlines them in his epistles, even as Paul does in his. There are four " musts " in God's programme : it is written that " He must be lifted up " ; " He must rise from the dead " ; " The heavens must receive Him " ; and " He must reign."
I have just received a copy of a magazine which, whilst purporting to be interdenominational in character, is quite evidently published in the interests of the advocates of " tongues and healing." In it there is an article entitled " Why I believe in Divine healing," the writer of which bases his beliefs mainly on (1) The title Jehovah-Rophi —I am the Lord that healeth thee ; (2) Christ in His death redeemed us from the curse of the law, and therefore atoned for all sicknesses ; (3) The healing gifts of apostolic days are still with us.
Hence it may be well to consider these three first, and then to look at other relative portions.
It will be seen that this is not so much individual as national in its import, and the diseases referred to were judicial in their character, and the promise of immunity from them was made conditional upon their obedience to the commandments and statutes the Lord would give them. They were to have uo fellowship with the idolatry and its associated immoral practices which characterized the nations of Canaan. By so doing they were promised, not only immunity from sickness or the evil diseases of Egypt, but material prosperity, longevity, and victory over their enemies in battle. But among the commandments and statutes there are some which bear very definitely on the matter of health. A few of these may be noted : —
(i) Laws as to diet. They were not to eat of anything that died of itself, and uo flesh was to be left or eaten on or after the third day (Ex. 22, 31 ; Deut. 14. 21 ; Lev. 22. 8 ; 7. 17 ; 19. 7).
(ii) Laws as to sanitation (Dent. 23. 12, 13). The nation would have been decimated by epidemics in the wilderness had it not been for these sanitary laws.
(iv) Laws as to sex-relationships. These were intended to maintain purity. Failure to observe such laws resulted in a terrible state among the Gentiles (Rom. 1. 27).
(v) Laws as to segregation. The leper was to be put outside the camp (Num. 5), and that without respect of persons, as illustrated in the cases of Miriam and Uzziah.
(vi) At Marah we are told that the Lord made a statute for them. There they learnt the importance of a pure water-supply.
These laws of health were the provision of God's grace for His people, and the evidence of His care for their physical as well as their spiritual well-being. Thereby He revealed Himself as Jehovah-Rophi, the ever great " I AM,"
One would have thought that this theory had been exploded long ago, but error is hard to overtake. It is based on words found in the prophecy of Isa. 53. 4, 5. Its advocates maintain that just as the Lord bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so He bore our sicknesses, and that by the scourging He received at man's hands, He has purchased health for all who trust Him. Consequently every believer should obtain health of body in the same way, and at the same time as he receives the forgiveness of sins. Sickness is therefore the result of unbelief, a failure to appropriate what is ours by virtue of the death of Christ. Paul the apostle must head the list of such, for he speaks of " the thorn in the flesh " that troubled him. Timothy should never have had his " oft infirmities," and the untold multitudes of saints who, since that day, have passed through times of sickness and suffering, must be reckoned among the unspiritual who have failed miserably through unbelief to " possess their possessions." What a cruel and Pharisaic suggestion ! Curiously enough, many of those who preach this theory suffer from some physical disability without seeming to realize the incongruity of it all.
The doctrine is to be repudiated as utterly false. Isaiah is very careful to differentiate between the atoning sufferings of Christ, and those He received at man's hands. In connection with the question of our sins it is definitely stated that they were laid upon Him by the Lord. It was thus that He became our sin-bearer.
Then in The Gospel by Matthew the verses in question and their relation to sickness, were fulfilled in the healing ministry of our Lord, and not in His death. Moreover this system of doctrine negatives and nullifies all the teaching in the Word as to the lessons to be learnt in the school of suffering and affliction, and makes void all the promises given for the comfort of such. Its advocates should in all honesty expunge from their Bibles such verses as Psalm 41. 3: " Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness."
Tied up with the doctrine of healing in the atonement is the teaching that the "quickening of the mortal body" (Rom. 8. II) is a present experience. A moment's reflection shows how untenable a view this is. A quickened body would obviously be totally immune from both sickness and death. A quickened body is of necessity possessed of immortality ! This only needs to be pointed out to reveal the shallowness and fallacy of such reasoning. The apostle makes it clear in the same chapter that the redemption of the body is that for which we wait. In the meantime we share in the groanings of a groaning creation. The beating of the waves, the blowing of the wind, the bleating of the sheep, and the bellowing of the cattle, all remind us that the song of creation is in the minor key. This is the night when weeping is a permanent lodger ; joy cometh in the morning. Until then these bodies are bodies of humiliation, subject to disease and death. The redemptive work of Christ has not touched the body of the believer yet. It is when the trumpet shall sound that we shall enter into the possession of this, the final instalment of our salvation.
(c) The healing ministry of our Lord and the gift of healing, or healing by the laying on of hands. In view of the undeniable fact that the Lord Jesus is " the same yesterday, today, and for ever," it is asserted that His power to heal should be manifested in exactly the same way today as it was when He was on earth. If this is accepted without qualification, then should we not expect to see the dead raised today also ? At a time of awakening in S. India in 1904 some thought they would attempt this. A believers brother had died and was buried. The permission of his relatives was obtained, and after a night spent in prayer, they proceeded to open the grave and raise the dead ! What a disillusioned and disappointed company it was that left the cemetery! The story was told me by a brother of the deceased and by one who had been actively engaged in the group.
The text assures us that what the Lord was to those who, in the past bad spoken the word of God, He still is. He is Lord over all, and rich unto all that call upon Him. His sustaining High-Priestly ministry is still available. But from this it must not be deduced that His ways of acting arc always the same. They differ.
The miracles of our Lord were " the powers of the age to come." They were the credentials of His Messiahship. Isaiah had prophesied that the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb would have their lost physical powers restored to them (Isa. 35. 4-6). Hence the apostle Peter's words: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs "
(Acts 2. 22). The same three words are again used by Paul and adduced as the sign and proof of his apostleship (2 Cor. 12. 12). These healing miracles performed by the Lord and His apostles partook of certain important features, which should be evident in the cases of healing claimed by those who say they are successors of the apostles in this ministry. The healings recorded were instantaneous. The word "immediately" or "straightway" is commonly used concerning them. " Immediately the leprosy departed." " Immediately the man was made whole." They were absolute and not cases of partial recovery. The blind saw perfectly (with the instructive exception of Mark 8.22) and the dumb spake plainly. They were cases of organic disease and not of functional disorder, and were well-known cases. They were incontrovertible and could not be gainsaid. The leper was sent to show himself to the priest. There was no fear of submitting the case to examination and investigation, even at the hands of those who were hostile. On the other hand there was none of the bizarre self-advertisement about His or their ministry. His voice was not thus heard in the street. All of this is in marked contrast to the reported cures of present-day faith-healers. A Christian doctor, who has been in general practice in a town which is known as a faith-healing centre, has placed it on record that for over 25 years he has sought to come into contact with just one case of absolute and instantaneous organic cure by the laying on of hands, and has failed (Harvester, Feb., 1953). In the magazine Prophecy for July, 1954, a brief account is given of one case investigated by the commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, already referred to. The magazine draws attention to the fraud and unvarnished deception employed by the healer (?) in reporting the case. The patient's name, illness, healing and recovery were all falsified, in spite of repeated protests made by the patient. Little wonder thai the magazine stigmatizes such campaigns as " counterfeit and fraudulent healing-campaigns."
(i) The word " Lord " occurs seven times. James speaks of the " coming of the Lord " ; the " end of the Lord " ; and the " name of the Lord." He would have us recognize the sovereign ways of the Lord in the discipline of His people, whether that discipline be indirectly at the hands of men. or more directly as in the case of Job and the sick person of vv. 14-16, and the famine in the days of Elijah. In the days when the " precious fruit of the earth " will be gathered in, the value of the storm as well as the sunshine, of adversity as well as prosperity, will be realized. Each will have made its contribution to the development and ripening of the fruit. James and Paul are in perfect harmony that " tribulation worketh patience." Present wrongs will be righted when the Judge, who is before the door, will take the Judgment-Seat.
(ii) The emphasis on ' prayer.' Within the compass of six verses, prayer is mentioned seven times. Thus the epistle ends with the same note as it commences. " If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God." He reverts to it again in ch. 4. 2. 3 : " Ye have not because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss." To James " Prayer is the Christian's vital breath." Hence in days of sickness what more natural than that he should make it a matter of prayer, and seek the fellowship of those who should know how to supplicate the Throne of Grace effectually.
(iii) The reference to ' sin ' is important also. Note the words used : sin, faults, forgiven, erring from the truth, sinner, error of his way. The mutual relationship of believers referred to in 4. 11 and 5. 9, 16 would suggest a link with Matt. 5. 22 ; 6. 14, 15 ; and 18. 15. The cause of the sickness would thus be diagnosed and the patient would be conscious that the Judge had passed His verdict on his actions—his evil-speaking and his murmuring. The sickness was therefore of a disciplinary nature. There was need to confess his faults, or offences to his brethren, those against whom he had thus sinned. Of the cases of healing recorded in the Old Testament the one of Miriam (Num. 12. 13) would seem to b'' an apt illustration.
" The Greek of v. 15 expresses with a subtle distinction, hard to reproduce in English, the man being in the state of having committed sins " (Camb. Bible). Similar constructions to the phrase " If ye have committed sins " are to be found in John 8. 14 ; 10.38; 11.25. In these verses the word " though " is used. The reference to forgiveness and to the fact that the Lord would raise him up, make it clear that it is not a case of sickness such as that of Epaphroditus or Timothy that is contemplated, The words " Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed " also point in the same direction, as well as the disciplinary famine in the days of Ahab which James draws on for an illustration, and also the restoration of the one who has erred from the truth from the error of his way.
(iv) The word " anointing." The word used by James is not the word generally used for ceremonial anointing, but for anointing of any kind. " For symbolical and ceremonial anointing the word ' chrio ' is used (cp. Heb. 1. 9; 2 Cor. 1. 21), but ' aleipho ' in anointing the feet of the Lord (Lu. 7. 38 etc). In secular Greek it was used for rubbing athletes' limbs." Hence we understand that the anointing here is medicinal rather than ceremonial. The use of oil in this capacity is common in the East. However, the fact that the anointing was to be done " in the name of the Lord " gave it a solemn spiritual character.
(e) Healing by the Lord's mercy (Phil. 2, 27). " Epaphroditus . . . was sick, nigh unto death ; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also . . ." There is no suggestion here of Paul having laid his hands on the sick, or of the recovery being brought about in that way. The words " I sent him therefore the more carefully " would suggest that in his case the recovery was not instantaneous, but gradual. Such cases arc constantly being duplicated. " His compassions fail not." But this is very different from what is recorded in Acts 28. 8 of the healing of the father of Publius by the laying on of the hands of Paul. Philip-pians is one of the last of Paul's letters, written after his final appeal the nation and the pronouncement of the judgment forewarned by Isaiah upon them (Acts 28. 25-28). The cases of Trophimua being " left at Miletum sick " (2 Tim. 4. 20) and the instructions to Timothy with regard to his oft infirmities (I Tim. 4. 8 ; 5. 23) are further indications that the miraculous gifts of healing ceased to be operative after Paul had pronounced the word of judgment on the nation. Healing was one of the ' sign-gifts,' and as such, had a very definite application to Israel.
(f) Healing and the use of means. When faith-healers say that it is wrong and even sinful to use medical aid, they go beyond and contrary to the Scriptures, and bring souls into bondage, with very serious consequences at times. In our service in India we have known of two excellent men, godly and much used in the gospel, who died when comparatively young, because of bondage to the notion that it is a sin to take medicine. The Scriptures reveal clearly that the use of means is not incompatible with faith. The laws of health given to Israel were intended to safeguard the nation's health. These were preventive rather than curative, but nevertheless equally important. They are permanent in character and universally applicable. The instructions given concerning the use to be made of the lump of figs in connection with the healing and recovery of Hezekiah in answer to prayer, and the reference to oil and wine in the parable of the Good Samaritan—the oil as a mollifying ointment and the wine as an antiseptic—illustrate the use of direct means in specific cases. Then again, Luke is referred to as the " beloved physician " in such a way that we are led to believe he was Paul's personal physician (Col. 4. 14). The river which in a coming day will flow out of Jerusalem will heal the waters of the plain, and John speaks of leaves which are to be for the healing of the nations.
In the light of these things we conclude that means and medical aid are not only divinely sanctioned, but divinely ordained, even as food is divinely ordained for the sustenance of the body.
It would almost seem as though the stage is being set by the great adversary for the manifestation of the man of sin (2 Thess. 2. 9), whose coming will be " after the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." This is the third and last time that these three words " power, signs and wonders " are found in the Scriptures. As they were the credentials of the Messiahship of our Lord, and of the apostleship of Paul, they will be counterfeited by the Anti-Christ. Is it possible that healing-centres such as Lourdes, systems such as Christian Science, and healing-campaigns with all their fanfare and tremendous claims by would-be faith-healers, represent the softening-up processes before the final assault of the enemy on Christendom ?
Let all Christians be warned and beware.
(Footnote.—The lucid article by J. M. Davies will be appreciated by very many of the Lord's people. To others it will come as a warning not to dabble with these things.
A fundamental error lies at the foundation of "Pentecostal" teaching—i.e. That believers receive the Holy Spirit as a second experience after conversion, which is wrongly called " the baptism." The Epistles clearly contradict this theory—some of its teachers have realized this and have admitted to the writer that they are in a dilemma. Further; I have noticed in their big campaigns that many who have just professed salvation claim to have received the second experience, whilst mature godly believers amongst them make no such claim. After a short while, many of these * new converts ' return to the old life.
I have attended hundreds of meetings in which “ tongues " were heard, but to my knowledge no earthly languages were identified, although sometimes linguists were present. The vast majority of ' tongues' I heard had not even the semblance of a language.The present-day Healing Campaigns have no counterpart in the New Testament records. An overwhelming majority of cures that are claimed are false. Other apparent cures do not last.I believe that, subject lo His will, God can and docs heal iu answer to prayer, but after 20 years' experience in " Pentecostal " circles I am still looking for a man endowed with the gift of miraculous healing like the apostles Peter and Paul.)—John Norris, Bangor