|A224 : by Tony Garland |
It is my belief that the gift of healing was one of several supernatural sign gifts associated with the founding of the early church in the days of the Apostles and the giving of the New Testament. These gifts were given to the Apostles and other believers in the church (1Cor. 12:9,28-30) primarily as a witness that God's authority stood behind the work of the church, but especially the teaching of the Apostles during the formative stage of the New Testament (e.g., Acts 2:43; 3:11; 4:14,22,30; 5:16; 8:7; 9:34; 14:9; 28:8-9).
Having been founded on the Day of Pentecost, the church is no longer in its foundational stage. Now that the foundation has been laid, and especially with the completion of the New Testament, the original purpose of these sign gifts no longer remains. The writer of Hebrews gives us insight into this process.
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?1
Notice several points in this passage:
Although I believe the gift of healing, which functioned as one of the sign gifts, is no longer evident within today's churcha, it seems clear that God still heals whenever it suits His purpose. God can heal individuals at any time, in any place, and by any means. Healing can be gradual or dramatic: according to God's purpose in each setting. Miraculous healing, where it may occur, should be extremely rare since miracles, by their very nature, are rare events.2
- The NT message of the gospel was first spoken by the Lord.
- Those who heard Him (the Apostles) passed on the message.
- God bore witness to the message of the Apostles with signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Spirit. The signs, wonders, various miracles, and certain of the gifts (what we might today refer to as sign gifts) served the purpose of establishing the message carried by the Apostles and the early church among which they served.
- By the time Hebrews was written (circa 67-69 A.D.) the signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts are described in the past tense ([the message of] salvation . . . was confirmed [past tense] to us . . . with signs).
- The signs served the specific purpose of God, according to His own will. The need for and continuance of the sign gifts is dependent upon the will of God. One would expect a change in the use of such gifts by God since we are no longer living in the foundational era of the church when the message of the New Testament was still being given.
Even though I don't believe the gift of healing is active or evident within the life of individual believers today, I still take the instructions given by James regarding prayer for the sick at face value:
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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.3
This passage does not have in view the gift of healing. The elders are simply called upon to pray for members within their congregation. As an elder, I carry a small amount of anointing oil for just this purpose and have no hesitation in using it in accordance with the instructions given through James. Some today may question this practice and seek medicinal justification for the use of oil, but being a prayer of faith, I don't look for a naturalistic explanation. All I need know is Scripture indicates that God responds favorably to faith coupled with simple obedience (Mark 9:24; Luke 1:38,45).
|1.||NKJV, Hebrews 2:2-4|
|2.||There is much more that could be said concerning the claim by some believers that they are operating in the NT gift of healing in our day. A simple comparison of the frequency, completeness, and objective nature of the healings recorded in the NT verses those of charismatic healers today provides strong evidence to the contrary.|
|3.||NKJV, James 5:14-15|
|NKJV||Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.|