Does God Heal Today?
Matthew Lesson #049
September 7, 2014
One of the great challenges for many people in life comes under the category of the doctrine of suffering. Why does a good God allow people to suffer? Why does a righteous God allow evil in the universe? And it gets a lot more personal for a lot of people when they go through specific challenges, especially health challenges. If you take out any prayer list from any church you will see that it is dominated by names of people who have problems with health. Some of these are ongoing debilitating problems related to perhaps arthritis, to perhaps the ageing process or other things. Many face minor health things that they are struggling with all the time, to more advanced and more serious diseases that may even threaten life. We often deal with this, both personally or indirectly, in terms of our own family.
As believers we need to understand what God has informed us about in terms of disease. Often there are numerous questions raised, questions about suffering in a broad sense, like why does God allow suffering in the human race? And sometimes we ask more specific questions such as, why does God allow us to encounter debilitating disease, fatal illness, overwhelming pain or misery, and just general illness? It is a topic that pastors have to address. This whole issue of healing and health is such a core issue in our culture. One of the most dominant news stories over the last few years has been health insurance and national health care, because the rise in health care has put such a burden upon numerous people to get basic care and just to survive. So this is a topic that we have to understand.
At the same time we can go to the television on any given day and go to a variety of religious broadcasting stations and we will come across these feely evangelists that are promising all kinds of things. Some of them may seem pretty extreme and dramatic and it seems obvious to you and I that they are just showmen and are using various manipulative techniques, but there are millions upon millions of Christians who follow them and believe that they are actually providing healing for people. They are distracting people, and so we have to come to understand what the Bible is teaching because people like this previously quote the Scripture. That kind of language, that healing language that comes out of the influence of this whole faith-healing movement in the United States, has infiltrated the every-day language of some people in some non-charismatic denominations. I hear people that I know say certain things, and I know it is not my position or it is not the circumstance to correct them but I could say, "You know, the last five things you have said is language that is totally based on a fallacious view of God and of the Scriptures". Yet they have no idea about that because they are not taught, not trained in the Scriptures. This is a sad reality in our culture in the vast majority of Christians today that there is so little accurate teaching that they are easily distracted and easily led astray. There is so much misinformation, disinformation, and just flat-out false teaching about God's healing that we have to spend some time to address it.
In the context of our study of Matthew we have come to chapters eight and nine, and last week we saw four different miracles that Jesus performed related to healing. There are many other miracles that Jesus performed related to healing. We ran into one at the end of our study last time in 8:16 where we read the general statement: "When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill." We don't know how many that was but it was a large number. We have these kinds of general healing statements many times in the Gospels and if we just read the New Testament superficially it is easy to think that this is something that should be expected be normative in the Christian life. After all, Jesus healed so many people. God is a good God, why would God want you to be sick. God has provided healing. And if we read the verse in Isaiah 53:4 which states, "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses". So doesn't the Bible teach that Jesus provided healing for us in our salvation, and that we should be made well?
Then there are these voices that we hear across the spectrum in evangelicalism, especially in the media, that God wants you to be well and to be happy. And it sounds good, it appeals to our sin nature. We have a difficult time in our narcissistic culture of understanding this whole concept of suffering in the Christian life and that this is really God's will for us to go through periods of our life where we may be facing intense suffering, physical pain, hardship and disease, again and again and again because that is how we are being matured spiritually; that God understands these things and God has allowed this to happen in our life because this is where we need specific work in our spiritual life.
So we need to understand these kinds of things and how to properly understand and interpret these particular issues. The health test, as I am going to call it, comes to many believers and puts, and can put, incredible pressure on people. Part of that pressure is clearly financial in this age, especially as we get older. I have seen this happen with some older believers who have been very solid in their faith and are very well taught, and all of a sudden when they get into their senior years and have some debilitating illness that has just sucked their resources out of their bank accounts, sapped their energy and strength, and the next thing I hear is that they are going to some strange healing process to try to recover from this disease. You would be amazed at how many people do this. They will grasp at any straw in the hope that somehow, in some way, they will be able to recover from a stroke or from cancer, or some other debilitating situation so that they can back to normal. And there are so many things out there that promise health and healing that we have to understand how to address this as a believer.
I have also known many believers become so distracted from their spiritual lives because of the health test that it just craters them. They may have years of success and then they hit this one test and that seems to just crater their whole spirituality.
Also there are those who will listen to this in years to come who have come out of a background of the health and wealth gospel or the prosperity gospel, the faith-healing movement, however you want to term that, who will wrestle with these particular questions because of the way they were taught, the way they were brought up, or because of some of their initial experiences in the Christian life. They are aware of these healing ministries that are out there.
Outside of Christianity we also have a lot of faith healing that is offered. It is really the same kind of thing that is found in the ministries like Oral Roberts, and many others that are seen on television. When we look at the techniques and the modus operandi of those who are not Christians they don't really differ from the so-called healing evangelists, except they don't have verses, Scripture references. They are not talking about God and Jesus and praising the Lord all the time and there is no veneer of the gospel ever being present. There are also people who are the purveyors of what we will call new age medicine. This is some sort of metaphysical approach to medicine and healing that is often influenced to one degree or another by the metaphysics of eastern religions, where healing is based on understanding the energy in our bodies, the energy of the cell structure of our bodies. And ultimately within Hinduism and Buddhism it comes back to the fact that the reason you are sick is because your energy isn't properly aligned, or isn't properly focused, and you need to have your shocker points all lined up and pointed in the right direction, and then you will have health and healing.
Often this gets sanitized when it comes over into western culture. One of the forms in which this has been sanitized is in the area of chiropractic medicine. I have gone to chiropractors for a good bit of my life and I think that there are some really good chiropractors. But when I was pastoring in Irving there was a guy in my church who was going through chiropractic school and they were feeding him this whole line of basically eastern meditation material, and it was all energy related but it was camouflaged with scientific terminology. I have been to some of those kinds of chiropractors too, where they are lining up your energy, reading your aura and all of this kind of stuff. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I think that in some of these areas of so-called new age medicine there is a lot of debate over what is valid and what is not valid. Some things are clearly based upon physiological realities in terms of our skeletal structure, muscular structure, and things of that nature. But when it gets into things where people start focusing on lining you your shocker points or energy points, things of that nature, we need to really evaluate that.
There are other types of healing that are offered through the use of aroma therapy, various herbs, crystals, and channeling energy through pyramids. I have read where people have built their homes in the shape of a pyramid so they can channel the energy of the universe and be healthy. All of these kinds of things come out of the framework of eastern mysticism.
But the bottom line is really more practical. This type of healing that is usually claimed in these types of approaches, whether it is the faith healing that is demonstrated by the Christian evangelistic faith healer or whether it is the new age type, the type of healing that they seem to offer is related to incidental pains—migraine headaches, back pain, arthritis, leg lengthening—certain things that are not what I would call a constitutional defect. What I mean by constitutional defect is an organic disease, something like cancer or a broken bone or permanently damaged or severed nerve endings that produce paralysis. That is a totally different kind of disease, a different problem from the usual things that we see presented through either new age type medicine or what we see from so-called faith healers.
One of the problems that we have is that documentation is extremely rare. But this is an important concept because if you are really claiming to heal things—and the faith healers do make claims that they heal cancer and other organic diseases—documentation for that is extremely lacking. When they are really put to the test, when somebody goes into those ministries and healing areas and start challenging people, looking for hard core verifiable, reliable data, it suddenly vanishes. All kinds of claims are made. Even books have been written alleging documentation, but when you get somebody who knows the issues of health or understand the issues related to some of the false claims of healing, suddenly the alleged documentation disappears and data is virtually non-existent.
About 25-30 years ago I made the acquaintance of a man who had worked with Campus Crusade for a number of years. His profession was a magician. But he was nothing compared to another Campus Crusade man, André Kole. André Kole is not so much a performer and as inventor of magic tricks and illusions. He is an evangelist with Campus Crusade for Christ, but he has also been very deeply involved in an investigating and exploring all of these claims of health and healing that are made by the so-called healing evangelists. These two men are so familiar with all of the counterfeit techniques and methodologies that are out there that when they watch these people on television, the healing evangelists and others, they immediately spot things that just go past you and I because they understand the mechanics of what an illusionist uses. And even though they would say that many of these folks like Benny Hinn and other may never have been trained in the subtle techniques of group hypnotists or making suggestive things to people that is exactly what it is that they are doing.
André Kole, in a recent publication, recounted the years that he worked in close cooperation with Benny Hinn. He wrote Benny Hinn a very nice letter, asked if they could work together in documenting from all of the tens of thousands of alleged claims of healing that had taken place over the twenty or thirty years of Hinn's ministry, and whether they could document any healings that would fit a biblical pattern. Benny Hinn was quite open to this and invited Kole to meet with him on numerous occasions. They went through years. Hinn would, in fact, go out and go on his international broadcasts and ask people to come forward who would bring evidence and documentation of their healings. Many times Benny Hinn promised that he had the data and that he would give that to André Kole. It never happened. André Kole relates the finally Benny Hinn's ministry produced a short publication to document these various healings. The reality was they only could come up with ten, eight of which didn't fit the pattern, two of which seemed to be legitimate but upon further investigation what they discovered was that the people who were allegedly healed had also gone through years of surgery and additional medical treatment, and again, their healings were not completely attributable to the work of Benny Hinn.
On the other hand, outside of Christianity there has been a huge rise in the same kind of thing. There is a team of healers in Russia who are not Christian and don't claim to be Christian. They are healing rock stars in the former Soviet Union. They appear on television throughout Russia and they hold healing conventions not any different from some of those held by these healing evangelists in all the major cities throughout Russia. They claim to heal broken limbs and scars and blindness, and even AIDS. Their followers put tubes of cold cream and oil in front of their television sets or on top of their radios and then apply to their diseases/bodies so that they will be healed, the same techniques as those such as Oral Roberts. The only thing that is missing from the Russian healers is any cloak of religiosity or the name of God or anything else.
One of the things we should note as we talk about this is just some basic terminology. Faith healers almost to a majority—there is no documentation of them ever healing what is called an organic disease. They try to come up with evidence related to what we would call functional diseases. A functional disease according to the writings of Doctor Eric Chico who works with André Kole is a disease which is associated with the function of an organ or tissue, but there is no damage to the organ or the tissue, such as we have with someone who is blind from birth, deaf from birth, somebody who has leprosy, somebody who might be paralyzed due to an accident where the spinal cord and the nerve endings would be completely severed. That would be an example of an organic disease, whereas a functional disease might involve high blood pressure, muscle pain, arthritis, back pain, things of that nature.
What we see in contrast to divine healing among faith healers is that faith healing takes time. When we look at the instances of divine healing in Scripture they are instantaneous. Faith healing may appear to be immediate but it doesn't last. One of the reasons for that is when you go to these healing crusades the healing evangelists understand crowd psychology and they are able to get everybody so hyped up emotionally that there is an expectation that healing will take place and they are convinced that it has whether something has actually taken place or not. The reality is that the brain can become so stimulated as to release endorphins into the nervous system. Medical science identifies endorphins as pain suppressants that can be two hundred times more potent than morphine. So people can go through incredibly pain, get so psyched up at a meeting like this, that their bodies release these endorphins and suppresses the pain, and they think they are healed. But this effect wears off in a couple of days or more.
Faith healers use a variety of simple hypnotic or suggestive techniques. They are often accompanied by rather sophisticated techniques of crowd manipulation and psychological conditioning. In contrast, when we look at the healings in the Bible they are always instantaneous, are one hundred per cent successful with no lengthy recovery period afterward. There is no process; they are done completely and apart from any other medical attention that could possibly be responsible for the healing. Today believers have to be challenged by the truth and learn to really trust God.
Some of the basic questions we are addressing: Does God heal today? Does God want you to be healthy and well? In the words of the prosperity movement, does He want you to be healthy and prosperous? We have to understand why Jesus and the apostles healed people. They didn't heal everybody; in fact they healed just a small percentage. Was faith necessary to be healed? There are many people who think that faith is a biblical requirement for being healed. It may surprise you but things haven't changed in the last hundred years. I ran across this quote in a book on divine healing by R.A. Torrey that came out in 1924. He was an associate of Dwight Moody in the late 19th century. He was president of Moody Bible Institute. He left there to go to Los Angeles where he was the founder and founding president of BIOLA—an acronym for Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
The subject of divine healing is awakening an unusual interest in all parts of our country at the present time. Much has been said in favor of it, even by persons who have been opposed to the doctrine in the past; much has been said against it on every hand. The land has been flooded with religious adventurers who are taking advantage of the widespread interest in this important subject to deceive and to rob people.
Some things just don't change, and they continue today. It is amazing, this whole healing movement has increased and increased over the years.
As we address this issue let's start thinking it through very logically and biblically. We ask the question, does God heal today? Subsets of that are, how would God be healing today? And is it always God's will to be healed? Another question is, where did the modern day healing movement come from? Is this really biblical in its source? Many modern healings are claimed to have taken place like those in the Bible. That is the key issue. And another key issue we need to address is, is there healing in the atonement?
As we address this we have to realize a couple of categories. God has healed in the past through various different means. We realize that God has healed many times indirectly or mediately. This means that God heals through a human agent. When we talk about this first category, that God has healed indirectly or mediately, i.e., He uses human agents (Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, the apostle Paul), what we have first of all are two categories, a supernatural indirect (which is miraculous) as well as an indirect natural healing.
Think this through logically. It is supernatural but it is indirect. This is defined as when God uses a human agent as the means of effecting the healing. It is indirect but it is miraculous. The human agent stands between God and the person who is afflicted and heals them. This is what we see in the miracles in the Gospels. It is immediate, instantaneous, and there is no doubt as to its cause. Normal physical and biological laws are suspended and overridden. That is the supernatural and miraculous, such as the healing of the lame man.
Then we have the indirect natural. It is indirect because it goes through an agent, but in this case the agent is a doctor. He is your physician. The doctor is using the natural laws of creation that God has built into creation, and through the use of medicine and surgery as well as through training and education and the use of antibiotics and other medicines. God is in charge of the universe, He has established these principles, but this is done without anything supernatural. So when we are healed by our physician that is just as much God healing us but it is indirect and using natural means and methodology.
We also see in Scripture that God heals directly without a human agent. This happens when we pray. This is rare; it is not the norm of the Christian life though. That is what we call a direct supernatural event.
Then there is also God working directly through an indirect means, like through a doctor or through natural immune system of the body. This may be what Paul describes in Philippians 2:25-27 when he is talking about Epaphroditus who is sick. He said "unto death". They expected Epaphroditus to die; they prayed for him, and over time he recovered. It wasn't instantaneous. Again, this is not always the norm.
Often today what we see is that people ask the wrong question: "Don't you believe that God heals today? What do you mean?" It is the wrong question, and often when we ask the wrong question, by answering it, it leads us into heretical territory. So we always have to be careful about the questions that we ask. The issue really isn't does God heal today? The issue is, how has God revealed that he heals today? We all agree that God is able to heal anyone from any disease at any moment. That is not questioned. The question is, how has God revealed that He is going to heal today? And another part of this would be, has God revealed that we should expect our intervention in our illnesses, diseases and deformities as a normal experience in the Christian life? That is where we separate ourselves from those within the healing tradition in the Charismatic-Pentecostal movement. We don't believe that this is supposed to be the normal experience in the Christian life. The question must be always addressed in terms of how does God reveal that he is going to work?
Why did Jesus and the apostles heal? Why is this revealed to us in Scripture? Is it revealed to us because this is something that we should expect? Or is this revealed to use for a completely separate reason? As part of this we also have to address a secondary question which is, was faith and/or salvation a prerequisite for healing? When we look at the examples that we have in Scripture often what we hear today is, well the reason you weren't healed is because you really didn't have enough faith. There are many examples in Scripture where the people who were healed didn't have any faith at all. They weren't even believers. God, Jesus, the apostles healed them anyway.
So why did Jesus heal people? First of all, it was to present His messianic credentials. He wasn't just healing because He didn't want people to be sick. He healed because this was a sign of who He was as the God-Man and as the Messiah who was presenting the kingdom to Israel. The kingdom as presented in the Old Testament would be a time when there would be no sickness, no death, the curse of sin would be rolled back partially, and healing would be normative in the life of a believer. But that is part of the kingdom. So Jesus is giving a preview of coming attractions when He healed those in His environment.
Isaiah 42: NASB "To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison". This is a prediction of when the Messiah would come.
Isaiah 35:5 NASB "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah." This is talking about what it will be like in the millennial kingdom, but the Messiah would be the one who will bring this into effect.
As we look at this we see that healings were never performed merely for their physical benefit.
Matthew 8:17 foreshadows the messianic promise of Isaiah 53. Matthew 9:6 demonstrates that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. Mathew 11:2-29 the miracles of healing confirmed His identity to John the Baptist when He was in prison. Matthew 12:15-21 foreshadows the fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4. John 9:3 demonstrates the reality of Christ as the Light of the world. Only Jesus healed the blind. That was a specific messianic sign. In John 11:4 He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead for the purpose of glorifying God. In John 20:30, 31 these signs were evidence of Jesus' messianic claims. In Acts 2:22 God the Father used these signs to authenticate the claims of Jesus. So Jesus didn't just heal willy-nilly. He healed because this demonstrated who He was and He did not heal everyone.