Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
…9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
In Luke 10 Jesus sent the 72 disciples ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He commanded them to heal the sick and to proclaim the kingdom of God in places which never heard the gospel.
Foreign missionaries today generally do not “heal the sick” before proclaiming the kingdom of God to the unreached. There are various reasons for this. Among them is the popular teaching of cessationism. Those who subscribe to this teaching of course do not heal the sick when preaching the gospel (or at any other time for that matter). On the other hand, those who are convinced that the command of Jesus in Luke 10:9 still holds today likely wonder why so few disciples if any actually “heal the sick” as Jesus commanded when the gospel is shared with the lost.
First of all, let us determine whether or not the Lord’s command in Luke 10:9 to ”heal the sick”—which dates back to the gospels—is still valid today in the dispensation of Acts. Does Acts record that the disciples continued to obey his command to heal the sick?
We can ascertain this by examining some of the miracles in Acts. In Acts 3 at the Temple Gate, Peter healed the beggar lame since birth. Only after that did the astonished crowds come to him at which point Peter shared the gospel with them. The result was a harvest of souls with the number of men reaching 5,000. Here Peter was simply healing the sick first and then afterwards preaching the kingdom of God to the crowd which had gathered—just as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:9.
Then in Acts 9, only after Peter healed the paralytic Aeneas did all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon turn to the Lord. Later in the same chapter only after Peter raised Dorcas back to life did many in Joppa turn to the Lord. Again we see the same pattern: the people put their faith in Jesus only after they witnessed or heard about the miracle.
Moreover, in Acts 8:6 we read that “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said.” Here only after they witnessed the miracles did the crowds pay close attention to the gospel which Philip preached.
Thus powerful miraculous healings in Acts were the sign and the evidence which afterwards opened up people’s hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These miraculous healings were performed by the disciples clearly in accordance with what Jesus commanded them in Luke 10:9.
If in fact on the foreign mission field today the sick are likewise powerfully and miraculously healed as the gospel is shared, the harvest can be great among Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and idol-worshipers—in particular in rural and remote villages unreached by mass crusades held in cities and unreached by gospel TV and radio broadcasts. In such developing nations the majority of the population still lives in rural villages outside of urban areas.
In the past of course we did not see this. Missions in developing nations in the Third World were generally limited to sharing the gospel with words only—not accompanied by miraculous evidence. At most the preaching of the gospel might be accompanied by humanitarian good works like the feeding of the poor or caring for orphans.
Why were there so few miracles when the gospel was preached on the mission field? It was because we lacked understanding of exactly how “to heal the sick” as Jesus commanded. Due to this we were not able to heal the sick effectively and consistently when sharing the gospel with the lost. But today during these Last Days the Lord is restoring to the Church understanding of exactly how he healed the sick. In that way there will be acceleration in missions leading to the fulfillment of the Great Commission before the end.
The gospels inform us that Jesus often healed the sick and cast out demons through the exercise of authority and power. Then we are told in Luke 9 that Jesus called his disciples and gave them this supernatural authority and power to be used in the context of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Based on the above, we can reasonably conclude that today we are to heal the sick exactly as Jesus did in the gospels with the use of his authority and power—and not according to the traditions we may have picked up in church. As we study the gospel accounts and understand the principles by which Jesus healed the sick and then apply those same principles for ministering to the sick today, we are seeing many healed miraculously in Jesus’ name. The powerful miracles confirm the truth of the gospel to those who never heard.
The Elijah Challenge is now doing this very fruitfully in Asia.
We choose disciples with a village background, and then train them by taking them from village to village just as Jesus did with his disciples. Accompanied by these disciples we preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons in the villages. Powerful miracles take place just as we read in the gospels and in Acts. After the disciples are trained we send them into unreached villages where they themselves will in the same way heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who never heard the life-giving gospel.
In a certain Asian country these trained disciples go from village to village. Going door-to-door they heal the sick miraculously with the Lord’s power and authority, and then proclaim the kingdom of God. Entire villages are coming to Jesus Christ as they witness the powerful miracles and hear the gospel of the kingdom of God. House churches are formed in each village. No “special” calling is required to do this; every disciple—represented by the 72 disciples in Luke 10—can be trained to preach the gospel in this way.
Since 2015, through trained disciples The Elijah Challenge has reaped a harvest of 39,930 souls for the kingdom of God in Asia. In terms of dollars and cents, the cost per salvation has been $3.10.