One primary reason for this is the lack of understanding regarding the three offices of the Church today.
Jesus Christ now at the right hand of the Father was priest, prophet, and king. Today on earth his Body the Church functions in these same three offices. We stand before God as priests, offering sacrifices to Him above—whether through prayer, intercession, praise, worship, or thanksgiving. As New Testament priests we offer our bodies up to God on high as pleasing sacrifices. The direction of priestly actions is therefore up.
As prophets we speak God’s word to one another within the Body of Christ to edify and encourage one another. We might even speak prophetic messages to those in the world who live among us. The direction of prophetic words is therefore horizontal.
Allow us to introduce to you the third and final office—the kingly office.
When Jesus was on earth he ministered to the sick and demonized with extraordinary authority—authority possessed only by God, by a King.
Luke 4:31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he commands unclean spirits and they come out!”
In a similar situation believers will typically react instead with prayer, asking God to deliver the man and after that trusting the results up to Him—a priestly action directed up to God on high who alone has authority over demons. But Jesus’ action here was not at all priestly; he directed nothing at all to his Father above. Rather his action was of a kingly nature—he exercised authority over the demon by issuing a direct command to it. Because the demon was under his authority, it obeyed his command and came out of the man. By doing this Jesus demonstrated that he had authority over demons like God Himself. Likewise, a king possesses authority, and exercises it by issuing commands to those under his authority.
Moreover, when Jesus ministered to the sick he never prayed to his Father as we traditionally do in the Church today. Rather he often exercised authority over the disease by issuing a direct command to the infirmity or the sick person. The Father had given him authority over not only demons, but also over disease and infirmities. Therefore when ministering to the infirm, Jesus never performed priestly actions such as traditional prayer to the Father—but rather kingly ones by issuing commands to sick people and infirmities over which he had authority.
The direction of kingly actions over entities under his authority was therefore down.
Distinct differences between the three
We see therefore distinct differences—especially in nature and direction—between priestly, prophetic, and kingly actions. Priestly actions are directed up to God who is over us in authority. Prophetic actions are direct horizontally to one another within the body of Christ. Kingly actions are directed downward over entities over which we have been given authority.
For effective evangelism to resistant people groups, it is important to distinguish clearly between these three offices. If we do not, we will not be fruitful in demonstrating to them that our Lord Jesus is in fact the Messiah and that only he can grant them eternal life.
Jesus spent much time in prayer to his Father—in the priestly office. After prayer he would go forth and minister to the people. He would teach and preach the word of God to the people—exercising his prophetic office. But when he healed the sick and cast out demons, he would exercise power and authority—kingly actions. He generally kept these three offices separate and distinct; he did not mix or combine them as we typically do when ministering.
Because the Church today does not clearly understand the differences we mix the offices while ministering. When we do we suffer loss in effectiveness and thus in fruitfulness. This is especially true when ministering to the sick in the context of preaching the gospel to the lost. Jesus taught that miraculous works like healing the sick are to be evidence of the truth of the gospel to the world.
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…
But primarily because we are ignorant of the differences between the three offices we are clearly not doing those miraculous works—as Jesus promised above—as evidence to the world that he is the Son of God. This ignorance has resulted in tradition which does not follow Scripture.
Our traditional way of ministering to the sick
We usually observe a combination of some if not all of the following elements when we minister to the sick:
- “Father, in Jesus’ name, please heal this person.”
- “Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus.”
- “I proclaim/declare healing over you in Jesus’ name.”
- “I speak healing over you in Jesus’ name.”
- “Be healed in Jesus’ name.”
- “I rebuke this infirmity in Jesus’ name and command you to leave.”
The first two are directed up to God above and are therefore clearly priestly actions. Numbers 3 and 4 are directed in a prophetic way to the sick person. The last two are authoritative commands directed at and over the sick person and the infirmity—and are therefore kingly actions.
When we minister to the sick in such a way—by mixing together priestly, prophetic, and kingly actions—we almost never witness miraculous healings. But this is the pattern we have been taught in the Church.
So let us return to our study of how Jesus ministered to the sick…
There we saw that there were neither priestly nor prophetic elements present when he healed the sick. Rather it was almost always a kingly action involving authority and power over the disease or demon afflicting the person.
When we let go of our traditions and minister to the sick as Jesus did in the Scriptures, we will witness an astonishing difference in the results especially in the context of sharing the gospel with the lost. Miraculous healings will take place. Non-Christian gospel-resistant peoples will turn to Jesus Christ when they witness the extraordinary miracles performed by the incomparable authority and power of His name.
Our Lord clearly commanded his disciples to preach the gospel in this way.
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. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others… 9 ”Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “ …17 The seventy returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
When Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, he did not tell them to pray to God for the sick or to prophesy to them, but rather to heal them with the power and authority he had just given them. The disciples then went out and obeyed the Lord’s command to heal the sick as they proclaimed the kingdom of God to the lost. They did so not only in the gospels but also as recorded in Acts. Today therefore the Church should be healing the sick in the same way as the kingdom of God is proclaimed to the lost. The Lord’s command to heal the sick is definitely not merely description of what took place back then, but continues to be a prescription of what we should be doing today when preaching the gospel.
In most streams of the Church today, however, we no longer preach the gospel as Jesus commanded with the evidence of miraculous healings. For example, evangelicals will pray to God for the harvest, and send missionaries out to preach the gospel in the Third World. But typically evangelical missionaries do not heal the sick with power and authority as Jesus commanded, but rather simply share the gospel through friendship relationships and humanitarian works among the gospel-resistant. Some “Spirit-filled” charismatics will engage in “warfare prayer” for regions targeted for evangelism. When they gather for “prayer,” they will pray to God—a priestly action—for the region. They will also engage in “strategic-level spiritual warfare” during their prayer, an activity which involves directly addressing, rebuking, and commanding territorial spirits and principalities to leave the region in Jesus’ name—a kingly action mixed in with the priestly one of prayer to God.
Two important observations at this point…
Firstly, as we have already seen the mixing of the priestly and kingly is nowhere commanded or found in the New Testament, and is generally fruitless. Secondly, Jesus never commanded his disciples to attack and rebuke high-level principalities and territorial spirits. Such action is generally unauthorized and presumptuous, and can therefore result in serious counterattack by principalities against believers who have engaged them. Sometimes the mixing of the priestly and kingly takes place during “prayer walks” in the target region. “Spiritual mapping” is another strategy utilized by such streams in the Church for the purpose of identifying and then driving out the territorial spirit ruling over a specific region. But again “spiritual mapping” is not found in the New Testament. We can exercise authority over something only when the Lord has specifically given us that authority—something Scripture does not clearly teach.
Prayer for the Lord—a priestly action—to send workers for the harvest is scriptural. But direct spiritual warfare against powerful high-level principalities is not commanded by the Lord. Scripture does not explicitly and unequivocally state that they are under our authority, and command us to attack them. As such it is a dangerous practice.
Instead, the Church should go back to the clearcut commands of our Lord Jesus as recorded in New Testament Scripture. The realm of the authority and power delegated to us is “ground-level” only and to be used only against infirmities and demons which afflict people at ground level. We are moreover of course authorized to preach the gospel to the lost, also a ground-level activity. We should be aware that we are ground troops and foot soldiers whose realm of authority is on the ground. If we want to involve ourselves in the heavenlies, it should be through prayer up to God—a priestly action.
Using the power and authority entrusted to us through his Spirit in us, we are able to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’” When we proclaim the gospel to resistant people groups in this way and exercise this power and authority, powerful miracles will take place as convincing evidence to them that our Father in heaven is the only true God and that Jesus Christ is the only way to Him.
Actual results from following Scripture
Servants of God trained in the effective use of the Lord’s power and authority according to Scripture have witnessed such results time and time again in the nations where the Lord has placed them. As a result multitudes have come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. “Spiritual warfare” is not only unscriptural, it is unnecessary.
And this kingdom power and authority as evidence of the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to the world is to be exercised only by the kingly action of issuing commands. The unscriptural mixing in of priestly actions (and in many cases of prophetic actions as well) acts simply to dilute this authority—resulting in failure to produce the miraculous evidence of the truth of the gospel. The effect on authority of mixing the priestly and the kingly is akin to mixing together cold water and hot water to yield lukewarm water.
During these Last Days when the Church must fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations, we must be taught the crucial differences between the three offices—the priestly, the prophetic, and the kingly. Only then will we be able to use the Lord’s power and authority effectively and fruitfully just as his early disciples did in Acts when through them the gospel exploded throughout the known world.