Let’s say we are sharing the gospel with someone who has a physical infirmity. Normally we would first share the gospel with the person. If the person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then—if at all—we might as an afterthought pray and ask God to heal them of their physical problem and leave the results up to Him. After all, salvation is the primary goal, and whether or not the person is healed of the infirmity is but a distant secondary concern.
What is recorded in the gospels and Acts, however, is quite different. What is taught there about the role of miraculous works—the majority of which were likely miraculous healings—in the preaching of the gospel of life?
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …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.
John 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 10:37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the WORKS, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
This pattern was evident in the ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospels.
John 6:2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick.
And among this crowd there were certainly some who believed on him as the Messiah because of the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.
In Acts we continue to see this same pattern of people putting their faith in him as a result of witnessing or hearing about the incomparable miraculous signs he performed.
Following the miraculous healing of the lame beggar through Peter in Acts 3 and then hearing the message of the gospel, many believed.
Acts 4:4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
The same pattern was repeated in Acts 8 with Philip in Samaria. Compelling evidence for the gospel he preached was provided in the miraculous signs he performed, leading many to be baptized afterwards.
Acts 8:5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city. …12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 9 repeats the pattern with many believing on Jesus Christ following a powerful miracle.
Acts 9:32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Similarly, many people believed in the Lord only after Dorcas was raised from the dead.
Acts 9:42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
Similarly Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Paphos, believed only after he witnessed his attendant immediately go blind after being rebuked by Paul.
Acts 13:12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
Thus the pattern of God using a miracle to lead people to Christ is well established in the gospels and in Acts.
Unlike our traditional approach in evangelism, the biblical pattern is primarily miracle first—to be followed by the harvest. Often the miracles were miraculous healings.
During these Last Days in the preaching of the gospel to resistant people groups who never heard, the Church should return to the biblical pattern. This is precisely what is taught by The Elijah Challenge.
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come hear to you.’ “
Indeed salvation of the soul is the primary goal and consideration. And in order to be effective and fruitful in this, it is important to first “heal the sick who are there” before proclaiming the message of the kingdom. This is especially true for gospel-resistant people groups living outside urban areas who never heard and for whom the gospel is not at all available.