A “non-charismatic” theology of miraculous healing for evangelicals (and of course charismatics)

The word “charismatic” is derived from the Greek word charisma commonly translated “gift.” The gifts of the Holy Spirit, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12, are therefore relatively prominent in charismatic teaching and theology. One of these gifts is of course the gift of healing.

By contrast, these supernatural gifts are generally not taught in evangelical circles, especially if they adhere to cessationism which holds that with the completion of the New Testament canon in the early Church the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased and passed away.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

However, when in the gospels Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God to the lost sheep of Israel, he gave them not the gift of healing, but rather power and authority over demons and diseases. And he commanded them to heal the sick as they proclaimed the good news to the lost.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 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, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Luke 9:1-2, 6)

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. …Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:1 & 9)

The specific purpose of this power and authority over diseases and demons in the gospels was to confirm the preaching of the gospel to the lost—the unmatched miraculous signs were the clear-cut evidence to the lost that Jesus was in fact the Son of God and the Savior of the world. This power and authority was clearly not to be confused with the gift of healing—which would come only years later at Pentecost with the Spirit’s coming and which was primarily for the common good of the body of Christ.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

Now in Acts following the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost a close examination of some of the miraculous healings the Lord did through Peter and Paul (who unlike Peter was sent to the gentiles) reveal that they continued to apply this same power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons whether ministering to Jews or gentiles—even after the gift of healing was made available. The disciple Philip was not an apostle as were Peter and Paul, but nevertheless he ministered with power and authority over infirmities and demons when he preached the gospel to the half-gentile Samaritans who were detested by the Jews.

When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. (Acts 8:6-7)

Clearly this power and authority were not to be used only when preaching the gospel to the Jews, but also when evangelizing the gentiles in Acts. Paul used this same power when he ministered healing to the father of Publius, the gentile Roman official who governed the island of Malta.

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. (Acts 28:7-8)

In Lystra, a fortified Roman frontier outpost inhabited by local ethnic groups, Paul also applied authority to heal a lame man who had never walked by commanding him to stand up on his feet. 

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:8-10)

(Unfortunately, however, this particular miracle did not draw the local people to Jesus Christ as the miracles often in fact did as we see recorded in Acts.)


Since the preaching of the gospel is not yet complete & the Great Commission not yet fulfilled…

Even though the New Testament canon is complete for the Church, the preaching of the gospel to all creation outside the Church along with the Great Commission has clearly not yet been fulfilled. Therefore although cessationism teaches us that the gifts of the Spirit including the gift of healing for ministry to the body of Christ have ceased, the very different power and authority Jesus delegated to his disciples for the preaching of the gospel to the lost have definitely not. It is crucial to distinguish between authority and power on the one hand, and the gift(s) of healing on the other.

Authority and power over diseases and demons, delegated to the disciples before the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost with His supernatural gifts, are clearly independent of gifts like speaking in tongues, etc., which came years later. Authority and power therefore operate quite independently from the gifts of the Spirit. A believer therefore does not necessarily have to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues” in order to preach the gospel fruitfully to the lost with authority and power over infirmities and demons. (But of course, whatever it may mean, it is definitely desirable for every believer to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”)

Evangelical believers who do not consider themselves to be charismatic can definitely be taught to minister miraculous healing effectively and powerfully in the name of Jesus Christ, especially in the context of sharing the gospel with the lost.

That is what the Lord has graciously called The Elijah Challenge to do around the world, especially for the purpose of reaching gospel-resistant people groups with the gospel during these last days before the end (Matthew 24:14) and the coming of the Son of Man.

“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. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…” (John 14:11-12)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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