Charismatic believers can place much emphasis on the work and the leading of the Holy Spirit. At times this emphasis can be taken too far by which the teaching and commands of Jesus in the gospels are superseded. But the work of the Holy Spirit is not for us to focus on him, but to testify about Jesus.
John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.
The Greek word for “testify” is martureō, literally, “to be a witness.” The Holy Spirit is to be a witness of Jesus Christ: of who Jesus is—including of course what Jesus taught his disciples. The Holy Spirit enables us to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah, to walk as he did and to obey his commands boldly and fruitfully.
Jesus gave various commands to his disciples in the gospels. Let’s study what he commanded them to do as they proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom 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. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
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. …9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ …17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
It’s clear that when Jesus sent out the Twelve and then the Seventy-two disciples, he commanded them—not to pray to God for the sick—but rather to heal the sick and cast out demons by using the supernatural power and authority he had given them. A study of Acts following the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost reveals that the disciples continued to use this power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons as compelling evidence of the gospel when they went out to proclaim the kingdom of God to the gentiles.
Therefore even today when disciples are proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost, they are not simply to pray to God for the sick but rather to heal the sick using the Lord’s power and authority. But this is rarely taught in charismatic circles today due to their particular emphasis on the Holy Spirit. When ministering to the sick during evangelistic outreaches, charismatic believers today often focus on the gifts of the Spirit, in particular, “the gift of healing.” This gift, however, is separate and distinct from and not to be confused with the supernatural power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons which Jesus gave to those he sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God. But this truth is largely neglected by the Church.
This is one reason why the miraculous healings recorded in the gospels and Acts as evidence and confirmation of the gospel are rarely seen through disciples today when they are sharing the gospel. They often rely exclusively on the gifts as led by the Spirit, and neglect the supernatural power and authority to heal the sick given them by our Lord Jesus. The use of this power and authority does not necessarily depend on “the leading of the Spirit,” but rather on our proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost.
Supernatural power and authority are clearly to be used when proclaiming the kingdom of God—that is, in evangelism. But according to 1 Corinthians 12 the gifts, including the gift of healing, are primarily for the benefit of the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12: 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
From the context of this chapter, we know that “the common good” clearly refers to the good of the whole body of Christ. Therefore the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift(s) of healing, are primarily to be used in ministering to believers in the context of building up the body of Christ within the Church.
By contrast, power and authority over infirmities and demons are to be used outside the Church when proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost. But the effective use of this power and authority are rarely taught to believers. The focus within the ministry of healing is almost always on the gift of healing. One reason for this is the unspoken assumption in many charismatic circles that after Pentecost what Jesus taught and commanded in the gospels is superseded by the leading of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. This assumption is unwarranted, and among other things robs us of the understanding of the supernatural power and authority the Lord gives to every disciple who is sent out as a witness of Jesus Christ—which includes every believer.
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, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Rather the Holy Spirit gives us power to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8), enabling us to do the miraculous works that He did as evidence to the world that He is One with the Father and the only way to Him. And such miraculous works can be done by using the supernatural power and authority already given to us.
The Holy Spirit did not come to nullify what Jesus taught, but rather to enable us to obey His commands boldly and effectively as His witnesses to the world.