The significance of prescription versus description for New Testament disciples


It is taught that certain commands given by Jesus Christ and carried out by his disciples in the gospels and Acts are only a description of what took place at that time, and not a prescription of what disciples should be doing today.

Luke 10:9 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 after the seventy-two disciples were sent out by the Lord in Luke 10 above, they did what he commanded them to do. They healed the sick and cast out demons as a sign to the Jews that the kingdom of God they were proclaiming had come near through the advent of their Messiah Jesus Christ. They performed three actions in obedience to the Lord’s command when he sent them to the Jews: they healed the sick, they cast out demons, and they proclaimed the kingdom of God.

For present-day disciples are these three actions to be taken as mere description and not something we are to do today when taking the gospel to the nations?

Most evangelicals would agree that the command to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God is still valid, whether to Jews or to gentiles. We of course see the disciples continuing to do this in Acts. Peter preached the gospel to the Jews and Paul to the gentiles.

What about casting out demons and healing the sick in Acts?

An examination of Acts 8 reveals that when the disciple Philip preached the gospel in Samaria where the people were of mixed Jewish-gentile blood, demons were cast out and the sick were healed miraculously. As a result, many Samaritans accepted Jesus as their Messiah. We also see Peter continuing to heal the sick as evidence of the truth of the gospel to the Jews. Similarly Paul was used by God in miraculous healings as confirmation of the truth of the gospel to the gentiles.

We see therefore that in Acts the disciples continued to heal the sick and cast out demons whether the gospel was shared with Jews or with gentiles. That is the description we see in Acts.

So why is it taught in some circles today that while preaching the gospel is still a prescription for the New Testament Church, healing the sick and casting out demons have fallen into the category of mere description– no longer applicable as evidence of the truth of the gospel to the lost?

This teaching, quite prevalent in evangelical seminaries and churches in the West, has done a great disservice to the cause of the gospel to resistant people groups like Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and those who believe in witchcraft. It has literally crippled the effectiveness of missionaries who are sent out to reach them with the life-saving gospel. When such pagan people groups witness powerful miracles which their gods, beliefs and traditions cannot do, many among them will convert to Jesus Christ. Apart from such visible displays of God’s incomparable power they will consider Christianity to be a foreign religion imported from the West. Why should they abandon the traditions of their ancestors, risking loss and persecution for the sake of the religion of the imperialists from the West who invaded, conquered, colonized, and then exploited their land centuries ago?

Interestingly, the teaching that healing the sick in the context of evangelism today is now only description and no longer prescription originated in the West.

But today during these last days when the gospel is preached in the Third World with power as it was by the disciples in Acts, there will be a harvest of souls for the kingdom of God as we see in Acts.

Who is ultimately responsible for the teaching that the miracles recorded in Acts are only description for the Church today, and therefore no long applicable?

 

 

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