Thursday, January 5, 2012

Does the Gospel Guarantee Physical Healing?

I attended a Pentecostal church for a number of years. One of the things that was done during the regular services was a prayer for those with needs physical, financial etc. A special emphasis was placed on those with sicknesses and physical infirmities. This is one of the unique distinctions of Pentecostalism, and a distinction that I agree with because this is something that Scripture mandates in James 5:14. I still believe that God can heal today.

My issues are not with healing but with the nonsense that is being preached by Pentecostal preachers and evangelists to justify healing. Further the way healing is preached makes it appear that God is somehow obligated to heal because I have said the appropriate "magic words" or "magic" Bible verses. Take, for example the following video from Victory Outreach.

I do not know if this was a real miracle or not. No one has placed a before and after x-ray of this young girl's back on the internet, that I am aware of. Because "leg lengthening" has been exposed as a fraud I have a hard time believing that this was an actual miracle. Further the lack of any documentation raises my suspicions even more. I would like to see the documentation, and since this is being labeled a true healing that documentation should be readily available.

However, I am not here to question the legitimacy of the healing, but rather the misuse of Scripture during this alleged healing. In the video, the healer invokes three Scriptures. One of them was Isaiah 53:4-5 which reads as follows in the English Standard Version:
4  Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
 smitten by God, and afflicted.
5  But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
 and with his stripes we are healed.
 Pentecostals and Word-faith healers use this Scripture to show that physical healing is guaranteed in the Gospel. Further, there are those in the Word-faith movement who actually believe that a true believer in Jesus will never be sick. Further, they teach that it is up to the believer to appropriate this guaranteed healing by positive confession of the healing claims. Word-faith teachers also claim that any doubt is a sin and that can prevent the healing of a sickness in a believer. This is a great card to play especially when someone is not healed at one of their "deliverance" services.

There is a guaranteed healing in these verses. But it is not physical healing. In fact, I am not aware of a single verse in the bible that guarantees physical healing of the believer. The healing that is guaranteed in these verses is the spiritual healing that the cross accomplished. Why do I say that? Very simply the verses themselves. Verse five uses the words "transgressions" and "iniquities". What do they mean? The Hebrew word translated into English as "transgressions" literally means a revolt. Sin is a revolt against God. A revolt against His revelation as seen in Genesis chapter 3. The Hebrew word translated in English as "iniquities" literally means perversity or moral evil. These terms set the context of this verse not in the realm of the physical but in the spiritual. The healing spoken of here by Isaiah of the future Messiah is spiritual and focused on the redemption of humanity from the misery of sin.

There are a number of other verses which show that healing is something guaranteed to the Christian.

  • Paul evidently could not heal Timothy's stomach problem, and instructed him to take advantage of medicinal remedies (1 Timothy 5:23).
  • Paul was unable to heal Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20) or Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27).
  • Paul's own bodily illness was never healed (Galatians 4:13-15).
  • There are many scholars that believe the issue that Paul referred to as his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) was a chronic illness.
  • God allowed Job to go through a time of sickness (Job 1 & 2).
In none of these cases was sickness said to be caused by sin or doubt in the peoples' lives. There is one exception to this statement, and that is the case of Job. In his case his sickness was said to have been the result of sin by the three false friends (Job 4:7). Further, Paul or any other apostle act as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atoning death of Jesus. Even more devestating to the Word-faith teachers is the fact that on two occasions Jesus said that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 9:3 & 11:4)!

Scripture does speak about the health of believers. It tells us that our bodies are weak and perishable (1 Corinthians 15:42-44), decaying (2 Corinthians 4:16), and subject to death and disease until we receive our resurrection bodies that will be immune from these issues (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

One last point I want to make about the use of Isaiah 53 is that the clearest Old Testament prophecy about the purpose of the Messiah's life has been hijacked by unscrupulous Word-faith teachers and greedy pastors that are interested in cheeks in the church seats and checks in the offering plates. This verse is not about us, but about Him! His work made salvation possible. His work made it possible for our sin to be forgiven. He need salvation more than we need healing. Sin is the real problem. I would gladly suffer 70 or 80 years of sickness than an eternity of being punished for my sin!

Again, I do believe that healing is an active aspect of the work of God today. I do not believe, however, that the manner in which healing is preached by Word-faith teachers and most Pentecostal preachers is in line with Scripture, and it is Scripture that defines what we believe and how we behave. I hope and pray that those that are leaning towards the view of healing that is utterly unscriptural will move away from it and back towards the Bible. I also pray that those who preach this abomination repent of their false teaching and return to biblical teaching.

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