The Gifts Of Healing Refers To The Supernatural Ability To Heal People
The biblical account of healing can answer many of our questions today. How much of what the bible is saying on this subject is clouded by our theological tradition? Is it possible to be healed from our diseases if only we have the faith to believe? Does doubt come in the way of a miraculous cure waiting to happen? Sincere and devout Christians on either side of the doctrinal fence differ on their responses to such questions. Let’s examine what scripture has to say in regard to three distinct stages of the healing experience namely, the Provider in the Old Testament times, the purpose in Jesus’ ministry, the practice in the New Testament church, and the proclamation and healing in the church today.
The Provider Of Healing In The OT Times
In the context of the OT, “healing speaks of forgiveness and of the restoration of a harmonious relationship with God, as well as of the blessings that follows such a relationship.”[i] The rebellious condition of the people of God is directly linked with an inner suffering as well as a physical malady—the head is injured, the heart is afflicted, and the body from the top of the head to the bottom the sole is riddled with welts and wounds that desperately need to be healed. The consequences of failing to do what is right in God’s sight leaves the people open to the same diseases that afflicted their enemies (Ex 15:26a). Those diagnosed as disobedient need to turn to God and receive cleansing (Isa 1:4; 5-6, 18). Thus, spiritual sickness or disease is equated with sin, while healing is equated with forgiveness and a restored relationship with God (cf., 2 Chr 7:14-16; Hos 6:1). It is also evident that God is the Provider of physical healing as well declaring to his people, “I am the LORD who heals you” (Ex 15:26b).
The Purpose Of Healing In Jesus’ Ministry
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he unrolled the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18-19). Within those two inaugural verses, Jesus revealed the purpose of his mission. He came in fulfillment of Isaiah’s long-awaited prophecy written upon the scrolls he had just read. In the life setting of the first century Jew, the majority of Jesus’ works of healing could be seen as the restoration of a socially ostracized or ritually unclean member of the community, due to disease, back into the fold. Once excluded because of ritual uncleanness, the healed individual can rejoin and rejoice with the people of God. Jesus never performed works of healing simply to validate his person or impress the people. He saw his mission in terms of proclaiming the good news and releasing the unclean captives, the poor, blind, and powerless, as he set into motion the year of God’s favor. These physical infirmities and or sinful conditions prevented the Israelite his or her full rights as part of the assembly of the LORD (Deut 23:1-6). The healing miracles of Jesus must be understood as the granting of the gift of shalom, wholeness, to those who were burdened with maladies and found lacking (Mt 11:28; Lk 2:14). He not only brought them physical health from a deadly disease, but also reinstated their membership back into the worshiping community (Lk 17:12-14). His works of healing even extended to the Samaritans and Gentiles alike in order to break down the exclusive dividing wall of the Jews. He opened the way for outsiders to draw near and be a part of the people of God.
Therefore, the desired effect of these miraculous cures was not to merely bring physical healing to human outcasts, but to offer forgiveness of sins and restore them back to a long lost relationship with the God of Israel. Jesus’ healing ministry was an integral part of his total mission to reach out and tear down social, racial, and gender barriers in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth. By way of a subversive parable, Jesus related the story in regard to who will eat bread in the kingdom of God. When the invited guests begged off by coming up with all sorts of excuses to attend the feast, the master sent his slaves into the streets and lanes in order to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. And if that wasn’t enough, the master sent his slaves out further into the roads and lanes to compel people to come in and join the great banquet (Lk 14:16-24). Jesus’ healing ministry did just that, it gathered those who were near and far off that they may sit at the table and have fellowship within this renewed covenant community of Israel, in fulfillment of what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Mt 8:17).
The Practice Of Healing In The NT Church
If we look closely at the healings in the gospels, we will see that the emphasis is not on the restoration of the individual’s heath, but on the restoration of the individual to fellowship in the reconstituted Israel of God. The healings Jesus performed are not merely for the sake of one’s health and wellbeing nor are they merely an act of love and mercy. Rather they serve an evangelistic purpose in that they cleansed the ailment that made people ritually unclean. It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t heal people of coughs, colds, and flu. Bad backs and sprained ankles, no. Leprous hands and paralytic bodies, yes. Those who received healing served Jesus’ in advancing his mission in the furtherance of the good news, for he was sent for this purpose (Mk 5:20; Lk 4:37, 43).
The Proclamation And Healing in The Church Today
Jesus commanded his disciples and sent them “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” in his name (Lk 9:1-12). Jesus’ command was meant not only for the early church but also for the church today. Thus, proclamation and healing go hand in hand. In the Septuagint, the word church, ekklesia translates a Hebrew word most often used in the OT in reference to a ceremonial assembly of God’s covenant people.[ii] The proclamation of God’s kingdom and healing should be a regular part in the life of the church, the body of Christ. When the gospel is proclaimed, healing takes place in the spiritual as well as physical realm. Through proclamation, the sinner who is far off draws near to Christ and is healed or cleansed of the sin that separates him or her from fellowship with God (Num 21:6-9: cf. Jn 12:32). Those who are made clean by the blood of Jesus are restored and ushered into the church, the new covenant people of God. Broken lives are mended, severed relationships are healed, and the new family of God is added to in the wake of the power of the gospel of God and its cleansing/healing resurrection power (Rom 1:16).
Prayer For Healing. Throughout the OT and NT, it is clear that healing comes from an all powerful and compassionate God. With this in view, we are in partnership with God as stewards or servants of his kingdom. God will not do what Christians are responsible for and can do—have faith in God, come together in agreement for the healing request, approach the throne of grace, get down on their knees, lay on of their hands, offer prayers for healing and give thanks in Jesus’ name. On the other hand, Christians cannot do what God is responsible for and can only do—mighty works of miraculous cures in answer to prayers in his Son’s name (Jn 14:13-14; Ac 28:8; Heb 4:16; Jas 5:13-15). In the process of prayer for healing, faith does play a vital role or at least faith in some form is mentioned in most instances of healing in the NT. There were moments when the faith of the person being healed was a factor (Mt 9:22). At other times, the faith of friends or family members contributed the healing event (Mt 15:28; Mk 2:5,11). The faith of the person who prays for the healing figures into the equation (Mk:17-24; Jas 5:15). What is important to remember is that the object of our faith is God who provides the healing and not his promise to heal which is subject to human interpretation and can lead to a grave misunderstanding or disappointment. Our prayer for healing should be exercised in all humility according to the will of God—in his good time and good purposes (Rom 8:28).
Gifts Of Healing. The gifts of healing refers to the supernatural ability to heal people of physical diseases in response to a laying on of hands, or praying, or commanding to be healed or some combination of them by the person through whom the Spirit wills to channel the gift (Ac 3:2,6-8; 14:8-10). This is performed for the building up or edification of the ailing members of the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:9,28,30, Paul includes “gifts of healing,” iama, in his list of spiritual gifts given to the believers. ‘Gifts’, not ‘gift’, of healing is mentioned in the plural form without the definitive ‘the.’ This indicates that healing is Holy-Spirit-given as well as a transient or occasional gift. In other words, healing is a gift that can be exercised by a person according to the will of the Holy Spirit.[iii] This gift is not permanent or even 100% successful with any one person to hold the title “faith healer.” Even Paul, who healed many, was unable to heal Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25-30). In the gospels, it appears that Jesus alone was able to heal every time. Note that the bible does sanction the work of a physician and the use of medicinal care (Mt 9:12; Lk 10:34; Col 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:23).
[i] Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985), 329.
[ii] Ibid., 164.
[iii] Hebrews 2:4 says, “God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.” Gifts of healing may refer, not so much to the power of healing granted to a person to exercise when he chooses, but to the distribution of healing as the Lord sees fit.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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Wilfried Otterbach on June 01, 2019:
only now, I came across your very balanced and excellent article on healing from 2009.
I am so blessed always by reading your splendid Bible expositions.
May the Lord continue to guide you and be with you always as He has given you the wisdom and insights to your writing that you post already for such a long time!
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on January 31, 2014:
George ... God did not choose to give us or burden us with pain. In His infinite and incomprehensible wisdom, He chose to give humanity the gift of free will. It is through this gift that we can establish and nurture a genuine non-manipulative relationship with God. He didn't engineer us to be robots or fashion us into puppets where at the push of a button or pull of a string we will involuntarily say, "I love you God." The gift of free will allows us the choice of believing and loving God.
Adam, as the account in Genesis informs us, chose otherwise. He chose to go his way rather than obey God way. His sinful choice severed his relationship with God. Sin separates us from the holy presence of God. The consequence of Adam's choice affected the entire human race. "Sin," according to Romans 5:12, "came in to the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned."
Humanity was infected with the sin of disobedience. It not only distanced us from the God, but also brought us into a longstanding conflict against God and His will for us. Our willful and sinful ways has barricaded us, walled in us from His presence. The fallen humanity may not be aware of it but the world needs to wake up to the fact that it is presently at war with God and with each other. We suffer from a battle wills that has created a wall of hostility in the world (see Ephesians 2:14). This disease has drawn up the battle lines dividing individuals and nations. Even Christians are contaminated with this malady as they struggle and strive with each other: "You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts" (James 4:2).
The Cross of Christ was and still is the cure for a world contaminated with sin. Unlike Adam, Christ trusted the Father even if it went against the grain of his free will when he said "not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42). This incurable and debilitating ailment that once separated those who are 'in Adam', has been arrested at the foot of the Cross. The death of Christ delivers those plagued by this monumental malady: "Therefore, just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all" (Romans 5:18).
That is the "big picture" that is before us. For true healing to take place, the body of Christ on earth, the church, is God's hands and feet that reach out to a hurting and broken world in pain in the power of the Holy Spirit. Though we who are 'in Christ' have been wounded with sin in the past and still struggle with sin today, are called by God to comfort the world as His wounded healers. God in Christ consoled us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).
That is the crux of Isaiah's prophecy concerning Christ when he went to the Cross "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Mt 8:17). While Jesus ministered on earth, he delivered the sick, drove out demons, and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. Though we find Him healing the fallen physical human condition of disease and demonic possession, a sign that He was God's promised Deliverer, Christ ultimately bore the sin of the world on the Cross.
George, you need to exercise caution when you say, "I'm a healer, I was Born for it ..." Nowhere in the Bible is the word 'healer' ever mentioned in the context of one being chosen by God to receive this special mission. What the Bible doesn't even say the gift of healing but says "gifts of healings". It is unfortunate that some people are under the impression that the gift of healing is given to a select few that are empowered to heal the sick. According to an article written by Duke Taber, "This is not what the scriptures meant nor does it conform to the biblical text in 1 Corinthians. Remember that these are gifts of the Holy Spirit, not our gifts. They are given as He wills, not according to our ability or merit. I encourage you to read it at http://spiritfilledchristianliving.com/divine-heal...
I hope I have helped clarify the necessary healing of humanity that can only come from the Cross of Christ. The greatest gift of God is the free and abounding gift of grace given to all. And every Christian is called to participate in what God is doing in the world--the primary work of healing the spiritual plague of sin that separates us from Him by mending His relationship with humanity through the Cross of forgiveness and reconciliation.
George on January 29, 2014:
Remember, not everyone is chosen to be delivered from their ailments.
there fore healing is not for every one.
God choose to give us pain or burden in order for us
to understand his plan. God chooses the way and time to deliver us from our pains.
I'm a healer, I was Born for it, and only when God chooses me to help who he decides to deliver from pain.
Then I can work and help, if is not in Gods will for me to help, even if I tried the gift won't work.
keep this in mind.
Once you are aware and awaken then you can understand this things.
Peace and blessings to you all.
philip on November 23, 2012:
at the last paragraph: it should be 1 timothy 5:23 not 1 titus 5:23:)
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on October 12, 2009:
JesusEater, amen. The healing ministry is not only purposeful but indispensable in the proclamation of the good news. In John 14:12 Jesus assured us "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." That is an awesome statement! Jesus promised that because he would go to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit to the church. Empowered by the Holy Spirit with kingdom gifts, the church would do the things that Jesus had been doing and "even greater things than these."
We must be good stewards of every spiritual gift freely given for "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). These gifts complete our calling - they serve as the mortar that not only draws the lost, but also bonds the body of Christ together. Go with God and stay true to your calling.
JesusEater from Quezon City, Philippines on October 12, 2009:
Wow! This article can definitely help get the church back to its original call---spread the Gospel and continue Jesus' supernatural healing ministry. In Jn. 14.12 Jesus tells us to go on doing exactly as he did. If we do this by faith, he promises that he will enable us, through his intercession with the Father, to do even greater things! We are destined for greater things! So let's not stop with the good things! Praise God for this hub! Go for more, Gicky! We, your audience, need to eat Jesus more!
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on October 08, 2009:
I can empathize with you in regard to wrestling with the subject of healing. Somehow, I have to reconcile with the fact that the gift of healing is wrapped in a box of "pain and suffering." If we opted not to enter into the experience of pain and suffering, we defer receiving the gift of healing.
Five years ago, my father suffered from his bout with cancer. He was a well-known evangelist back home. And oh how our family and the people of God prayed for a miraculous recovery from this debilitating disease. God, in hindsight, had another plan. As he entered us into the pain of experiencing a loved one suffer, he brought us to our own Gethsemane. We surrendered our will to his as my father passed into God's presence healed for all eternity.
Through these pangs of pain we didn't receive the anticipated answer to our prayer. We received a greater gift in that we were all changed. The Good Shepherd led us through the valley of the shadow of death into his wonderful life-giving light. God brought "the big picture" to our prayers and a mountaintop perception of who he is in our lives. Embracing his sovereign will in complete surrender was a crossbearing experience - a gift of healing beyond compare. Since then, remaining cross-minded keeps me from being double-minded.
Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you in this hub. You possess a genuine spirit guided by the Holy Spirit. God bless you sister!
Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on October 08, 2009:
Thank you for responding to my comment. When it comes to the topic of healing, I always seem to wrestle with it. There are those who believe that Jesus already bore our sickness on the cross so we wouldn't have to. I know though as Christians we do have a cross to carry which sometimes includes pain and suffering. The last thing I want to do is be double-minded. I guess I will need to search the scriptures for myself and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thank you again.
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on October 07, 2009:
Lady Summerset, thank you for stopping by and leaving a most gracious comment. God bless you sister!
Lady Summerset from Willingboro, New Jersey on October 07, 2009:
I can honestly feel through your writing that the love of the Holy Spirit flows through you!
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on October 07, 2009:
Thanks for the time you’ve taken to read my hub and your candid honesty in disagreeing with my statement based on your understanding of healing in Isaiah 53:4: “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases.” I believe that it is crucial for us to understand what was happening as Jesus was hanging on the cross. The Jews of old held a wrong assessment and the results were tragic to say the least. To miss that Jesus was suffering for our sins is to miss out on forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It is to miss out on being healed.
The word translated “well-being” is the Hebrew word “shalom” which is often translated “peace.” Shalom doesn’t simply mean the absence of war or the feeling of tranquility. It means human wholeness resulting from God drawing near. Reconciliation with God is essential to human wholeness. Israel was severed from a “state of shalom” because of sin and separation from God (Isa 58:18). In truth, they may have returned to the Promised land, but they were still in a state of exile. The word translate “healed” is not used of healing from disease in Isaiah, but of restoration to the Lord (Isa 6:10; 19:22; 30:26). The peace and healing spoken of here are deep and all-encompassing—they are intrinsically wrapped up in restoration to the Lord and nearness to him.
Jesus grants us shalom or wholeness that the world does not know (Jn 14:7), a peace rooted in reconciliation with God (Rom 5:1). And to borrow what you said, Jesus “HEALED past tense,” our deep wounds by restoring our relationship with the Father (1 Pet 2:24-25). We are made whole upon the cross of Christ and are empowered to experience what it means to be genuinely human in a dehumanizing and destructive world.
Might I add that if we model this new way of being human, this new creation in Christ, we are also to be crossbearers. Although this comes as a strange and dark vocation, it happens to be our birthright as followers of Jesus. If we are to take up the cross, we are to share and bear the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may bring healing upon a wounded world gone astray. As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, there will be seasons when we find ourselves in Gethsemane saying, “Lord, can this really be the way? I have prayed for healing and it seems that it has led to a dead end. Surely you wouldn’t want me to suffer indefinitely, do you? It should come as no surprise that at times the answer to our sincere, faith-fueled prayers may be “No.” Is it possible that we have taken a detour in the road and must now steer in a different way? If we are truly honest about praying to God in the context of “your will be done,” then the answer is simply that me must stay in Gethsemane (Lk 22:42). It is in this place where we can hear the whole creation groaning together in travail. It is in this place where God is groaning too. He is present with us at the place where the world is in pain (Rom 8:22-23).
Crossbearers are not exempt from pain that come with the vocation when we willingly embrace the way of cross. Only then can we come to understand that the healing love of God goes above and beyond any physical healing that we can ever pray for. We can enjoin God by groaning inwardly in the Spirit as we wait for the liberation of the creation and our own redemption (Rom 8:19-25). While we faithfully and patiently wait for God to make his purpose come to pass, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
If God promised to ultimately heal the world of pain and suffering making everything new, then it is well worth for all crossbearers to wait upon the Object of our faith. We know for certain, that the Father will not leave or forsake us. Rather, he will be with us always, to the end of the age! (Mt 28:20)
Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on October 07, 2009:
"What is important to remember is that the object of our faith is God who provides the healing and not his promise to heal which is subject to human interpretation and can lead to a grave misunderstanding or disappointment." This is a great hub but I'm not sure if I agree with the above statement. What about Isaiah 53:4-6. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows...and by His wounds we are healed. HEALED past tense. When Jesus died on the cross He already healed us. Meaning even when we are sick Jesus already bore that sickness on the cross and we must believe by faith that because of that we are only waiting for the manifestation of the healing to take place.
James A Watkins from Chicago on August 15, 2009:
This is a great article full of edifying insights. I believe that you discern the Truth. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Judah's Daughter from Roseville, CA on August 15, 2009:
I believe even Jesus was not able to perform miracles in His own home-town for lack of faith of the people, right? I have witnessed the miracle of healing, which I wrote about in my hub "Healed of Spinal Meningitis". It was (by the direction of the Lord) a combination of anointing with oil, laying on of hands, prayer, manifestation of the illness and hospital treatment. The gifts of healing are definitely still going strong! I always appreciate the research and the Lord's Spirit in your hubs, Gicky.
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on August 14, 2009:
jesusmyjoy, yes Jesus' preaching of the gospel and healing went hand-in-hand as he addressed the need of one's spirit and physical well-being. Jesus embraced the needy person restoring such a one to wholeness and community life.
Gicky Soriano (author) from California on August 14, 2009:
jacobkuttyta, thanks for your visit and comment.
Betty Bolden from Bucyrus Ohio on August 14, 2009:
I think Jesus was concerned for the spirit first before he healed, he wanted to show others that believing and trusting Him will heal their spirits also first of all. great hub
Jacob from Delhi, India on August 14, 2009:
Thanks for the wonderful hub about healing.