Healing and New Testament Teaching
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1974, 1981
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, August 2005
Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 2005
The Bible makes it clear that God has the power to heal any affliction. He sometimes exercises that prerogative in answer to prayer. But are the “healing services” so common today the proper method to obtain cures from God? Must one go to a “healer” in order for Christ to perform His power? Is healing found in the Atonement that Christ secured for the world? These are important questions this article attempts to answer.
All of us have experienced some form of sickness in our lives and many of us are presently in some kind of affliction. Illness is something that we see all around us, it seems to be universal, and it is responsible for a great deal of suffering and misery. None of us wants to experience sickness. We avoid it when possible, and when we become ill we often try to eliminate it at all costs. Vast sums of money are spent to maintain or to regain health.
Good health is one of the most precious assets any person or family can have. Christ said He came to give us life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). A major factor in having that abundant life is good health. The apostle John told his friend Gaius: “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health” (3 John 2). Most of us wish the same thing for ourselves, our families, our friends, and indeed, even for the whole world!
Right now sickness seems rampant! Medical science and good health practices are able to control it to a certain extent, but in the long run illness wins out because all of us eventually die (Hebrews 9:27), and this is a result of affliction. Some preachers, however, say that sickness and death are the result of people sinning. This may be true in some cases, but animals also get sick and die, and none of them “sin.”
Even Christians who have had all their sins forgiven (according to plain teaching of the New Testament) are often no better off health-wise, or sometimes are worse, than those who give no heed to God. This may be difficult for Christians to accept, but wise king Solomon noted this anomaly back in his time.
“There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: I said that this is vanity.”
Solomon found it difficult to understand why sometimes the wicked prospered and were in health while the righteous were often poor and afflicted. Solomon’s appraisal was not only for the Old Testament period. Christ Himself, who informed His apostles that they could petition Him for whatever they wished and it would be bestowed — John 16:23–24, also said: “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).
There was no ordinary human more righteous from God’s point of view than the apostle Paul, but even he suffered from “a thorn in the flesh” which caused him infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). There was one particular “infirmity of the flesh” which afflicted Paul and gave him a great deal of pain and embarrassment (Galatians 4:13–15). Not only that, Paul left one of his dearest friends and colleagues sick in the region of Miletum (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul was unable to see him healed and carry on with him to Rome.
More important to the issue than anything else, Christ Jesus Himself was “a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” in body composition. In no way does the Bible show Christ as strong and robust in a physical way while on earth. He was “acquainted with grief [sickness]” and “we did esteem him stricken [plagued], smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3–4). Christ appeared sickly as Isaiah 53 plainly teaches.
Should anyone mistakenly think those sicknesses and afflictions of Isaiah 53 were experienced by Christ only while He was on the tree dying for our sins, remember that the New Testament said those illnesses were being borne by Christ throughout His ministry (Matthew 8:16–17). The fact is, when Christ appeared on earth He seemed to be in need of a physician Himself. He was one struggling to maintain health — “a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” No wonder that many of His critics cried out to Him, even though He was able to heal many people Himself: “Physician, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23).
Yes, Christ appeared sickly, yet He never sinned once in His life according to New Testament teaching (1 Peter 2:22). The sicknesses He carried in His body were on behalf of mankind (John 1:29). “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of [for] our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). 1
It is self evident that God can accomplish anything He sets out to do (1 Samuel 2:6–8). This, however, is not the point. What people need to know is the will of God in any matter. “Wherefore be you not unwise, but [be you] understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Sometimes He has willed not to heal people (2 Corinthians 12:7–9; 2 Samuel 12:15–23).
On the other hand, there are some all encompassing scriptures which seem to suggest that God heals all afflictions “[God] who forgives all your iniquities; and heals all your diseases” (Psalms 103:3). It is often said that if God forgives all of one’s sins in this life (which the Bible says is true), then it follows that He would have to heal all one’s diseases too! That is how Psalm 103 is sometimes interpreted.
Coupled with Psalm 103 is the commission given by Christ to His original apostles that those apostles (not later people) would have power to heal all afflictions (Mark 16:14–18). But even here it is recognized, even by those who proclaim a healing ministry that this apostolic commission does not give a carte blanche promise for healing of all Christians today. 2 Many people do not obtain healing by prayer or the “laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2). This is a simple truth that must be recognized.
This shows that physical healing for all Christians while in the flesh is not guaranteed by the Atonement of Christ. Though all sins that separate man from God can, and are, presently forgiven — and a perfect spiritual relationship with God can be a living reality through the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion, the result of sin often finds an expression in sickness, which is not a part of that Atonement redemption (at least, for this present life). If it were, then all would presently be healed — completely. But it is evident that even the most dedicated Christian is not exempt from sicknesses, be they major or minor. Recall that Paul said: “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick” (2 Timothy 4:20). 3
Most preachers today who have a healing ministry as a mainstay of their activities are not insisting that every person who asks for anointing or the “laying on of hands” will be healed. They deny the “Atonement connection” when they do this, and properly! They often say healing depends on the faith of the individual. 4
The truth is, sometimes it is God’s will to heal people, and sometimes it is not. At certain times in the past Christ told people that they would be healed “according to your faith” (Matthew 9:29); and when He told them that He certainly meant it! Though the application was by their own faith, it was Christ’s will that they were healed. Yet Christ healed many others without any faith on their part.
When Peter cut off the ear of one coming to arrest Him, Christ
touched the man’s ear and healed him. This man was not converted. He
expressed no faith in Christ to heal him, but he was nevertheless healed
All these people were healed by miraculous acts of Christ without faith being acknowledged, nor was faith even implied as being necessary. The fact is, at times Christ told people that faith was required for their particular healing, but with others it was not at all necessary. 5
Not all Scriptures apply to all people at all times. A good example for applying this principle is found in Exodus 15:26; 23:25. In these verses God promised the children of Israel — those coming out of Egypt — that He would not afflict them with the diseases of Egypt if they would keep His commandments. Note that the promises covered them, but not everyone at all times. It was they who were to be healed, and God kept His promise to them.
Paul did say that what happened to ancient Israel were examples of warning to us (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), but there are no factors embodied within Exodus 15:26 and 23:25 to suggest that these Scriptures were for universal application. Such a specific application for everyone is impossible because God later afflicted some of the greatest of His saints and did not heal them of their sicknesses.
“And not only they [those in the world], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
We need to know what the will of God is in any specific case and whether His promises apply directly to us. We must constantly “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). God always means what He says, but we need to know what His will is for us at all times.
James said “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15). But the faith that one must have is the faith to believe that God is a merciful God, who can and often will respond to the pleas of His people. One must put the matter into God’s hands for Him to do as He pleases. No matter what happens, we can constantly glorify Him. If He does not heal us, no one should think Christ’s sacrifice is not efficacious.
Those who wish to heed the biblical revelation need to comprehend what the teaching of faith in healing really is. Faith is a powerful weapon to combat sicknesses that occur in all humans on earth today. If faith is exercised, some wonderful healings could result — even instantaneous ones! Unfortunately, many ministers today who tell people to put faith into action for their healing are not aware of the reasons why some people are healed. They simply put it down to a miracle directly from God without studying the matter carefully.
They often tell people that healing is in the Atonement of Christ and that each healing that occurs must be a direct supernatural wonder coming from God Himself! Individuals are being told their cures are miracles caused by the personal hand of God in the same way that the Red Sea opened up when Israel came out of Egypt. But in most cases, this is not the manner in which modern healings are being accomplished — even when the name of our Lord is being used in the anointing or the “laying on of hands.”
The only faith that can save any human to spiritual salvation is Christ’s faith — not ours (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8). All the attributes of salvation which mankind must have for spiritual redemption are gifts associated with Him. They emanate from God Himself. 6 But, every person on earth today has some measure of faith resident within Himself that Christ called one’s own faith. This faith, though similar, is quite distinct from the kind of supernatural faith that only God can bestow for salvation.
That human faith can produce wondrous benefits for humans in the world if it is exercised. It can actually aid in the healing of the body in many instances — often instantaneously. Interestingly, this type of human faith has nothing to do with the Atonement of Christ. It is a natural power that God graciously gives to each human in the world. All that is needed is some kind of spark in the mind to bring that faith into operation.
Often it can be another person that engenders it. Faith can be stirred up by being in a particular inspiring area such as a mountain, a cave, a river, even an architectural masterpiece, or a million other areas. These “places” are catalysts that inspire and provoke personal faith in some people. At other times it can be a verse of scripture, the Bible itself, or an encouraging note or visit from someone “special” — someone that is trusted and believed in. In other cases faith can be energized by a “special” object, or confidence that a mixture of certain substances will have an effect on the body. 7
The point is, whatever could inspire human faith to be put into action can be beneficial to individuals. There are many people who go to well-known healers (be they Christian oriented or not) and if confidence is placed in the man or woman’s power to heal, it is often amazing what results can be obtained. 8
Even when a sick person sees a doctor (especially if the doctor is respected for his professionalism and concern), and the doctor says “You will pull through just fine” the faith and confidence that one places in that doctor and his positive opinion can have marvelous effects on the healing processes naturally found within the body. On the other hand, if the doctor says “You have little chance of survival,” such an appraisal can have devastating effects to one’s faith and very negative results can be the consequence.
There are many healings taking place daily by the use of one’s own faith that God has allowed all humans on earth to have. This was occurring in the time of Christ. When a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years touched the hem of Christ’s garment, she was made whole immediately. Jesus told her: “Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:22). Note that in this particular instance it was not the faith of Christ that caused this woman to be healed. It was her own faith! “She said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:21). It was her utter determination and confidence within her mind that she would be made well that caused her to be healed, as Christ said.
When two blind men wanted healing, they believed that Jesus was a special person who came from God. So convinced were they of His powers (and so strong was their faith) that it resulted in both men receiving their sight. But note again, Christ appraised their healings as stemming from their own faiths — not from the supernatural faith that He Himself had. Christ said to them: “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). The miracle was in the use of their own faiths, which Christ honored with healing.
Christ could, and often did, cure people through the supernatural exercise of His faith, and these healings were outright miracles directly from the hand of God and His power. Two examples of such healings are the daughter of the centurion who was healed even at a distance by Christ (Matthew 8:5–13) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John chapter 11). Such occurrences must be reckoned as divine healings or restorations without the faith of the recipients being evoked at all. God shows mercy at His own discretion.
But the Bible reveals that Christ acknowledged the power of human faith, of personal faith, as well. Certainly, in the New Testament, the healings from individual faith were accomplished because the people recognized Christ as a mighty representative from God. This belief is what sparked their own faiths for healing (and this is still being done today), but Christ was quick to point out that in many cases it was their faiths that gave them their healings, not His divine faith.
It is now being recognized by medical scientists that faith for healing — any kind of fervent belief that one will get well — is capable of securing marvelous results in many people. The potential of the mind is incredible. In some cases healings are almost instantaneous. One of the finest books ever produced on the subject is called Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins (New York: W.W. Norton). This book gives an abundance of evidence that people possessing a positive mental attitude towards an illness (that is, a strong and robust belief that one can and will be healed of the malady) has resulted in some spectacular healings.
Once such faith is put into action, it is often observed that the patient begins to improve, and in some situations the healings come at once! Amazingly, the exercise of such personal faith makes no difference if the person is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, or expresses no religious convictions at all. The power of natural faith seems to be a phenomenon that God, in the abundant mercy of His love for all His creation, has given to each person on earth. “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Physicians are coming to realize that the brain has great capability of adjusting and correcting malfunctions that occur in the body if people will but place it into action. What needs to be triggered is the will of the person to put into gear the powers that God has bestowed within the mind of each human. If this can be accomplished, the brain seems able to “scan” the complete body system, record the problems affecting it, and then begin to adjust the body mechanism to battle and conquer the difficulties.
It seems that the agent placing the brain into such an action is faith! If a person actively expresses a positive attitude (a complete faith) that the body can and will be healed, there seems to be amazing defenses put into play by the brain that often cause the body almost immediately to respond into a healing cycle. The book by Cousins shows that the results are often impressive and powerful. Something is needed to cause the person to begin to express faith. It appears that the outer consciousness of a person can get the brain to start the healing process.
What is it that can cause people to exercise faith? The answer seems to be … almost anything! Even non-religious persons can show optimism and faith when a doctor they trust tells them that a recovery is expected. This wave of peace and security often brings optimism that the brain requires to ignite the powers of healing, which the brain subconsciously controls and directs. This is one form of personal faith.
At other times, the doctor can tell a person that the medicine he or she will be given has proven so effective in treating his particular illness that the mere administering of the capsule by the doctor will bring relief, and quickly in some cases. Interestingly, even if the “medicine” is a simple sugar pill (called a placebo) the tranquil effect on the patient will often be the same as if a powerful drug were itself given.
Professor Cousins has a whole chapter in his book on the experimental use of placebos (mere candy pills without the slightest power to affect any illness) and outstanding results have occurred in many instances when patients were told (and they came to ardently believe) that they were being given a powerful and well-researched drug that would completely cure them of their sickness. This shows that it is not the truth that the brain responds to, but it is what your mind feels to be the truth that causes the brain to react.
Try a simple experiment yourself to see this demonstrated. Imagine taking a lemon out of the grocery bag and holding it in your hand. Now, eliminate all other thoughts from your mind except the fact that you have a lemon in your hand. Your whole attention must be on that lemon.
Once this is done, in your mind imagine that you take a knife and cut the lemon in half while holding it in your hand. There will be some lemon juice in your hand. Carefully wipe it away. Now take half of the lemon in your right hand. Tilt your head back, open your mouth, and squeeze the lemon so that some of the juice enters your mouth. With your tongue, swish the juice around in your mouth.
If this whole procedure is done while concentrating on the lemon, and though the experiment would be entirely imaginary, you will no doubt taste a sourness and an extra amount of saliva will be in your mouth just as though real lemon juice were there. What this shows is that one part of your brain (your conscious part) knows full well there is no lemon juice in your mouth, but you have triggered another part that is thoroughly convinced (it has faith) that there is indeed lemon juice right where you imagined it to be. 9
The point we are trying to make is that the brain has power to affect all parts of the body in a natural way. It appears that one can use the “mind” to direct the “brain” into action. There is nothing “spooky” about it. It is the use of natural (personal) faith.
Professor Cousins, and others researching this with him at UCLA, believe that medicine and doctors still have their place (often a very important place) in the curing of illnesses. I, Ernest Martin, believe the same. But in many cases it seems as if faith has as much effect, if not more so in some cases. Professor Cousins reports that Dr. Henry K Beecher, a noted medical doctor at Harvard University, considered the results of studies involving 1082 patients. The doctor discovered that across the broad spectrum of the tests, 35 percent of patients consistently experienced satisfactory relief when mere placebos were given to them (nothing but candy pills).
On a recent Sunday I heard an interview with a noted TV actress who developed some ugly warts on her hands and one under her index finger. And while reading a text from the Bible in her church she became so impressed with the message and her surroundings that upon going home she found all her warts gone and the one under her finger was only a piece of removable skin. Such happenings are not limited to Christian services alone. Such spontaneous and immediate healings have occurred even in non-religious surroundings.
Some might be led to believe that all such things must be the result of evil spirits if they are not conducted within a Christian environment. This is a very severe judgment and in no way can many of the cures be ascribed to such influences. Scientists are now beginning to see that the mind is a very powerful instrument to affect bodily processes. It could hardly be said that an evil spirit caused the saliva to appear in your mouth when you imagined lemon juice being there. That had nothing to do with any spiritual teaching.
People should begin to express optimism and faith about the problems that afflict their bodies. There is no guarantee that sicknesses will disappear, though they may, or begin to improve from the moment faith is expressed, but there is increasing evidence from the scientific world that the body will have a much better chance of survival if this is done.
Dr. C.S. Lovett in his recent (December 1980) issue of Personal Christianity shows the power of faith even without resorting to the Bible or religious factors. He records a conversation with a noted cancer specialist in San Diego, California who had this comment:
“I tell many who come to my office that they’re going to get well. And you know what? 35% of them do! And don’t think they weren’t sick in the first place. They were! But believing my words somehow causes them to get well.” 10
Many other doctors relate similar experiences. If people are told by individuals they respect and have faith in that they will surely get well, a good number of them do! That simple belief (and it must be a strong and sure belief) seems to trigger the therapeutic defenses of the brain into action. The results are often amazing — almost miraculous. And what is outstanding with the new research is that having faith in one particular religion is not the answer. It is trust in what the person believes to be true and right.
In Professor Cousin’s own cure over a disease that supposedly had no cure, he took high dosages of a vitamin supplement in addition to his faith and his continued optimism that he would get well. He thinks that the vitamin helped him in a physical way as well as his faith, but he is willing to admit that his belief that the vitamin was good may have given him a placebo effect. What he feels is necessary is to exercise balance in the whole matter, which seems reasonable. The use of professional physicians, medicines, proper diets, along with faith seems to be the proper approach. But faith should never be ruled out or minimized. In actual fact, we would place it first in importance.
But faith in what? For those of us who are part of the Body of Christ, the ekklesia, we should have faith in God and Christ of course! This is where true faith should rest — not in some geographical area, a medallion, a cloth, or a preacher. However, since healing is not in the Atonement of Christ, your own personal faith could be expressed in many normal things. A doctor you can truly trust and one you believe gives good medical care and sound advice could be of great help. The fact that you have confidence in his advice is itself an act of faith.
I am not a medical doctor so I am not professionally capable of telling a person what to do with any illness, but if a doctor you trust tells you to take a particular treatment for your cancer (and if you strongly believe that he is right and that the treatment will work) it may well do so! Who knows? Is it the value of the treatment itself, or is it your belief that the treatment will work that makes the difference? I do not know the answer. It may be a combination of both, but I believe that faith itself is the stronger of the two.
One thing we do know, medical scientists are now discovering in a profound way, that having a strong and robust faith to live, with an optimistic outlook on life, adopting a forgiving and loving spirit, and showing a willingness to respect God and all humankind, puts in one’s possession some of the most therapeutic advantages for good health known to man. 11
Activating the fruits of the Holy Spirit in one’s life can place one in the best environment for good health and an abundant life. That is the best “pill” or “doctor” that one can have. Of course, one should not give up other ways of gaining health. Yet faith is an excellent place to start. Instantaneous healings have been witnessed, even by non-religious scientists. Even Christ acknowledged the power of personal faith: “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29).
It is time that all of us begin to exercise this wonderful tool that God has placed in every human on earth. Healings obtained in this natural way may be reckoned as “miracles” because they show the wonderful body functions that God has given to us all. Faith that we express is designed by God to work in our favor, if we are but willing to put those powers of faith to work.
What about preachers who focus primarily on a healing ministry, along with a salvation in Christ? I have not the slightest doubt that some people are healed through the campaigns, though of course, it would be absurd to say that everyone who is touched by the evangelist’s hands is cured. The truth is the vast majority of such healings (even difficult and sometimes spectacular ones) occur because of intense faith being exercised by the people themselves. This has to be the case because the apostle Paul, in one of his final letters, said there was only one mediator between God and man, and that man was Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
No person on earth needs any other man or woman as a mediator to gain any spiritual blessing from God. True enough, James said that it was proper for elders of the ekklesias (he used the plural) to pray for and anoint the sick (James 5:14), but this was the elders going to the sick, not the sick going to them! This can be put in the same category as friends and loved ones praying for the sick as well. God sometimes shows mercy and the sick are made well by a true miracle, although such a thing is not promised in the teaching of the Atonement.
Many preachers today have the whole question of healing out of perspective. Indeed, they even go contrary to the express wishes of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible. How often do you hear preachers say: “Come to my meeting and expect a miracle in your life — expect to see signs and wonders”? Of course they almost always say it is Christ who will perform the miracles. Even so, this procedure is contrary to the teaching of Christ. He said an evil and an adulterous generation seeks after signs (Matthew 12:39, 16:4).
And though it is true that signs and wonders do sometimes occur (even the false prophet of Revelation 13:11–14 will do outstanding miracles through the power of Satan), this does not mean that any of the preachers are God’s ministers. 12 Note what Christ said Himself:
“Not every one that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ... Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.’”
All people doing such things look good on the surface. This is why people can be deceived so easily by preachers who emphasize “prophesying,” “casting out devils,” and doing “wonderful works” — those who tell people to come to them “looking for signs and wonders.” Even Paul said that Satan himself is transformed into looking like a holy, righteous angel, “therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [ministers of Satan] also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15).
We do not mean, of course, that all such ministers who preach “signs and wonders” as a part of their teaching are overtly evil. But those who make a “side-show” out of their healing ministries and telling people to come expecting signs and wonders are not within the will of God as shown by Christ. When He healed people such as the young woman raised from the dead, the deaf man made whole, and the blind person whose sight was restored, Christ emphatically told them “to tell no man” (Mark 5:43, 7:36, 8:26). He did say to go show the priest (Matthew 8:4) which was a way of saying “go to the doctor” to get a physician’s release as a result of the cure.
But some modern preachers want to make a public spectacle out of their healing campaigns. One wonders if they want Christ to receive the prestige, or receive it themselves? And though some people are psychologically persuaded to express their faith to be healed in a highly charged environment (and some are healed), they could have gotten the same effect (as scientific research has shown) if they developed faith on their own.
It is better that faith be developed in a more scriptural way. Why cannot evangelists simply tell people to trust in Christ and His power to heal, and in a person’s own ability to exercise faith, while they can stay at home? Many evangelists would not like this idea. There is no showmanship with it! Some feel there must be spectacle — a type of entertainment! If people stay at home, they would not put any money into the offering plate.
The only ones who feel that physicians and medicine are taboo for Christians are those who think sickness is always the result of sins. Since it is clear that only God can forgive sins, they shun doctors and medicines. But we have seen Biblical evidence that sickness is not always caused by sin. Then if one is ill, not because of sins — or conversely, if he is ill because of sins (but he is now forgiven by Christ) — what can one do to treat the sickness?
First, he can pray the prayer of faith and ask God to have mercy on him, and God may heal him. But if God does not wish to heal this person miraculously, is there anything wrong in his trying to alleviate the symptoms by physical methods? Can one obtain professional advice without incurring God’s wrath?
One thing is certain, doctors and medicines in themselves are not evil. They are human and physical. They may aid a person or they may not aid him, but to use them professionally is not wrong spiritually. Even God approves medicines: “A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries [withers] the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Medicines can be good. 13 They could also be bad if taken improperly. But God compares a good medicine to a merry heart. That is certainly approval. When the prophet Isaiah personified the nation of Israel, he said of it:
“Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
The implication is a strong attestation that the wounds and sores should have been cared for. Christ commended the Good Samaritan for binding up the wounds of the Jew, “pouring in oil and wine” (Luke 10:34). Isaiah put a poultice of figs on a swelling or ulcer to heal King Hezekiah of a sickness which had nearly cost him his life (2 Kings 20:7). These examples show that the application of physical remedies for bodily ailments is not wrong. Medicines can be good if used correctly. After all, they are not treating sins! 14
Physicians likewise are not wrong in themselves. To have professional advice for the prevention, care, and cure of sicknesses is right and proper, though one must realize that physicians are only human and can make mistakes. Christ even said that “they that be whole [those who are well] need not a physician, but they that are sick [they need a physician]” (Matthew 9:12). Yet one must be careful not to put total trust in a physician at the expense of forgetting God and neglecting to ask Him for forgiveness and mercy. King Asa of Judah paid with his life for trusting solely in physicians without appealing to God:
“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.”
2 Chronicles 16:12
This king should have sought God’s mercy in a prayer of faith (James 5:15) early in his illness. One should not put complete trust for healing in any man. It is possible to suffer from the hands of man. The woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years had suffered many things from several physicians (Mark 5:25–26). This is not a censure of physicians themselves. It simply shows that their human endeavors to cure the woman were not good in her case. One must always express faith in God above any man.
Some have thought both surgical operations and the use of medicines are wrong from another point of view. A major Scripture they cite against such is:
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
1 Corinthians 3:17
Paul calls that temple the Christian’s body (1 Corinthians 6:19). Thus, it is argued by some that medicines should not be put into God’s temple, for this would “defile” it. If this is true, then should we not also refrain from drinking coffee, tea, or soda? Each cup or bottle of these common drinks taken into the body would “defile” it with the drug caffeine. Even chocolate contains theobromine which is very similar to caffeine. 15 There are many other items found in the kitchen which people regularly consume as foodstuffs that also contain what must be called drugs. Should any of these substances be put into the body? Will they “defile the temple of God”? Christ made it clear that things entering the body did not defile it.
“Do you not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats [foods]? And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Physical things entering into the body are of much less consequence to Christ than the evil which comes out of the heart. Christ even allowed His disciples to eat with “defiled, that is to say, with unwashed, hands” (Mark 7:2). The Pharisees found fault with this practice but Christ could care less about external material entering the body. He was more interested in what comes out of the heart. That is what can defile the body.
Do vaccinations “defile the body”? Are they, as some have thought, “against nature”? The truth of the matter is, if one allows “nature” to work, he could very well contract smallpox if exposed to it, and die. Or if he survives, his body will have built up antibodies as a natural protection against recurrence of the dread disease. Vaccinations have their effectiveness according to the same process. They attempt to assist nature to build up enough antibodies to prevent the disease from catching hold in the body. In theory vaccinations work with nature, not against it. Certainly, they do not “defile the temple of God.”
Blood transfusions have been objected to by some denominations because the Old Testament commanded that the Israelites to “eat no manner of blood” (Leviticus 7:26; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23, etc.). But there is a big difference in “eating blood” via ingestion and having it injected into the veins. What the command says is plain: In all clarity it simply says not to eat the blood of an animal with its flesh. The physiological reason for this statute is not given, nor should some esoteric meaning be sought beyond the simple command. Just because the “life” is in an animal’s blood does not mean that humans assume the life of the beast (and become beastly) as a result of eating that blood. Neither does the “soul” of one human enter the “soul” of another if blood is given intravenously. There can be nothing wrong, in itself, with having a blood transfusion because this is not eating blood with the flesh.
What about surgery? Is amputating part of the body, removing a diseased or malfunctioning member or organ, defiling that body? The Biblical answer to this is, “No!” Why, God even commanded circumcision for His people as a holy sign — and that definitely was a surgical operation. Circumcision is cutting away a completely healthy part of the body — which in no way defiles “the temple of God.”
Actually, 1 Corinthians 3:17 is not talking about defiling the temple of God (the human body) with physical substances, whether they are gnats, dirt, or medicines. Neither is it referring to physical operations such as circumcisions or appendectomies. First Corinthians 3:17 is better rendered from the Greek as: “If any one the temple of God destroy, destroy him shall God” (Speakers’ Commentary).
Paul was not talking about a simple “defiling.” It was a destruction. The parallel shows that God will destroy the one who destroys God’s temple. This was a severe judgment. If any person would cause the Corinthians to be destroyed, that is, to be put to death, Paul said God would punish him in a like judgment. After all, when men persecute members of His divine organism — true Christians — they are persecuting the temple of God itself.
Some sicknesses are caused by sins. This should be acknowledged. Christians should repent of those sins and apply the blood of Christ to them so that they can be forgiven here and now (1 John 1:9). Once forgiven, the Christian is now in the same position as one who is sick but not because of sinning. Both stand on the same platform. One has been forgiven of sin, but is still sick. The other is sick without having committed sins in the first place. What should they do next?
Both should ask for God’s mercy to heal them. If the sickness is serious enough, James 5:14–15 says the elders of the ekklesia could anoint with oil and pray the prayer of faith for God’s mercy. One must have faith that God can show mercy, not that He must always show it (Romans 9:15). But to consult a physician or take a medicine once God has been petitioned for mercy is not wrong because they are not treating sins — Christ has done that already.
And most important, no one should ever be told he has a lack of faith if he is not healed by God. Destroying a person’s faith is a serious offense (Romans 14:21). The lot of the Christian in this present age is to “groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). Our complete healing of all physical ailments is only within the Atonement of Christ at the time our bodies are redeemed, in the resurrection. Complete healing has not been promised us in this lifetime.
Probably the biggest problem with those men and women who have “healing ministries” is their teaching that they have some kind of “special anointing” from Christ. Yes, there are gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9), but this is knowledge about healing — how to help people get well. People with such gifts are physicians (such as the evangelist Luke), dieticians, counselors, etc. It has nothing to do with some kind of “special gift” to lay hands on people for them to be miraculously healed.
The truth is, almost all healings that take place in healing campaigns (in my judgment) are the type we have been talking about in this article. Evangelistic healing campaigns do nothing more than to get the person to express his or her own faith. This is where the problem lies. The “healing evangelist” (and those that support him or her) usually say it was a “special anointing” that allowed Christ to heal the sick person through him or her. In most cases this is not true. The same thing could be duplicated in a person’s home, even while the person is alone, if the power of faith is activated in one’s mind.
There is now only “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). There is no need for any “special anointed” evangelists. What is needed are teachers of the Bible who can show the wonderful messages of the Scripture so people can learn to exercise their own faiths. In all instances “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Faith can work wonders for all who practice it. Faith in Christ and His power to heal and to bless has a dynamism associated with it that can be exercised by all.
How do you inspire that faith? 16 The best way, from a mature New Testament point of view, is to learn to express faith in all activities of one’s life (no matter what they are — for healing, prosperity, or happiness) without any human mediator, any material artifact, any geographical location, or any idol coming in the way as a mediator. Only one individual is now a mediator between God and man — Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). The trouble with most of us is that we are still fleshly and we feel we need something to see, or to touch, or to swallow (like a pill), to give us faith.
Whatever the case, it is now being shown by medical scientists that faith (no matter what inspires it) is a powerful antidote to many illnesses. True, there is nothing wrong in consulting professional doctors (even Christ said the sick needed physicians, Matthew 9:12), but it is becoming increasingly clear that faith is one of the strongest deterrents to illness and the best medicine for health.
Faith, of itself, will not work in all cases, for unknown reasons, but everyone can benefit in a measurable way. Along with faith one should have a robust desire to live and to be happy. It is even being suggested that laughter is also very helpful to health. This is in agreement with Scripture: “A merry heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). One should look on life as an adventure, in a happy way. As believers in Christ, even our pains and sorrows should be reckoned as finally working out for good (Romans 8:28). Try not to take things too seriously. Love life! Love people! Be forgiving! Be merciful! And love yourself! That will keep down stress, give you faith, and bestow a healthful attitude towards life.
We should be as happy and optimistic as possible. Get rid of negative thoughts that so often dominate our lives and increasingly practice the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21–22). Put faith into action! As a result, we might experience a revolution in health for the human race. Remember that even Christ approved of the use of our own faiths: “According to your faith, be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29).
Since healing from sicknesses and the first death are not within the Atonement of Christ at present should one now be anointed for sickness? The Scripture says “Yes.” If one is anointed, what does he ask Christ to do for him? James wrote to the 12 tribes of Israel (James 1:1):
“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church [ekklesia]; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
In this instruction we are nowhere asked to apply Christ’s Atonement for our healing. We are told only to anoint with oil and to pray over the one who is sick, to pray the prayer of faith. But what should the prayer of faith be concerned with regarding the healing of the sick one? Really, the prayer should be for MERCY!
“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go you and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus was talking about sick people. He said the sick need a physician. He was the Great Physician during His ministry. He went about healing people. He healed them by showing MERCY — He desires to give people MERCY. “I will have MERCY and not sacrifice.” Christ healed people because He had mercy on them. His healings were an expression of intense sympathy with suffering humanity. Note some examples:
All these examples of healings done by Christ occurred before His Atonement was fully worked out. He was simply showing the people mercy. And later, when Epaphroditus was healed of his sickness, Paul said:
When James wrote his instructions about anointing the sick for healing, he said three verses earlier, in context: “The Lord is very pitiful [compassionate] and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). It is Christ’s mercy that one appeals to for healing now, not His Atonement! Christ can then respond with His mercy as He pleases.
“For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.”
Christ may not wish to show mercy at this time for a higher cause, as in Paul’s case when Christ told him He would not release him from the “thorn in the flesh” so that He might keep him humble. Timothy continued to suffer his “often infirmities.” Christ did not heal him. But through Paul, Christ did heal others in miraculous ways — even with pieces of cloth (Acts 19:11–12). 17
Which is better, many miracles which can awe the people into a belief in God, or an outpouring of spiritual awareness of God? Christ said it was “a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign [a wonder or miracle]” (Matthew 16:4). Really, miracles of healing, or whatever, were important in the beginning of the Gospel. Christ performed many miracles. Paul healed the cripple at Lystra, cast out an evil spirit from a Philippian girl, and restored Eutychus to life. But later in his ministry, Timothy still had sicknesses, Trophimus and Epaphroditus became sick, and Paul himself was sick.
When the full knowledge of Christ’s Gospel began to be known, miracles became less and less important. What the Spirit then gave was more knowledge, faith, hope, and love. This is what counts for today — not miracles. We are now in the age where the emphasis is upon spiritual blessings, not physical ones. Let us rejoice in God’s great love for us and in the knowledge of His Gospel.
In the meantime, we can ask for God’s mercy. He can respond in marvelous ways. It is also permissible to obtain professional aid from those physicians who can help those who are now groaning within themselves. Having sicknesses and diseases is not pleasant, but we can learn to love others and to sympathize with them if we experience sicknesses ourselves from time to time.
“And we know that all things [even sicknesses and death] work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
All things have a purpose with God — even infirmities. Until the complete redemption of our bodies, let us help one another in our afflictions. Let us always be encouraging our fellow brethren to believe Christ has truly conquered sin, sickness, and death. And when Christ returns, all blessings will be ours. Meanwhile, let us continue to ask God for His mercy. He is a merciful God.
“The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
Ernest L. Martin, 1974, 1981
Edited by David Sielaff, August 2005
1 For a detailed explanation why Christ was allowed by the Father to be sickly while in the flesh, see the article (for September 2005), “Healing and Christian Atonement.” It will be an eye-opener to those who have not studied the subject in detail. ELM
2 Witness the fact that [faith healer] Oral Roberts is building a major hospital on his campus at Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is wise enough to know that the “laying on of hands” for healing does not affect complete cures for all peoples today. ELM
3 Some preachers and laity will not accept this. They say that forgiveness of sin and physical healing go hand in glove. This is not true! If it were, it would have the sad effect of telling a person that he or she is still in sins if any get sick and remain sick! Such a false concept is very destructive to faith in Christ. At the very time people need faith the most, people would believe that their illness shows that their sins are not covered or atoned for. That must be the case if present healing, along with the forgiveness of sins, is a part of the Atonement of Christ. Sickness is not always a consequence of sin (John 9:1–3). The false doctrine that healing in the flesh is part of the Atonement should be jettisoned from people’s minds who respect the biblical revelation. ELM
4 Though true, even this fact can be dangerous if the principle of faith is not correctly understood. Imagine what this could mean to a person who is ill and is told that all that needs to be done to obtain complete healing is to express faith — to show intense faith — and healing will be inevitable. Again this is an unwise and erroneous suggestion. We come to the situation of the person who does not experience healing now having to believe that he or she is showing faithlessness to God. How sad! ELM
5 These scriptural examples show that faith was not universally applied for healing, though faith is always important. But having faith is certainly not a guarantee that one will be healed of sickness, as we have seen in Paul’s case. We must be careful not to apply all Scriptures in a haphazard manner. This is why Paul admonished Timothy to: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, … rightly divide [partitioning] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). ELM
7 This is not some form of magical thinking. This is a natural use of God’s creative power given to every human being, each one created by God to be “a little lower than gods” (Psalm 8:5, Hebrew). Hebrews 2:7 and 2:9 qualify that passage by showing that all humanity, including Jesus, were created “a little lower than angels.” DWS
8 Just as there are psychosomatic illnesses (those caused by one’s state of mind that manifest physically), so too healing can be affected by one’s faith and state of mind. Most often this faith is directed toward something or someone that inspires. One must be mature and use wisdom so as to not make the object of one’s faith into an idol. For Christians that object should be God DWS
9 The best way to do this experiment is to call up a friend on the telephone, without telling them this is an experiment, and go through the step-by-step procedure. In almost all cases your friends will have extra saliva when you tell them to put the lemon juice in their mouths. ELM This is not some sort of mysticism, but rather it is an example of an action-reaction, a cause and effect, stimulus-response demonstration of how your mind interacts with your body. The same technique can be used to help the natural processes of your body heal itself, bearing in mind that all life comes from and is sustained by God the Father through Christ Jesus. DWS
10 I have not been able to locate this article or the publication to verify Dr. Martin’s quote. DWS
11 The apostle Paul recommended the power of our thoughts, that they should be joyful and not negative, so that peace may result for us. He expresses extremely good advice with repeated uses of the word “rejoice” in this exhortation to the Philippian ekklesia, whose members had stresses, strains, difficulties, and horrors of life every bit as real as yours. Note the verbs:
“REJOICE in the Lord always: and again I say, REJOICE. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren,
whatever is true, whatever is honest [Greek: sober, serious], whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS. Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But I REJOICED in the Lord greatly ...”
Paul commanded them to “think on these things.” The verb “think” is a command, in the imperative mood. Your attitude also plays a role: “A merry heart does good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). A negative attitude has an opposite effect. Jealousy, hate, envy, stress, and a lack of incentive to live can produce some disastrous situations in the mind and body. DWS/ELM
12 One of the best things that could happen for those who conduct such campaigns would be to place in back of the pulpit, so that all who come to the meeting can see it, the teaching of Christ which says: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” If such preachers did place such a banner in full view, I wonder how many people would come to their meetings “expecting a miracle”? If they did, they could all be called evil and adulterous! ELM
13 In the millennium God provides healing (most translations use the English term “medicine”) from the leaves of trees on the banks of the stream that shall flow from the Temple to the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47:12). DWS
14 Some object strenuously to the use of drugs. They point to Revelation 18:23 as reason for refraining from using them. It says that “sorcerers” ought to be avoided: The word “sorcerers” in the Book of Revelation is from the Greek pharmakeia — equal to “drugging.” These drugs have been associated with evil Babylon. But really, the reference is not to normal drugs used for the alleviation of sicknesses or pains. The term pharmakeia used in Revelation refers primarily to hallucinatory drugs which were used to condition the mind in order to receive evil influences. These types of drugs used for occult purposes were the ones synonymous with “sorceries” and are not proper to use. Substances taken as medicines are not in themselves wrong. This does not mean that drugs are desirable to take on all occasions, nor that they should be taken indiscriminately without a physician’s supervision, but there is nothing inherently evil in them. ELM
15 The Latin term “theobromine” means “food of God,” which is similar in meaning to “cacao,” the food honored by Indians of Central and South America. See article about the similarities of chocolate to caffeine at “Chemistry of Theobromine: Chocalate’s Caffeine Relative” at http://chemistry.about.com/library/weekly/aa090301a.htm?terms=theobromine. DWS
16 If the only way one can do it is by going to some “healing minister,” then that may help in an artificial way. Some native people go to shamans or witch doctors and get results. One’s own faith can work in any environment as long as one trusts the environment as proper (to him or her). It is not a biblical command to send out anointed clothes for healing, but even with this wrong procedure some have obtained faith through their use — though it could almost be called idolatrous. ELM
Nowhere is there scriptural authority for anointing pieces of cloth and
sending them to people for healing. We are not told that the aprons and
handkerchiefs which people took from Paul’s person were anointed by him. See
Acts 19:11–12. There may not be anything wrong with the practice in itself,
but it has not the least Biblical warrant. Indeed, several of our Lord’s
cures were performed while He was at a distance from the patient (Matthew
15:21–28; John 4:46–53; Luke 7:1–10). His prayers were all that were
necessary. He dispatched no anointed cloths. ELM
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