Does God Heal Today?
The subject of divine healing is a greatly neglected part of most people's Christianity. It is rarely even discussed in "mainstream" churches.
Why? The primary reason for this neglect is that a very real Satan the Devil has blinded the vast majority of humanity—including most professing Christians! Today, many churchgoers do not really study the Bible. They do not look to it as the real "authority" in their lives. They are content to follow the teachings and traditions of men—which are all too often diametrically opposed to the Bible. Also, many have seen the "tent meetings" put on by various "evangelists" where there is a lot of whooping and hollering and mass hysteria—and precious little genuine healing!
As always, we should ask: "What does the Bible actually say? Can we prove this matter of divine healing clearly from the inspired word of God?"
Yes. We certainly can! And the biblical proofs are more plain and pervasive than you have probably ever imagined.
But what about doctors? Should they be our main focus when we are ill? And what about the spread of AIDS, the Ebola virus, "mad cow" disease, and other diseases coming along which doctors cannot cure?
If we truly believe Jesus' own prophecies of end-time disease epidemics, we had better be realistic about where we should put our ultimate trust!
Many are very quick to trust doctors: "Don't we now have penicillin and other wonderful drugs that can cure almost anything?"
Scores of top medical doctors and scientists have reported in recent years that new "supergerms" are coming along, and that antibiotics and other drugs that have been successfully (in some cases) used in the past are often not effective anymore. Note carefully these statements from the February 4, 2004, Charlotte Observer: "Antibiotics, the drugs that have saved millions of lives over the last 60 years, are failing their mission, outsmarted by the oldest, most successful life form on the planet: bacteria. The cause is the mishandling of the very antibiotics created to cure infections. Decades of overuse in treating humans and misuse in animal food production have caused mutant bacteria to flourish, creating new generations of supergerms impervious to virtually all known antibiotic treatment. In short, our saviors have become our assassins…. 'The bugs are getting better, and we're running out of drugs,' says Barry Kreiswirth, a principal investigator at Public Health Research Institute in Newark, NJ, and director of its TB Center. 'I mean, everything is going in the wrong direction,' he added. 'We're going back to 1944, before penicillin, because we can't treat these infections…. We're just creating this monster.'"
Also, think about these powerful statements from Lisa Sanders, M.D., as reported in The New York Times (March 16, 2003): "A decade ago, I stood alongside my 99 fellow freshmen as we were welcomed into the ranks of medicine in a 'white coat ceremony.' Here, on our first day of med school, we were presented with the short white coats that proclaimed us part of the mystery and the discipline of medicine. During that ceremony, the dean said something that was repeated throughout my education: half of what we teach you here is wrong—unfortunately, we don't know which half. At the time it was hard to believe. Within those walls, in the anatomy lab, in the lecture hall, you feel that you are being shown the secrets of how the body is put together, how it lives, how it works, how it dies. It has the feel of authority and certainty. Like math, it has a feeling of inevitability. But now, as a practicing doctor and teacher of residents, I relive that dean's aphorism daily. Medicine is, and always has been, an evolving discipline. And this necessarily means that what we know about medicine is constantly changing; that medicine is forever putting forth, and simultaneously upending, assumptions. This is particularly true at this moment. Virtually all of our medical therapeutic options are being questioned, evaluated and re-evaluated by researchers across the globe."
Dr. Sanders admits that some of the top professors in medical school acknowledge that "half" of what they teach may be wrong. So in which "half" are you going to put your faith?
Additionally, note carefully the following facts from the Public Citizen Newsletter of July 2002:
- 70 percent of doctors treating Medicare patients flunked an exam on their knowledge of prescribing for older adults.
- The majority of physicians who were asked to take the exam refused, often giving as their reason that they had a "lack of interest in the subject."
- 48 percent of patients taking three or more drugs were given drugs with one or more harmful interactions with other drugs.
- Every minute, two people are hospitalized for adverse drug reactions (1,500,000 a year) and there is a death every five minutes and 15 seconds (100,000 a year). Every three-and one-quarter minutes, someone suffers drug-induced or drug-worsened memory loss (163,000 a year). It is reversible if you know which drug was the cause.
"Healing vs. medicine" has long been an issue of discussion in the faith community. Doctors and medicine have been attacked as evil, yet the Bible three times records Christ saying that physicians are for the sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31), and Luke is called the "beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). Medicines have been categorized as evil poisons that defile the body, and the use of natural substances as more virtuous. Yet many medicines are derived from plant substances, and their composition is merely more consistent and concentrated. People will go to a dentist, yet reject going to a doctor, even though the dentist may perform some procedures similar to what a doctor might perform.
People have been told to claim God's promise of healing (Mark 1:40–42), and have been told that their not being healed is due to a lack of faith. God used the Apostle Paul to heal others. Yet when Paul on three occasions asked God to heal him (2 Corinthians 12:8–9), God revealed that it was not His will to heal Paul; that Paul could "make it" without being healed. Paul's infirmity was due to God's will—not to Paul's lack of faith.
People who died trusting God, and avoided going to doctors, have been deemed more righteous than some who took advantage of what medical science had to offer to prolong life. On the other hand, in recent years many have ceased looking to God altogether—they simply run to a doctor for treatment.
In retrospect, we see that many ideas that have circulated in the faith community have not always been consistent with the Scriptures, and seem to lack balance in the approach to the subject of healing, medicine and health. There is a need for better understanding of these subjects and related biblical principles. Faith is obviously a major factor (Matthew 9:29). Where we place our trust is also a factor (2 Chronicles 16:12). Getting advice from a doctor who is knowledgeable about the human body and disease is not the same as putting blind trust in any medical practitioner—the Bible does say that there is safety in a multitude of counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22).
The Bible offers several perspectives on healing. Healing is a prerogative of God. It is described as one of the benefits that God makes available to human beings (Psalm 103:1–5). It is also described as a gift from God (1 Corinthians 12:7–11). Healing is the forgiveness of sin (Mark 2:1–12). Medicines and surgeries do not heal; they merely treat symptoms—sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Divine healing is not the same as working with natural means of repairing the body. God heals in His time and according to His purpose, not according to our demands and wishes.
Healing played a dramatic role in the first-century Church to attract attention to the message being preached. Yet even the historian Edward Gibbon indicates that this dramatic manifestation of power seems to have been withdrawn at some point in time (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 15). Yet Scripture indicates that God may yet again pour out this power more frequently and dramatically as we come closer to the end of the age—and closer to God.
In the broader scope, God is not only concerned with healing our bodies. He also wants us to learn how to live a way of life. If our physical problems are healed every time we make a mistake, we may not learn the vital lesson that we must learn to manage our bodies wisely and live in harmony with physical laws. When we are sick, we are not only instructed to be anointed and look to God, but to examine our lives and behaviors to see what we might have done wrong and repent of those actions (James 5:14–16). Healing is not simply a mechanism for bailing us out of problems we may have brought upon ourselves—it is important we also learn lessons so we can teach others. While prayer has a vital place in restoring health, we are also told that "whatever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).
Looking carefully at the ministry of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, it is clear that divine healing was a vital part of the preaching of the gospel. The book of Matthew tells us how Jesus began His ministry: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people" (Matthew 4:23).
You will notice that Jesus constantly did three things in His ministry. He:
(1) Preached the gospel
(2) Healed the sick
(3) Cast out demons
An incident in Peter's home shows us more about the background of divine healing: "When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'" (Matthew 8:16–17). Here, Matthew explains that Jesus' healings were to fulfill the scripture, in Isaiah, which shows that Jesus—the Messiah—"bore our sicknesses." Matthew was quoting the famous passage in Isaiah 53 that clearly described the role of the coming Messiah. The Messiah was to be "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (v. 3). The inspired Isaiah also tells us: "Surely our diseases He did bear, and our pains he carried; whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded because of our transgressions, He was crushed because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed" (Isaiah 53:4–5, The Holy Scriptures).
The Jewish scholars who performed the above translation do know how to translate the Hebrew Bible! Those scriptures correctly indicate that Jesus bore "our diseases." The vast majority of scholars also acknowledge this, as can be seen in footnotes in the New King James Version, the Revised Standard Version and other translations of the Bible. The New International Version renders as "infirmities" the word that the KJV renders as "griefs." Scholars know that the word translated as "griefs" literally means "sicknesses" in Isaiah's original Hebrew.
In Matthew 10, we find that Jesus gave His twelve leading disciples authority to heal and to cast out demons: "And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease" (v. 1). But, many will say:
"Wasn't this just for the twelve original Apostles, and not for us today?"
No! In Luke 10:1–9, we read that Jesus gave "seventy others" this same authority to heal! Notice: "'Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you'" (vv. 8–9). And at the very end of His human life, Jesus gave a basic instruction for all of His faithful servants down through time. He commanded: "'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.… And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover'" (Mark 16:15, 17–18).
One of the "signs" of the true Church of God is divine healing! This was manifested throughout the ministry of Jesus and the original Apostles and the "seventy others." Later, we find that the Apostle Paul, called to take the gospel to the Gentiles, frequently healed people. Acts 14 recounts an incident in which Paul, seeing that a crippled man "had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, 'Stand up straight on your feet!' And he leaped and walked" (vv. 9–10).
In Acts 8:1–7, we read that God's Church was scattered from Jerusalem, and that the disciples traveled throughout Palestine preaching and teaching Christ's message. One of them, Philip, had only recently been ordained as a deacon (Acts 6:5). No doubt because he had a great deal of faith—as did his fellow deacon, Stephen (v. 8)—Philip was used to heal the sick, cast out demons and perform miracles. Notice: "And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed" (Acts 8:6–7).
The above is clear biblical proof that others—not just the Apostles—were used to heal the sick and cast out demons. Of course, it was through the power of Jesus Christ and in His "name"—His authority—that these miracles were performed. God's word tells us: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). That power to heal is available to God's faithful ministers today just as it was to all of the Apostles, the "seventy others" and the other faithful servants of God during the apostolic age and ever since, for those who have faith in the word of God!
Notice this revealing incident that took place near the end of Paul's ministry—and near the end of the apostolic age: "And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed" (Acts 28:8–9). Note that Paul "laid his hands" on Publius' father as he healed him. This was a regular practice of God's true servants and indicates, among other things, that God works through human instruments.
We find that even Jesus "laid His hands" on sick people to heal them (Mark 6:5), and that when the Twelve Apostles were sent out on a local mission, "they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them" (v. 13). It is important to note that the disciples "anointed with oil" the sick people. The oil itself did not heal; it was a "symbol" of the Holy Spirit—a reminder that through the power of the Holy Spirit, healing would take place.
The Apostles, like all faithful ministers since, prayed for the sick, laid hands on them and also anointed them with oil. Sometimes dramatic miracles of healing occurred when God's servants just commanded the healing to take place, but "standard procedure" for the Apostles and elders included the "laying on of hands" and "anointing with oil." The Apostle James gave an instruction clearly meant for all time: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14–15).
Why do professing ministers of Jesus Christ not practice this today? Why are so few professing Christians being supernaturally healed?
Satan the Devil has thoroughly blinded the vast majority of humanity—including many of you who are reading this! God's inspired word describes Satan as "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Later, God tells us that at Christ's return to earth, Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit, "so that he should deceive the nations no more" (Revelation 20:3).
As the "prince of the power of the air"—the invisible ruler over this earth (Ephesians 2:2)—Satan has influenced human society, and even most churches, to think of God as "unreal," as "far away" and not as a powerful Personality who can and does intervene in human affairs regularly! Satan is glad to have us think of the Creator God as a vague, far-away entity. For if we knew that God is a very real, dynamic and powerful Spirit Being—who, if we have faith, could and does directly help us, bless us and heal us of every sickness and of every disease—then we might actually begin to genuinely worship and obey Him, and do what God says! But this is the very last thing that Satan wants.
Satan the Devil wants to keep human beings blinded to the reality of God so that we will not truly serve and obey Him, and therefore will not be counted worthy to become kings and priests in Christ's soon-coming Kingdom and to replace Satan and his demons in ruling over this earth (1 Corinthians 6:2–3; Revelation 2:26–27; 5:10).
Satan has influenced mankind to seek a different way of deliverance from sickness rather than looking to God. He has influenced man in this—as in every aspect of life—to look to his own devices and his own human reasoning instead of seeking God's will and His solutions.
The story of King Asa is told in 2 Chronicles 14–16. We find that God sent a prophet to tell this basically good king of Judah: "The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (2 Chronicles 15:2). Note that God is not automatically "with you" all the time. He is "with" His servants "while you are with Him," and says that "if you seek Him, He will be found by you."
How many professing "Christians" truly seek God's will regarding "healing?" The truth is that most have never even thought about it, or been taught about it!
King Asa obviously did not consider that God was in the picture either! For although God had blessed him and delivered him in many ways, when Asa became seriously ill: "He did not seek the LORD but the physicians" (2 Chronicles 16:12). The result? "So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign" (2 Chronicles 16:13).
The key point to remember is that Asa left God out of the picture completely. In his sickness, Asa seemed to forget totally that the great Creator God, who had delivered him before, could do anything, and certainly could heal "all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease" (Matthew 4:23). So Asa died as a comparatively young man.
Then we read the story of Ahaziah, king of Israel during the time of Elijah the prophet. Ahaziah had every reason to know that God was real and that He was the Healer, for Elijah had performed many signs and wonders that must have come to Ahaziah's attention.
But when Ahaziah was seriously injured, what did he do? "He sent messengers and said to them, 'Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury'" (2 Kings 1:2). God's faithful servant, Elijah, heard of this and sent word to Ahaziah: "'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?' Now therefore, thus says the LORD: 'You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.' So Elijah departed" (vv. 3–4). And verse 17 completes the rest of the story: "So Ahaziah died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken."
Obviously, much of the problem was that Ahaziah went not to the true God, but to Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. It is important to note that this Baal-Zebub was also the "god of medicine." Indications are that Baal-Zebub's adherents were given various potions or healing medicines along with their devotion to this pagan "god."
Most religious scholars recognize that New Testament Christians are considered spiritual "Israelites" or spiritual "Jews" (Romans 2:28–29). Note Galatians 6:16, where Paul tells the Galatian Christians: "And as many as walk according to this rule,peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God." If Christ were to come among us today—in this human society—would He not tell us: "Is it because there is no God in the Church (spiritual 'Israel') that you are constantly going to human doctors and utterly failing to come to Me as your Healer?"
Many people have been "turned off" to the concept of God's healing because they have seen or heard about so many "fake healers." Sadly, there are quite a number of conniving individuals who use Christ's name as a "cover" for all kinds of totally unbiblical ideas and concepts—including a totally wrong and sometimes almost blasphemous approach to divine healing.
Some of these false ministers hold big tent meetings or "healing services" where they yell and scream at the sick individual as though the power of their yelling was going to bring about the healing! Unlike Christ, who usually took the sick or infirm people aside from the crowd (see Matthew 9:25; Mark 7:33), these fake "healers" deliberately put on a big show—with lots of noise and singing, with people shouting "glory, glory" again and again, and other strange behavior completely contrary to that of Christ and the original Apostles.
As a young man, I personally attended several of these "healing" campaigns put on by well-known ministers. I was sincerely seeking the Truth and wanting to understand. On more than one occasion, some of my college classmates and I watched closely to see where the person sat down after he was supposedly "healed." In every single case, it was obvious that the individual had not been supernaturally healed at all!
"How could this be?" you might ask.
In one case, for instance, a man was brought on stage as the "healer" loudly told the audience that the man was "deaf"—giving the distinct impression that this man was "stone deaf"—totally unable to hear anything. Then the professed "healer" clapped his hands forcefully on the poor man's forehead—almost knocking him over—and yelled at God to "drive out the deaf spirit"!
Then this evangelist loudly asked the man if he could now hear. When the man nodded in the affirmative, the evangelist yelled at the crowd that God had "healed" the man right in front of their eyes! The rinky-dink piano began playing and the crowd began yelling and singing: "When we all get to heaven…" The supposedly "deaf" man was then ushered off the stage to take his place in the crowd. I noticed carefully where he sat. Immediately after the meeting, I headed over there to talk with him.
I asked this man: "Were you stone deaf before you were prayed for?"
The man replied: "Oh no! I have just been hard of hearing for a number of years."
Then, speaking softly, I asked: "So you have now been healed?"
"What did you say?" he answered. "I can't hear you."
I repeated my question loudly, and then he was able to hear. After talking with him in this way more extensively, it became obvious that he was still very hard of hearing. He was definitely not healed! However, I did not want to hurt his "hope"—as he put it—that he was a little better. So I went elsewhere.
Meanwhile my two college friends had the same experience with the "healed" people they met after the meeting. One of them, a middle-aged lady, was brought on the stage in a wheelchair. The iron-lunged evangelist told the audience that she was crippled and "unable to walk." Then he clapped his hands on her head and bellowed out to God: "Heal her now!"
Then, she was almost lifted out of the wheelchair by two strong men and pronounced totally "healed" by the "mighty power of God." But my friends and I noticed that she was practically carried off the stage by these two strong-looking men, and did not walk on her own power!
When we questioned her later, she said she had always been able to walk "a little," but that the flamboyant evangelist had said that she would be "more comfortable" if they brought her out on the stage in a wheelchair. Of course, with his powerful proclamation, the impression was given that she was totally crippled.
There are many other similar accounts I could cite from my own experience and that of others. It is truly abominable that wicked men will sometimes use the holy name of God to feather their own nest—and to deceive innocent people. This type of thing brings disgrace on the name of religion and is not genuine divine healing at all!
We need to get our balance on this vital subject. There is much that doctors and dentists can—and often should—do for us. In circumstances such as traumatic injury, broken bones, internal bleeding and severe burns, there are many procedures that are necessary and right for doctors to perform.
Mankind's best efforts are not "all bad" in and of themselves. Highly trained physicians and other health professionals certainly do help millions of people every day. Let us not forget this fact! Many health care professionals are loving and sincere in their efforts to serve their fellow man. They certainly ought to be appreciated and commended for this.
Jesus Himself stated: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Matthew 9:12). In this verse, Jesus indicated that physicians certainly are able to help with sickness and disease. Some religious extremists believe that doctors and medicines are intrinsically evil. If that were the case, then the Son of God would not have made the above statement! And the Apostle Paul would not have written about "Luke the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14).
Every true Christian needs to get his or her "balance" on this issue. Satan and our own human reasoning will often cause us to go from one extreme to another!
Reading the entire Bible carefully and honestly, you will find physicians among God's people, as was Luke. Even Jesus' parable of the "good Samaritan" shows that—in case of injury—it is important to bind up wounds and apply wine (or another antiseptic) to prevent cuts from becoming infected (Luke 10:33–34). Pediatricians can be very helpful with prenatal care and delivery. In the past, some "holy rollers" and tent campaign "healers" have completely neglected the above passages from the inspired word of God.
However, in modern times, most of society is ignoring God and going to the other extreme! Today, the vast majority of "educated" humanity looks to doctors, medicines, pills and potions alone as the source of healing—and the living God is left completely out of the picture. This extreme, just like the other, is absolutely wrong!
As The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia notes: "Those in the apostolic Church who followed the lead of Jesus and Paul regarded without disgust physicians and the development of medical science, while at the same time looking to God and praying for His deliverance from sickness and disease. For example, the good Samaritan uses natural means to cure illness (Luke 10:34); Colossians 4:14 calls Luke the beloved physician; and 1 Timothy 5:23 counsels the use of wine to counter stomach infirmities. At the same time that this understanding and appreciation of medical science grew, the Church developed its own more spiritual means of dealing with sickness and disease. The two approaches, however, were not thought to be mutually exclusive; they were, rather, complementary, because sickness was no longer viewed as God's punishment of sin" (vol. 2, pp. 647–648).
Please consider carefully the following paragraphs by a licensed naturopathic physician who recently wrote to me:
"To some degree, major parts of conventional medicine are founded upon a belief in evolution and certain faulty views of the human body. Many Christians are justifiably concerned about the practices, side effects, and staggering costs of conventional medicine. Because of this, some have assumed that almost anything that is called 'natural health' or 'alternative medicine' must be superior to conventional medicine.
It is true that certain health philosophies are consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Real naturopathy, for example, teaches that illness is the result of violating natural health laws and that the body was designed to be able to be healed of just about anything if treated properly both mentally and physically. However, even though naturopathy does allow for divine healing, it almost exclusively attempts to affect healing through physical means (though, by philosophy, with means consistent with God's law).
For example, it is true that [it] is often better to eat fruits (which naturally contain truly organic bioflavonoids) to help prevent certain types of bruising, than to take an artificial chemical that may not treat the cause of the problem. Just because this may be so, that does not mean that anything claimed to be alternative medicine is good. Some alternative medicine philosophies are based upon mysticism. Many more (especially in the Western world) are promoted more by greed than interest in natural health. Also, just because something is supposedly natural, that does not mean it is safe, effective, or even useful.
As an alternative medicine practitioner, I have seen fabulous and consistent results with alternative therapies. I do believe, that even among Christians, alternative medicine is not used enough. Since conventional medical doctors rarely have adequate training in natural philosophies, they rarely know when to recommend them or even when they may help. Yet, I have also learned that most items marketed in the natural health community do not result in health improvement for most people who try them. I have also seen Christians who are too convinced that their personal (and often inaccurate) understanding of some aspect of alternative medicine should be followed by everyone with whom they come in contact with (and I am mainly speaking about Christians who are not full time alternative medicine practitioners—thus they really do not have the clinical experience necessary to back up those opinions). Perhaps even more so than conventional medicine, alternative medicine must be tailored to the individual.
The alternative and conventional medical communities do include many who are more interested in money than they are in truly helping people (even if they do not always realize it). And, also in both communities, there are well meaning individuals (including doctors) who erroneously believe that some treatment will definitely help, when [in] reality it definitely will not help. And, especially in the case of conventional medicine, some of these treatments can do great harm."
Decades ago, Herbert Armstrong wrote, "The true function of the doctor should not be to usurp God's prerogative as a Healer, but to help you to observe nature's laws by prescribing correct diet, teaching you how better to live according to nature's laws… There are a few schools of 'healing' coming along today somewhat along this line, who work with nature's laws, and not with drugs and medicines—the naturopaths, osteopaths and chiropractors, etc. These may and may not be good, largely according to the school from which they came and the ability of the man himself.' He also wrote: "There are other needed functions for certain types of doctors. Child-bearing, for instances, is not a sickness from which women need healing, but a natural thing ordained of God. It would seem but right that we should have obstetrical specialists… If you break an arm, or other bone, it certainly is right to take it to a specialist and have him set it. He can't heal it, however—you should trust God to do that. So, you see, there are a number of functions which human doctors or physicians can rightly perform."
As Mr. Armstrong observed, and as my correspondent correctly noted below, balance is vital:
"Alternative medicine that is based upon God's laws and not greed, does play an important role in human health. It can be helpful for Christians today and in the future, as even the book of Revelation teaches, 'The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations' (22:2). However, the Bible also makes it clear that God is our Healer and we are to 'Test all things; hold fast what is good' (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Just because something is natural or alternative does not necessarily mean that it is superior or the right Christian choice. But just because something is approved by conventional medicine, that does not mean that it is superior or the right Christian choice either."
The Bible is the revelation of the mind of God to mankind—of that basic knowledge which mankind would otherwise be unable to learn or to understand. The Bible reveals the "mind" of God, and true Christians are told in Philippians 2:5: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." It is vital that every genuine Christian learn to "think like Jesus thinks" on the subject of healing and on every subject! Jesus Christ said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Remember that the only "Word of God" available at that time was what we today call the "Old Testament."
Even in cases of serious injury, however, it is vital for a Biblebelieving Christian to heed the lesson of Ahaziah. For genuine Christians know there is a God in Israel! If we feel that we must seek man's help—to have our bones set, have our wounds stitched up or have other repairs taken care of by a competent health care professional—we must at the same time ask for God's intervention to cause the injury to heal properly. Even when we go to man for what our understanding tells us that man can do properly, we must still look to God our Father to go above and beyond what man can do—and ask Him to intervene directly when necessary. We should never leave God "out of the picture!"
Each Christian has to make up his own mind as to how far he should go with man's devices. As Christians grow in faith, they will experience more and more divine healings from every kind of sickness and disease, according to God's will, for He is not limited! Yet Christians should not "judge" one another or condemn one another in this matter (Matthew 7:1). For each of us has the personal responsibility to use medical help according to our understanding and our faith—not someone else's. And as God's word tells us, "whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).
At this juncture, it is important that we fully realize where we are heading as a society! Everyone who truly believes the Bible knows that Jesus Christ directly predicted that "pestilences"—disease epidemics—would be one of the major signs heralding His second coming (Matthew 24:7). Today, we are at a time in history when the spread of AIDS, the Ebola virus, "mad cow disease" and other mystery illnesses are becoming a growing threat to vast numbers of human beings!
So far, there is no cure for these diseases. Only the true God can heal these plagues! Additionally, as far back as 1997, United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen described the growing threat of biological and chemical weapons and the ways to deliver them. Secretary Cohen said this threat was "neither far-fetched nor far off."
"'The front lines are no longer overseas,' Cohen said, releasing a report that said Americans could fall victim to such an attack, because criminal organizations and cults—as well as nation-states—could deploy such weapons. These weapons are 'the poor man's atomic bomb—cheaper, easier to produce and extremely deadly,' the defense secretary said" (North County Times, November 26, 1997).
From the San Diego Tribune of November 29, 2000, we read that scientists are increasingly concerned about the probability of "germ warfare" aiding terrorism: "Scourges such as smallpox and anthrax are increasingly likely to fall into terrorists' hands as Third World nations start germ warfare programs, a panel of scientists predicted yesterday.… The threat comes in part from nations such as Iran and Iraq, which 'can't challenge the U.S. head-on… so they need something else to shift the balance of power,' Yale University political scientist Paul Bracken told a twoday symposium on responses to bioterrorism."
So who will cure these deadly diseases if bioterrorists purposely spread them—further clogging our hospitals and emergency facilities with masses of frightened and desperate people? Again, we must not leave God out of the picture. More and more, as this age draws to a close, true Christians must learn to look to God as their ultimate Protector, Deliverer and Healer! This is a vital part of returning to "apostolic Christianity"—of contending earnestly "for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Many articles have come out, in recent years, describing how enlightened doctors and hospitals are cooperating more than ever with ministers and "prayer partners" to aid in the healing process. Some of this is probably helpful. But, sadly, most of the emphasis is on the psychosomatic benefit of people having a "positive attitude"—of being "encouraged" or "hopeful." The emphasis is not on an all-powerful God who directly intervenes and supernaturally "heals" sickness and disease!
Yet supernatural healing is exactly what the Bible describes as taking place in New Testament times. Please read carefully the inspired account in Mark 2:1–12 of Jesus healing a paralytic man. "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven you'" (v. 5). Sensing that His hearers were hostile to this concept, Jesus said: "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house'" (vv. 9–11).
Then: "Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw anything like this!'" (v. 12).
This was not some "gradual" recovery that took place with the aid of doctors, drugs and blood transfusions. No, indeed! God intervened and removed the penalty of the physical mistakes, sins and carelessness that nearly always cause sickness and disease. Remember, as we saw earlier, Isaiah 53:4 tells us that Jesus has borne our sicknesses.
Just before Jesus was crucified, Pilate caused Him to be beaten horribly by the Roman "scourging" usually administered to a condemned man. This brutal whipping was usually done with a leather whip, into which were fastened embedded shards of glass or metal, designed to tear the skin and induce severe bleeding and excruciating pain. Many men died just from this beating alone! That is why Isaiah said: "By His stripes we are healed" (v. 5).
Most professing Christians observe what they call the Eucharist or the "Lord's Supper." This service is actually a corruption of the biblical festival called "Passover." Describing the importance of faith and humility as one takes the emblems of bread and wine at the Passover, the Apostle Paul warned: "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [have died]" (1 Corinthians 11:28–30).
In the Corinthian church, many were "weak" or "sickly" because they had not learned to discern the real meaning of the bread and wine—that our Savior suffered the terrible "scourging" that we might be healed. The broken bread symbolizes Christ's body, "broken" for our physical healing. The wine symbolizes His shed blood given in payment for our spiritual sins!
That is why—as Mark 2:1–12 and Matthew 9:1–8 bring out—Jesus' healing of the paralytic man was described as the forgiveness of "sin"! Physical healing and spiritual forgiveness are tied together in the Bible. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered terribly so that both would be possible. God's word also describes this principle: "Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:1–3).
We cannot take the biblical Passover properly without looking to Christ as our Healer, for He paid the penalty of our physical carelessness and transgressions of the physical laws of health just as surely as He paid the penalty of spiritual sin. As Psalm 103 indicates, both physical healing and spiritual forgiveness are "benefits" offered by a loving God. But a deceived mankind has usually been persuaded to accept one of these benefits and totally neglect the other!
Throughout His ministry, Jesus often told individuals who wanted to be healed: "According to your faith let it be to you" (Matthew 9:29). When several men were so faithful and zealous that they "uncovered the roof" of a room so the paralytic man could reach Jesus and be healed, God's word tells us: "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven you'" (Mark 2:5)—and the man was healed right in front of their eyes!
As the prophesied end of this age draws near, we must all focus our minds on the reality of the great God who gives us life and breath. We need to believe His inspired word, the Holy Bible. We need to believe Him! We need to understand that God is not a liar! When He promises us something in His word, He will back it up by powerful action—if we will truly believe Him!
God tells us: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
The above is a strong statement! You and I cannot please the true God until we learn to believe Him—to rely totally on what He says in His inspired word!
The Bible describes Abraham as the "father of the faithful" (Romans 4:11). Why? Because Abraham consistently trusted that God was real, that God's way was right and that God would do what He said He would do.
In fully trusting that God would give him and his wife Sarah a child, even in their extreme old age, God's word tells us: "And not being weak in faith, he [Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:19–22).
Real faith is developed by walking with God—fellowshipping with God—as Abraham did. Then one experiences the fact that God does, in fact, answer prayers and bless us as we walk according to His will. Faith is developed by regularly "drinking in" God's word and making God's thoughts our thoughts. Faith comes by studying or "hearing" the word of God (Romans 10:17). It is developed by constant prayer—by fervently and heartfeltly communing with our Creator. As we pray to God about all of our needs, we should specifically ask Him to increase our faith. For faith is a "gift" of God (Ephesians 2:8). And, as indicated above, faith is developed by regularly doing what God instructs us—with the attitude that God does know best and that He will stand behind His word and cause "all things" to work together for good (Romans 8:28) for those who truly put their trust in God. The results of actually trusting in God in some parts of our lives help us trust Him in other areas of our lives as well—including His promise to heal.
As additional help to each of you in building the living faith we all need so much, I would heartily recommend that you call us or write us to request two very helpful and meaningful booklets: The Real God: Proofs and Promises and Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer. These booklets will be sent absolutely free upon your request. If you will really study them and look up the scriptural references given, they will help you become more fully aware of the reality of the true God, and how you can receive genuine answers to your prayers.
A number of years ago, one of my college students—a young married man—was absent one day from Freshman Bible class. Right after the class was dismissed, he met me in the lobby of the building and was obviously very anxious and worried about something. "What's wrong?" I asked him.
"It's my little daughter," he blurted out. "The doctor has tested her blood and found that she has the fatal variety of spinal meningitis! He does not give her very long to live. Her fever is going up and she is having convulsions from time to time. Please come out and anoint her and pray for her!"
I quickly grabbed a nearby phone and asked my secretary to cancel my appointments for the next couple of hours. Then I got in my car and followed this young man to his home. The doctor had dropped by earlier, and said that nothing could be done for the little child at this late stage.
When I arrived, the mother had been crying. The little girl lay there—still awake, but weak, with a fever above 100 degrees. Feeling deeply the seriousness of the situation, I knelt with her parents by the little girl's bedside, anointed her forehead with a drop of oil from a little bottle of olive oil I always carry, and beseeched our God and Father to completely heal her and to apply the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and make her totally well—and soon!
Knowing that, humanly speaking, death was very near, I poured out my heart and prayed to God very earnestly—claiming His promise to heal and beseeching Him to have mercy on this little child whose life was really just beginning. Then, after encouraging the parents to believe God, I left and returned to my other duties. But I kept on praying about this matter, in my mind, for the rest of the day and again in my evening prayer before going to bed.
Late the next morning, I received the call I had been waiting for! The child's mother told me that the little girl lapsed into a deep and peaceful sleep soon after I anointed her. Later in the day, she awakened and was hungry—genuinely hungry for the first time in days. The fever was gone! No more convulsions. Then she went to sleep again, and slept for many hours until late the next morning.
"Now," her mother said, "she is up, feeling good and playing with her dolls as if nothing had ever happened." This child had been quickly and supernaturally healed by the living Christ, who had paid the penalty of sickness and disease in her stead! I could write at length about the woman I knew whose withered arm was totally healed after she received an anointed cloth (see Acts 19:11–12).
I could write about a lady with breast cancer who was "given up on" by the doctors, yet was healed just when it seemed to be "too late."
Also, I could write about the recent healing of a man who had visited Africa and had contracted a form of hepatitis C that is often fatal. Briefly, without telling the entire story, here is part of his letter expressing thanks for God's intervention:
"Dear Mr. Meredith,
I have good news. As you recall, my previous blood test was unable to measure my viral load due to not enough virus. My most recent test shows that I no longer have hepatitis C. My liver enzymes are within acceptable ranges… I thank God and pray that I can use the rest of my life to His service and glory.… I again thank you for your prayer of faith."
These are not sentimental stories; they are facts. I want all of you to know that I am very aware that many people give seemingly amazing but unprovable "testimonies" claiming that they were healed. But the incidents cited above were genuine healings—the divine intervention of the God of creation in response to faithful prayer.
God's word is what we should and must rely on! God tells us: "The prayer of faith will save the sick" (James 5:15). May God help each of you to study this subject in your own Bible. May He inspire you to cry out to Him for the courage and the faith you need to please Him. And even if you seek appropriate attention from competent health care professionals from time to time, may each of you learn to always involve God in the process. Learn to grow in understanding and in faith. Learn to have faith that the living God can do what man is unable to do.
Again, we must remember the prophecy Jesus Christ Himself gave when the Apostles asked Him: "And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). Among other things, Jesus specifically stated: "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences [disease epidemics], and earthquakes in various places" (v. 7). A few precursors of these epidemics may be starting even now. And when, perhaps within the next several years, our hospitals and our doctors are absolutely overwhelmed with sick and dying victims with "incurable" diseases, where will we turn? Many professing Christians have ridiculed divine healing, and the idea of really believing what Jesus and the Apostles taught and practiced. Will they suddenly "get religion," and turn back to the God of the Bible?
I strongly encourage those of you whose minds God has opened to make Him and His ways a more genuine part of your life—now. For when the massive disease epidemics begin to strike, accompanied at the same time by drought, famine and the resulting starvation, those who have already learned to actually put their trust in the God of the Bible will be blessed indeed.
For the matter of divine healing is directly tied in with our entire belief system. Have we learned to trust in the true God and His Christ as revealed in the inspired word of God? Or do we "pick and choose" which of Jesus' teachings and which of His examples we will follow?
However, here is a word of caution: do not "judge" your brother! As stated earlier, each of us must live according to our own level of understanding and our own faith. But any true Christian will involve God in every area of his or her life—including healing. Any true Christian should "cry out" to God for healing when he or his child or loved one is sick or afflicted. Then, according to individual understanding and individual circumstances, he or she may well decide to involve the help of a doctor or other health professional. Even then, he should fervently ask the very real God to intervene above and beyond what man can do!
If you are a parent or guardian of minors, you may sometimes need to make crucial health care decisions for them. In those cases, it is especially vital that you seek God's wisdom, and exercise proper caution and care. In some countries, the secular government has enacted legislation meant to protect children's lives, and you may face serious legal consequences if you make an "adverse" decision that goes against those laws. If you subject a child to treatments that are discredited or unproven in the eyes of secular society, or withhold treatment that licensed medical professionals deem "necessary," you may even be declared unfit as a parent or guardian, and lose custody of your children. If you feel strongly that your child should not be subjected to some medical procedure, you may wish to consult not only with other qualified and licensed medical professionals (who may share your opinion), but also with qualified legal counsel, for the good of the children under your care.
God has not promised exactly when or how He will heal! However, "according to your faith"—as Jesus said—and according to whether we have a genuine obedient relationship with God (1 John 3:22), God will intervene and bless and deliver us from every trial—including sickness and disease. For if we truly serve and obey Him, God is our "Father"—a very real Father. And the true Gospel message brought by His Son, Jesus Christ, is literally filled with examples and instructions regarding divine healing! Any so-called "gospel" which leaves out Christ's example and continual teaching about divine healing is extremely incomplete—to say the least!
Somewhere on this earth is a true Church of God which believes all that Jesus and the Apostles taught. It practices a way of life based on Jesus Christ's foundational instruction to all humanity: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Therefore, this true Church follows the Apostle James' inspired biblical teaching: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:14–16).
The Living Church of God is dedicated to restoring true Apostolic Christianity—the very Way of life taught and practiced by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. We believe in, and practice, the above-mentioned biblical teaching, which instructs the sick to be anointed and prayed for by the elders of the Church. We also follow the biblical example of sending out "anointed cloths" as did the Apostle Paul (Acts 19:11–12).
Over the years, we have seen thousands healed according to their faith. If you would like to request personal prayer, or to receive an anointed cloth, please be sure to contact the regional office nearest you, listed at the end of this booklet. May the great God help all of you to understand and to act.
May you learn to genuinely study and believe the inspired word of God—and to do what it says. May God guide you to humbly put your trust in Him and in the living Jesus Christ when you are sick and afflicted. For in the end, God—and He alone—is our ultimate Healer!