Monday, August 18, 2008

Divine Healing is About Spiritual Healing, Not Physical

The revival at Lakeland led by former pastor Todd Bentley has been the latest so-called divine healing revival and its popularity has been tremendous. The heresy for which Todd Bentley is preaching is even more extreme than that of Benny Hinn and other false faith healers. He not only causes these people to fall down with force but he physically injures them on purpose. He kicks and punches these sick people and tells them he did so because "he had to be obedient to the Lord.' He claims that sometimes cancer has to be physically driven out by kicking a man in the stomach. Please tell me which Scriptures show any physical pain being imparted upon those being healed before they were able to be healed? Christ made people whole, he did not impart physical pain upon them to do so. The sad part is that the man who has stage four colon cancer and was kicked in the gut by Todd Bentley still has stage four colon cancer. There is no evidence that any of these people are truly healed. It deeply saddens us to see the amount of people who are willing to follow such false and evil teachings. While Todd Bentley's revival was brought to an abrupt stop do to the break up of his marriage and his admitted "unhealthy relationship" with another woman, many people will still follow and support this type of ministry. We must be vigilant in sharing the truth about these false teachers. They are leading people into believing a false gospel of health and wealth which is a false gospel that will not only be unable to provide the health it promises, it will not provide salvation either. We must come to a saving faith in the true Christ of the Bible, not a false Christ as Paul warned us of.

But some people will argue there are passages that claim that we are promised healing. I am reminded of the time Jesus was talking with his disciples and told them to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16:6-12. The disciples thought Jesus was upset because they had not brought any bread with them. This was right after Jesus had miraculously fed the multitude more than once! Jesus reprimanded the disciples and reminded them how he fed the multitude with a few loaves of bread. He did not care about the bread! Jesus was not speaking of literal bread, but was warning them of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The word yeast had a spiritual, not physical and literal meaning. Healing is spoken of that way too. It is our spiritual health that Jesus was concerned with. In that context Jesus reminds us that the sick need a doctor, not the healthy.

Luke 5:30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor , but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Jesus is saying that the sinners need spiritual healing, just like the physically sick need a physician. He is not saying that sinners are never going to get sick. Below I have an excerpt from our article on the Spiritual Gifts. It examines one of the popular verses that Charismatics use to teach that physical healing is a promise of God and shows how in reality it is about our spiritual, not physical health.

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Now let us look at one of the passages that are used to teach that God will miraculously heal people upon command. In the book of James, we read that when a person is sick we should pray over him:

James 5:14-16 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. NIV

A quick glance at this verse out of context will make it appear as if healing is indeed just a prayer away. But let us look at this verse first in comparison to the general Charismatic teaching and then in the context of the passage itself.

We have already shown how faith healers teach that God has empowered them with the gift of healing and that it is only beneficial to the person being healed if they believe enough to receive the healing. Does this passage really support this claim?

James does not tell a “sick” person to go the faith healer, or the person who has been given the “gift of healing.” He tells them to go to the elders of the church. There is no mention of the spiritual gifts in the passage or the entire book of James. The statement “call the elders” already conflicts with charismatic teaching rather than supports it, because it suggests that whatever makes the person “well” only requires the use of the elder of a church, not someone with a gift, nor does it require some emotional service that will evoke the presence of God. If people were given the gift of healing to use upon command to heal those who had enough faith in God, would not James have suggested that the sick “seek out a faith healer?” The fact is that he did not.

This verse also calls for an anointing of oil, which was never used by anyone in the book of Acts who was given the gift of healing. While there are many charismatic churches that will anoint the sick with oil and pray over him they will also teach the other version of healing as well. If this verse is speaking of physical healing it is obvious that it is in opposition to the teaching of the “gift of healing” being available to the church as a whole, not in support of it.

So if the gift of healing is not given today and God does not heal supernaturally simply because we offer up a prayer with “faith”, what does this verse mean? When we look at the context of the book of James and the words that were used when it was originally written, you will be able to see not only what James truly meant, but you will also see how this verse does not support the traditional “charismatic” teaching of healing.

First of all, the book of James was written to the Jews who were scattered among the nations. James addresses many issues that were troubling these new Christian converts. They had been facing persecution and many of them seemed to be wavering in their faith. The church was still very young and most scholars agree that this book was probably the earliest writing of the New Testament. You will notice it never refers to gentile Christians at all so there is a possibility that gentile converts were not yet a part of the church. This earliest book written to the new converts was one of the first letters that explained what was expected of a believer under this new covenant.

There were obviously many people who were professing to have faith but were not showing any fruit or works that supported that fact. They were misunderstanding the fact that all we had to do was believe to be saved. James was trying to illustrate to them that true belief would produce works. He also addressed many who were still stuck with the same mind-set as the Scribes and Pharisees. They were giving honor to those who were “rich.” Remember, to a Jew, wealth and status were evidence that God was blessing their nation. In chapter 5 he begins addressing people who were relying upon their wealth and status rather than their faith in Christ alone. He then tells those who are suffering persecution to be patient and stand firm. He then tells them how to do this.

James 5:13-16 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)

[For another good commentary on the 5th chapter of James we encourage the reader to examine The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume two.]

Notice that the topic is how to be patient and stand firm. Physical illness was never in the mind of the author here. He says if anyone is in trouble they should pray, if they are happy they should sing. Then he says if anyone is sick. What does he mean when he says “sick?” Does this have to mean a physical ailment? No, it does not. The word used in verse 14 is asthenehon. It means to “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless.” This word, though it was used at times to mean a physical ailment, was generally used to mean a weak faith. Here are a couple of examples:

Rom 14:1 Accept him whose faith is weak(asthenehon o), (NIV)

1 Cor 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak(asthenehon).

In verse 15 James used this word (kamnonta) that was translated "sick." This literally means to be weary. This word was used only one other time in the New Testament and the meaning was just that, “grow weary.”

Heb 12:3 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

We must also note what the anointing with oil was for. The word used here for anointing is aleipsantes, which means to “rub with oil.” This is not the same word when anointing is supposed to be done in a ceremonial way. That word is “chrio.” The anointing (aleipsantes) used in this passage refers to the anointing that was often done as a means of bestowing honor, refreshment, or grooming. Simply stated, have the elders physically refresh you by anointing you with oil and spiritually refresh you by offering up prayers for you. How refreshing it is for us when those who are strong in the faith lift us up in prayer! Paul often prayed for his brothers and that was indeed a spiritual healing that no Christian should be without.

James says that those who are weak (sick) should be anointed with oil and prayed for by the elders. Christ would raise up, those who were weak in the faith. Those who may have confessed to be in the faith, but were believers in word alone and not the heart would be forgiven of their sins if they offered up prayers to the Lord with true faith. James then says:

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

If we hurt one another we should confess that to each other, we should pray for each other and we will be “made whole” (healed). The prayer of a righteous man is indeed powerful and effective. We can prove this by referring to the powerful prayers of the apostle Paul. He prayed often for those in the faith and his prayers always followed this example: He prayed for their faith about their faith. He did not concern himself with their physical well being, but with their spiritual health. Note the following passages:

2 Tim 4:20 Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. NASB

Here Paul actually leaves Trophimus sick at a place called Miletus. We know that Paul actually had the gift of healing, yet did not use it for Trophimus. Perhaps God did not want Trophimus to be well. Either way, we have a recorded occurrence where Paul did not heal someone who was obviously within his company.

Phil 2:25-27 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. NASB

Here we read about a Pastor named Epaphroditus. He was from the Church in Philippi and went to Paul when Paul was in prison, as allowed by the King. Paul spoke highly of this man, yet Epaphroditus became sick. He was so sick that he almost died. Again, Paul could have miraculously healed Epaphroditus and God could have done so without the aid of Paul. But this is not what happened. Epaphroditus remained sick until he almost died, but because of God’s mercy He did not allow death to happen to Epaphroditus. Again, here is a case when it was within God’s will that this man be sick. While we may not understand all the whys, God does and it is Him in whom we trust.

1 Tim 5:23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. NASU

Again, Paul could have healed Timothy, but he did not do that. Instead he wrote to Timothy and encouraged him to take wine for his stomach ailment. The wine here was used for medicinal purposes. So we can see the doctrinal, as well as practical message of Paul, which is to seek medicine to relieve physical problems. Notice, that Paul does not rebuke Timothy and suggest that he is ill because he does not have enough faith. Timothy is not sent to a faith healer or even to the elders of the church for healing and prayer. Timothy is told to use practical methods for curing and relieving his illness. Again, it is clear that it must have been within God’s purpose for Timothy to be sick. Certainly God used Timothy’s sickness to show all of us the means in which we can be well!

2 Cor 12:7-10 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. NIV

Because of the special revelations that were given to Paul as a result of being caught up into the third heaven, even paradise, God allowed an ailment to afflict Paul. We do not know exactly what this “thorn in the flesh” actually was. Some suggest it was an eye problem and others think it had something to do with his hand. No matter what the exact “thorn” was we know that it was a problem for Paul. Three times he asked God to remove it, and three times God answered no. Better than that, God promised that His grace would be sufficient to help Paul in the midst of that thorn, and from that Paul learned to rejoice in his weaknesses. Again, it is obvious that it was God’s will that Paul remain sick. Certainly no one would argue that Paul lacked faith.

So the conclusion about healing is that while God no longer uses “the gift of healing” today; we can benefit from the gift God provides to us through the medical profession and other such practical uses for possible healing. We understand that God will not always desire for us to be healed. Sometimes our sickness is a result of us using bad judgment or lack of wisdom. If I touch a hot stove, I will get burned. If I mishandle a sharp knife, I will get cut. These are the results of careless acts. If I eat too much I will get fat and suffer physical problems. God cannot be held responsible because we make poor and careless choices concerning our health. He may still help us overcome them, but not based upon how much faith we have. If we understand that these gifts have ceased, and that what we see happening in churches today is not biblical, then we must determine that the “faith healers” are frauds. They are twisting the word of God and using it for their personal gain. What they are doing is not in the Scripture, yet they are claiming that they are doing the work of God. A true Christian should cry out and flee from such heresy. Peter tells us to be on our guard from such false teachings and warns us not to get carried away with them. Paul tells us to guard the faith and oppose those who are teaching a false knowledge of God. Instead, the church of today is embracing this false teaching and therefore causing many to be eternally lost. We must continue to be on guard and oppose that which is false. This is not just our opinion, it is the command given in the Scripture.

2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:14-18 2But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute...14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him....17 be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

1 Tim 6:3-21 3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing... 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs...
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith...20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.



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