What is the scriptural basis for the position that physical healing is provided in the redemptive work of Christ?
Matthew 8:16-17: “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases’ (Isaiah 53:4).” Some theologians would have us believe that Isaiah 53:4 is only about Jesus bleeding for our spiritual healing, by bearing our “infirmities” or sinful “weaknesses” and shortcomings. But it is clear here, that in Matthew’s theology, the text was also understood to mean that Jesus’ crucifixion also bore our diseases, or sicknesses, including the sickness of mental illness and demon-possession, as illustrated in this text.
Do you believe divine healing is the privilege of the believer today?
Yes! There is nowhere in the New Testament that says divine healing was a transitional gift, only to bear testimony to the Gospel or the authority of the apostles in the first century. Healing is a gift from the Holy Spirit to the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:9); and not only a sign that proves the divine origin of the Gospel message (Mark 16:17-18). To view healing as a gift is to understand its recuperative usage, its “medical” qualities, and the love and power of Jesus being manifested to help the suffering. Healings are given to show how much God loves and cares for people: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). The Bible says of God: “His compassions never fail” (Lam. 3:22); and if divine compassion is the reason for divine healing, then divine healings will never cease, because God’s compassions never fail. In addition to Scripture, there is plenty of evidence in church history of divine healing, in the lives and biographies of saints such as: St. Antony (d. 356), St. Patrick (d. 460), St. Benedict (d. 543), Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179), St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), Martin Luther (d. 1546), John Wesley (d. 1791), Charles Finney (d. 1875), William J. Seymour (d. 1922), John G. Lake (d. 1935), Smith Wigglesworth (d. 1947), and John Wimber (d. 1997). For more evidence of this, see Thomas Boys’ The Suppressed Evidence and Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church.
Have you known anyone who has been miraculously healed?
My personal experience with divine healing is very limited. When I was a camp counselor in 2005, one of my kids was hurting from a bee sting or some kind of sore on his ankle; I laid hands on it, told it to “heal!” and for the pain to leave in Jesus’ Name, and after about 15 seconds of waiting, I asked him if it still hurt, and he told me the pain was gone. And so we thanked the Lord. Since then, I have had many mild-level “pain relief” healing prayers answered. In 2006, I was not able to medically verify it, and had to take it mainly on faith, but I went to a healing service at King’s Park International Church in Durham, NC, where Joan Fitzgerald, a woman claiming a healing ministry, was visiting with Charismatic Renewal statesman Harald Bredesen, just one month before he died. I saw a woman get up out of her wheelchair and walk, as Ms. Fitzgerald held her hands and prayed for her healing! (It was like a Kathryn Kuhlman healing crusade in a very small way.) Ms. Fitzgerald said she was praying earlier that day, and resting before the healing service, and dreamed that a woman in a wheelchair would be healed. I went up and spoke with the healed woman afterwards, who seemed to be sincerely touched by God, and honest about the whole thing; and seeing that she was a church member, and not a fellow-traveler with Ms. Fitzgerald, I saw her for many Sundays after Ms. Fitzgerald had left; and although the woman had a limp, and did not walk perfectly by any means, she never came to church with her wheelchair again. I have to take it on faith that she was not practicing “mind-over-matter,” but that she did in fact feel herself to be in some way strengthened or healed in her legs in a way that she had not before.
In your opinion, how does divine healing fit into the modern scene of medical science?
I have read a substantial amount of the writings of John G. Lake (d. 1935). The healing testimonies are astounding and beyond numbering. But one thing that Lake believed, which he adopted from his mentor John Alexander Dowie (d. 1907), and which view was popular in the early days of the Divine Healing Movement or Faith Cure of the 1800s, and which carried over into the early Pentecostal Movement:–was the idea that going to the doctor or using medicine was a sin. This extreme view was taken to be a transgression against James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” The prayer of faith is the Biblical way to approach divine healing; and usually with the laying on of hands (Mark 16:18); and application of olive oil as a sign of the Holy Spirit. This was taken to mean by Lake and old divine healing advocates, that the prayer of faith, if a miracle is to be expected, needs to be used only when doctors and medicine are done away with. Then, and only then, can Jesus be trusted as “the Great Physician.” But I say, even though Jesus is the Great Physician, in a parable of His saving ministry, He spoke favorably of doctors: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17, NKJV). We must also bear in mind that “Luke, the Beloved Physician” (Colossians 4:14) wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, which are full of stories of healing miracles; but are in no way understood as nullifications of Luke’s career as a physician! The Bible in no way pits divine healing against the medical profession; it’s a both-and, not an either-or! However, if I am sick, I try to get into the practice of praying for healing, and waiting for results, before I resort to using an over-the-counter medicine, or before going to the doctor’s office. I think an approach like that is much more faithful to James 5:14-15. And then there are those “incurable diseases” like cancer, which doctors are often at a loss to conquer:–and prayer for divine healing is the only way to respond.