Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father. (John 14:12)
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 land hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:15,18)
And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you’ (Luke 10:9)
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:20)
If evangelism is done the way Jesus commanded, the results will be a lot better. If, in the verses above, Jesus Christ was lying, we should follow another religion one where the Teacher tells the truth. But if the verses above are the truth of God from the lips of the Master, why do we hesitate to implement them?
In the last 100 years, God has raised up men and some women who have perceived clearly that Jesus meant what He said, and began to act in faith. Men like John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth and T.L. Osborn have demonstrated the truth of these words. In recent times men like Carlos Annacondia have gone on to demonstrate the same things.
The results have often been quite spectacular.
None of these men taught the popular view that only a few specially gifted ones could possibly move in the realms of divine healing as they did. On the contrary, their teaching encouraged believers to lay hold of their divine privileges and move out in the name of Jesus. Yet of all the multitudes who heard these men and others like them, relatively few have gone on to do the works of Jesus in divine healing and the casting out of demons though some have. The reason is that it takes more than an exhortation, or an example from the pulpit, to equip people in this work. To the extent that ministers have taken the time to implement training for others, and actually do it with them, to the same extent the impact of the ministry has multiplied.
Traditional Pentecostal/Charismatic Views
There are still plenty of Pentecostal leaders who are not exercising an effective ministry in the area of divine healing. They simply don’t get many biblical results. People stay sick all too often. These leaders should learn how to minister. They are not qualified to teach others about it. Neither are they authorized by the Lord to discourage others who are beginning to take steps of faith in this area.
Some churches delight in strange manifestations as a proof of God’s presence. In some places, there are more people falling over than getting healed. But where did God say, These signs will follow those who believe: they shall fall over under the anointing?
The present state of affairs is sad enough for those who fail to receive healing. But what is even more tragic is that future generations of believers are discouraged by the failure of their leaders to do evangelism the way Jesus commanded. The whole thing is perpetuating itself in too many places. It will take changed methods and changed attitudes to get different results. This article seeks to address some possibilities.
My Limited Experience
I have had experience in training both Romanian and Indian nationals to do the work of healing ministry, and the results so far have been encouraging. People testify to being healed of paralysis and other things, even through the ministry of young Bible college students or others who acted as my translators. I don’t have the money to reach the whole world with my preaching ministry and no one is likely to give it to me either. But the body of Christ can reach the world with the power of God. I realized that just doing the healing ministry myself was not going to get the job done. Having studied the Word of God for myself, I see that what should be and what is are two different things, with regards to the way we are doing evangelism. Yes, I have gone in Jesus’ name and seen all kinds of miracles happen like deaf mutes healed, tumors vanish and so on. Reports come back of the totally blind seeing. This has resulted in conversions and church growth, including new churches being started. People in Pentecostal and charismatic churches often give lip service to the idea of these things being normal, but actually, something else is usually the priority something like a building fund, or a choir practice, or a Christian rock concert. The gifts of the Spirit, and a commitment to the supernatural power of God is not an actual priority to many leaders. If it was, they would not only be demonstrating it themselves, but actually training others to do it. It takes time, lots of time in prayer and in going out on the field; it requires commitment and personal vulnerability, so it is easy to put aside for another day.
It is sad, but true, that many times, especially at the beginning, when I have gone in Jesus’ name and signs have followed, it has been in spite of the convictions of Pentecostal church leaders. If they had their way I would not have gone. I will not speak of pastors holding a cessationist theology, but rather of those who profess to be led by the Holy Spirit and also to be going after the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Local church leaders have a tendency to disregard, if not to actively squash, this kind of ministry. I know well how this works. In order to minister divine healing, most of us must look for opportunities outside the church. Local churches in general are not training people to do this work. There have been more lost opportunities because of this one factor than it will ever be possible to calculate. This is also true even in many churches where the senior pastor is personally effective in healing ministry. We are called to equip people to do the work of the ministry, following the example of the Lord.
In my case, so that I can obey the commands of Jesus, I go to foreign countries to preach the gospel. And this I will continue to do unless God commands me to stay in my home country of Australia. In these places, because I am a guest speaker, people are happy to receive my ministry either in preaching or in house to house visitation, and results follow both in divine healing and the salvation of souls. Yet what I see in many cases in these places, is a strongly entrenched view that their local believers should not be encouraged or expected to do this kind of ministry themselves. These local believers face the same thing I face at home. Pastors who themselves are not being used in this area cannot imagine that it is right for their new believers to do it. They seem to think it is the domain of a few famous big name healing evangelists.
In questioning people, I have found the following objections and obstacles to the practice of divine healing by the average believer or even the average church worker or pastor:
Not everyone is gifted to do this ministry not all have the gift of healing
Very few who do this ministry effectively ascribe their success to the gift of healing. It has more to do with faith, boldness and a lot of time spent in the presence of God. While it is true that not everyone is called to major on the healing ministry, everyone can be used in this area, if they meet the conditions.
God has provided many ways for divine healing to be ministered. The gifts of healing are only one of those ways. These gifts are for the person receiving the healing anyway. None of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are at the initiative of one who has that gift. Like Jesus, we are called to operate in dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is a misconception to think that some people have the gift of healing, in the sense that they can decide to go to sick people anywhere, anytime and heal them. These gifts operate by a special leading of the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:11). The operation of the gifts of healing is just one of the ways that the Lord can bring healing. God hates disease so much he provided quite a number of other ways for healing to be administered. One is the anointing with oil by the elders of the church. Another is by simply speaking the Word of God. Another is laying spirit-empowered hands on sick people, for their recovery. (Mark 16:18).
Every believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has all the gifts. They can be used as He leads. A special leading of God may result in a person effectively ministering healing to someone who does not have strong faith to receive. God is sovereign and can do that. But we need not wait for these special leadings before we act on the Word of God.
Some have a special ministry of healing. But this does not preclude the average believer or Christian worker from stepping out in real faith to do the works of Jesus, any more than the presence of evangelists in the church means that believers have no business telling their friends the gospel.
Next Excuse: Only Mature Believers Can do this ministry
According to this thinking, the power of the Holy Spirit is theoretically available to believers, but most are too immature to be used by God or to use this power. The idea is that God is too wise to let young believers get a taste of divine power operating through them. It is believed that these young believers would certainly be destroyed by pride, since they are not ready for such things.
Of course the risk exists that people will become puffed up by the fact that God uses them. But as long as we are constantly teaching people by example and by exhortation to humble themselves, the risk of this can be reduced.
God will resist the proud. He will cut off the flow of power pretty quickly where pride takes over. But people can be proud whether there is a manifestation of the healing power of God or not. Experience has shown that God will use new believers in healing ministry. But it must be actively encouraged, and people must be given the opportunities. Very few will go beyond the encouragement of their own leaders.
After healing the man at the Temple Gate, the apostle Peter declared to the people, Why do you look at us, as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man well? The truth is, it was faith in the power of the name of Jesus that made the man well, not the holiness of Peter or John. That is the way Peter explained it.
An immature believer will actually grow in maturity as they get involved in doing the humble work of evangelism amongst the needy people of this world. Pride and self-sufficiency is the beginning of failure.
A lot of mature believers don’t do the work of divine healing. They follow traditional Pentecostal methods which don’t work, like asking God to do it. Jesus told us to speak to the mountain and not doubt (Mark 11:23). That is the way Jesus and the apostles did it! Why do we ask the Lord to do the things he told us to do? He delegated the authority and responsibility to us.
If we wait for new believers to become mature and never train them in these things, they will be just like the mature believers of today who are not doing the work of divine healing. It is likely that they will, in turn, go on to discourage the next generation of Christians in these matters.
A Discouraging Warning: People who go out without the blessing of the church to do this become casualties themselves
Stories are told of from time to time of believers who went out in spite of the discouragements of their elders and ended up getting demonized or oppressed or worse. These stories are supposed to prove that we should be very cautious before encouraging anyone to go in Jesus’ name and heal the sick. Its hard to find anyone they actually encouraged to move forward in the matter. To this objection I answer:
If the believers who went out were very sinful, and had many holes in their spiritual armor, they would have had troubles whether they attempted divine healing in Jesus’ name or not as part of an attempt to reach out with the gospel. Obviously the priority is to try to help people to escape the snare of the devil and get rid of sinful attitudes. This can be done without crushing people’s spirits. If the spiritual leaders who were against the thing were doing the ministry of divine healing themselves, they would be far more likely to command the respect of those whom they forbad to go in the name of Jesus. It is granted that a few people are just plain rebellious and wrong. They need to be shown the right way to go. If they still want to rebel in spite of this it doesn’t mean that we should discourage others and refuse to train and impart into people’s lives so they can do this ministry effectively.
Such spiritual leaders can be rather like the elders in the time of Samson who bound him and delivered him up to the Philistines. They are so afraid of offending the devil they will actually deliver those who threaten the status quo to the enemies of God.
How much better it would be if spiritual leaders would create an environment of acceptance and actually welcome the initiatives of anointed men and women to destroy the works of the devil. Sickness is a work of the devil and we should encourage active attempts to destroy it (Acts 10:38). The best way is to show people how and disciple them in the process.
This is only for Evangelists
Evangelists especially are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). This especially includes the ministry of healing and deliverance, as well as soul-winning through the preaching of Jesus Christ, repentance and faith towards God.
It is not enough for evangelists to do this work. They are called to actually teach the people how to do it, just as Jesus did. The problem is, that so many church leaders and pastors do not actually have this kind of training activity on the agenda at all. Therefore the church remains unequipped in spite of the clear teaching of the New Testament on the matter. Generation after generation of souls slip into hell, while pastors are remain chiefly concerned for the one sheep that is found, leaving the ninety nine to perish for want of the presence and ministry of Jesus Christ.
This is something for the Pastors and Elders only.
This view might result from a confusion between the anointing of oil by the elders and the gift of healing generally. As stated before, God has ordained a variety of methods by which the sick are to be divinely healed in this dispensation. The Biblical pattern in regard for the ministry mentioned in James 5:14 is for pastors and elders to do it, not just any believer. But this does not mean that ordinary believers cannot or should not go out and practice Mark 16:18 both inside and outside the church. But this is something they will not do if all they can expect to receive is condemnation and disapproval in exchange for their efforts.
The commands Jesus gave to the apostles in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 are not for us.
Some object that the teaching of Matthew 10 and Luke 10 only applied for a particular place and time, and that we cannot take these instructions as being for the church today. To prove this assertion, reference is made to the instructions of Jesus about not going to Gentiles, not taking a purse, bag or sword, or spare tunic, and various instructions about footwear.
Actually, Jesus abrogated these commands in Luke 22:35-38. We are now allowed to take extra provisions on the road. And the Great Commission implies that we are now no longer limited to the House of Israel in our evangelistic endeavours. Praise God for that!
Otherwise most of us would be outside the Kingdom. But the other commands given in these passages of Luke 10 and Matthew 10 have not been revoked. Its just that they are impossible to do unless you are full of the Holy Spirit and have faith that God’s Word authorizes and commands you to continue the kind of works Jesus and the first disciples did.
Attempting this Ministry will Bring Shame on the Name of Jesus
This kind of prediction is based on the conviction that in almost all cases, with few exceptions, this kind of ministry is not right. But if this be so, God will not honor attempts to do it. And this will bring discredit and shame on the name of Jesus. Perhaps like the 10 spies who believe the giants in the land are too great, these leaders predict nothing but fear and disgrace.
In fact, experience proves just the opposite. When people have been encouraged and trained to go out and do the ministry of Jesus in healing and evangelism, God is pleased to work with them and confirm the word with accompanying signs (Mark 16:20). If we are truly concerned about the glory of God, let us devote ourselves to fasting and prayer, and then with definite purpose go out and expect to destroy the works of the devil in Jesus’ name. And let us not be content at doing it ourselves together with the Lord, but rather, let us not rest until as many of the Lord’s children as possible follow the example of the Master in bringing the compassion, healing and love of the Lord to as many as our within our reach.
What we need is a multiplying movement of power evangelism to sweep through our cities and the nations of the world with the power of God. To do this, we must take time to first be equipped ourselves. This is easiest where trainers exist, but in cases where it is not yet possible, the Lord Himself will graciously teach us by the Holy Spirit, who does lead us into all truth.
In a future article I will address positively things that can be done where people are convinced that this is right and ought to be done.