Definition: Causing a person who has been physically, mentally, or spiritually sick to gain good health. Some of the pre-Christian Hebrew prophets as well as Jesus Christ and certain members of the early Christian congregation were enabled by God’s spirit to perform miraculous healing.
Is miraculous healing in our day done by means of the spirit of God?
Can the ability to perform miracles come from a source other than the true God?
Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh of Egypt to request that Israel be allowed to go into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to Jehovah. As evidence of divine backing, Moses directed Aaron to throw down his rod and it became a big snake. That miracle was done by God’s power. But then the magic-practicing priests of Egypt threw down their rods and these, too, became big snakes. (Ex. 7:8-12) By whose power did they perform their miracle?—Compare Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
In the 20th century some faith healing is performed in services conducted by the clergy of Christendom. Among non-Christian religions there are voodoo priests, witch doctors, medicine men, and others who also do healing; they often employ magic and divination. Some “psychic healers” say that their cures have nothing to do with religion. In all these instances, does the healing power come from the true God?
Matt. 24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs [“miracles,” TEV] and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.”
Matt. 7:15-23: “Be on the watch for the false prophets . . . Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works [“miracles,” JB, NE, TEV] in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Are the sensational cures of our day performed in the same way as the miraculous cures of Jesus and his early disciples?
Cost of services: “Cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons. You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:8) (Are healers today doing that—giving free, as Jesus commanded?)
Rate of success: “All the crowd were seeking to touch him [Jesus], because power was going out of him and healing them all.” (Luke 6:19) “They brought the sick out even into the broad ways and laid them there upon little beds and cots, in order that, as Peter would go by, at least his shadow might fall upon some one of them. Also, the multitude from the cities around Jerusalem kept coming together, bearing sick people and those troubled with unclean spirits, and they would one and all be cured.” (Acts 5:15, 16) (In our day, do all who go to religious practitioners or to religious shrines seeking a cure get healed?)
Does the way of life of members of the organizations of which “healers” are a part give evidence that they have God’s spirit?
As a group do they outstandingly manifest such fruits of the spirit as love, long-suffering, mildness, and self-control?—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Are they truly “no part of the world,” shunning all involvement in the world’s political affairs? Have they remained clean of bloodguilt during wartime? Do they have a fine reputation because of avoiding the world’s immoral conduct?—John 17:16; Isa. 2:4; 1 Thess. 4:3-8.
Are true Christians today identified by the ability to do miraculous healing?
John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (This is what Jesus said. If we really believe him, we look for love, not miraculous healing, as evidence of true Christianity.)
Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Just before leaving his apostles to return to heaven, Jesus told them that this, not healing, was the vital work they were to do. See also Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.)
1 Cor. 12:28-30: “God has set the respective ones in the congregation, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then powerful works; then gifts of healings; helpful services, abilities to direct, different tongues. Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform powerful works, do they? Not all have gifts of healings, do they?” (So, the Bible clearly shows that not all true Christians would have the gift of healing.)
Does not Mark 16:17, 18 show that ability to heal the sick would be a sign identifying believers?
Mark 16:17, 18, KJ: “These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
These verses appear in certain Bible manuscripts and versions of the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. But they do not appear in the older Greek manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and Vatican MS. 1209 of the fourth century. Dr. B. F. Westcott, an authority on Bible manuscripts, said that “the verses . . . are no part of the original narrative but an appendage.” (An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, London, 1881, p. 338) Bible translator Jerome, in the fifth century, said that “almost all the Greek codices [are] without this passage.” (The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark, London, 1871, J. W. Burgon, p. 53) The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) says: “Its vocabulary and style differ so radically from the rest of the Gospel that it hardly seems possible Mark himself composed it [that is, verses 9-20].” (Vol. IX, p. 240) There is no record that early Christians either drank poison or handled serpents to prove they were believers.
Why were such gifts as the ability to do miraculous healing given to first-century Christians?
Heb. 2:3, 4: “How shall we escape if we have neglected a salvation of such greatness in that it began to be spoken through our Lord and was verified for us by those who heard him, while God joined in bearing witness with signs as well as portents and various powerful works and with distributions of holy spirit according to his will?” (Here was convincing evidence, indeed, that the Christian congregation, which was then new, was truly of God. But once that was fully established, would it be necessary to prove it again and again?)
1 Cor. 12:29, 30; 13:8, 13: “Not all are prophets, are they? . . . Not all have gifts of healings, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? . . . Love never fails. But whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease . . . Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (When they had accomplished their purpose, those miraculous gifts would cease. But priceless qualities that are the fruitage of God’s spirit would still be manifest in the lives of true Christians.)
As long as a person is healed, is it really important how it is done?
2 Thess. 2:9, 10: “The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work [“all kinds of miracles,” JB] and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
Luke 9:24, 25: “Whoever wants to save his soul [“life,” RS, JB, TEV] will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake is the one that will save it. Really, what does a man benefit himself if he gains the whole world but loses his own self or suffers damage?”
What hope is there for real healing from all sickness?
Rev. 21:1-4: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away . . . ‘And he [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.’”
Isa. 33:24: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”
If Someone Says—
‘Do you believe in healing?’
You might reply: ‘Anyone who doesn’t believe that God has the power to heal doesn’t believe the Bible. But I can’t help but wonder whether people are going about it in the right way today.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Let me read you a scripture, and see if you notice a practice that is very different in our day. (Matt. 10:7, 8) . . . Do you also notice something here that Jesus said his disciples could do but that healers today have not been able to do? (They cannot raise the dead.)’ (2) ‘We are not the judges of other people, but it is noteworthy that Matthew 24:24 mentions something that we need to be on guard against.’
Or you could say: ‘I certainly do believe that what the Bible says about healing is true. But any healing done in this system of things brings only temporary benefits, doesn’t it? Eventually we all die. Will there ever be a time when everyone living will enjoy good health and never have to die? (Rev. 21:3, 4)’