Faith Healing—Is It From God?
THE man had been sick for 38 years. “Do you want to become sound in health?” asked Jesus. If you were this man, would you not have eagerly answered yes? Jesus told him: “Get up, pick up your cot and walk.” The effect of those words? “The man immediately became sound in health, and he picked up his cot and began to walk.”—John 5:5-9.
This feat of divine healing was but one of many that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry. (Matthew 11:4, 5) Faith healers today claim that God still performs such healings, and they are backed by the testimonials of thousands who claim to have been healed by them.
A study of the Bible reveals several crucial differences between the cures reported in the Bible and those reported by faith healers today. Jesus and his disciples, for example, never charged for their cures. “You received free, give free,” taught Jesus. (Matthew 10:8) Thus they followed the example set by Elisha, who refused a gift from a man named Naaman whom Elisha cured of leprosy. (2 Kings 5:1, 14-16) Therefore, when faith healers charge for their services, they violate this Scriptural precedent.
It is also noteworthy that healings performed in Bible times were either instantaneous or accomplished within a short period of time. When the apostle Peter saw a man “that was lame from his mother’s womb,” he told the man: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” The account reveals: “Instantly the soles of [the lame man’s] feet and his anklebones were made firm; and, leaping up, he stood up and began walking.” (Acts 3:1-8) Read for yourself other examples at Acts 5:15, 16 and 14:8-10.
Today’s faith-healing cures, however, often take days, weeks, or even months to work! Noteworthy, too, is the fact that faith healers tend to focus on functional illnesses, such as blindness, paralysis, or deafness—maladies that at times have a psychological basis. Observes surgeon Paul Brand: “Once an organic fact has become incontrovertible—missing legs, eyes, or hair follicles—miracles rarely occur.” Jesus, however, cured “every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity,” including defects obviously organic in nature, such as a shriveled hand.—Matthew 9:35; Mark 3:3-5.
‘You Lack Faith!’
Tragically, many grievously ill people attend ‘healing crusades’ only to return home as sick as ever. Faith healers explain away such failures by claiming, ‘They lack faith!’ This, however, smacks of fraud. As Dr. William Nolen observes: “Unlike the orthodox physician, a psychic healer never has to take the responsibility when his healing fails. I must confess that I would like the option of resorting to such an excuse when I encounter a patient whom I cannot cure.”
Neither God’s prophets, Jesus, nor Jesus’ disciples ever had need to offer the excuse that the infirm one was not cured because he lacked faith. True, a lack of faith may have limited the number of people who came forward to be healed. But for those who did come forward, a complete cure always took place!—Mark 6:5, 6.
Indeed, in some cases people obviously lacking faith were cured. Naaman, the chief of the Syrian army, for example, did not fully believe he could be cured of his leprosy in the way the prophet Elisha directed. It was only after his cure that he admitted: “Here, now, I certainly know that there is no God anywhere in the earth but in Israel.” (2 Kings 5:11-13, 15) The flimsy excuses of faith healers thus fall flat.
Healing—A Gift That Passed Away
But is it not true that miraculous gifts of healing were common among early Christians? (1 Corinthians 12:9) Yes, but there was good reason for the miracles that took place back then. For a millennium and a half, the nation of fleshly Israel was God’s chosen people; but in the first century of our Common Era, Israel was rejected because of its lack of faith and replaced by the new Christian congregation. Those early Christians needed extraordinary help to strengthen their faith and to give evidence to the outside world that they had Jehovah God’s backing.
Thus, miraculous gifts, including healing, were given the infant Christian congregation. These served as “a sign” to unbelievers and as a means of building up the faith of believers. (1 Corinthians 14:22) However, nearly two thousand years later, Christianity is no longer in its infancy. (Compare 1 Corinthians 13:9-13.) The Bible has long been completed and is in circulation by the millions of copies. So true Christians today can easily direct unbelievers to its pages in support of what they teach. Miraculous manifestations are no longer needed.
Paul further indicated that supernatural gifts would “be done away with.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) Such gifts were passed on only directly by or in the presence of Christ Jesus’ apostles. (Acts 8:18-20; 10:44-46; 19:6) After the death of the apostles, miraculous manifestations ceased.
The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature by McClintock and Strong (Volume VI, page 320) observes that it is “an uncontested statement that during the first hundred years after the death of the apostles we hear little or nothing of the working of miracles by the early Christians.”
Reason to Beware
Jesus Christ warned that a time would come when many would say to him: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?” And yet Jesus would tell them: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22, 23) What, then, accounts for their seeming success in performing “powerful works” if it is not the spirit of God?
In some cases, outright fraud appears to be involved. For example, The Herald, a newspaper of Zimbabwe, reported on three individuals whom a famous faith healer heralded as having been cured. The paper exposed this as a fraud: “One child can still neither hear nor speak; one child was never deaf or dumb; and a woman, who was just deaf, still cannot hear.”
At times, faith healing appears to have a placebo effect upon the sufferer. In other cases—especially where a long period of time elapses before the cure manifests itself—it appears that the body’s natural healing mechanism is involved. In the book Science and the Paranormal, Dr. William Nolen claims that “about 80 percent of the patients who come to [an orthodox physician] have self-limited diseases—that is, diseases from which they will recover spontaneously.” With the passage of time, therefore, a faith healer can easily take credit for the cure.
Finally, the Bible warns that “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light” in an attempt to deceive. (2 Corinthians 11:14) At 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10, Paul further explained: “The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work [“all kinds of miracles,” The Jerusalem Bible] and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing.” So beware! Faith healing often involves demonic powers! “I do not want you to become sharers with the demons,” warned Paul. “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons.”—1 Corinthians 10:20, 21.
When a Christian Is Sick
True, when one is ill, a miraculous cure may seem an attractive possibility. Notice, though, that the apostle Paul’s fellow worker Epaphroditus became sick nearly to the point of death. (Philippians 2:25-27) Paul’s close companion Timothy likewise suffered “frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Yet, Paul did not cure either of these men miraculously. And when Paul needed medical attention himself, he may have used the services of Luke, “the beloved physician,” who traveled with him.—Colossians 4:14.
Likewise today, a Christian who is ill can seek the aid of a qualified physician or therapist, avoiding any dabbling in demon-inspired cures or in the quackery that is so common in many lands today. He can also pray, not for a miraculous cure, but for wisdom to deal with the illness. (James 1:5) He can also implore that Jehovah “sustain him upon a divan of illness.”—Psalm 41:3.
Granted, it can be most discouraging when medical science is unable to cure a particular ailment. Nevertheless, even when ill a Christian must strive to “make sure of the more important things,” not allowing concern over health to overshadow spiritual concerns completely. (Philippians 1:10) He can sustain himself with the hope of living under God’s Kingdom when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24; 65:17-19.
Really, this hope of a righteous new world is of far more value than the empty promises of faith healers. Consider Peter, a blind man living in Akumadan, Ghana. He spent a total of 26 years in different faith-healing churches in hopes that his blindness would be cured. But no faith healer opened his eyes. Then, while still attending a faith-healing church, he was contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Witnesses explained from the Bible that under God’s Kingdom a total healing of all infirmities would take place. This opened Peter’s eyes of understanding. Full of appreciation for the Bible’s wonderful truths, he became a full-time proclaimer of God’s Kingdom and has served as such for over three years! He looks forward to the time when, in a literal way, “the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped.”—Isaiah 35:5, 6.
With the help of God’s Word, thousands of others have similarly freed themselves from mistaken trust in faith healers.
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Faith healers seldom cure persons with organic problems
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A Christian who is sick prays for strength to endure. He also looks forward to the new world, where “no resident will say: ‘I am sick’”