Is Faith Healing Approved by God?
“WE HAVE seen strange things today!” Yes, the observers were impressed. A severely paralyzed man had been healed before their very eyes. The healer told the man: “Get up and pick up your little bed and be on your way home.” And the man did just that! He was no longer paralyzed. No wonder that those present “began to glorify God”! (Luke 5:18-26) This cure, performed by Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago, very clearly had God’s approval.
What about today? Is miraculous healing still a good possibility for those who can find no medical cure? Jesus performed healing miracles. Faith healers today claim to imitate him. How should we view their claims?
Faith healing is defined as “a method of treating diseases by prayer and exercise of faith in God.” The Encyclopædia Britannica affirms: “The history of faith healing in Christianity began with the astonishing personal ministries of Jesus and the apostles.” Yes, Jesus effected outstanding cures. Do faith healers today perform miracles as he did?
According to Black’s Bible Dictionary, Jesus “specified [faith] as a prerequisite for his miracles of healing.” But was that the case? Did Jesus demand that a sick person have faith before he would heal him? The answer is no. Faith was needed on the part of the healer but not necessarily on the part of the sick person. On one occasion Jesus’ disciples failed to cure an epileptic boy. Jesus healed the boy and afterward told the disciples why they had been unable to heal him. “He said to them: ‘Because of your little faith.’”—Matthew 17:14-20.
According to Matthew 8:16, 17, Jesus “cured all who were faring badly.” True, these people had a measure of belief in Jesus that caused them to approach him. (Matthew 8:13; 9:22, 29) In most cases they had to come and ask before he healed them. However, no confession of faith was required for the miracle to be performed. On one occasion Jesus healed a lame man who did not even know who Jesus was. (John 5:5-9, 13) On the night of his arrest, Jesus restored the severed ear of the high priest’s servant, although this man was one of the group of Jesus’ enemies who had come to arrest him. (Luke 22:50, 51) Indeed, on occasion, Jesus even raised the dead!—Luke 8:54, 55; John 11:43, 44.
How could Jesus perform such miracles? Because he relied on God’s holy spirit, or active force. This is what did the curing, not the faith of the sick individual. If you read the accounts in the Gospels, you will also notice that the healings by Jesus were performed with a minimum of ceremony. There was no exhibitionism or playing on emotions. Further, no matter what the disease, Jesus never failed. He was always successful, and he never charged a fee.—Matthew 15:30, 31.
Modern Healings Like Those of Jesus?
Sickness is a terrible problem, and when it strikes, we naturally seek relief. What, though, if we live in a place where “people, especially those of little means, are treated by professional health workers as things and not as human beings”? That is the situation a doctor observed in one Latin-American country. And what if we live in a location where, as in that same country, ‘only 40 percent of medical doctors are qualified to practice their profession’?
Small wonder that many, seeing no other way out, view faith healing as at least worth a try. Yet, claimed cures by faith healers are controversial. For example, an estimated 70,000 attended a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, where two healers ‘trampled upon hundreds of eyeglasses thrown by the audience, promising the credulous owners restoration of their eyesight.’ One of the healers honestly acknowledged in an interview: “I cannot say that all those sick ones for whom we pray will be cured. It depends on their faith. If a person believes, he will be cured.” He blamed any failure to be healed on a lack of faith on the part of the sick one. Remember though, as we saw earlier, that Jesus blamed a failure to heal on the lack of faith of those doing the healing!
Another healer promised to cure cancer and paralysis. What happened? According to Veja magazine, “the promise, evidently, was not fulfilled.” And listen to the way the man conducted himself: “During nearly two hours, [the faith healer] entertained the audience with sermons, prayers, screams, singing—even using blows, with a view to expelling demons lodging in the bodies of the faithful. At the end, he threw his necktie and his handkerchief to the entranced audience and passed a plate in order to collect ‘voluntary contributions.’” Jesus and his apostles never asked for money for miraculous healings, and they never engaged in such theatrics.
Clearly, then, such modern faith healers are not doing what Jesus did. And it is hard to see that God would approve what they are doing. Does he, though, approve any miraculous healing today? Or is there any way that our faith can help us when we or our loved ones fall sick?