by Frank Luke
FCF: The Fall affected all of man; therefore, God provides healing for our sicknesses in body and spirit.
Sermon Introduction: “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all,” the children’s rhyme teaches us. The fall of man is something in which all Christians believe. Likewise, we all believe that Jesus died and rose to save us from those sins. That healing of the spirit is important, without it, we would spend eternity in Hell. However, God does not just heal our spirits. He provides for healing of our bodies.
One thing our Royal Rangers have to learn is the four distinctives of the Assemblies of God. They are Salvation, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and the Return of Christ. The Assemblies see divine healing as so important a concept we made it one of the Sixteen Fundamental Truths and one of our four cardinal doctrines.
In the early days of our fellowship, we saw the need to define exactly what all Assemblies ministers and members believed in. A core of doctrine, if you will. That God still heals in miraculous ways was deemed important enough to be added to the list.
Regarding the question of have the gifts continued, the Assemblies firmly believes they have. Baptism in the Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues is why our first pastors split off from the Methodists and were forced out of the Baptist churches. As we know, speaking in tongues, though important, is only one gift of the Holy Spirit. Among the others is divine healing, a miraculous cure that cannot be explained otherwise. It is not the result of the doctor’s care or medicine. It is not the person willing themselves to be well. It comes from above.
The prophets healed those around them. The prophets foretold that more and greater healings were to come. Then, when Jesus came, those prophecies were fulfilled in the Messiah and James promised us it was still happening after the Messiah’s return to Heaven.
Those who argued against the gifts continuing and still do call themselves cessationists. Cessationists have something of a spectrum with three definite places. The most hardcore cessationist believes that the gifts ceased at the end of the Apostlic age, this would be either the death of the last Apostle or when the last book of the New Testament was written. Others believe that the gifts continued for a few centuries until the Church was well-established in society. As we no longer need such confirmation that Christians are blessed of God, miracles ceased. The third group believes miracles faded slowly as the church’s condition deteriorated.
However, let us see what Scripture teaches us about the Messiah’s healing. We will read them in each point instead of all at once and then in each point.
Point 1: Christ and the Apostles Healed the Sick
This first point is one that those who argued against the continuation of the gifts will admit. Christ and the Apostles healed the sick. There are many examples in Scripture. They even did more than heal the sick; they raised the dead! Christ raised the son of the widow in Nain, brought sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, and healed the paralyzed.
It is the healing of the paralyzed man in Luke that I want us to look at first.
Luke 5:19-26 19 And not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center, in front of Jesus. 20 And seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” 22 But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk ‘? 24 “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”– He said to the paralytic– “I say to you, rise, and take up your stretcher and go home.” 25 And at once he rose up before them, and took up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. 26 And they were all seized with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
This man was confined to his bed. I imagine that when his friends lowered him through the roof, he was holding on for dear life. Imagine the scene, there. Removing part of a roof is not an easy job. The people inside know what you are doing. That they lowered him in front of Jesus tells me that Jesus stayed in place as the job was being done or moved there once the hole became apparent. I am curious about the man whose roof they tore apart. Did he protest? We will never know.
The healing comes about because of faith. Notice it is not the faith of the man in the bed but of his friends. Their faith makes the man whole.
The healing takes place in Capernaum, a city in Galilee. That first century was a time when many healers had been active and healings were a huge part of the Jewish faith. Many of these healers operated in Galilee. The Jews had their own cessationists who said that God had stopped healing when the last book of Scripture had been completed. Somethings never change.
You might be thinking that the cessationists then were Pharisees. No. It was the Sadducees. Just like today, they could see a healing and declare it hadn’t happened or had happened but was from the Devil. The Pharisees believed the God still worked through miracles and healed. Many of their most famous teachers had been miracle workers. When He used this moment to teach them, Jesus struck to the heart of the matter. He didn’t just heal the man, He forgave him of his sins. That wasn’t part of the script for a healing!
The Pharisees, rightly, know that no one can forgive sins except God. They also know that miraculous healings can only come from God or be counterfeited by Satan. Now, God would allow a counterfeit miracle then just like he allows fake faith healers today. However, one thing they believed that God would not allow was for the counterfeiter to still have his fake miracle after committing blasphemy. That’s why Jesus showed that the two issues were linked. For Him to forgive sins and still be able to raise the man to his feet meant this miracle was from God and His granting of forgiveness was also true. In Psalm 103:3, the two are linked when describing God as one “Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases.” Indeed, one name for God in the Bible is “The Lord who Heals.” God says that His nature does not change; He is of the same nature yesterday, today, and forever. If He healed then and does not change, He will heal today.
Likewise, we know that the Apostles healed the sick in the book of Acts and the letters. Jesus’ half-brother James believed it was such an integral part of Christianity that he instructed sick people to always be seeking healing (James 5:14-16). In Acts, Peter and Paul both raised the dead and healed the sick. They were continuing the ministry of Jesus. Jesus had told the Twelve to go forth and do miracles. These miracles proclaimed the power of God to those who needed to believe.
Point 2: Scripture never says healing will cease before the Kingdom.
There is nothing special about today that would mean healings are no longer needed. If anything, with the hostility to God in the modern world, they would be even more needed than miracles in the first century.
Cessationists will grab on to one passage of Scripture and claim that the miraculous gifts ceased with the death of the last apostle or others say the completion of the last book of the New Testament. Let us read that together and break it down.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 8 ¶ Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
What do we see here? We see that certain gifts will one day cease. Prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will be done away with. Scripture gives the reason as they are partial and the perfect will do away with the partial. Okay. We agree so far. One day, these gifts will cease. Notice that healings are not in the list of what will cease. So, even if the perfect has already come, there is no reason to believe healing has ceased.
Cessationists will say that the perfect came with either the death of the last apostle or the completion of the New Testament. Just one question. Jesus was perfection in the flesh. Miracles were needed when He walked the earth. How is the death of the last apostle or the completion of the New Testament bringing more perfection to earth than Jesus did?
Let’s look at what Paul tells us things will be like when the perfect comes. We’re in agreement with the cessationists so far in the passage that these things will one day cease. Paul says that these things will cease when we see face-to-face and know fully just as we are known. Neither of those conditions has been met. We still see this world through a mirror, darkly. We only know in part, not fully as God knows us.
What is the perfect if it is not Scripture or the completion of the Apostle’s ministry? The time will come, as Paul teaches here, when we will see clearly and face-to-face, a time when we will know as we are known. That time comes when the Kingdom of God comes. When Christ returns and establishes the Kingdom, He will do away with the partial. Then we will be perfected, and of course, in a place where there is no disease, no injury, and no tears, healings will cease. They will no longer be needed.
Some of them mock us and say, also drawing on this passage, that they have put away childish things. We are still babes because we think we need what has been done away with. Well, as we’ve seen the perfect has not come. So why would I think I do not need something which God has left available to us. To think so is arrogance in the first degree.
Another thing that has to be ignored is that atonement covers the consequences of sin as well as the sin itself. That’s what we saw with the paralyzed man; Jesus forgave his sins and healed him. God gives good gifts to His children. Why do we believe He would stop giving those gifts.
Point 3: Healing continues today.
Scripture gives no indication that any Apostles believed the gifts would cease anytime soon. In fact, James indicates that he expects them to keep going.
James 5:14-16 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
If we assume that James is only speaking of “for the time being” in these two verses, why do we assume that he means other parts of his little letter to still teach us today? That’s a serious question. We are also taught that all of Scripture is to teach us and improve us. So, if the gifts were to cease shortly after the close of the New Testament, wouldn’t that be wasted ink? Why spend so much space talking about something that isn’t going to matter in just a few years?
One thing that always cracks me up about cessationists is how they say we Pentecostals are “an experience looking for a theology.” They say that we believe these things happen so we force our theology to match our experience instead of the other way around. Ironically, the early cessationists argued that since it didn’t happen in their churches, what the Pentecostals were seeing wasn’t from God. Weren’t their churches just as holy as the holiness churches the Pentecostals started in?
The father of the modern cessationist movement was an otherwise very solid theologian named B.B. Warfield. He led the cessationist charge against the Pentecostals based on his experiences. His wife had been sick for years, and when the healing movement started, he prayed fervently for her, believing that God would heal her. Warfield’s wife was never healed. Warfield concluded that since he certainly had faith, this healing movement must not be true. In a tragic irony, he based his theology on his experience instead of the other way around.
We can find many examples of miraculous healings over the years after the close of Scripture. The cessationists put the time of the last miracle around AD 100. To say there were none after that or they were all counterfeit boggles the mind. Is it credible that the number of Christians who have been reporting miracles since AD 100 were all duped by the Devil? Is it possible that all these people cried out to God, and He refused aid but the Devil did not? And furthermore, these miracles all had the effect of increasing the faith in God of the region!
If you are willing to look into Church history, and I know we protestants are terrible when it comes to church history, you quickly find the cessationist position to be untenable. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Anthony of the Desert, and Basil the Great among others tell of miraculous healings they either witnessed first hand or were told about by someone who had seen it first hand. All of them came after the close of the New Testament!
As you go on through church history, you find others writing of miracles. Any age of history, you can find Christians writing of healings. You find demons being cast out. Now, even if you believe all of the healings to be counterfeit, does it make sense for a demon to leave in such a way as to increase the faith in God if it’s all fake?
You see, if we say that gift was supposed to stop even though the Apostles give no indication they think it will cease soon, then we must really wonder why God would inspire the Apostles to write about it. We can also wonder why no writer in the church prior to the early nineteen hundreds wrote that the gifts had ceased. There are indications they were becoming less common but not ceased. Why is it listed as a gift of the Spirit—why even bother to list the gifts of the Spirit—if they are going to cease in a few decades? Scripture was given to teach us for all time.
Surely, such a change in the way things worked would be worthy of comment. Since when you get two theologians hashing out Scripture, you get three opinions, I cannot imagine them not debating it sooner if it was an issue! But they don’t. Certainly, we see a slow down in such gifts as people, Christians included, expect less of God and so don’t pray for healing.
There were and are those who argue the miraculous gifts of the holy Spirit have ceased—hence they have the name cessationists. Because of their arguments against the early Pentecostals, our forefathers in the Assemblies saw the need to declare it one of the fundamental truths and even one of our distinctive truths. The Gospel has provided healing not only for the soul but for the body. To say that Christ came and healed the sick and told His disciples to heal the sick, which they did, and then to turn around and say He only meant that for a short time makes us ask what else He meant to be only for a short time?
We do not know why all are not healed. We know that many are healed. Scripture tells us that some sickness is to teach and some is to proclaim the glory of God through its healing. We know that faith is a requirement for healing, but that God gives the faith as needed. Jesus was not able to heal when those around Him lacked faith (Matt 13:58). Likewise, in times when the church has been spiritually dead, healings have been few. So, if you want to argue your church is dead inside, go ahead and argue for cessation.
Like all of us here, I wish that everyone who knelt to pray for a healing received it. I know that we expect it.
This morning, I want you to come forward for healing if you have need. Any sickness, any failing of the body, any disease or infirmity. Please come and pray for deliverance.
Please visit Frank Luke’s Blog where this sermon is also posted.