30 Minute Radio Sermon - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

March 11, 2001

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"Miraculous Divine Healine"

Many religious groups today claim divine powers to heal people of physical diseases! The number grows nearly every day. Every single one of them claim that miraculous divine healing continues through their "ministries" and they base this claim on exactly the same distorted biblical principles. They preach conflicting doctrines, often openly attack one another's doctrines, and yet claim that God is working through them to heal people. If that doesn't make God inconsistent, what do you suppose it would take to do so? We will study this important topic in just a minute.

Hello, this is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ welcoming you to another presentation of"What Is Truth?"The Clarksville church of Christ presents this program every Sunday at this same time. Our purpose is to teach the truth and nothing but the truth. We always urge you who listen to let us know if you find something taught on this program that is not true in accordance with God's word. We want to make sure that we are right in our teaching and you will be doing us a favor if you would let us know if you find anything that is contrary to the gospel of Christ. You are very warmly invited to visit our services today. At 9:30 A.M. we have Bible classes for all ages followed by our morning worship assembly at 10:30 A.M. Then this evening at 6 P.M. we will again worship congregationally. We also have Bible classes for all ages each Wednesday at 7:30 P.M. Our building is located at the corner of Hale Road and Hwy 131 in Clarksville. We would certainly be delighted to have you come and visit us today.

Miraculous divine healing is not healing received from doctors, medicines, therapy, or hospital care. What is called "divine healing" is healing that allegedly results only from supernatural causes. It is not a healing resulting from natural processes. Rather it is the healing one reads of in the Bible, as in the instantaneous cure of the leper, the palsied, the blind, speechless, deaf, and the lame. Jesus and His disciples cured all of these by supernatural powers. No one today can duplicate those miraculous deeds. The purpose of this lesson is to vividly and forcefully demonstrate this from the Scriptures. I affirm that all those who claim to possess the same miraculous powers Jesus had and gave his disciples are fakes, frauds, and imposters. I affirm they feed off of sincere people who are duped and deceived into thinking that these preachers have some divine power granted to them by the Almighty. My friends, listen carefully: no man today can do what Jesus and his apostles did by direct miraculous divine power. I urge you to please listen carefully to this lesson today and you will see and believe the truth of God.

Before going further into this study, please consider the variety of groups all claiming this extraordinary power. There are over a hundred branches of followers of the late Joseph Smith, Jr. who are called various kinds of Mormons. They all lay claim to the power of miraculous divine healing. Then there are the followers of Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science sect. They claim a number of "Christist" healings. Some may remember Amiee Semple McPherson and the "Four Square Gospel" movement. She claimed the power of divine healing. Any of the many branches of Pentecostals will affirm the power of miraculous divine healing still remains and they have their share (if not all) of it. Even Catholicism has its brand of miraculous cures. So who is right? The answer posed in this lesson is that none of them are right, for the Bible clearly teaches that miraculous divine healing ended at the end of the "apostolic age," or the age during which the apostles worked on earth.

1 Corinthians 12 lists nine gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed on various members of the first century church. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another thegifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." The Holy Spirit divided the gifts among members of the early church. Not all had the same gifts. In the same chapter, verses 29 and 30 we read, "Are all apostles, are all prophets, are all teachers, are all workers of miracles, have all the gifts of healing, do all speak with tongues, do all interpret?" Here is a clear affirmation that not all Christians could work miracles of healing. 1 Corinthians 13 continues with the same topic of gifts from the Holy Spirit. In this chapter Paul shows the limited duration of the gifts. He says, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1 Cor 13:8-10). Notice that when the perfect is come all that is in part will be done away. That which is in part includes prophecy. When the gift of prophecy failed then tongues and supernatural knowledge vanished also.

The prophecies failed, not in the sense of not being fulfilled; rather that the gift of prophecy would no longer be exercised by members of the church. That knowledge would cease does not mean all knowledge would disappear from the earth, that no one could know anything. It simply means that the gift of knowledge would not longer be given by the Spirit through direct operation. All of these gifts were to be "done away" when the perfect was come.

The perfect thing that was to come would bring to an end the need for supernatural gifts, including healing of physical diseases. Whatever the perfect thing is, when it came, the gifts ended. The word perfect comes from an original word that means "complete, whole, or entire." It applies to anything that has all its parts in the right places, properly related to each other, and adjusted to function correctly. To say, "when that which is complete is come" is the same as saying "when that which is perfect is come."

Some affirm that the perfect is either Christ or the blessed age to come. Both of these views are wrong. While there are statements referring to Christ as "that which" you will look long and hard to find Paul using such a reference. Rather he extolled the Christ, exalted Him, and spoke of Him with absolute reverence. That which is perfect or complete isrevelation. Prophecy "in part" served to reveal God's will to man. Knowledge from the Lord through the Spirit served to provide information for the church. Before the completion of the New Testament all knowledge and instruction had to come through supernatural means. The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles to guide them into "all truth" (John 16:13). James says, "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does"(James 1:25). James called the revealed law of God "perfect." Jude speaks of the faith as "once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

Miraculous divine healing was not primarily for the benefit of the sick, the lame, the blind or the deaf; it was primarily to confirm the word preached. In Mark 16:19-20 Mark reports, "So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." The signs were to confirm what was preached. Signs, wonders, and miracles were performed to create belief. On one occasion the Lord said, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe" (John 4:48). And, Paul said that "tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (I Corinthians 14:22).

During the time prior to the completion of the New Testament the only confirmation preachers had was the ability to do something supernatural such as to raise the dead, cleans the lepers, or heal the sick. The Hebrew writer tells us that the word is confirmed once and for all. "For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Heb 2:2-4).

At this time I would like to ask a question to you in the listening audience this morning: is the word of God confirmed or not? Some quibble, "There are numbers of people to whom it is not confirmed." That dodges the point. God confirmed it whether men accept it or not. It has been confirmed as God's word whether anyone believes it or not. Those who still believe in miraculous divine healing stand in opposition to the fact that God confirmed His own word. What an unenviable position!

We can take our stand safely that no one today has the power manifested by Christ and His apostles in the first century. We can safely affirm such power is not even needed. We urge all who read and study this to accept God's word as full, final, and confirmed and believe and obey from the heart.

The modern practice of miraculous divine healing (so-called) is based, in part, on erroneous conclusions from biblical principles. One such unfounded assumption is that along with the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, healing from physical maladies is included. A passage appealed to is Isaiah 53:4-5 which says, "Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." Since the prophet affirmed that we are healed by His stripes, and since He did cure certain individuals during His personal ministry on earth, some opine healing is part of and coextensive with atonement.

After one carefully considers the prophetic passage above certain conclusions must be drawn. If the healing mentioned is physical healing and is as extensive as the atonement of Christ, then all who receive the benefits of His atonement receive an equal amount of physical healing. Atonement benefits all who receive the forgiveness of sins through faith in the blood of Christ. Paul wrote, "Much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (atonement, KJV)" (Romans 5:9-11).

The healing Jesus did during His personal ministry could not have been what the prophet Isaiah meant. Isaiah said that the healing came from "His stripes." This refers to the death of Christ. Atonement was accomplished at the death of Christ -- "Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). How could His miraculous healing of the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead have been part of the prophecy of Isaiah? All this happened before He received the "stripes." The stripes refer to His brutal crucifixion on the cross.

If the atonement of Christ includes bodily healing then Jesus died for our diseases. If the Lord died for the diseases of mankind, then every single person who accepts the terms of atonement receives physical healing. But Jesus did not die for the illnesses of mankind. He died for the sins of mankind. Remember again the prophet's words."Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand" (Isaiah 53:10). The New Testament repeats this in passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18-19 and others. Nothing but human presumption can make the death of Christ include healing of physical disorders in the human body.

If healing of physical afflictions and ailments is part of the atonement, anyone who continues to have bodily affliction is obviously lost. One who suffers some physical disorder has not been reconciled to God, forgiven of sins, or saved. This is the obvious conclusion if atonement includes physical healing. If there is a case where someone who has received forgiveness of sins, but retains physical ailments or diseases, then it is obvious that atonement has nothing to do with physical healing. Let's look at some examples. Paul, formerly Saul, obeyed the Lord and was forgiven of his past sins. He was told by a special messenger of Christ to "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). That is what Paul did. Later he wrote, "Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3). Notice the personal pronoun "we." That includes Paul. He was baptized into the death of Christ. In the death of Christ man receives the benefits of Christ's atonement for sin. But Paul suffered physical disorders after conversion. He called his bodily affliction a "thorn in the flesh " and prayed three times to have it removed (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). The Lord said no. Then Paul added, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (verse 9). If body healing is as extensive as the atonement for sin why was Paul not granted relief from his physical infirmity? The answer is obvious. Bodily healing is not part of the atonement for sin.

If atonement includes physical healing then anyone who gets sick after conversion forfeits the benefits of the blood of Christ in atonement. Paul spoke of Timothy's "often infirmities" ( 1 Timothy 5:23). His infirmity was not sin -- it was stomach trouble. Paul mentioned Trophimus whom he left in Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20). His sickness was not sin. Luke was a physician. If the claim is true that atonement includes physical healing Luke had no work to do for his own brethren in Christ. But, simply put, the claim is false.

No Christian should ever have a headache, cold, sinus infection, allergies, heart problems, or any other physical ailment, if the claim is true. In fact, if atonement includes preservation of the body from disease why would any child of God ever die? As long as a child of God remains faithful he is free from the power of sin (Romans 6:14). And, if the child of God is faithful to the Lord, he would never become ill or die. Since faithful children of God have died from illness, obviously the claim made by proponents of modern day miraculous divine healing is utterly false.
Those who seek to find biblical proof that miraculous divine healing is still being practiced by God's people cite James 5:14-15 which reads, "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. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." Certainly James has physical healing in mind in the first part of this verse. The second part, "and if he has committed sins," refers to another kind of illness -- spiritual sickness. The passages affirms there is relief from both maladies.

The elders were to be summoned to pray for the sick and anoint him with oil. James affirms that the prayer of faith shall save the sick. Prayer in behalf of those who suffer physical sicknesses, no matter how severe they be, is the privilege of every Christian. But this verse specifies elders of the church. Elders are those who have been given the responsibility of watching for the souls of Christians under their charge (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2-3). Note in the reference in Peter the expression "charge allotted to you." These men of maturity, spirituality, and godliness could pray the "prayer of faith" and the sick would be healed.

There are two things to consider. First, during the first century, while the church was in a stage of infancy, miraculous divine healing was practiced. No one can successfully deny this. From this passage one could conclude that the elders who prayed and anointed with oil were among those to whom was granted the miraculous power of healing. "Gifts of healing" are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Who is to say that these elders were not recipients of this gift? Granting that the elders of the verse were able to pray a prayer of faith and anoint the sick with oil and the sick would be fully recovered does not prove that anyone has such power today. What is there in the passage driving one to the conclusion that the powers to heal miraculously continued beyond the first century?

The second thing to consider is the distinct possibility that no such thing as miraculous healing is even involved. When elders (in any dispensation of time) pray a prayer of faith, they petition the Heavenly Father that He be merciful to one afflicted with disease or illness. The Almighty answers prayer -- but not always by some miraculous manifestation of His power. Sometimes through doctors, therapists, medicines, or clinics God answers prayer. If the elders of the verse prayed for the recovery of a sick person, according to God's will, they rested their case. The anointing of oil was probably no more than a medicinal remedy to comfort and soothe the suffering patient. What is there in the verse to indicate that some miraculous properties were inherent in the oil? Besides, what kind of oil was it? If God intended for elders to continue to anoint the sick with oil, surely He would have given more information as to the kind of oil, and how and where to apply it to the sick.

But those who misuse this verse to contend that miraculous divine healing is still the order of our day encounter a problem when they fail to cure someone. Many of you who are listening today have heard "faith healers" claim that the individual who needs healing must have faith and pray in faith for recovery. When someone is not cured they then claim the individual lacked sufficient faith. But the passage does not say the "prayer of the faithful" it says "the prayer of faith" will raise him up. The prayer of faith is the prayer of the one praying for the sick. So, the "faith healers" evidently lack faith when someone is not cured. If the passage affirms that the prayer of faith will cure the sick, it should work regardless of the faith of the sick person.

So, it is easy to see that James 5:14-15 does not support the claim for continued miraculous divine healing today. Its misuse is just another example of the weakness of the claims made by "faith healers" today. Little do they apparently realize the danger of "twisting to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). Thank you so much for listening this morning.

This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"