The Psalmist asked, "Who
pardons all your iniquities? Who heals all your
diseases?" His response is, "Bless the LORD, O my
soul, and forget none of His benefits" (Psalm
103:3). It is the LORD who heals.
The word "heal" and
"healing" means to make solid or whole. In the Bible
it means the restoration of health, the making whole
or well whether physically, mentally or spiritually.
In the Old Testament the
LORD God (Yahweh) alone was the source of all
healing. In every aspect of his life man is
dependent on the LORD God alone.
The privilege of physical
healing is governed by the will and sovereignty of
God. The LORD God heals whomever He wills. It is His
sovereign choice. Man has no basis for demanding
that God intervene and heal him of an illness.
Arrogance and presumption of sinful man is in stark
contrast to the sovereign grace of God.
Healing in the Old
The Old Testament
provides the proper background for understanding the
Christian teaching on healing. As a sovereign God,
He sustains His people in an eternal personal
relationship with Himself.
The LORD God,
Yahweh is the One who heals.
God delivered His people
out of the land of Egypt. Moses led Israel from the
Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of
Shur for three days and found no drinking water.
There were at least 600,000 people without water.
When they came to Marah, they could not drink the
waters of Marah, because they were bitter. So the
people grumbled at Moses, saying, "What shall we
drink?" Moses cried out to the Lord, and "the Lord
showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters,
and the waters became sweet. There He made for them
a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.
And He said, 'If you will give earnest heed to the
voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in
His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and
keep all His statutes, I will put none of the
diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians;
for I, the Lord, am your healer'" (Exodus 15:22-26,
NASB). (All Scriptures unless otherwise noted are
from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update).
"I Yahweh am your healer"
(NET translation note). Yahweh rofekha, is
the LORD who restores, heals, cures. The LORD your
God heals. The LORD is the physician. Every man is
in the need of healing. "Where will you be
stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head there is
nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw
wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened
with oil" (Isaiah 1:5-6). "The heart is more
deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who
can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD is the
only One who can heal the sin sick soul. Yahweh who
heals in the Old Testament is Jesus who heals in the
The LORD God is revealing
Himself as sovereign in the affairs of mankind. "See
now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life. I have
wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one
who can deliver from My hand" (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Our relationship with Him affects every area of our
In the Old Testament the
priest was not a healer. He was the medical officer
who authenticated that healing had taken place, for
example when a person was cured of leprosy.
Sickness and death are
the consequence of the fall when Adam and Eve
disobeyed God's Word (Gen. 2:17; 3:19). Mankind is
radically depraved and it has affected every area of
our lives. Even Satan can get his dirty hands
involved (Luke 13:16).
However, the Book of Job
and the teachings of Jesus clearly demonstrate that
sickness is not always divine punishment for man's
sins. It is not normative for God to use sickness as
punishment. God does use our sickness to discipline,
chastise, develop our faith in Him. What was the
outcome of Job's experiences? Job 40:4; 42:6). What
was the apostle Paul's response to his suffering?
"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all
comparison, while we look not at the things which
are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for
the things which are seen are temporal, but the
things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor.
The Psalmist pleads for
the Lord to heal his depression and the physical
effects of it in Psalm 6:2. "Be gracious to me, O
Lord, for I am pining away; Heal me, O Lord, for my
bones are dismayed."
The Lord heals the soul
when we confess our sins to Him. "As for me, I said,
'O Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have
sinned against You'" (Psalm 41:4). When we are
despondent, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm
34:18). "He heals the brokenhearted and binds
up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3). The emphasis in the
Psalms is on the physical, emotional and spiritual
The Lord brings healing
after judgment. "The light of the moon will be as
the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will
be seven times brighter, like the light of seven
days, on the day the Lord binds up the fracture of
His people and heals the bruise He has inflicted"
(Isaiah 30:26); cf. Egypt in Isa. 19:22). Isaiah
even speaks of "the day when no resident will say,
'I am sick'; The people who dwell there will be
forgiven their iniquity" (Isa. 33:24). There is
healing in His wings.
The fixed point in the
universe is the unchangeable throne of the LORD God.
After describing the depravity of the human heart in
Jeremiah 17:9, the Hebrew prophet went on to write:
"A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the
place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who
turn away on earth will be written down, because
they have forsaken the fountain of living water,
even the Lord. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be
healed; Save me and I will be saved, for You are my
praise" (Jeremiah 17:12-14). The healing of the
nation, the broken in heart, sin sickness comes from
the Lord. Jeremiah lamented in Jer. 8:22, "Is there
no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why
then has not the health of the daughter of my people
been restored?" (Jer. 8:22). The "balm" was a resin
derived from a special tree which grew in Gilead. It
was known for its healing properties. It was a
precious resin, extract which was produced 50 or 60
drops a day from the tree. It was a very costly
method that possessed marvelous curative properties.
It cleansed, soothed and healed. The medicine the
Lord gives brings healing. How tragic when there is
no hope, and a person is filled with despair. Like
the prophet, I have been there as a pastor when the
doctor calls the family in and says, "I am sorry,
but there is no cure. There are no medicines
available." I have also been there many times when a
beloved medical missionary turns and says, "Call
your missionary staff together and pray, that is our
only hope. It is all in the Lord's hands."
Sometimes, we see Him heal, at other times He
chooses to heal by taking our loved one home to be
with Him. Sometimes He uses the "Balm in Gilead,"
the medicines He has made available through modern
science, and at other times He touches and heals. By
both means He gets all the credit.
Healing in the New
The first three gospels
or Synoptic Gospels, demonstrate the Old Testament
emphasis of God as the healer of His people being
fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. Immanuel has
come and He dwells in the midst of His people. The
kingdom of God has arrived.
Donald Guthrie observes
"healing in the New Testament is of two kinds, (a)
physical healing (Matt. 4:24; 10:8; Luke 5:17; John
4:47) and (b) spiritual healing (Heb. 12:13) . . . .
It is important to observe that our Lord's healings
are never portrayed as mere wonders." Moreover, "In
both the Old and New Testament the idea of physical
healing readily lent itself to an application in a
spiritual and therefore a fuller sense (cf. John
12:40; 1 Pet. 2:24)" (Baker's Dict. of Theology,
E. F. Harrison, editor, p. 261).
Ministry of Jesus
In the New Testament
Jesus is the healer. It is important to note that
Jesus healed organic diseases, not psychosomatic
illnesses. It was not a matter of mind over matter
in His healings. He dealt with incurable diseases
from birth and long standing illnesses. He was no
modern day faith healer charlatan.
With the exception of two
verses the writers in the Gospels and Acts use the
Greek word therapeuo forty times meaning "to
heal." It is used to describe the miraculous
healings wrought by Jesus and His disciples. Healing
is an important part of the ministry of Jesus, but
it must be seen in the context of His teaching
ministry if it is to be correctly understood. "Jesus
was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their
synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the
kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every
kind of sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23).
Jesus went about teaching and healing.
In rapid succession the
Gospel writer Mark tells us Jesus began His ministry
in Capernaum by casting out the demons, healing
Peter's mother-in-law who was suffering from a high
fever, a large group of sick people brought to him
one afternoon, a leper, a paralytic, a man with a
withered hand, multitudes by the sea shore, a woman
with a hemorrhage for 12 years, raising Jairus'
daughter from the dead, the people in Gennesaret,
demon possessed daughter of the Syrophoenician
women, the deaf and dumb man, the blind man of
Bethsaida, demons possessed boy with a dumb spirit,
blind Bartimaeus, the paralytic man, etc.
Matthew also presents
Jesus' ministry of preaching, teaching and healing
the sick. "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the
gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of
disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and
they brought to Him all who were ill, those
suffering with various diseases and pains,
demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed
them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the
Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond
the Jordan" (Matthew 4:23-25). Matthew adds two more
examples by including the healing of the demoniac in
the synagogue (Matt. 1:23-28) and the blind man of
Bethsaida (Matt. 8:22-26). Matthew sees Jesus'
healing as directly fulfilling the Old Testament.
The healing ministry of
Jesus is a revelation of His person. Who is this
man? How can He do these things? He is God with us.
He heals the blind and raises the dead. Only God can
In the four Gospels the
healing ministry of Jesus is understood primarily as
it relates to the spiritual proclamation of the
kingdom of God, and its King.
The Gospel of Luke,
written by an ancient physician, stresses the
healing ministry of Jesus. He introduces the
ministry of Jesus in Luke 4:18-21 when Jesus quoted
Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth. "'The
Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed
Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me
to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of
sight to the blind, To set free those who are
oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the
Lord.' And He closed the book, gave it back to the
attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the
synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to
them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in
your hearing'" (Luke 4:18-21).
Luke includes all of the
healing events in Mark except Mark 6:45-8:26. The
healing ministry of Jesus points to the arrival of
the kingdom of God as promised in the Old Testament.
Christ healed men not only of bodily diseases but
also of demon possession. With the coming of Christ
the Satanic powers were subject to His power and
spoken word. We glimpse the splendor of Christ the
King as He casts out demons. Here is evidence the
kingdom has come.
Jesus trained His
disciples, empowered them and sent them out to
minister to the needy.
The Gospel of John has
only four examples of Jesus' healing ministry even
though John was with Jesus during the three year
ministry. Jesus healed the royal official's sick son
at Capernaum, the cripple who had been helpless for
38 years, the man blind from birth, and raising of
Lazarus from the dead. These miracles were attesting
signs pointing to Jesus as the Son of God. His whole
point is, "Therefore many other signs Jesus also
performed in the presence of the disciples, which
are not written in this book; but these have been
written so that you may believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may
have life in His name" (John 20:30-31).
The healing ministry was
a ministry of proclamation of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom had arrived with the coming of the King.
When Christ returns we will see the consummation of
the kingdom of God. There will be the manifestation
of the glory of the King and His reign. The healing
ministry of Jesus is simply the outworking of His
majesty and power.
In Matthew 8:16-17,
quoting Isaiah 53:4 we see the Suffering Servant of
the LORD is fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies
by His healing miracles. The healings give evidence
that He is the Anointed of the LORD. This is a
necessary element of His messianic work. This is why
He has the authority to heal on the Sabbath.
Acts and the
What Jesus began to do in
His first coming He continues to do through His
Body, the church (Acts 1:1-8). This is the
work of the Holy Spirit in the Body. The main
emphasis of Acts is on proclamation.
The disciples of Jesus
went about doing what Jesus was doing by proclaiming
the good news of Jesus and calling men to put their
faith in the risen Christ. People were healed in the
name of Jesus. The apostles Peter and John healed a
poor lame beggar. "But when Peter saw this, he
replied to the people, 'Men of Israel, why are you
amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by
our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers,
has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you
delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate,
when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned
the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer
to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of
life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact
to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith
in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has
strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the
faith which comes through Him has given him this
perfect health in the presence of you all'" (Acts
3:12-16). This is the thrust of the healing done by
the apostles in Acts. The stress is upon the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The risen Christ is
doing these things. The authorities could not
silence the apostles. They wouldn't shut up talking
about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "And now,
Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that
Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all
confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and
signs and wonders take place through the name of
Your holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30). Peter
healed Aeneas and raised Tabitha from the dead.
Philip, the lay
evangelist went about preaching the gospel and
healing the sick and the unclean spirits. Remember,
he was one of the first deacons in Acts 6.
The apostle Paul went
about preaching and establishing new churches,
healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised
Eutychus from dead after he went to sleep and fell
out a window and died during Paul's sermon. I think
it is important to note that Paul says very little
about healings in his letters.
In 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28
Paul wrote about the gift of healing. The word
"healing," literally "healings" (plural) can refer
to various healings such as emotional as well as
physical ailments by natural as well as miraculous
means. The context determines the interpretation.
The context of this passage teaches that not every
believer is given all these gifts, and that God is
sovereign in His distribution of gifts for the
edification of the body.
Some spiritual gifts are
no longer in existence today. For example, the gift
of apostleship and prophecy no longer occur
according to their biblical definition. The
gifts of healing and miracles could also be
understood in the same manner.
On the other hand, the
gift of evangelism, teaching, pastor-teacher,
discernment, helps and faith continue to exist in
our day and will until Jesus comes.
Some teach that healings,
miracles and tongues will not cease. Other scholars
stress that they have ceased.
James Montgomery Boice
writes, "We dare not put God in a box on this
matter, saying that He cannot give the gifts of
healing or miracles today. He can. On the other
hand, to say that is not the same thing as saying we
have a right to expect healings or that what passes
for the miraculous today is authentic" (Foundations
of the Christian Faith, p. 614).
We should be careful to
note that in the New Testament Christians were not
always healed. The apostle Paul wrote of his friend
and co-worker Trophimus, "Erastus remained at
Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus" (2
Tim. 4:20). Paul had healed other people, why not
Trophimus? Did Paul loose his gift? Did he not have
faith to trust the Lord to heal Trophimus? The
answers are found only in our understanding of the
sovereign will of God.
The apostle James placed
emphasis on the sick person requesting the church to
pray for his healing. "Is anyone among you sick?
Then he must call for the elders of the church and
they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in
the name of the Lord; 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. 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" (James 5:14-16).
In the New Testament all
recorded healings were virtually instantaneous, and
patients did not need after-treatment.
The emphasis in
Revelation is there is coming a day when there will
be no more crying, "and there shall be no longer any
death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or
crying, or pain" (Rev, 21:4-5). What a day that will
be. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Do these gifts
These "gifts of healings"
are not for self-exaltation of the faith healers.
They are for the glory of the Lord and the building
up of the Body of Christ. We live in a narcissist
Every healing is the
result of the sovereign will of God. No one has the
authority to demand that God heal them, or use them
to bring healing to others. Even the apostle Paul
could not heal himself from the thorn in the flesh
(2 Cor. 12:8-9), or from the ailment he suffered
when he preached in Galatia (Gal. 4:13-14). He was
unable to heal his colleague Timothy of his stomach
ailments (1 Tim. 5:23), or Epaphroditus from his
life threatening illness (2 Tim. 4:20). God is
sovereign when it comes to healing and He can give
or withhold a gift of healing for His eternal
Healing is not among the
greater gifts like pastor-teacher, apostle or
In John 5:1-18 Jesus
walked into a huge multitude of people who were
"sick, blind, lame withered." The amazing thing is
not everyone was healed that day. Only a "certain
man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in
his sickness" (v. 5), and this was the person Jesus
chose to heal. He healed just one man, and then
disappeared without even him knowing who healed him.
This is definitely not the scene you see on faith
healers TV programs. Jesus left hundreds of invalid
individuals behind unhealed. A little later Jesus
found the man by himself and told him to put his
eyes on holiness. "Sin no more."
The full healing of all
His people and their diseases awaits the second
coming of Jesus Christ. In His first coming the
people received the foretastes of His divine healing
power. Healing is the exception, not the rule until
Jesus comes again. Jesus had all the power to heal
anyone, and everyone, but He did not usher in the
final day of perfect wholeness at His first coming.
The apostle Paul said the whole creation groans
waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23). Healing is the
exception, not the rule in our day. Jesus was not
weak in faith. He had all the power and all the
perfection of the Triune God, but He chose to leave
hundreds unhealed at the pool of Bethesda.
I believe in miracles. I
have seen God's hand at work time and again. But
most people who suffer from illnesses in this life
will have them until they die. They love the Lord
God, they are faithful servants, and many have given
their lives until death serving Him. All of us,
unless Jesus returns, will die of some illness. Some
are healed along the way, but they too will die
A highly regarded strong
Bible-believing evangelical Christian medical
doctor, and professor of pediatric surgery at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and
surgeon in chief of Children's Hospital in
Philadelphia, Dr. C. Everett Koop makes a candid
observation. Dr. Koop is a deeply committed
Christian who believes in miracles. He has spent a
lifetime working with families who have prayed in
faith that God would heal their deformed or child
suffering from incurable cancer or other
life-threatening childhood diseases. Dr. Koop
writes, "I believe in miracles. I understand that
all healing comes from God. I would love to see a
miracle of healing where God supervenes his natural
law and heals by miracle. If I were to see such a
miracle, I would be overjoyed. I would give God the
praise. But now, in spite of believing that all
healing comes from God and in spite of believing in
miracles, I have never seen one" (As quoted by
Boice, ibid, p. 615). Boice concludes, "His
experience had led him to conclude that truly
supernatural healings are not occurring in our time.
. . . his experience and opinion should be a warning
to those who talk loosely about this matter and even
claim miracles in questionable cases."
Those of us who have
buried our infants and small children understand the
depth of this man of God. We have been there with
him. There is a glorious day coming when all of that
Chuck Swindoll in a
message on "Suffering, Sickness, Sin and Healing"
has an excellent statement:
"I believe in divine
healing. I do not believe in divine healers. I
believe in faith healing. I do not believe in faith
healers. There is a great difference. I believe that
God in His sovereign grace and power will in fact
reach down in some cases and change a condition . .
. . And I am of the conviction that God does that
apart from any individual who claims to have certain
powers" (as quoted in James, Practical and
Authentic Living, p. 194).