Is Anyone Sick? What Should He or She Do? (James 5)

A Special Study by Gareth L. Reese

Excerpted from James and 1,2,3 John:  A Critical & Exegetical Commentary
(Moberly, MO: Scripture Exposition Books LLC, 2007)
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       Each one of us has health problems.  As we get older the problems become more acute and life threatening.  Oh, to feel well again!  If we think someone we meet has some help to offer to overcome one of our problems, we listen. 

       Ever since Adam sinned and brought sickness and death into the world, people – every one of us – have been intensely interested in "getting well."

       Healing occupies a prominent place in religious experience throughout the world.  Often, the most important figure in the community is the one who can heal (or at least claim to heal).  Think of the Indian medicine man, the shaman, medical people in the world of Islam.  Even in our Christian circles, if someone comes along who can offer sick people some help to feel better or get well, he becomes an important figure.  In the last half century, numerous folk have appeared in the churches who make well-advertised claims to miraculous healing.  Since we who are hurting would dearly love to have some help to feel better, it certainly seems the path of wisdom to check what the Bible says about healing, lest we be fooled or deceived, and we stray away from the truth.



     A. Healings During Jesus' Earthly Ministry

        During Jesus' earthly ministry, healings were abundant.  At no other time in human history were so many people healed from such a multitude of sicknesses and diseases in so short a time as during Jesus' public ministry.

        Jesus' miracles were done by the power of God.  Several Scriptures make this fact very plain.  At Matthew 12:28, Jesus says, "If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God ... then the kingdom of God has [come into your community]."  So He stated that He was working by the power of God, by the Spirit of God.  At Luke 5:17 we read that during Jesus' Galilean ministry, "the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing."  Acts 2:22 tells us Jesus wrought miracles by the power of God; i.e., that God worked them through Him.  Reminding his audience about Jesus' ministry, Peter says that "Jesus ... a man attested to you" – how? – "by miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him."  So the Father was working through the Son as the Son did the miracles He did; Jesus' miracles were done by the power of God.  According to Acts 10:38, "God anointed [Jesus] with the Holy Spirit and with power," and "He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

        Jesus' miracles were done for a purpose, namely, to authenticate His Messianic claims.  We see this in Scripture, too.  Matthew 11:2-19 (also Luke 7:18-23) is a good place to see the purpose of Jesus' miracles.  When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent to Jesus and said, "Are you the Coming One, or shall we look for someone else?"  Jesus replied, "Go and report to John the things you see and hear."  He then enumerated what He had been doing:  blind people getting their sight, lame people walking, lepers being cleansed, deaf people hearing; the dead being raised.  Those miracles credentialed that Jesus was the Messiah.

        That was the purpose why Jesus performed the miracles.  If I'm the one being made well, I'm happy to be healed.  But Jesus wasn't healing simply to make folk well.  He was healing so that we would see who He was.  Maybe what the messengers from John learned will help us to remember the purpose of Jesus' miracles.

     B. Healings by Jesus' Apostles

        The twelve apostles chosen by Jesus, who received on-the-job training as they accompanied Him during His earthly ministry, from time to time also performed healings as they traveled from place to place representing Jesus.  For example, in Matthew 10:1-15, the apostles were given temporary powers and sent on a preaching and healing mission.  And on another occasion, the Seventy were sent on a similar mission (Luke 10:1-16).

        On Pentecost (Acts 2), following the conclusion of Jesus' earthly ministry, the apostles were especially empowered for their church planting mission, just as Jesus had promised them they would be (Acts 1:4,5,8).  What had been temporary back earlier is now becoming more permanent.  And indeed a number of miracles were wrought through the apostles (Acts 2:43, 3:6, 5:15, 9:30-43, 14:8-10, 19:11,12, 20:9-12, 28:8,9).

        Some of the miracles the apostles did were miracles of benefit – sick and hurting people were benefited and helped.  But there were also miracles of judgment.  People were stricken with sickness, with blindness, with death.  See Acts 5:1-11 (Ananias and Sapphira were stricken dead) and Acts 13:4-12 (Elymas the sorcerer was stricken blind, so he will learn to repent).  We sometimes forget these miracles of judgment when we want to ask for power (to heal).  Sometimes the power benefits, and sometimes the power results in judgment.

        The miracles worked by the apostles were the signs by which you recognized a man was an apostle.  Just like Jesus' miracles helped us to recognize He was the Messiah, so the miracles wrought by the apostles helped us to recognize they were apostles of Jesus.  At 2 Corinthians 2:12, Paul reminded the Corinthian readers that "signs of a true apostle were performed among you"; i.e., 'you had better believe that I, Paul, am an apostle of Jesus given the miraculous signs you have witnessed.'

     C. Healings by People Other Than Jesus' Apostles

        In the New Testament church, when healing was done by someone other than the apostles, healing was done in one of two ways.  One of the ways healing was done was by exercising one of the "spiritual gifts."  The second of the ways healing sometimes occurred was in answer to prayer.  We'll first discuss "spiritual gifts."

            1. Who was involved in the working of miracles after Pentecost?

        We've already talked about Jesus' apostles, who were especially empowered (Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3).  Miracles were done by them.

        There were also certain Christians who were "spiritually gifted" in order to do miraculous things.  Examples include Stephen (Acts 6:8) who spoke by inspiration, and Philip (Acts 8:6) who went down to Samaria and demonstrated miraculous abilities.  There were others in the early church so gifted.2

        Not every Christian was specially "gifted."  To see this, we might turn to 1 Corinthians 12:29,30 (ASV):  "Do all speak in tongues?  (No, is implied answer.)  Do all work miracles? (No, is the implied answer.), etc."  Why not?  Because not everyone was spiritually gifted, and even those who were gifted did not receive all the gifts.  1 Corinthians 14:16 specifically talks about some church members who were ungifted.  Or consider Simon, the ex-sorcerer, in Acts 8.  After his conversion, Simon has seen Philip's miracles, but does not have such abilities himself.  Simon says, "Here's some money.  Show me how to do it."   Peter replies to Simon, who was a Christian (see Acts 8:12; Simon had done the same thing to become a Christian the other folk at Samaria did to become Christians), "You have no part or portion in this matter."  He was ungifted3 and wasn't going to get a miraculous spiritual gift.  Some Christians were ungifted.

        It is important to remember there are other folk who did miracles in Bible times, not just those Christians who were spiritually gifted.  Per Acts 19:13ff, some Jewish renegades, the seven sons of Sceva, were "exorcists. " They used an "oath" ["I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches”] or a magical formula to cast out demons.  But these were recognized as being impostors.  They were doing things by supernatural power, but it wasn't the Lord who was behind them.  There were such things in the ancient world, as in our modern world, as lying wonders (see below).  We include this paragraph just so we will have it impressed on our minds that not all miracles are from God, or wrought by the power of God.

            2. "Spiritual Gifts" - What are we talking about?

        There are several listings of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, and we ought to take a moment to read them.  This should help us have a Biblical content in mind when we speak about "spiritual gifts."  1 Corinthians 12:1 reads, "Now concerning spiritual gifts ...."  Verse 4 continues, "there are varieties of gifts ...."  Verse 7 adds, "to each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

        1 Corinthians 12:8-11 gives us one list of the kind of gifts Paul is writing about.  As we read through this list, we see that "gifts of healings" is one of the gifts (both words are plural in the Greek).  Opinion:  Each person with a gift of healing could heal one family of diseases, respiratory or circulatory or auditory or sight or digestive, etc.

        1 Corinthians 12:28-30 has another listing of the gifts.  When we compare this listing with the one read earlier, we observe there are more than nine gifts of the Spirit.  "Gifts of healings" occurs again in these verses.

        These are the things we are talking about when we use the language "spiritual gifts."  We sometimes call them "miraculous spiritual gifts."

            3. "Spiritual Gifts" were temporary in the early church.

        There are several reasons to believe the gifts were temporary. 

        (a) The first reason has to do with how the "spiritual gifts" were received.  Numerous passages show the gifts were received by the laying on of an apostle's hands.

  • In Acts 8:17 we read that Simon saw that the Spirit was given "by the laying on of an apostle's hands."
  • In Acts 19:6 we read about some new Christians who had been followers of John the Baptist before their conversion to Christianity.  Verse 5 says they were baptized in the name of Jesus.  Verse 6 says Paul laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them, and then they exhibited spiritual gifts (i.e., spoke in tongues and prophesied).  The new converts received their miraculous spiritual gifts by Paul the apostle laying hands on them.
  • Hebrews 2:3,4 says that folk who lived in Old Testament times were severely punished when they ignored the Law of Moses.  What is going to happen to us who ignore the gospel, with its many more wonderful privileges than the Jew had?  "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"  What makes it great?  It was first spoken by the Lord, when He was here on earth.  And then it was confirmed to us by the apostles of Jesus who heard Him.  How was it confirmed?  God was "bearing witness with them both by signs, and wonders, and miracles, and distributions ("gifts") of the Holy Spirit."  As the apostles distributed spiritual gifts, those miracles confirmed the gospel message they were preaching.
  • According to Romans 1:11, Paul was anxious to come to Rome that he might impart to them "some spiritual gift."  No apostle had ever been to Rome (Romans 15:20); he would like to go Rome to impart spiritual gifts to those Christians.
  • According to 2 Timothy 1:6, Timothy had spiritual gifts by the laying on of the apostle's hands.

It is difficult to show from Scripture that miraculous spiritual gifts were received in any other way than by the laying on of an apostle's hands.

        We are not quite done with this question of "How did you get a spiritual gift?"  We've highlighted the idea of laying on of hands by an apostle.  Now let's zero in on what we mean when we say "apostle" and the temporary nature of that office.  Remember, we are still working on the first reason for thinking the spiritual gifts were temporary.

        "Apostle" (an apostle of Jesus) was a temporary office/function in the early church.  By "temporary" we mean that the job of apostle is not something that continues through the whole church age until the return of Jesus.  Several lines of thought indicate the temporary nature of the role:

  • Review the qualifications given to be an apostle when it was needful to fill Judas Iscariot's place (Acts 1:21-22).  The time is AD 30, just before Pentecost.  Two qualifications are given as requirements to take Judas' place as an apostle:  have traveled with Jesus during His earthly ministry, and have witnessed one of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances.  Matthias was chosen.4  These two qualifications point to the temporary nature of the office.
  • James the son of Zebedee was not replaced after his martyrdom (Acts 12:2).  The time is AD 44, just before Herod Agrippa I dies.  James is the first of the apostles of Jesus to die, and the first to be martyred.5  That the vacancy was not filled when James the son of Zebedee died tends to confirm the idea that the office was temporary.
  • Apostles and prophets made up the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).  This indicates the temporary nature of their jobs.
  • Paul was the "last" of the apostles of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7,8).6 

        One reason for believing that spiritual gifts were temporary is related to how such gifts were received:  by the laying on of an apostle's hands.  That is something that is no longer possible if the office of apostle was temporary.

        (b) A second reason for believing the spiritual gifts were temporary is that there are clear verses of Scripture that say so

  • Hebrews 2:2-4 tell us the gifts were to confirm the message.  The verb tense of "confirmed" (i.e., past tense) indicates that "confirmation" was over and done by the time Hebrews was written.
  • Mark 16:17-20 is an interesting passage we should spend a few moments with.  (α) Notice, verses 9-20 are in brackets in most Bibles, and a footnote explains there are some ancient manuscripts that do not contain these verses.  When it comes to making a harmony of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, I would be delighted if I did not have to try to include these verses in my harmony.  If you have ever tried to harmonize the accounts of those appearances, you know it is not an easy task.  If we could leave Mark's record out of our harmony, it would be much easier to make the harmony.  But the evidence that these verses were originally part of Mark's Gospel is strong enough that I cannot just leave them out.  (β) The Christian churches like verses 15 and 16; they help us know how to become a Christian.  But what about the verses immediately following?  "These signs will accompany those who have believed:  in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."  Do verses 17 and 18 tell us what all Christians do?  Mark's Gospel was written ~AD 68, about the time Peter died.  (It is likely that Mark was Peter's translator, who wrote down what Peter preached).  Writing some 38 years after Pentecost, Mark closes his Gospel with these words (verses 19,20), "So then, when 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, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed."  As was true in Hebrews 2, Mark uses past tense verbs.  The "confirmed" and "followed" were over and done by the time Mark wrote.
  • Compare 1 Peter 3:15 with Matthew 10:19.  It looks like there is a contradiction in our Bibles if spiritual gifts are permanent.  The passage in 1 Peter says to "plan ahead of time what you will say when on trial for being a Christian."  ("Make a defense" is technical language dealing with the courtroom.)  Matthew 10 says, "When you are on trial, do not plan ahead of time ...."  Matthew records what Jesus said before He died in AD 30.  To the first believers, He said "do not plan ahead of time what you shall say to defend yourselves when you are on trial."  But some 35 or so years later, Peter, by inspiration, says "plan ahead of time what you shall say when on trial ...."  How do we harmonize these passages if gifts are permanent?  But, if spiritual gifts were temporary, there is no contradiction.  If the special gifts are now gone, we must now plan what we shall say to the judge.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 tell us the "gifts" don't abide [last] as long as the graces called "faith, hope, and love" will last.  This passage indicates the spiritual gifts were temporary.  Remember that chapter 13 comes right between 12 and 14; the whole context is spiritual gifts.  When the "perfect" is come, the spiritual gifts will pass (verse 8).   Even if I don't know what "perfect" is, as I read the rest of chapter 13 I find out that the "gifts" (miraculous) don't last as long as the graces (faith, hope, and love).  Faith, hope, and love, are going to last a lot longer than the miraculous spiritual gifts. 

So, several Scriptures clearly show the spiritual gifts were intended to be but temporary.

        (c) A third reason for believing the spiritual gifts were temporary is what can be learned about them from the history of the post-apostolic Early Church.  Early Christian literature shows the gifts ceased by the time the generation on whom apostles laid hands died out.7  About AD 200, after the first generation of believers (some of whom were spiritually gifted) had died off, something new (and called "spiritual gifts") began to be practiced in the churches.  They recognized these new things as being different from the miraculous spiritual gifts one reads about in the New Testament Scriptures, but nevertheless, they gave these new practices Scripture names.  'For tongues, for healing, for a number of these supposed miracles, although they are not like what was done in Bible times, we'll call them by Bible names,' was the thinking of the people doing them.8

        (d) The fourth reason to teach that gifts were temporary is shown by their purpose.  They were to confirm the message.  We are told this over and over again.  In Old Testament times, miracles were to confirm the message.  Study Deuteronomy 13:1 where the miracles were designated as being a "sign or a wonder" – a "sign" is a pledge or token that a man is speaking for God.  Remember Elijah and the prophets of Baal, with the ringing cry, "the God who answers by fire, He is God!"  Remember Naaman recognized the God of Elisha because of a miracle of healing.  He said, "Now I know there is a God in Israel" and I'm going to follow Him (2 Kings 5:15).  And multiple New Testament verses show that miracles were to confirm the message (Hebrews 2:2-49; Mark 16:17-20; Acts 2:22).  Verse after verse shows clearly that spiritual gifts were given to confirm the message.

        Having studied the reasons for believing miraculous spiritual gifts were temporary in the early church, a key idea needs to be emphasized so our thinking stays sharp: 

  • Miracles are not needed today to authenticate the gospel message.  The faith has already been once-for-all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).10
  • If someone today were to claim to work miracles like we read about in the Bible, should that someone not also claim to work them for the same purpose, namely, to authenticate the message?  But what new message do we have that needs authentication?  The faith was once for all delivered, long ago.  If we have no new message, what need is there for the confirmation?

     D. Conclusions Thus Far

        We have taken time to study spiritual gifts in some depth.  If we have understood the Scriptures aright, then today, if someone were to claim to heal, it is hardly likely he or she has a gift like the spiritual gifts one reads about in the New Testament, that were received by the laying on of an apostle's hands.  Those gifts were temporary.

        But someone may say, "If we affirm that spiritual gifts were temporary, aren't we guilty of trying to limit God"?  No!  Here is my response to that old defense:  God, who knows all things and has all power, has limitless possibilities how He may work.  Out of that limitless number, it has pleased Him to do things a certain way.  Having chosen how He will do things, God has revealed to men how He does things.  (I am so grateful He has told us which way He chooses to do what He does.)  We are simply reflecting what He has revealed about Himself.  If I affirm the gifts are temporary because that is the way God announced He would do it, I am not limiting God.  He has chosen a way, and He told us about it.  I'm simply reflecting what He has revealed about Himself.


Earlier in this study, we noted two ways in the early church that healing was done by people other than the apostles.  One was the result of receiving miraculous spiritual gifts by the laying on of an apostle's hands (to transfer the gifts).  We have explained what "spiritual gifts" were and the reasons for believing that they were temporary, lasting only till those on whom the apostles laid hands died.  We are now ready to look at the second of the two ways healing was done:  "It sometimes occurred in answer to prayer."  To help us understand this topic, we must first define some terms.



     A. Providence

        Providence has been defined as "The care, preservation, and government which God exercises over all things that He has created, so that those created things may accomplish the ends or purposes for which they were created."

        Do you remember Ben Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm?  Franklin was a deist.  Deists deny God exercises any providential control.  To them, God simply wound up the universe like we would wind up a clock, and He then just went off somewhere, letting it run down, all the time uninterested in our world.  That is not the Biblical view.  The Bible pictures God with a hand on His creation.  He cares for it.  He preserves it.  He is moving history to a goal.

        Theologians are accustomed to talk about special providence and general providence.  Special Providence is what God does for Christians; these are actions that He doesn't do for the average man.  Typical verses that speak of such special providential actions include Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:27,28, and Matthew 6:33. 

  • Romans 8:28 affirms that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  God is providentially involved, working things out for the ultimate spiritual good of those who habitually love Him.
  • Philippians 1:27,28 read, "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent," Paul writes, "I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents.  [When you are not alarmed, it] is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, [comes] from God."  Paul is saying, "Your lack of fear is evidence of God's hand in your life."
  • Matthew 6:33 record Jesus words, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness:  and all these things shall be added to you."  What things?  Food, shelter, clothing, in the context.  Such provision is part of God's special providence for the Christian.

        General Providence is language that denotes God's care over the life and activities of all men – believers and unbelievers alike.  Such general providence is indicated in these passages:

  • Matthew 5:45 (KJV) – Jesus says concerning God, "He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
  • Acts 17:26 – In his Areopagus sermon, Paul declares, "[God] made from [Adam] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times [i.e., when nations rise and fall] and the boundaries of their habitation [i.e., how far their boundaries spread]."  That's general providence.
  • Hebrews 1:2,3 – This likely also talks about God's general providence.  (a) Just as Galatians 4:4 talks about the "fulness of time" so this passage in Hebrews says there was a proper time (as far as God's calendar is concerned) when the gospel should be preached ("in these last days").  (bThe passage also says "[Jesus] upholds all things by the word of His power."  He just speaks, and things move toward the goal He has established.  (c) When we read the verb "uphold," we ought not think of Jesus being like Atlas, holding up the world.  This word "upholding" was used of Moses in the Old Testament as he was trying to get the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, and finding the task difficult and exasperating.  On one occasion Moses said to God, "I can't bear (i.e., the same word translated "uphold" in Hebrews) this people."   Moses was saying:  "I can't get them to go where You want them to go."  Jesus is the One who is moving history to its goal, getting it to go where God wants it to go.  He upholds all things, and all He has to do is speak, and it happens.  Jesus is as much involved in providence (He is "Lord") as the Father is.

        Now we have the beginning of a concept of the "providence" of God.  The next word we need to define is "miracle."

     B. Miracle

        We often use the word "miracle" in a popular sense.  A few years ago, there was a TV advertisement for Xerox copiers.  A monk in an abbey is making copies very quickly on his new copy machine (not the old labor-intensive letter-by-letter copying by hand).  Watching the copies come streaming out, the Abbot exclaims "It's a miracle!"  Brother Dominic has just zoomed through 5 months of copying in 5 minutes.  Again, a popular song affirms belief in miracles because someone has "seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod."  Or again, "It's a miracle" when someone walks away from the automobile wreck without a scratch.  However, none of these is a Biblical use of the word "miracle."  We use the word "miracle" in a popular way, but this popular meaning is not at all like what the Scriptures call "miracle."

        Can we give a definition of "miracle" that will adequately describe and explain Biblical miracles?11  C.S. Lewis has offered a good definition of miracle.  Lewis wrote, "The divine art of miracle is not the art of suspending the pattern to which events conform, but the feeding of new events into the pattern."

        Typically, events do conform to a pattern.  Hold a piece of chalk, let loose of it, and what happens?  Down it falls because of gravity.  Lewis says, "Miracle is not the suspension of the pattern, but feeding something new into the pattern."  For example, if you are God and want to have a virgin birth, what would you do?  You would induce pregnancy in a way that is not usual.  After the unusual beginning, then the usual pattern takes over, and in a few months, in the normal course of events, the virgin gives birth.  We've fed something new into the pattern. 

        A rather standard definition for miracle is the one given in the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible.  "In the Biblical sense miracles are events in the external world wrought by the immediate power of God and intended as a sign or attestation."  Note the ideas emphasized.  "Wrought by the hand of God."  "Intended as a sign or attestation."  They are possible because God sustains, controls, and guides all things, and is personal and omnipotent.

     C. There Are Differences Between "Providence" and "Miracle"

        In the Bible, "miracle" didn't happen every day.  In fact, after Creation and after the Flood (both of which conform to the definition of miracle), there are only 3 or 4 short periods of time in all of Bible history in which miracles were concentrated.

  • One was the 40-year period of time at the Exodus and wilderness wanderings, ending about 1400 BC.
  • Another was the life and death struggle between Baal and Jehovah during the lives of Elijah and Elisha, about 750 BC.
  • Then there was the introduction of Christianity into the world through the ministry of Jesus and His apostles.  That was a 40-or-so-year period of time, AD 26-70.

        We don't find many miracles between these 3 or 4 short periods.  There were a few in Daniel's time, etc.  But as we try to understand "miracle" in the Biblical sense of the word, one thing to keep in mind is that miracles do not happen every day. 

        Further, Biblical miracles are called "signs" (e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:12; Acts 2:22) because the purpose of the miracle was to credential the message.

        Now, what is the difference between "providence" and "miracle"?  They are alike in one sense:  both are done by the hand of God.  But there are clear differences in their frequency and their purpose.  Providence is everyday, it is God's every-day care, preservation, and government.  Miracle is not everyday.  Miracle doesn't happen very often throughout all of recorded Bible history.  And the purpose of miracle is to credential the message; providence serves no such purpose.

     D. The Devil Can Work "Lying Wonders"

        Not every thing that looks like a miracle is actually done by the hand of God.  Indeed, God has worked miracles, but the devil has the ability to imitate God's miracles.  What the devil does is done to draw people away from God.  That is why the devil's marvelous deeds are called "lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9 KJV, or "false wonders" in the NASB).  "Wonders" they are, but they do not credential God's Word.  They are intended to get men to listen to the devil's word.  Several passages of Scripture remind us of the devil's abilities.

  • Matthew 7:22 (ASV) – Jesus pictures how it will be at the final judgment.  Some will appeal a verdict of condemnation against them by saying, "Did we not ... by Your name cast out demons, and by Your name do many mighty works?"  Jesus responds, "Depart from me, you that work iniquity ... I never knew you."  "Mighty works" (miracles) were done, but not by the power of God.
  • Matthew 24:24 (ASV) – As Jesus tells the signs by which men may recognize the approaching destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), He indicated that "false Christs and false prophets" would arise and "show great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect."  Jesus warns His generation that "lying miracles" would be wrought, and their purpose was to "lead astray ... the elect."  True to what He promised, in the years antedating the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, there were some amazing things that happened, but they were not done by the hand of God.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:9 (ASV) – As Paul tells what must happen before the second coming of Christ, he explains that the "man of sin" (whoever he is) will appear "according to the working of Satan" and will exhibit "all power and signs and lying wonders."  The "signs" and "lying miracles" are wrought by the power of the devil.
  • Revelation 13:13,14 – The devil uses "great signs" to get men to worship the beast, rather than worship Christ.  Revelation 19:20 calls the one doing the "great signs" a "false prophet," while 16:14 tells us the devil uses demons to perform the lying wonders.

        It is important, after reading about lying wonders, to be on our guard against something that has happened in our lifetimes.  Helen Schucman's book, A Course In Miracles, was spirit-written.12  It is devilish, demonic in origin.  But it has been making the rounds of the churches in the last quarter century.  Some denominations are using it for study purposes in Sunday School and small group meetings!  Do we ever think that demons will give us church people correct information?

     E. The Difference Between God's Miracles and the Devil's Lying Wonders

        God's miracles were instantaneous and "permanent" and credentialed the new message as being from God.

  • Only one of Jesus' miracles was not instantaneous.  You can read about it in Mark 8:22-25.  Jesus put saliva on the blind man's eyes, touched him, and asked, "Do you see anything?"  The blind man responded, "I see men as trees walking."  Jesus touched him again, and immediately he could see everything clearly.
  • We put "permanent" in quotation marks, because, for example, in the case of the raising of Lazarus, we presume he eventually died again and had to be buried a second time.  But the verb regularly used of Jesus' physical miracles is a perfect tense verb (i.e., the tense indicates past completed action with present continuing results).  They were healed, and they still are well.  Their sight was restored, and they can still see.  The healings were lasting, not temporary.

        By contrast, the devil's wonders are seldom instantaneous, are temporary in their effects, and often are accompanied by a feeling of "heat" as the "healer" touches the one being "helped."  It is not uncommon for the modern "miracle" to last 3 or 4 weeks, and then the healed person suffers a relapse.  ("You've lost your faith," the person will be told.)  77% of one "healer's" miracles are admitted to be but temporary.  Further, every person I've talked to in the past 50 years who claims to have been healed at a healing meeting speaks of a feeling of heat when the "healer" touched them.  Where do we read anything like this in the Scriptures?13

        Since there are miracles from God and miracles from the devil ("lying wonders"), it behooves us to be very wary lest the devil's "counterfeits" accomplish their intended work.  Modern miracles should not be credulously received as though all miracles must be from God.  If we check the currency we receive to make sure the bills are not counterfeit, should we not check to make sure the "wonders" are genuinely from God, lest we lose something much more valuable than a few dollars?  And there are tests by which we can determine if a "miracle" is genuine, that it comes from God): 

   1. They exhibit the character of God and teach truths concerning God.

   2. They are in harmony with established truths of revealed religion (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). If a wonder is worked which contradicts the doctrines of the Bible, it is a "lying wonder" (Revelation 16:14).

   3. There is an adequate occasion for them. God uses miracles for a great cause, for a religious purpose.  They contribute to His redemptive purpose.

   4. The validity of the miracle is established by the character and quality of the witnesses (not by the number of witnesses).  Hearsay type of evidence should not be granted credence!

     F. Special Providence in More Detail

        We've talked about special providence earlier in this study.  We need to broaden our understanding of this wonderful Biblical idea.

        One area of special providence is the help God gives believers when they are tempted by the devil.  "God ... will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape ..." (1 Corinthians 10:12,13).

  • My illustration is the weigh-lifter.  He lifts 50 lbs., 100 lbs., 150 lbs.  Soon the weights are more than the person can snatch and press.  Each of us can lift a different amount.  In a similar fashion, God knows how much pressure, how much weight of temptation, each of us can lift.
  • And God then puts limits on how much the devil can tempt, on how powerful the temptations may be.  He never permits the devil to overwhelm us.  The devil can't force you to yield; the devil doesn't overpower you.  God even suggests to our minds the way of escape from this temptation, so that we can avoid falling into sin.
  • Just before we are ready to commit the sin, it will pop to our minds, "You don't have to do it that way.  There is another way, a better way."  Then you have to decide which you are going to do. 

        God has given "the way of escape" right at the moment we need it.  And this is something He does every day; it is special providence.  What a neat God!

        Answered prayer is another example of special providence.  In numerous passages, the Bible promises that God answers prayer. 

  • Matthew 7:7-11 – "Ask ... seek ... knock," Jesus tells His listeners, and then He promises them that something will happen.  God will answer.
  • James 5:15 (ASV) – "The prayer of faith shall save him that is sick."  God responds to the prayer.  (We'll come back to this verse.)
  • James 1:5 -- "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God ... and it will be given to him.”  God gives it.  Answered prayer is special providence.
  • 1 Peter 3:11,12 – "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayers."  He is anxious to providentially get involved, if we but ask.
  • Matthew 6:11 – "Give us today the bread we need for today."  Jesus promises providential provision, every day provision.  "Do not permit us to be tempted, but deliver us from the evil one."  God at times puts some limitations on the devil so he can't tempt me today.14  That, too, is providence.

        Since answered prayer is something God does every day, I would call that providence, rather than miracle.  Although God does some amazing things in answer to prayer, we should not (in my opinion) call those amazing answers to prayer "miracle."  We should call them examples of God's providence.

  • Mark was a High School senior who was working evenings and weekends at McDonalds.  One Friday evening he said to his parents, "Will you call them and tell them I'm not well enough to come in to work?"  Before the evening was over, he was in critical condition.  He was rushed to the hospital.  X-rays revealed his heart was enlarged as big as a basketball (hindsight -- involved was a genetic birth defect).  The parents called us to come to St. Louis.  By the time we had arrived, Mark's kidneys had quit; usually, when the kidneys quit, we are not going to live too much longer.  They asked me to have a prayer.  For what do you pray when someone's kidneys have quit?  My prayer was, "God, what You do, do quickly."  Soon, visiting hours over, and we headed for the parent's home.  It is a 30 minute drive from hospital to his parents' home.  When we arrived at the house and opened the door, the phone was ringing.  "You had better come quickly," was the message.  We hurriedly retraced our route, but Mark was gone before we got back to the Hospital.  God in that case mercifully ended a life very quickly in answer to prayer.
  • Norris was diagnosed as having a very lethal and rapidly acting cancer.  The family prayed that they might have one more Christmas together.  The cancer went into remission, till after the holidays.  God had answered prayer, gave the family several months of happy time together, but He did not reverse the penalty to the race that has resulted from Adam's sin.

        God does some amazing things in answer to prayer.  He is an amazing God!  But I would affirm we should call such answers "providence."  These answered prayers are something He does every day.  He is not credentialing a message, so it is not "miracle."  Rather, it is His providence.


       We have studied what the Scriptures tell us about miracles and about the providence of God.  Now we need to focus again on the specific question with which we began.



        This is an important subject.  As we talk about it, we want to do so in a way that will honor our Lord.  Scripturally, we are given several reasons why we may be sick.

     A. Scriptures Give Several Reasons for Sickness

            1. Some people get sick because of Adam's sin (Romans 8:19-23).

        As a result of Adam's sin, there was a curse put on the whole human race, so that folk die physically.  Dying is a process.  We are declining little by little, and so we see sickness come in.  Being sick is part of the penalty to the race for Adam's sin, and so we'd likely not expect that there's going to be healing in this life for that.

            2. Some people get sick because of their own personal sins (1 Peter 3:15; Exodus 32:34).

        There are times when you and I behave unwisely.  The result may be only a hangover and headache, but it could be more grievous ills than that.  We may be sick because we have worn ourselves out.

             3. Some people get sick because of the sins of others (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9; 1 Peter 4:16).

        The bad things others do may result in problems for us – environment, toxic, etc.

            4. Some people got sick for the glory of God (John 9:3, 11:4).

        If we have one of these sicknesses, I doubt there is any healing that is going to occur until in God's own time he's ready to display that glory.

            5. Some people get sick because whom the Lord loves He chastens (Hebrews 12:5).

        Sometimes we get sick because God sees there is some sin in our lives that He wants to call to our attention, sin that ought to be repented of.  Maybe when we are flat on our backs and can only look up, we'll seize the opportunity to do some repenting.  With the repenting, there may come healing of the sickness that was inflicted on us to get us to repent.

            6. Some sickness is the result of spirit possession, witchcraft, or sorcery (Matthew 17:14ff).

     B. Some Misleading Ideas Floating Around About Sickness & Health

        (1) One of the misleading ideas is found in a little book that has made the rounds entitled "JESUS WANTS YOU WELL!"  What can be read in the book is not the whole truth, for the book suggests that if you just get rid of the demons in your life, you will be well.  That's not the whole story.

        In the Bible, we can read about men of God who did not enjoy good health, and their ill-health cannot be blamed on demonic involvement.  Paul had a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7ff), and he never got rid of it.  "A messenger from Satan [given] to buffet him," is the way he describes it.  "Trophimus I left at Miletus sick" (2 Timothy 4:20 ASV).  The apostle Paul, who could heal people right and left, didn't – or couldn't – heal Trophimus, and had to leave him behind.  Trophimus was too sick to travel.

        (2) Another of the misleading ideas is the claim that "THERE IS HEALING IN THE ATONEMENT."  That is, if we simply recognized this, we could be well, healed of our physical ailments.  This is a famous argument used by modern healers in an attempt to justify their healing ministry.15  Where do they get the idea? 

  • Some appeal to Psalm 103:3 (ASV) – "Who forgives all your sins, who heals all your diseases" is often quoted by folk who are claiming they have the ability to heal sick people.  However, this verse is more likely an example of Hebrew parallelism, in which the second line says the same thing the first line does, only in different words.  The first line of Psalm 103:3 talks about iniquities.  If this is parallelism, then "diseases" in the second line is used in a figurative sense to stand for sin, rather than for physical sickness.
  • Some appeal to Isaiah 53:5 – In this famous Suffering Servant poem about Jesus, we are told that "By His stripes we are healed" (ASV).  But modern 'healers,' who insist there is redemption in the cross for all our illnesses in this life, are not telling the story the way it is when they quote Isaiah 53 as their proof text.  It will take two or three paragraphs to develop this point.

Romans 8:19-24 is important.  It says something to this effect – 'even though Christians have the firstfruits of the Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit as the indwelling gift), we still groan within ourselves (i.e., we hurt), yearning for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies.'  Romans 8 says you can be a Christian, in good standing with the Holy Spirit, and still be hurting.  That does not match the claim that "God wants you well!" in this life, or that there is "healing (in this life) in the atonement."

Matthew 8:14-17 has been wrongly used by healers of all generations to justify their ministry.  In this passage, Peter's mother-in-law was sick; she was so sick that she didn't go to church (i.e., synagogue) that day.  Instead, she was lying sick in bed with a "high fever" (Luke 4:38).  When church was over, Jesus went to Peter's home and healed her.  Jesus touched her and the fever left her; she arose and fixed dinner for all the guests who came home with Peter.  When evening had come, some of the townspeople came bringing those who were sick, and Jesus healed them all.  He cast out the demons with a word.  Matthew 8:17 tells us that all this was done in order that what was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, namely, "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."

If I am a faith-healer, I will read verse 17 as a proof text that there is physical healing in the atonement since it quotes Isaiah 53:5.  "Isn't healing a fulfillment of Isaiah, just as much as Jesus going to the cross was a fulfillment?" the faith-healer will ask.16

However, look at 1 Peter 2:24, since he interprets Isaiah 53 for us.  Peter shows the Isaiah passage has reference to sins, not to healing.  Indeed, Jesus' suffering was to take away sins.  

        What then is Matthew 8:17 saying?  Jesus performed the miracles to show He was the long-promised Messiah.  He was the one Isaiah promised was coming to deal with the problem of sin.  Certainly, Christ did die for our bodies as well as our souls.  But it is at the final resurrection that we will get our sickness-free bodies.  While we are in this world, we are liable to be sick.  "Jesus Wants You Well" or "There is Healing in the Atonement" is not telling it as it is in the Bible.

     C. Understanding James 5:13ff

        In the letters of both James and John, there are some difficult to understand verses; we must make the effort to discipline our minds if we are to attempt to master what the Word is saying to us.  For example, 1 John 5:16 talks about the sin unto death and a sin not unto death, and we are to pray for one but not the other.  What is that verse talking about?  Bible students have found James 5:13-16 to be nearly as difficult.  It reads like this: 

Is any one among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is any one cheerful?  Let him sing praises.  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 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.

Briefly, we need to explain each of the phrases.

"Is anyone among you sick?"

    The picture is of one sick in bed – sick enough to be bedfast, and weak.

    "Let him call for the elders of the church"

      To call for the elders is to call for the spiritual leaders of the congregation.  "Please come!"

      "Let them pray over him"

        We'll talk about the content of the prayer in a moment.

        "Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord"

          Oil was the best medicine the ancients had.  Compare the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  When the Samaritan helped the wounded traveler, he did what?  He poured oil and wine onto the wounds.  Some of us are old enough to remember using kerosene or coal oil for wounds on both man and animal.  It helped the healing process. 

          In paraphrased form, James is basically saying, "Make sure the patient is taking his medicine, and then have a prayer.  Both together will be useful toward the healing."  I'm not sure there is any miraculous thing in the oil since the Greek word for "oil" is the regular word for olive oil.

          For the Catholic Church, this James 5 passage became the proof text for the practice of extreme unction (i.e., last rites for the dying) in the Middle Ages.  As the practice has developed over the years, we also now have to have certain holy oil, specially prepared for use at a ceremony a day or so before Easter.  Extreme unction involves anointing the sick with olive oil, giving them communion, and praying over them – their sins are now forgiven so that when they die and enter the next world they are without any unforgiven sin.17  Yet in the James 5 passage, it is the "prayer offered in faith" that is emphasized, not anointing with oil.

          "The prayer offered in faith will sōdzō (Greek) the one who is sick."

            The Greek word sōdzō (translated "restore" in the NASB) has five different meanings.  In each passage where sōdzō occurs, we must determine which of the meanings is intended.  Sometimes it is not easy to tell.

              • Each of the other times sōdzō is used in James, the meaning the context calls for is "save".  James 1:21 ("save"), 2:14 ("save"), 4:12 ("save"), 5:20 ("save").  Perhaps it has a similar meaning in 5:15.
              • In James 5:15, it is possible that sōdzō should be translated "restore" – that we are talking about restoring the sick person to spiritual health. 
              • It is possible that sōdzō should be translated "recover" – that we are talking about recovering bodily health, about recovering physical health.  Perhaps as a parallel passage, see John 11:12.  In Lazarus' case, "If he has fallen asleep, He will recover" say the disciples to Jesus.  Sōdzō is the Greek word in John 11, too.  It is used of folk who have been sick getting well, about physical/bodily health being recovered.

            In James 5, this "prayer offered in faith" is emphasized.  What does "offered in faith" mean?  James 1:6 talks about praying without doubting (without wavering) – i.e., the person who is praying has been consistent in his Christian living.  James 1:8 talks about a double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways (i.e., not consistent in his living).  "Offered in faith” may very well talk about a life-style.  An inconsistent life-style on the part of the one who is praying will negate the prayer.

            "The Lord will raise him up"

            The word translated "raise" means to "stand up, stand on one's feet."  It might speak of getting up out of bed (cp. Mark 2:9).  It might speak of being raised from the dead at the second coming.

            "If he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him"

            Some sickness is the result of personal sins.  Those sins need to be repented of if there is to be forgiveness from God.18

            "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed."

            Confession only happens after there has been repentance.  The sick person and the offended person both pray for one another.

            Notice that James uses three future tense verbs in a row (i.e., will save/recover, will raise, will be forgiven).  A future tense verb can describe one act in the future, or continuous/ repeated action in the future.  Maybe this passage is saying that the sick person will slowly begin to get well (continuous action).  Maybe the passage is saying the sick person will get well in one moment (one act in the future).  You cannot tell from this future tense verb exactly what is being pictured or promised.

            "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."

            The prayer of a righteous man avails much.  "Righteous" is not sinless perfect, but one whose life is consistently in harmony with God's revealed will.19

            God hears the prayer.  The sins are forgiven.  The man who was sick because he sinned now has no reason to be sick longer, so he recovers.20

                 D. What to Do When You Are Sick Enough to Be Weak & Bedfast

                    Call for the elders?  Yes.  Let them pray?  Yes.  Confess your sins and pray for each other?  Yes.  Expect a miracle?  Well, to answer that, let us once more remind ourselves about the power, the purpose, and the promise of healing we find in the ministry of Jesus.21

                 1. The power behind the healing can be observed in John 9, as Jesus heals the man born blind. There were many blind beggars in Jerusalem, and Jesus occasionally helped one.  The one who was healed in the temple that day told the religious leaders, "If this man were not from God, He could do nothing."  The power by which Jesus healed came from God.  Jesus did not perform miracles indiscriminately.  He did not heal everyone who needed healing (John 5:3-5; Matthew 11:5).

                    In Matthew 11, Jesus tells the messengers from John, "Go tell John what you see."  Blind people see.   Deaf people hear.   There is no "the" in the Greek.   If the Greek said, "the dead are raised," that means all the dead.  But there is no "the" (even though in some of our Bibles there is a "the").  It wasn't all the blind whose sight was restored.  It wasn't all the deaf whose hearing was restored.  Not all were healed.  Some blind people were healed, but not all.  There were many, in fact, He did not heal.  He did not even perform signs on request (Matthew 12:38-40).

                    John records the one he does, about the healing of the blind man, because it was so dramatic.  The power for all healing, whether miraculous or providential, ultimately originates from God!

                 2. The purpose of the healing goes to the heart of the question, "Why doesn't God heal everyone?" Why do we have any occasions of divine healings recorded in the Scriptures at all?  Mark 2:1-12 tells of the fellow who was let down through the roof.  Especially verses 6 and 7 need our attention to help us answer the question, "Why did Jesus heal?"  The religious leaders who were there watching heard Jesus say something about the paralytic's sins being forgiven.  Indignant, they disclaimed,

            "Why is this man speaking this way?  He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?"  And immediately, Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things within your hearts?  Which is easier?  To say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven;' or to say [to the paralytic], 'Arise, and take up your pallet and walk?'  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, take up your pallet and go home."  

                    Why did Jesus heal?  What was the purpose?  "That you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins."  Whenever Jesus healed anyone in Scripture, it was to establish His identity as Messiah.  That is why He healed, to prove His claims to deity.  This is exactly the point He made to the messengers from John the Baptist (Matthew 11:5-6).

                 3. The promise of healing.  John 11 is the record of the raising of Lazarus.  Messengers were sent to Jesus telling Him of Lazarus' sickness.  The messengers were sent back with this message, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, and that the Son of God may be glorified by it" (John 11:4).  Jesus then waited until Lazarus was dead before heading over to Bethany to raise him.  When He arrives, both sisters say, "Lord, if you had just been here, my brother would not have died."  Jesus responds (verse 21ff), "I [and it is an emphatic I … 'I Myself, and no one else'] am the resurrection and the life ...."  I am the One who causes it.  I can do it in the future, and I can do it now.  "Everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?"  Jesus is not just a healer – He is a raiser of the dead!  This can mean rising to walk in newness of life, or it can be the resurrection of the dead body (today, or one of these days).  What a Savior we have who can do both of those for us!



                 A. SUMMARIZING the main points that have been emphasized:

              1. The apostles of Jesus could miraculously heal, but the office of apostle was temporary.  We don't expect one of Jesus' apostles coming to heal us.
              2. Certain believers received "spiritual gifts" by the laying on of an apostle's hands.  Some of them, too, could heal, but those gifts were also temporary, and while they lasted were intended to credential the gospel message. 
              3. God does some very wonderful things in answer to prayer, including (in some cases) physical healing.  But those answered prayers are examples of His providence, not miracle.
              4. God's answers to prayer are ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘wait a while.’22  When we pray for healing, we may receive any one of the three possible answers – whatever turns out best for Him and for His glory. 

                 B. WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS?

                    When you were young, were you ever promised something and then didn't get it?  How disappointed you were!  Do you know the agonizing despair that can be caused when we promise somebody "healing" and those promises are not fulfilled?  There is nothing quite so cruel as giving hope of healing if the Scriptures do not honestly and really provide that hope!

                 C. MEDICINE AND DOCTORS ARE OK!

                    Doctor Luke (Colossians 4:14) traveled and ministered with Paul.  Remember the events on the island of Malta (Acts 28:7-10).  Jesus indicated that those who were sick are the ones who need a physician (Matthew 9:13).  Timothy was advised to take some "medicine" for his frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).  Doctors and medicine are OK.23

                 D. Some MISLEADING REPORTS of modern miracles have made the rounds.

                    Demythologizing Indonesia's Revival is a case in point.  Mel Tari's book, Like a Mighty Wind, made claims for modern miracles.  Then George Peters, Indonesian Revival, showed the claims in Mel Tari's book were misleading if not downright false.  Yet Tari's book has been used to justify modern claims to miracles, including healing.  It was claimed to be written by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Now it has been shown to be not quite right.

                    Such misleading reports continue today.  Cases in point are the H. Bonneke meetings in South Africa, and Benny Hinn, who admits that he has fabricated some of the "wonders" he has told about.

                 E. Folk who wish for miracles today will sometimes as, "IS THERE ANYTHING GOD CANNOT DO?"  Or they might ask, "Aren't you limiting God when you say you doubt that miracles (like those the Bible describes) still occur?"

                    Let's thoughtfully analyze those questions.  On the one hand, Jeremiah asserts of God, "Nothing is too difficult for You" (Jeremiah 32:17).  So we might answer the question "Is there anything God cannot do" with a resounding, "No!"

                    Yet what about these verses?

            • Titus 1:2 – God cannot lie.
            • 2 Timothy 2:13 – He cannot deny Himself.
            • Genesis 9:11 – God can't flood the earth again.
            • James 1:13 – God cannot be tempted.

            The issue involves God's nature and will and self-limitation, not just His power.  Is there anything God cannot do?  Can't He work a miracle of healing?  Yet as importantly, how do the Scriptures explain how He has revealed Himself to be working?

                 F. WHAT DO DO WHEN YOU GET SICK

                    Since Jesus said the sick call for physicians, we should not think it an evidence of lack of faith if we consult with doctors and specialists to get an accurate diagnosis.  We may certainly follow the doctor's prescription, yet with the full realization that physical death is part of the penalty the whole human race pays because Adam sinned.  Despite all the doctor does, each of us is still going to die one of these days.24

                    It would certainly be ideal if one clear Scripture said, "Any time you are sick, this is what you should do."  But since there is no such passage (not even James 5), we must put several passages together to learn what to do when we are sick.  As we do so, here is what we learn:

            1. Acknowledge that God is sovereign, and take comfort in that. God is in control, whether we are in sickness or in health (Deuteronomy 32:39).

            2. Remind yourself of the Biblical reasons for sickness and the purposes God can accomplish through it.

            3. It is extremely important to determine if a sickness is because of some continued sin in our lives. Is God using our illness as a chastisement?  If we are sick because of sin in our lives, we ought to repent, for there will be no healing without repentance.

            4. In faith, commit the entire matter to the Lord. Pray for His will to be done, seek His glory, and wait patiently for His response.

            5. Seek professional medical attention. Never disregard nor ignore God's normal means to restored health through medical experts.  Do not presume on God and wait too long or ignore your doctor altogether.

            6. It may be God's will that we fully recover. Or it may not be God's will for us to fully recover.  Many of God's great servants were sick:  Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, Daniel, Paul, Epaphroditus, Timothy.  Some for many years. And all eventually died.

            7. Thank God for the circumstances in which He has placed you (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thes­salonians 5:18). You are not thanking God that you hurt.  Rather, you are thanking God that He is who He is, and that He can work all things for our ultimate good.

            8. Ask God for the faith and patience to endure and the wisdom to understand why (James 1:2-5). He has promised to give that wisdom, and He has promised that His grace will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

            9. Pray that your circumstances might be worked out for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

            10. When you are bedfast, call for the elders to visit and pray (James 5:13). There is nothing wrong with asking God for healing.  Remember, though, He may say, "No."  Paul asked three times for healing (2 Corinthians 12:8), yet his requests were denied.  Our requests may be denied, too.

            11. Pray this prayer: "Lord, if it will be to Your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify You more, heal gradually.  If it will glorify You even more, may your servant remain sick for a while.  And if it will glorify Your name still more, take him to Yourself in Heaven."  Ole Hallesby




            Carrol M. Stegall, The Modern Tongues and Healing Movement
            William Nolan, Healing:  A Doctor in Search of a Miracle
            He tried for several years to find a genuine miracle among the "faith healers" prominent on TV.
            Waymon Miller, Modern Divine Healing
            Richard Mayhue, Divine Healing Today
            Joni Eareckson, Joni and A Step Further
            Some have said to her, "If you just had enough faith, God could heal you of your paralysis."  If you were confined to a wheel chair and struggling just to get food into your mouth because your arm won't work, how do you respond when someone says something like that to you?  Read in this book what Joni has to say about this whole matter of divine healing.




                 1 Originally entitled "What Do the Scriptures Say About How to Get Well When You Are Sick?" the contents of this Special Study were first prepared for and then presented at a weekend Bible study requested by the elders of the church at Milton, IA (February 15, 2005).  They were recorded, transcribed, and lightly edited for publication here.
                 2 Luke, Mark, and Jude, whose writings are in the New Testament canon, are included because it is presumed they were close associates of an apostle, and therefore the possibility is strong they could have spiritual gifts.  Each of these would have had the gift of inspiration.
                 3 Having become a Christian, he would have had the indwelling gift of Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), but Simon the ex-sorcerer did not have spiritual gifts.
                 4 Matthias was indeed an apostle of Jesus.  He was chosen by Jesus just as were Jesus' other apostles, as the prayer shows, "'Lord [Jesus], show us which of the two You have chosen' ... and the lot fell on Matthias."
                 5 The "James" of Acts 15 is a different James.  The James in Acts 15 is the brother of the Lord, and he is called an apostle of Jesus in Galatians 1:19.  He was not chosen to fill the office left vacant by the death of the son of Zebedee.
                 6 His calling was unusual or unique.  "As to one untimely born" ("an abortion") is the strong word in the Greek.
                 7 See this documented in the author's booklet entitled Do All Speak in Tongues?
                 8 If today you are practicing some of these things, are you doing like they did in the Bible, or are you doing the different things like they did in the 2nd century and just calling them Bible names?
                 9 The Law of Moses was "confirmed" just as the gospel is "confirmed."  In the Greek, "unalterable" in Hebrews 2:2 is the same word as "confirmed" in Hebrews 2:3.
                 10 Jude was written about AD 75.
                 11 For further help to understand what is meant by "miracles," turn to the well-known Bible study help entitled Halley's Bible Handbook.  Several times Halley calls attention to the miracles in the Bible.  Two of the special articles are:  "The Miracles of Jesus" (i.e., two pages of summary information at Mark 5) and "Miracles in Acts" (i.e., pages of information at the beginning of comments on Acts).
                 12 Spirit writing is done by deliberately entering into an altered state of consciousness, in order to appeal to the demons for information.
                 13 In two of Jesus' healings, "virtue" or "power" went out of Him (Mark 5:30; Luke 6:19).  Is that the Biblical language for an "electric shock" or a feeling of "heat," or does it say that it sapped Jesus' energies to heal?  The latter is this commentator's understanding of "virtue went out of Him."  If a "healer" touches you and you get a feeling of shock or heat, it is this commentator's thesis that the healing is demonic.
                 14 The Bible seems to teach that the devil has to ask permission from God before he can tempt the Christian.  The devil is the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before God day and night.  As in Job's case, sometimes God gives the devil permission.  But when that permission is granted, God says, "OK, devil – this far and no farther!"  When we resist the devil, he flees – at least for the moment.  After a while, he may come back and try again.  Any time the devil finds some temptation that works for him, he'll keep trying it.  Our resistance will grow, and our victories will become more common, if we practice resisting each time the devil tempts.
                 15 Our library is full of books claiming God has called men to be faith-healers today, who are to have great healing ministries.  Have you ever tried to find an example anywhere in the New Testament where anyone was called to have a "healing ministry"?  There are calls to church-planting ministry.  There are calls to preaching ministry.  There are calls to a missionary ministry.  But a healing ministry in Scripture?  When folk in the church were sick, they didn't go to a healing revival or call for the ‘faith healer.’  They were instructed to call for the elders of the church (James 5).
                 16 Just in passing, not every faith-healer treats Isaiah's "By His stripes we are healed" this way.  K. Kuhlman argues that this Isaiah passage means that when Jesus was scourged (before He ever went to the cross), that's what provides healing.
                 17 Because this passage speaks of folk getting well rather than dying, Catholics have had a hard time defending this text as a proof text for last rites.  Since Vatican II, Catholics no longer use this passage for extreme unction.  They now anoint the sick, but not the dying.  They still have communion for the dying.
                 18 Some sicknesses are stress related.  Emotionally induced illnesses frequently have a reversible process.  Removing the stress also helps remove the physical symptoms caused by that stress.  Psalm 32:3-7 reveals the cause of David's physical distress and how it was removed.
                 19 James’ use of "righteous man" helps us to understand that he is not making a blanket promise.  Elsewhere in Scripture there are other conditions to answered prayer.  1. Pray for the right reasons (James 4:1-3).  2. Pray with the right responses (1 John 3:22).  3. Pray for things in harmony with His will (1 John 5:14, 15).  4. Sometimes there is a need to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1).
                 20 One person in the audience at this original presentation asked, "How do we know whether to respond to the call to the elders to come pray over the sick?  That is, how do we know ahead of time if the sickness is because of personal sin?"  That's a hard question.  In my early ministry, as I made hospital calls, I probably did not always do well.  The patient sometimes asked, "Preacher, why do you think I am sick?"  I used to launch right into all the theological reasons why people get sick, and often the patient would become quiet, or wanted to talk about something else.  I have learned that when the patient asks such a question, there is something they want to talk about and they are trying to find out if the preacher is willing to listen.  So now I respond, "Boy, I don't know why you are sick.  What do you think?"  Then the patient will speak about what they have been thinking about there on the sick-bed.  Sometimes they confess some sins I would never have dreamed were in their lives.  I must show no surprise in my facial expressions at what they are saying, or they will immediately stop.  They want forgiveness and prayer.  So I listen to their confession.  Then we pray together.  The prayer zeroes in on the things confessed.
                 21 Some of the following ideas are gleaned from a sermon preached by Richard A. Koffarnus at Central Christian College of the Bible on October 30, 2001.
                 22 Luke 18:1ff, where the persistent widow keeps asking, is an example of "wait a while."
                 23 Consider also the health aspects of the Law of Moses:  sanitation, sterilization, quarantine, hygiene, and diet.  We are not under the Law of Moses any more, yet consider what God provided.  There must be something valuable about doctors and medicine; they were OK, even in Old Testament times.
                 24 I jokingly tell my doctor, "I'm going to be one of your success cases."  He just smiles.  The best doctors in the world bury more patients than they want to.
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