A Proper Christian Perspective on Healing

Oct 26 01:52 2019 Bruce McLaughlin Print This Article

Is God the author of disfunction, sickness, disability and suffering?

A wide spectrum of opinion exists within the Christian community on the subject of healing.  One popular opinion is that shortly after the death of the apostolic fathers,Guest Posting God stopped healing; Christians today are sent forth to preach the Gospel (the Great Commission) but not to heal the sick.  Another view is that God gives you sickness, injury, disability and brokenness of spirit so that you, like Jesus, will have a cross to bear.  But the most Biblically defensible perspective is expressed in these three excerpts:

 

All humanity is the creation of a loving God who wills for everyone wholeness, health of the total person, body, soul and spirit.  When we pray for healing, we are to pray, “Thy will be done,” not “If it be thy will.”  All sickness and all brokenness is contrary to the will of God.  At no time is sickness a part of His purpose or plan for any part of His creation.  Our primary purpose in the Healing Ministry is to see God’s will fulfilled in the restoration of wholeness. (Order of St. Luke Handbook, page 10)

 

Are there times when it is not God’s will to heal and when we should pray, “Let what you want be done?”  This is one of the most misunderstood prayers in the Bible.  Our Lord’s Prayer in Gethsemane has nothing whatsoever to do with the healing of the sick.  That prayer had to do with the sin burden of the whole world.  Jesus was taking on himself the sins of the whole world… It is almost blasphemy for a person with a disease today to think that the bearing of a pathological condition is part of Gethsemane…You are not passing through Gethsemane because you are dying of cancer.  You are suffering because the law of God has been broken somewhere.  Maybe you had nothing to do with it…Disease is the enemy.  Jesus regarded disease as the work of the devil…You may say that you have learned some valuable lessons through pain…but don’t say that loathsome disease is God’s will for mankind. Yet, out of our foggy thinking and our ambiguous theology, we have sometimes gone to the sick room and tried to comfort a sick person by saying, “Well, no doubt, this is God’s will.  Just be patient under the hand of God!  (John Gayner Banks, “Healing Everywhere” p. 204 – 207)

 

In the early days of my ministry I found myself saying to a bereaved family, “I don’t know why God took your husband but someday we will know.”  Later the spirit of God broke through into my life and I became shocked and embarrassed at the words of comfort that I had used…What I was saying was really this, “I don’t know why God was so unfair, so cruel and so unloving.”  The force of this erroneous theology struck me with a desire never to use it again or to agree with those who did…It is outrageous that God is condemned for every misfortune, disappointment, accident, tragedy or untimely death…Satan comes to inflict people with disease and misery.  God comes to bring healing and joy.  (Rufus J. Womble, “Wilt Thou be made Whole?” chapter 16)

 

What is the theological justification for such a perspective?  After all, not all persons will be healed of sickness and brokenness this side of Heaven.  Healing prayer does not usually receive an instantaneous, dramatic and obvious response from God.  Could it be that decay, disease, terror and suffering are part of God’s plan?  To this suggestion, say a resounding no!  The justification for our position on this issue can be found in the particular view of God and his creation that was commonplace in the early Christian church.  It may not be absolutely correct because we see these things dimly through dark gauze.  Think of it as directionally correct.  Here is a short summary of this justification which can be used as a Homily or Sunday School lesson.

 

Homily on Christian Healing

Generations of books, magazines and TV documentaries have portrayed nature as a magnificent and beautiful system almost deserving of worship.  The Gaia Philosophy even views the entire biosphere as a living entity. But when we look through the veil of hype, what do we really see in nature?  G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: “teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture.”  W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature’s web of interacting events: “The web unravels as often as it is woven in order.  Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair.  Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives.”

Look around.  Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in nature, a system rife with sickness, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw?  Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God?  Does the world at every level appear to be at war?  Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence?  Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?  Jesus’ earthly ministry appears to reflect the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord.  According to Scripture the whole universe was originally good and the glory of God is still evident in it (Rom 1:20).   But something else – something frightfully wicked – is evident in it as well.   Jesus came to begin the process of restoration and repossession.  But why are we living in a world that needs healing?  If God exercises absolute sovereign control over every aspect of creation, why doesn’t He stop all this corruption, violence, disease, suffering and death?  Let me give you a scenario embraced by Christian leaders in the early church.

With no implied chronology, God created both angels and humans as first-cause agents of choice with the free will to accept or reject God.  God created our universe as a home for us.  God placed certain angels in charge of his creation and commanded them to be good stewards.  Some began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence so that all creation descended into the bondage of evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently evil, brutally violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them.  Rebellious angels and humans, under the leadership of Satan, are the first-cause of all evil.

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son began the process of taking back his creation.  He not only offered you and I redemption from the bondage of sin but He redeemed all of creation from the bondage of evil.  The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but the process of repossession and reconstruction of creation only began.  Jesus expects his people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

According to G. A. Boyd, “A theme that underlies Jesus’ entire ministry is the apocalyptic assumption that creation has been seized by a cosmic force and that God is now battling this force to rescue it.  Jesus understood Himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way… His whole ministry was about overpowering the ‘fully armed’ strong man who guarded ‘his property’ (Luke 11:21) – the earth and its inhabitants who rightfully belong to God… He came to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8; Heb 2:14) and to establish God’s domain on earth.   Every exorcism and healing – the two activities that most characterize Jesus’ ministry – marked an advance toward establishing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.  Consequently, in contrast with any view that would suggest that disease and demonization somehow serve a divine purpose, Jesus never treated such phenomenon as anything other than the work of the enemy.  He consistently treated diseased and demonized people as casualties of war.  Furthermore, rather than accepting their circumstances as mysteriously fitting into God’s sovereign plan, Jesus revolted against them as something that God did not will and something that ought to be vanquished by God’s power... All sickness and disease was considered a form of satanic oppression, and so in freeing people from it Jesus demonstrated the presence of the kingdom of God.”

Since God did not exercise his omnipotence to end the war in an instant, He expects us to engage the enemy.  The primary allowed weapon for God’s human soldiers is prayer because, alone, we don’t stand a chance against the dark powers.  Will the paralyzed walk?  Will the blind see?  Maybe, maybe not; but something will transpire!  God always responds.  Prayer always makes a difference.  But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being.  Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.  Every miraculous healing is an incredible succession of events which would not occur without the intervention of God.  However, when you are healed by the power of God in this life, you do not receive a Resurrection Body.  The hundreds of New Testament characters healed by Jesus, the twelve, the seventy two and others had two major things in common: they were all miraculously healed and they all eventually died! 

By the substitutionary atonement, God redeemed or bought-back all creation from Satan who now no longer owns it (Luke 4:5-7).  But Satan was not a willing seller and will never acknowledge the legitimacy of the sale.  He believes his property was stolen from him by a phony purchase.  He is battling God to retain possession.  Consequently, creation may be legally free from the bondage of evil but it is not free from the influence of evil itself through Satan and his minions who will never relinquish possession without a fight.  The influence of Satan’s evil on your body may cause suffering, sickness, injury and disability from which you cannot recover without the miraculous intervention of God.  Such healing marks an advance toward establishing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.  But you will eventually succumb to some other infirmity or simply old age.  Until Jesus comes to completely restore and repossess His corrupted creation, Satan still holds the power of physical death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11; Luke 4:5-7).  But God will intervene in response to prayer.

Our objective is not to just “go through the motions” of a healing service and faithfully reiterate prayers for which no one really expects an answer.  Our objective is to see God’s will fulfilled in the restoration of wholeness.  All sickness and brokenness is contrary to the will of God.  God wants to heal!  But where free agents are involved, God’s will can be thwarted.  Things happen which God does not will (e.g. 60 million abortions for convenience in the USA) and things fail to happen which God does will (e.g. the salvation of all persons).  All evil proceeds from wills other than God’s.  Satan and his army come to inflict people with disease and misery.  God comes to bring healing and joy.  The mystery of evil stems from the complexity of creation and the warfare that engulfs it, not from some distorted definition of God’s will. 

Our spiritual opponents in this Great War are powerful beyond comprehension; they would destroy us in an instant were it not for God’s restraint.  Even God’s angels appear to be reluctant to enter the fray (Dan 10:21).  Why didn’t God give us “superhero” personal power against these adversaries to make an even fight?  Perhaps because the struggle is ultimately about ideas rather than brute power.  Satan wants to convince all the angels in Heaven that God’s plan of salvation for mankind is flawed.  He wants to expose God’s entire enterprise of creation and redemption as the product of radically flawed wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.  The accusation, once raised, could not be removed, not even by destroying the accuser.  The divine purpose hung in the balance. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fatal blow to him who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and sealed the ultimate outcome of the war.  But Jesus wants his army to stand beside him as He reclaims and restores His creation.

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