The Gift of Healing and Faith

(The Gift of Healing Today)

QUESTION: What is the difference between receiving healing through the gift of healing and through faith?

ANSWER: Thanks for the question, "AJ." I'll try to give you an answer based on my understanding of the Word of God. When you ask about the difference, I assume you're not talking about the difference in the result. Healing is healing, however it comes. But I think you're asking about the difference in the means.

When the Lord Jesus was on earth, healing power resided in Him (the gift of healing, if you like). In fact, He healed "all" who came to Him (Matt. 4:23; 8:16). This complete mastery over every disease, over demons and death was an authenticating sign that His claims about Himself and His overall teaching were true (Acts 2:22). As Nicodemus rightly put it, "No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (Jn. 3:2).

Then, when the Lord Jesus ascended back into heaven, the apostles were given the task of building the church and continuing to preach God's message. To show that they had the same authority Christ had, they were given the ability to work various kinds of miracles (called "the signs of an apostle," II Cor 12:12). And when the demonized and diseased came to them, "they were all healed" (Acts 5:16, italics mine). Even the dead were raised, just as they had been through Christ (e.g. Acts 9:36-41).

These miraculous powers possessed by the apostles (including the gift of healing) authenticated them and their message, showing that they spoke with the authority of the risen, glorified Christ (Heb. 2:3-4). But once the inspired Word of God was given, the authenticating gifts were no longer needed. We have God's complete written message now. We can only believe it or reject it. No one has "the signs of an apostle" today. The apostles laid the foundation (Eph. 2:20) and passed on. Therefore it is my understanding that no one has the gift of healing today–that is, the God-given ability residing in them to heal all who come to them.

I realize there are some who claim this gift in modern times. But at best it is a feeble imitation of what Christ and the apostles had. Carefully authenticated instances of miraculous healing are rare, and these healers certainly do not attempt to heal everyone. They're very selective. Further, there is much fakery and deception used by a number to impress the gullible.

Now, does God still heal today? Certainly. And He does so in three basic ways.

1) God has built into the human body remarkable restorative powers to heal itself. In many cases, individuals recover from illness by natural processes. This innate ability is a gift of God, one for which we praise Him.

2) Medical science continues to make amazing advances. Many diseases are healed by powerful medicines or intricate surgery. This too is a gift of God for which we thank and praise Him.

3) God does heal from time to time by supernatural means. Such miracles are not the common thing; they are relatively rare. And they do not come through individuals having the biblical gift of healing, but by God's mercy, in answer to believing prayer.

When an individual believer is sick, and the sickness does not respond to the first two methods described, James urges him or her to call for the elders to pray for healing (Jas. 5:14-15). (Notice, he does not say they should call for someone who has the gift of healing.) Even so, I believe this instruction may refer to a specific situation, not to any and all illness. (See my article on the subject, Healing in Scripture.)

More generally, it is quite acceptable for any Christian to pray for healing for himself or others who are sick, and trust God to answer according to His own will and wisdom. In the same context as the above, James says we are to "pray for one another" saying that "the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man [or person--man or woman] avails much [it's very powerful]" (vs. 16).

Sometimes God will answer such prayers by natural or medical means, and occasionally by supernatural means. But this does not involve the gift of healing. It is an individualized demonstration of God's mercy in response to faith. Nor can we demand that God heal in every case, without fail. However, "this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (I Jn. 5:14).

We also have the confidence that in heaven there will be no more sickness, pain or death (Rev. 21:4). Meanwhile, we can trust the love and wisdom of God to glorify Himself in our lives, either through our deliverance from sickness, or by giving us the grace to endure it.

Much confusion exists on this issue. I hope those few thoughts are a help.