Does God still heal? Is divine healing for today, is it biblical? Or is it just for the time when Jesus walked the earth? Can we expect to see miraculous supernatural healings these days in our modern, high-tech world? Yes! Divine healing gave me my 4 children. For the first six years of our marriage, my wife Mickey suffered from a medically diagnosed infertility condition. We longed for children. I recall her coming home weeping from a baby shower where she had been the only woman present who was not a mother.
Firmly believing that Jesus heals today, we had prayed diligently, and we often received prayer from others for God's healing of this infertility. Then one day a lady in our church said that the Lord had spoken to her in the middle of the night to tell this to my wife: “Your barren days are over!” Mickey put “feet to her faith” by buying a roomful of nursery furniture, and we would go into that room often and pray for the baby that we were trusting the Lord to grant us one day to sleep in that crib.
Well, just a little over a year after the Lord had spoken to Mickey “Your barren days are over!” she delivered our firstborn son, Brian (we still call him our "miracle baby"). The Lord’s miraculous healing was so complete that in subsequent years Mickey bore us three more children. So to those who ask, "Is divine healing for today?" I tell of my 4 now-adult children as living examples. Jehovah-Rapha — The Lord Our Healer! Mickey's powerful healing testimony over the years encouraged some other infertile couples to come for prayer and subsequently to bear children too. The Lord Our healer is faithful!
My desire in this Bible study is to show from the bible's divine healing Scriptures that God is both able and willing to heal the sick, the diseased, the infirm. My family has personally experienced this blessing of God's healing power. So have millions of others. Multitudes of books have been written on what is variously called faith healing, spiritual healing, divine healing, prayer for the sick, healing ministry, and other similar expressions. And genuine healing testimonies and examples abound of God’s supernatural power to make sick and infirm bodies well. People want and need to know what God in His Word teaches about sickness and healing — that is, what divine healing means in the Bible — and how we can access and activate God's healing power.
The foundation for the topic of divine healing lies not so much in people's wonderful healing experiences and examples — as thrilling as they may be — but in the Scriptures, the Word of God. So let’s turn now to the Bible to see its revelation of this great truth of spiritual healing. (Explanatory note: the terms "spiritual healing," "divine healing," and "faith healing" are essentially used interchangeably in this bible study.)
One more introductory thought: Many years ago I pastored a church in a suburb north of New York City. We decided once to have a divine healing service in place of our normal midweek gathering. We placed a small ad in our county newspaper, and about fifty first-time visitors showed up for that healing service. All around us there are sick people who need to know of the hope for healing that God offers. Let's look at some of the biblical reasons for that very valid hope.
James was writing to Christian believers (2:1). He asked them if any of them were sick. It is a “given” of life in our fallen condition that our bodies on occasion tend to sickness, and eventually they die. However, as the verse directly below points out, it is also a “given” for the believer that God is Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord who heals you.”
God identified Himself to Israel in a variety of names and ways. Here He revealed Himself to His people as “Jehovah-Rapha” — “the Lord who heals you.”
Healing is not just something that God “does.” No, more than that, healing is part of God’s very nature — “I AM the Lord who heals you.” God was, is, and will continue to be The Healer. His healing of our sick bodies is a direct expression of His boundless divine grace and love for us. Remember always that you serve a healing God who has declared that His intent towards you is “not [to] bring on you any diseases ... [but to be] the Lord who heals you.”
God’s heart towards His people is health and healing. See, for example, the following Bible Scripture verses on healing:
The greatest of the Lord’s “benefits” is that He forgives all our sins! But the Psalmist here charges us not to forget another of the Lord’s benefits — that is, He “heals all our diseases.”
ALL our diseases! None are too hard for Him. God heals them all. No illnesses are excluded from this great “benefit.” Whatever disease you or a loved one may have, it falls under God’s promise to “heal all your diseases.”
It was Jesus’ willing offering of Himself on the Cross that bore our sins. But the very same tormented body of Jesus, in His scourging and crucifixion, purchased for us the blessing of physical healing — “by His wounds you have been healed.”
And notice the differences in the verb tenses used by Isaiah and Peter. Isaiah, prophetically seeing this seven centuries before Christ, said, “By His wounds we are healed.” The apostle Peter, looking back to Christ’s historical death and resurrection, declared, “By His wounds you have been healed.” Jesus cried out from the Cross, “It is finished!” Sin has been overcome. Sickness has been overcome. The Cross of Jesus Christ has conquered both sin and sickness. Dr. Roger Sapp, whose CDs and DVDs on healing I have greatly enjoyed, strongly emphasizes that healing is ours because of what Jesus accomplished at the Cross. Jesus Christ the Savior is just as surely Jesus Christ the Healer.
The following are some of the numerous examples of divine, spiritual healing in the Bible. Let’s see what insights we can learn from them.
The principle here is simple — faithful Abraham prayed, and God healed. Moses prayed for leprous Miriam, and God healed her.
King David understood the power of prayer for healing the sick — “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
The ongoing principle seen here and elsewhere in the Bible, is the power of a believer’s prayer. God honors and answers prayer for divine healing. Abraham, Moses, and David believed in God’s healing power and His willingness to heal, and they prayed for it. I mentioned above how the Lord healed my wife's infertility. I must add that she and I and a number of others had been steadfastly praying for the Lord's healing of that infertility. And God was faithful to answer! Jesus taught on this same power of a believer’s faith-filled prayer:
Serious illnesses can be emotionally devastating. King Hezekiah was “sick unto death.” To make matters worse, the prophet Isaiah brought him the Lord’s message that this illness would be fatal. Hezekiah’s reaction is very illuminating for us.
The Bible reveals to us that, having learned that his illness was terminal, Hezekiah “wept bitterly” (NIV) as he “prayed unto the Lord.” Note that God regarded both Hezekiah’s prayer and his emotions — “I have heard thy prayer; I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee.” It’s OK with God if we are quite emotional in approaching Him with our healing needs.
Now let’s look at some examples in the Bible of Jesus healing the sick, the infirm, the diseased, those in pain, etc.
Christians serve a healing Savior, Jesus Christ. His heart, as here, is for “the people.” The Gospel records abound with illustrations of the healing miracles of Jesus among the masses, the men and women on the street. He preached and taught, yes. But He also “healed every disease and sickness among the people.”
“Every disease and sickness” — Christ’s supernatural healing power is without limit. His healing touch is available to everyone. There is no illness beyond His ability to cure. He healed them all, including:
So don’t hesitate to bring any healing need to Jesus, because in His ministry of healing, He demonstrated His ability and His willingness to heal “every disease and sickness among the people.”
God had this in mind all along. The prophet Isaiah spoke of it seven centuries before the New Testament era:
Our part is to reach out and touch Jesus for healing. Bring your sick ones to Jesus. Encourage them by faith to reach out and touch Him, because then, as now, all who touched Him were healed.
Do not establish your healing doctrine on the leper’s cry, “If you are willing.” No, but rather build your faith for healing on Jesus’ confidence-building reply, “I AM willing!” Fix this thought firmly in your soul — Jesus IS WILLING to heal those who come to Him in faith.
A principle of great importance is seen in these verses — that is, “thy faith hath made thee whole ... according to your faith be it unto you.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” But conversely, we are told, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). God expects us, in asking for healing as well as in other prayers, to believe Him, to believe His word, to “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). Divine healing is quite appropriately called "faith healing"!
I remember the late Kenneth Hagin saying that he had seen many healings in a noncharismatic, fundamental church early in his ministry. He said he simply preached "faith and healing" and people got healed! He understood that key: faith is an indispensible ingredient in divine healing.
There may be times when the Lord will ask you to show your faith, to give observable evidence of your faith, as in the case of the man whom He told to stretch out his withered hand. I wrote earlier how my wife Mickey, sincerely believing God for the healing of her infertility, felt faith to buy a roomful of nursery furniture. Not many months later, after six years of infertility, she found herself pregnant with the first of our four children. I can only conclude that God saw the sincerity of Mickey's faith (edit 2010: see Tribute to a Life Lived Well).
Healing comes “by faith in” someone — JESUS! Over the years I have heard sincere Christians misdirect their faith. Some have fallen into the error of having “faith in faith.” No! Our faith is in a Person, Jesus, who heals. Others have properly searched the Bible for divine healing Scriptures, but have unfortunately been content to use them merely as a “formula” for healing, rather than as a revelation of the Healer Himself. "Faith healing" is not primarily believing the doctrine, the Bible's teaching on healing (true as that doctrine is), but believing in the Divine Healer, the Person — that is, in Jesus Christ.
Peter understood the proper object of our faith — Jesus! He told his listeners how the lame man had been healed:
This is a very reassuring verse. Notice that the lepers were not healed the moment they prayed. No, but rather they were healed “as they went” to show themselves to the priests in obedience to Jesus.
There may be times when we need to “walk” for a while in faith, and then the healing comes. Although many healings in the Bible were instantaneous, some were not immediate. Be willing to maintain steadfast faith as you pray for divine healing, and don’t be discouraged if your healing does not immediately occur.
In his epistle James reveals a valuable principle for the person asking something of God — “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). When you ask God for healing, don’t doubt! Don’t waver! Believe God. Believe the healing promises of His word. Reject doubt, choosing rather to say, “God is true ... His word is true ... so my doubts must go!”
Even at a distance from the nobleman’s home, Jesus spoke the word: “Thy son liveth.” And the man “believed the word that Jesus had spoken” and returned home to find his son alive. There is healing power in the spoken word of faith.
Again, we see the power of the spoken word of faith. Peter simply declared the truth: “Jesus Christ heals you.” And the miracle of healing followed immediately. Tell the sick, “Jesus Christ heals you.” Make no apologies for that statement. Don’t doubt it. Don’t try to water it down. As the old saying goes, truer words were never spoken!
Once more we see the healing power of the spoken word of faith. The preaching of the word of God inspired an atmosphere of faith. Paul “perceived that [the lame man] had faith to be healed.”
How did the lame man come to this place of having faith to be healed? The answer is that he heard the word of God spoken by Paul. This is a vitally important principle for all churches and all Christians. Preach the word. Teach the word. God’s word will inspire faith in the hearers. And we will begin to see dramatic healings in response to the spoken word of faith — “Stand upright on thy feet!”
First notice that it doesn’t require an apostle to heal the sick. It doesn't require someone with a special healing ministry to heal the sick. Verse 10 identifies Ananias simply as a “disciple.” Mark 16:17-18 records Jesus’ promise to all believers — “And these signs will accompany those who believe.... they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Led by Jesus in a vision, the faithful disciple Ananias found Saul and announced to him that Jesus had sent him to heal Saul’s blindness. It is important for those who are sick to understand that Jesus is able and willing to heal them.
Then Ananias laid his hands on him, and Saul’s eyes immediately received sight again.
The words of the Lord, as recorded in the Bible, are life-giving. Jesus said that His words “are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). One of the most inspiring CDs I have ever listened to was simply a collection of divine healing Scriptures read aloud by a pastor. I could feel the word of God building faith.
But the Proverb reveals another dramatic benefit of keeping the Lord’s words “within your heart”, and that benefit is health — “My words ...[are] health to a man’s whole body.” The secular world speaks of "alternative health". But the best source of alternative health — or any aspect of health! — is the sure promises of God in His word, the bible.
Many churches continue to pray this way for sick family members and friends who live at a distance. I endorse this practice wholeheartedly.
Generally, during the post-service altar ministry someone will hold a handkerchief over which believers will come and pray for healing for the person in need. Then the handkerchief is mailed to the sick person, along with some faith-building scriptures on divine healing (usually including Acts 19:11-12) and an explanation that believers in the church had prayed for them for their healing. Testimonies abound of people being physically healed in this way.
Many years ago in a church in Anchorage, I was touched to see a medical doctor holding a prayer cloth on behalf of a sick person of his acquaintance. As I joined with the others in prayer, I thought to myself, “Here is this Christian doctor, with all his scientific knowledge, humbly asking the Great Physician to do something better than medical science can do it.” My faith was encouraged.
The margin of the New American Standard Bible says that a joyful heart “literally, ‘causes good healing.’ ”
Think of that — the state of our “heart” — referring here to the emotions, not the bodily organ — can substantially affect our good health or lack thereof. This has long been common knowledge in the medical field. Sometimes illnesses are diagnosed as “psychosomatic” in origin. Interestingly, the word psychosomatic comes from the same Greek words that the Bible uses for “soul” and “body.” So medical science agrees with the Bible that the state of our inner man or woman can substantially affect our physical health, for good or for bad.
The word of God says that a merry heart “literally causes good healing”! There is a direct, cause-and-effect result: merry heart —> good healing. Conversely, a broken or crushed spirit has a negative effect on our health (it “dries up the bones”).
One of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is joy. Those who allow the presence of the Lord in their lives to bring a daily, inward joy will also reap the wonderful promise of their “merry heart doing good like a medicine.”
“That is why many...are weak and sick.” Why? They take Communion “without recognizing the body of the Lord.” They forget 1 Peter 2:24 — “By his wounds you have been healed.” They participate in the communion service, perhaps needing a physical healing, and remain oblivious to the fact that Jesus’ body bore both our sins and our sicknesses.
I would encourage every reader to ponder these things the next time you take communion. Remember what Jesus’ broken body has done for you. Receive the benefits of that by faith. And expect healing to come to your body, even during the very communion service.
An important doctrinal point on a related topic — it’s important for each church to have elders. Otherwise, there are no “elders of the church” for the sick to call for prayer and anointing with oil. Can you identify the elders of your church?
In my years as a Christian, I have been an elder in three local churches. I have always considered it a privilege to respond to calls from the sick. The process is simple and will generally be something like this:
It is important to remind ourselves that this healing was before the Cross of Christ, so the boy was not a born-again person, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I find no Bible evidence that a born-again Christian can be possessed by a demon.
Here the boy was clearly possessed and had a demon within (verse 18 — “it came out”). The demon’s presence was manifested by the boy having seizures. When Jesus cast out the demon, the boy was immediately healed.
You too may encounter some instances of afflictions suffered by unsaved people that are caused by demonic power. As in the case of Jesus curing the epileptic boy, healing may come as you drive the demon(s) away in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a similar instance to the healing of the epileptic boy. The woman had been literally “crippled by a spirit” for 18 years. Jesus acknowledged (verse 16) that Satan had bound her and that she needed to be “set free.” He ministered that deliverance to her, and she was immediately healed from her crippling condition.
Jesus spit, made mud, and put it on a blind man’s eyes. And when the man washed his eyes, he could see! Sick people were laid in the streets, and when Peter’s shadow passed over them, they were healed.
These and other extraordinary healings were not written to give us a “pattern” of how to minister to the sick. In fact, neither of these instances was repeated in the New Testament. These are simply manifestations of the multifaceted power of God to heal. As we have seen in items 1-10 above, God heals in a variety of ways. The common denominator in all is this: God does heal!
Making wise choices in favor of godly attitudes and conduct can bring healing to our bodies. Three things are mentioned here: 1) a humble attitude, 2) a wholesome fear of the Lord, and 3) shunning evil in our daily lives. These are things well within our free-will choices to obey, and when followed, they "will bring health to your body."
The Great Commission is for all believers to share the Good News of Jesus “in all the world.” And God will confirm the Gospel with supernatural signs, including healings. And the Gospel that He will confirm is not spoken just by apostles and other ordained ministers, but also by “them that believe” (17). Every believer can share the Good News and can minister divine healing today to the sick. Jesus’ encouragement to every believer is (18): “Lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
This list is commonly called the nine spiritual gifts or gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are supernatural gifts with which the Holy Spirit endows individual Christians to minister to others. In its most publicly visible form these Spirit-given gifts of healing have been seen in the Gospel preaching and healing crusades of ministers such as the late evangelists T.L. Osborne, Reinhard Bonnke, and others. These same divine healing gifts are seen in various individuals in the local churches too.
One of these nine is “gifts of healing.” It is given to some, not all — notice: “to one is given ... to another ... to another ... to another the gifts of healing ...”
This is a similar list of spiritual gifts and ministries, indicating that to some God distributes the specific “gifts of healing.”
Let me add a side thought before our summary. It is this: Faith does not preclude our using wisdom and taking normal antiseptic, antibacterial precautions. For example:
SUMMARY: God’s heart is for healing. It is a “benefit,” as is the forgiveness of sins, that Jesus secured with His death, burial, and resurrection (Psalm 103:2-3). It is a historical "ancient landmark" of both the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus healed again and again while He walked the earth. And He remains “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus heals today!
Biblical healing methods vary, and they include healing prayer, the laying on of hands, the spoken word, and anointing with oil by praying elders, among others.
Jesus has entrusted the healing ministry to His Church. The first apostles healed the sick. So did a large group of disciples. In the Great Commission, Jesus encouraged all believers to lay hands on the sick for healing. And there will be some in the churches whom the Holy Spirit will endow with specific “gifts of healing.”
A closely related bible study on healing by Pastor Feeney may be viewed at Growing in Faith for Divine Healing. Related sermons include Receive Your Healing from God, Divine Healing Flowing from the Mercy of God, and The Power of Healing Prayers for the Sick. These and more are listed in our "God Heals Today" collection of divine healing sermons and bible studies.
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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.