In this blog, I would like to clearly address two groups: those who hold to a Cessationist view regarding the spiritual gifts, specifically the gifts of healing; and those who believe and regularly practice the gifts of healing.
From the outset, let me say unabashedly that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I hold to the conviction that God still heals men and women physically today. In fact, Jesus spent a major part of his earthly ministry healing the physically infirm. For that reason, I believe that we can and should pray for God to continue healing sick bodies through the Lord Jesus.
There are two main reasons I believe this. The first (and most important), is it can be supported biblically. Nowhere does the Bible support the idea that God is no longer in the healing business. This is hard to swallow for my Cessastionist friends; those holding to a doctrine which teaches that the charismas (gifts of the Spirit) disappeared from the Church after the completion of the New Testament canon. The supposed biblical undergirding for such a doctrine is weak, based on the idea that the perfect which Paul says has come is a reference to the completed canon of the New Testament (I Corinthians 13:10). But this can’t be a reference to the completion of the canon for the simple reason that, not only would the gifts had to have ceased, but knowledge also as well, which clearly is not the case (see I Corinthians 13:8).
The second reason I believe that God still heals the sick today is I have personally witnessed times when God healed people. There are many healings I could speak about, but none as powerful as the healing of a man who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As they were wheeling him down to surgery to remove it, his wife asked that they do another x-ray. The doctors at first refused, but eventually acquiesced. They could not account for why it no longer showed up on the x-ray. There are many such miraculous answers to prayer which I have personally witnessed over the years, leading me to the conclusion that God still heals the infirm today.
Not only does God still heal today; he encourages us to desire the gifts of healing which he freely dispenses to certain members of the body (I Corinthians 14:1). Here, Paul doesn’t single out healing, but it is included in his general statement that believers ought to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts” (which includes healings). So here is where I address myself to my Cessationist friends. I want to ask this simple question: If you are, as you claim to be, committed to the full authority of Scripture, why aren’t you obeying I Corinthians 14:1 and seeking after the gifts of the Spirit? (including the gifts of healing). After all, this is not a suggestion, but a command God expects us to obey.
But to those who believe that God is still in the healing business today, I want to remind you not to put all your faith and hope in this life only. Even those who are fortunate enough to receive healing in this life have to eventually face the issue of their own mortality. I understand why those who believe in healing are disappointed when people aren’t healed. While we should be willing to pray for everyone who is sick, believing that God can and will heal them, we must not put all of our hope in this life. Our ultimate goal is to behold our Savior in eternity and those who don’t get healed have that to look forward to. Believers often have strange ideas about death that mirrors those of the world.
Jesus referred to death as sleep when it comes to believers (John 11:11, I Thessalonians 4:14). For the believer, it is as simple as going to sleep in this life and waking up in the next. That’s why believer’s funerals are a mixed bag—on one hand, we are grieving the believer whom we will no longer see, while on the other hand we are jealous that they have gone on ahead. Jesus told his friend Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Again, even though God heals and wants to do so more than we even desire, eventually even those who are healed will die.
So, if you are in the Cessationist camp, I am asking you to reconsider your position, recognizing that the so-called biblical support for that position is weak. And if you are committed to the conviction that God not only can but does heal the sick today, I would remind you that the ultimate goal is not the preservation of your physical body but to be “absent from the body” so as to be “present with the Lord.” Amen.