Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
I recently did a teaching on the “gifts of healing” from 1Corinthians 12:7-11 which left some with the impression that I was teaching that when someone is not healed it is because of sin in that person’s life.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Nor do I believe that people are not healed because their faith is deficient. The confusion arose in part from my paraphrase of James who wrote:
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to 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. (James 5:14-16) (NASB)
Although being out of Yahveh’s will and or unconfessed sin may cause sickness, not all sickness is caused by specific sin in the life of the one who is ill. I believe that James is merely saying here that if there is sin which may be causing illness and it is confessed the sin will be forgiven.
Based on my understanding of Scripture, I am not comfortable assenting to the idea that sometimes Yahveh capriciously decides not to heal some people. James says that the prayer of the Elders offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. Some offer Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as evidence in support of this contention, but we can only speculate that Paul was referring to a physical illness here. Even if that is so, in light of everything else scripture has to say about healing, it would not be wise to build a doctrine of capricious or inconsistent healing on Yahveh’s part based on one vague statement from Paul. Consider the following promises from Scripture. Although there are prerequisite conditions to some of them, I see no
justification for believing that God is capricious or inconsistent in His desire to heal sickness by manifestations of the Holy Spirit through members of the body of Messiah.
John 14:10-14 (NIV)
10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 15:5-8 (NIV)
5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:12-17 (NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
John 16:23-24 (NIV)
23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and
your joy will be complete.
Mark 16:17-18 (NASB)
17 "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison,it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
It is only by reasoning backward from the incomplete premise that “all are not healed” that we may come to the conclusion that God must not want to heal everyone. This conclusion is not supported by Scripture. The premise is incomplete because it does not take into account that there may be another reason that all are not healed which has nothing to do with God’s wishes or intention. Perhaps we need to consider instead, what may be keeping us from receiving this particular promise of our Father.
Although we have experienced miraculous healings in the church in our time, they seem to be the exception not the rule. I strongly believe this is caused by a deficiency in the faith and or conduct of the Church, and not in a change of heart on God’s part or in the reliability of His promises. Scripture states that Y'shua healed “…every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23; 9:35 &10:1).” Y'shua said that anyone who believed in him would not only do what He had done but would do even greater miracles (John 14:12). It makes sense to me that God cannot continue to reward the church with power and authority over things like sickness if we refuse or neglect to obey his commandments and instructions. For instance, if we are not calling for the Elders to pray for us and anoint us with oil when we are sick, can we expect to be healed? If we are too timid to lay hands on the sick when we pray, will they recover? If we reject the promise of the Father (the baptism in the Holy Spirit) or maintain that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not for today, can we expect to see people healed because we pray for them. If we don’t obey Y'shua’s commandments, can we expect to receive whatever we ask in His name?
As I struggled to explain what I am trying to say, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to the example of 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 which says:
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if
he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. (NASB)
Many teach that in this passage, Paul is saying that if we don’t take a moment to ask for forgiveness of sin before partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we may be eating and drinking judgment or condemnation on our
selves. But in this passage, Paul is decrying a very specific sin, that of not judging or discerning the body of Messiah. What was happening at Corinth is that cliques of well to do or influential Christians were separating themselves from less influential and poorer Christian brothers and sisters in the very celebration of the Lord ’s Supper that was meant to memorialize the unity of the members of the body with Messiah and with each other. In refusing to share the food they had brought to the feast with their less fortunate brothers and sisters, these snooty Christians were deliberately rejecting the unity that Y'shua prayed they would have with one another. They were also openly defying His commandment to love one another. In so doing they were not discerning that those they were shunning were part of the body of Messiah.
According to Paul, this heinous sin was the reason that many among them were weak (helpless), sick and even dead. Paul goes on to point out that this judgment (of helplessness, sickness and death) was Yahveh’s discipline for the sin of not judging the body rightly. This was not the sin of one person, the church was sinning; not only the snooty offenders, but those who condoned or ignored it. Is it possible that all are not
being healed today because Yahveh is disciplining His church? My point here is that the reason we are not seeing everyone we lay hands on healed, may be that there is sin in the camp, or it may simply be because we are not meticulously following Yahveh’s instructions.
Our God is not the God of horseshoes and hand grenades (activities where close is good enough). He consumed the sons of Aaron with fire because they lit their sensors with the wrong match. He expects us to obey his commandments and to obey them precisely. Instead of rationalizing the paucity of miraculous healing in our midst, perhaps it is time to ask the Holy Spirit what we are doing or not doing that is keeping us from receiving all of our Father’s promises. And God help us if we refuse to do what He says we