Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 10)

Healing is a central part of the Gospel of the Kingdom; it is not a peripheral issue. It was not a peripheral issue to Jesus or the early church. Therefore it should not be to us. But—it seems to be in most churches and denominations. Why? Jesus did not change (Hebrews 13:8)—but the church did.

We know Jesus healed. He revealed the character, nature, and will—the essence of who God is. He demonstrated God’s will at every turn. He commissioned and authorized not only the apostles, but all his disciples to do the works he had done and even greater ones. He also commissioned them to make disciples and train them to do all that he had trained them to do. And that is exactly what that first few generations of believers did.

Over the next three hundred years, the church turned the world upside down through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as they proclaimed and demonstrated the words of Jesus. The book of Acts is saturated with healing miracles and chronicles the first thirty years of the church. The “gifts of healings” are mention in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. Healing was an integral and normal part of the early gospel message.

The Roman government condemned and persecuted the church, but it could not argue against or get rid of the testimonies of healing that accompanied the followers of Christ. Those powerful manifestations of God’s power could not be denied. The early church fathers, such as Origen and Justin Martyr, wrote of these miracles as they defended their faith. Their writings, as well as many others, are available for anyone to read and they serve as faithful accounts of early church history. Healing miracles did not end with the death of the last apostle—they continued unabated for three to five hundred years.

Sadly, over time the church changed and was affected more by the culture surrounding it and from subtle changes from within. These changes negatively influenced the ministry of healing and over time, it was lost—in the dust of abuse, misuse, and eventually no use.

To be a Christian during those first three hundred years meant you were the real deal. There were no nominal or “Sunday” believers. Christians were persecuted, their property confiscated, and their children taken and sold as slaves. They were shunned in their communities, hunted by government and religious authorities, and killed by gladiators and wild animals in the arenas throughout the Roman Empire. A person claiming to be a follower of Christ was all in or that person was not a part of the church. The cost was too high!

Everything changed when Emperor Constantine saw a vision with a cross and was told that he would conquer in that sign. He place the cross symbol on the shields and breastplates of his soldiers and won a great victory in 312 AD. It is likely he became a patron of the church rather than a believer in Christ, and in 313 AD he signed the Edict of Milan, which legalized the church. In 381 AD, the Christian Church was declared the state church of Rome, bringing throngs of pagans into membership who had never experienced salvation. The purity and power of the church was compromised.

Another event that greatly affected healing was the fall of Rome in 476 AD. With this, the civilized world entered what is known as the Dark Ages. During this time, illiteracy became prevalent and ultimately the Bible—the Word of God—was lost to the common people. People could no longer read, and thus, they had to trust their priests (most of them could not read) to tell them was Scripture taught. This enabled a select few to interpret the Bible and disseminate its truths in ways that would maintain a rigid control of the masses and put huge profits in their pockets.

Survival became the daily toil of the common people. Life was tough and life spans were short. People began to focus on the life to come because they wanted to escape their present struggle. Heaven became the ultimate destination and health and freedom promised by Christ in the present lost its luster.

Biblical healing was quickly becoming covered in the dust of time—buried by compromise and unbelief.

(In my next blog, I will share some specific theological choices and events that helped bury the biblical ministry of healing.)

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 9)

Everything Jesus purchased on the cross was accepted and validated through the resurrection by God the Father. The resurrection is God’s eternal signature on and stamp of approval and acceptance that the death of Jesus was enough—it made atonement. Atonement is a biblical term that means reconciliation (the full restoration of fellowship and relationship) was restored between God and humanity as the effects of our sin were removed through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

Every believer is at-one-ment with God. Jesus satisfied God’s law that demanded the death of a righteous and perfect sacrifice for sin. Christ’s atonement cleansed the sin debt and brought release from the eternal consequences and effects of sin, and the restoration of God’s blessings and favor.

Sin entered the physical world through Adam ‘s disobedience, but it’s origin was in the heart of Lucifer when he rebelled against God. Sin brought sickness, disease, and ultimately death. None of those things were God’s will for humanity—then or now. We were not created to endure sickness or disease, to be tormented in soul and mind, nor experience death. That was never the will of God for any of his children. If it’s not God’s will, then his will must be that we enjoy and experience wholeness, life, health, and prosperity of spirit, soul, and body. That concept is contained in the Jewish word shalom—which is the fullness of life Jesus died to give each of us.

Few people would argue that Jesus died to save us, as long as by that you mean spiritually speaking. But the word sozo (Greek) from which come the terms “saved” and “salvation” means far more. Salvation is the redemption of forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and healing of the body. The death of Jesus purchased all three. That’s right there is sozo in the atonement for the spirit, soul, and body.

Jesus did not come to die for a partial salvation. He came to bring complete and total salvation. When Adam and Eve tasted the fruit, death invaded and ultimately claimed their spirit, soul, and body. Jesus came to redeem, deliver, and heal all three. Salvation in Jesus Christ is complete, even though most Christians are only accessing one third of what Jesus paid for.

Isaiah prophesied about this amazing and complete atonement in Isaiah 53:4-5. “Surely our griefs [our sickness] He Himself bore, and our sorrows [pains] He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten [struck down] of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through [wounded] for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being [shalom—peace] fell upon Him, and by His scouring [stripes] we are healed.” This passage promises one who would come and bear the punishment for spirit, soul, and body. Jesus fulfilled these promises as he was beaten and crucified.

After Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others in Capernaum, Matthew said, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). Peter quoted the same passage in 1 Peter 2:24: “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds [by His stripes] you were healed.” When God emphasizes something once it is important, but when he does it three times it is essential and something we must pay attention to.

Let me sum up what I’m trying to say. The body of Jesus was scourged with a whip, his body broken and ripped—so we could enjoy physical healing. “By His stripes we are healed!” He was pierced through his hands, feet, side and forehead and his blood was spilled to pay for our sin debt. Total salvation—forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and healing of the body—was purchased that day. Jesus came to reverse the curse of sin and his atoning work disempowered the devils hold over defilement, disease, demonization, and death. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.

The atonement of Jesus is complete. Are you experiencing the totality of that atonement in your spirit, soul, and body today? If not, why not?

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 8)

The Jewish belief of a Messiah who would come and rule over Israel was, and still remains, a part of their eschatology. This deliverer would be a direct descendant of King David, consecrated by the Holy Spirit (the anointing oil of God), and would sit on the Davidic throne and rule God’s kingdom during the Messianic age. He would be the Anointed One, meaning he would embody the anointed ministry of prophet, priest, and king. In the ancient prophecies of the coming Messiah a clue was hidden that would clearly distinguish his identity from all the other pseudo saviors who would, in time, arise in Israel.

That defining clue in recognizing the Messiah’s identity was his ability to heal. The chief texts from which the Jewish theologians and rabbis developed this belief were found in Isaiah 35:3-5, Isaiah 29:18-19, and Isaiah 61:1. As they studied the Scriptures, it was clear that amazing level of healing he possessed would separate him from the rest. Sadly with the destruction of the nation of Israel in 586 B.C., the Jews began looking for a “son of David” who would come as a conquering king, rid them of foreign control, and re-establish their nation as a world power.

In the 1st century, John the Baptist declared in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah when he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God. He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was anointed (baptized) as the Spirit of God descended and rested on him at his baptism. He left the Jordan and went into the wilderness “full of the Holy Spirit,” where he was tested by the devil over a period of forty days. After victoriously overcoming each temptation, Jesus (“full of the Holy Spirit”) went to his hometown and entered the synagogue and quoted the Messianic passage from Isaiah 61:1 and declared it fulfilled.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbis had divided miracles into two specific categories: (1) those that anyone who was empowered could do, and (2) the miracles only the Messiah would be capable of doing. Those that identified the Messiah were very distinct.

imagesFirst, the Messiah would heal a leper. They believed that only God could heal leprosy—an awful disease that slowly disfigured and ultimately killed the person infected with it. Leprosy was believed to be the judgment of God and rendered a person ceremonially unclean. The last Jewish person healed of leprosy in Israel prior to the coming of Jesus was Mariam in the days of Moses almost 1,500 years earlier. In Mark 1:40-42, Jesus touched a leper, healing the unclean and making him clean again. Later, he would heal ten lepers at one time.

imagesThe second Messianic healing miracle was the healing of a person demonized by a spirit of muteness, which left the person unable to speak. Exorcism was common in Israel, but for these exorcists to have success a lengthy ritual was performed that required the demon to give up its name. To cast it out they must possess the wicked spirit’s name. A mute person could not speak and thus the demon would not give up its name or leave. Jesus did not need a name. He exercised the power of God in Matthew 9:32-34 to set a mute man free. The crowd recognized the miracle and said so—“Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed Jesus was using the power of Satan to heal. But, to add an exclamation point to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, he did it again in Matthew 12:22-23—prompting the people to begin asking, “Could this be the Son of David?”

The Pharisees responded again that he was doing it through the power of Satan. Why? Because they recognized that only the Messiah could do this, but Jesus did not fit their Messianic picture or their narrow, ritualistic theological system. They could not refute his miracles, so they attempted to smear and diminish his character in the eyes of the people. In fact, the Talmud, which is one of the central texts of Judaism and consists of commentary and explanation of the Mosaic Law, states that “Jesus was hanged on a tree for using sorcery.” Meaning, he was crucified for using demonic magic in his healing.

imagesThe third and final miraculous healing sign of the Messiah was that he would heal those who had been born blind. The apostle John records this particular miracle as one of seven signs found in his gospel that validated the deity of Jesus. John gives it a complete chapter (10). This miracle caused a major uproar and even a division among the Pharisees.

In his darkest moment, John the Baptist sent word from prison asking Jesus, “Are you the Expected One?” Jesus did not rebuke him, but rather sent this word back—“Go report to John what you have seen and heard; the blind recover sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22-23).

Many would say Jesus did these works to prove his identity. Yet Jesus knew who he was and those who exercised their faith recognized him as such. The primary reason he did these miracles and all the others was to demonstrate God’s heart of love and compassion for those who were suffering from the attacks of the devil and the void left by man’s practice of empty religion. He performed them to demonstrate the message not simply prove it. The message of Jesus—the gospel of the kingdom—is true with or without the miracles.

By the way, God has never seeks to prove who he is to humanity—he simply reveals it. It’s up to you and me to believe and see—not see and believe!