The Christian And Divine Healing
By Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980)
Chapter 4 from “THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT”; © 1976.
The Gifts Of Healing
Some claim to have “the gift of healing” and so they regularly have “healing lines,” having special healing services in which they lay hands on people and pray for them to be healed. They think it is always God's will for every Christian to be healed and be perfectly well, so they think everyone has a right to claim healing. They think, therefore, they have a permanent gift of healing and are authorized to use it continually. However, the facts do not bear out their claims. We believe that it does not fit with the Bible doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit.
We believe that what they had in Bibl times, by God's loving plan and mercy and only those He chose for each gift, we ought to have, too. We do not believe the gifts of the Spirit are now passed away.
First Corinthians 13:9-12 says:
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
But that does not mean that when the Bible is completed, the spiritual gifts are to pass away. It means surely that in our perfect resurrection bodies we will know perfectly what we now know only in part. Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then—in the presence of Christ and in resurrection bodies—we will see face to face. Yes, Bible Christianity is for today also.
Read what the Scripture says about gifts of healing:
1st Corinthians 12:4-11, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
Now the close of the chapter continues:
1st Corinthians 12:28-30, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”
- GIFTS (PLURAL) FOR SEPARATE, SPECIFIC CASES IN WILL OF GOD, NOT ONE LIFELONG GIFT!
Note the language of the Scriptures above. Note that God gives “severally as he will” these gifts. No one person has all the gifts. And not all are apostates, not all are teachers, not all have these various gifts.
But note particularly that in listing the gifts in verses 4 to 10 above, some other gifts are mentioned such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith—and all as if they were single gifts put permanently upon some people. Certain people had a word of wisdom and would have it still tomorrow, as necessary. One who had more faith by knowing the Word of God better or by proving it more often, would have more faith tomorrow, also. Not so with the gift of healing. There are “gifts,” that is, plural, separate, single gifts of healing. (See “gifts of healing” in verse 9 and “gifts of healing” [plural] in verse 28 and “gifts of healing” in verse 30.) That is, when God gives a gift for a certain person to be healed, if another person is to be healed at a different time, it takes another gift of healing for that, too.
God does not intend for every person to be healed, so He does not give any person a single, always-present gift to heal everyone.
Paul had a gift of healing to cast out a devil in the slave girl in Acts 16. He had a gift of healing when he healed the father of Publius on the island of Melita in Acts 28:7,8. He did not have the gift of healing for Timothy's weak stomach (I Tim. 5:23). He did not have the gift of healing for Trophimus whom he left sick at Miletum (II Tim. 4:20).
The same thing is true about the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues in never given to everybody. But it is also true it was never given to anybody as a permanent gift to be exercised at will.
In Acts 2 we have one clear case where God gave the gift of tongues and for the particular purpose that people could hear the Gospel in their own tongue in which they were born. We cannot be sure that there is any other single case clearly mentioned in the Bible. Twice more, in Acts 10 and Acts 19, people “spake in tongues,” but that simply means speaking in languages, probably foreign languages, and they may well have been natural languages. The Bible does not say that they spoke in tongues unknown to them nor by a miracle and, of course, we have no right to insist that it was a miracle
But in any case, tongues is the last and the least of the gifts, and there would rarely be an occasion when there is any need to talk to people in a foreign language which one had to know miraculously, not having learned it. The Bible never hints that any person in Bible times had a permanent gift of tongues and could use it for his own enjoyment daily or regularly.
May we be sure also that no one was given an ever-present permanent power to work miracles at his will. At separate times, in answer to prayer and faith, and when it was in the will of God, He would give a gift of miracles to someone.
- GIFTS OF HEALING SEEMS TO HAVE COME ONLY IN ANSWER TO EARNEST PRAYER AND GOD-GIVEN FAITH
The Lord Jesus had given the apostles power to cast out devils, but when the devil-possessed boy was brought to them (Mark 9 and Matt. 17), they could not cast out the devil. And why? Because of their unbelief. And an explanation given is, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” The apostles had no gift of healing that was automatic without prayer and waiting on God and being in the will of God on the matter.
Paul cast out the demon in the slave girl at Philippi but only after she cried after Paul and Silas for some days. Paul then got faith and assurance to cast the demon out!
And the Scripture in James 5:13-16 clearly indicates that God may give faith for healing and heal people any time when sick people call for the elders of the church and they pray over them, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The “the prayer of faith shall heal the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him,” we are told.
It would be expected that godly men, elders or pastors of a church, and spiritual leaders might be more effective in prayer than others. Naturally one would want his pastor or pastors to pray for him. And that is proper and right. But in any case there is no suggestion that some particular people would have a gift of healing at will. No, in every case, as people waited on God and prayed, if God gave the faith He would give the healing.
We believe that gifts of healing and other gifts of the Spirit are for us today, but only as God gives severally as He will and only when they will be worked in the will and plan of God. God does not casually put all the volts of Heaven's power in the hands of any man to use as he will. The gifts of the spirit are subject to the will of God and are given as God wills to penitent, pleading people who wait on Him in faith.
SOURCE: Dr. John R. Rice, Chapter 4 from “THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT”, pp. 180-183; © 1976.
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Chapter 5 from “THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT”; © 1976.
Not Always God's Will To Heal The Sick
We suppose it is usually God's will to heal the sick. nearly every Christian has had times of sickness, then recovered by the blessing of God. Sometimes people think that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medicines, treatments, exercises and diets heal the sick. Actually, the more sensible of us all think that healing is usually natural, God has put certain powers of recuperation in the body and that it is God Himself Who does all healing. Whether or not doctors and medicine and treatments are used. Usually it is God's will to heal the sick.
But it ought not be hard to show from the Bible that it is not always the will of God to heal sick people, either by natural means or by a miraculous intervention.
If it were always God's will to heal the sick, then why should not a Christian be healed every time he needed it and live a thousand years or more? If it were always God's will to heal the sick, surely He would not have placed Cherubims with a flaming Sword at the gate of Eden to keep man out “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life” (Gen.3:22-24).
No, it is never hinted in the Bible that Christians always have the right, purchased on the cross, to be completely well, It is not always God's will to heal sick people, even the best Christians.
- BEST BIBLE CHRISTIANS NOT ALWAYS HEALED
The Apostle Paul is a wonderful illustration of this fact. He said:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” —II Cor. 12:7-10.
Notice how earnestly Paul prayed: he “besought the Lord,” not once but in at least three extended periods of prayer. But God refused to remove that weakness, that “thorn in the flesh.” It was “in the flesh,” that is, it had to do with his body. It was physical sickness and weakness. But instead of healing him, God gave him grace day by day. And Paul was content.
There was a reason for that affliction of Paul, that “thorn in the flesh.” It was “lest I should be exalted above measure.” Sickness is not always bad. Sometimes it is good. One good man said, “Health is the best thing in the world besides sickness.” And now, continuing in his affliction, Paul took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses for Christ's sake. He says also that one of the wonderful blessings of being weak and afflicted is that now the power must be of God and He must get the glory.
Then it is obvious that it is not always God's will to heal the sick. There is much evidence that Paul was frequently weak and sickly and that God got the glory. In II Corinthians 6:4 he said, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.” Yes, “afflictions” come from God and honor Him.
And in II Corinthians 1:8 Paul wrote of “our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” And he said, “. . . though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16).
It is probable that Paul suffered all his life with weak eyes. His compassionate converts, he said, would have plucked out their own eyes for him (Gal. 4:15). He did not usually write his own letters. Tertius wrote one for him (Rom. 16:22). The epistles to the Philippians and Colossians had salutations from “Paul and Timotheus,” and we suppose that Timothy did the actual writing at the words of Paul. But Paul signed the letter to the Corinthians—“The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand”—after it was written by another.
In Galatians 6:11 Paul said, “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” But Dr. Scofield says it would be better translated “with how large letters.” He says:
The apostle was, it appears from many considerations, afflicted with ophthalmia, a common disease in the East, to the point of almost total blindness (e.g., Gal. 4:13-15). Ordinarily, therefore, he dictated his letters. But now, having no amanuensis at hand, but urged by the spiritual danger of his dear Galatians, he writes, we cannot know with what pain and difficulty, with his own hand, in the 'large letters' his darkened vision compelled him to use.
We note this carefully because it is quite evident that all his days Paul suffered sickness, weakness and pain, and it may be this was the thorn in the flesh which continually grieved and troubled him.
Surely because He did not heal Paul, this makes very clear it is not always God's will to heal the sick.
Timothy also seemed to have been the victim of continual infirmity. Paul was inspired to say to him in 1st Timothy 5:23, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.” He needed unfermented wine, fruit juices with their vitamins, for the oft infirmities, the upset stomach, the indigestion that came to the earnest young man, a traveling preacher, eating all kinds of food and living in every kind of community. It is not always God's will to heal; He did not heal Timothy's “often infirmities.”
In II Timothy 4:20 Paul said, “Erastus abode at Corinth; but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” What, could not Paul have his dear friend and fellowworker Trophimus healed? No, he could not.
IT IS NOT ALWAYS GOD'S WILL TO HEAL THE SICK. He never said so. It is presumptuous for anyone else to say so. Although healing is in the atonement in the sense of our perfect resurrected bodies, they are not yet available. And all Christ purchased for us has not yet been delivered. When Pentecostal people and others teach that it is God's will for every Christian to be well and strong, they teach what is contrary to the Bible and contrary to facts.
- PRESENT-DAY HEALERS ALSO ARE SICK AND DIE LIKE ALL OTHERS.
There is evidence that the most fervent and active people in what they call divine healing die just as young as others, often younger.
Jack Coe, one of the most famous of the healing evangelists, died at 38 years of bulbar polio, complicated by pneumonia and lung abscess, according to newspaper reports. He operated the Dallas Revival Center and the Herald of Healing at Waxahachie, Texas. When he was taken sick he was rushed to the hospital and then to another hospital where he died. Despite all his insistence that it was God's will for everybody to be healed and his idea that doctors and medicine were wrong, he was sick, he went to the hospitals, he had doctors, and he died at age 38.
Evangelist A. A. Allen, another, another of the best known healing evangelists, died at the age of 59.
Dr. A. J. Gordon, eminent Baptist pastor and the founder of Gordon College, believed it was always God's will to heal and that there was never and need for doctors and medicine, that these showed a lack of faith, yet he died at 59.
The newspaper reported last week that Kathryn Kuhlman was seriously sick and in the hospital. Yet she has said that perfect healing is the right of every Christian. It didn't work in her case. (A week later the report came that Miss Kuhlman had died.)
In Dallas, Texas, I once announced in the newspaper that I would be preaching on “Spiritism, Fortunetelling and False Prophets.” A man came to see me greatly distressed. He said his wife was a fortuneteller, and handed me her card. The card announced that she was a gospel preacher, evangelist, healer who could foretell the future, could help people with problems of love, marriage and business. He protested that I ought not preach against that which his wife believed and practiced.
I asked him, “Where is she? Why didn't she come to see me?”
He answered, “She is in bed with inflammatory rheumatism.”
Although she set herself up to heal others, she could not heal herself nor have herself healed.
Dr. A. B. Simpson, the distinguished founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, was a devout believer in divine healing. He believed it was wrong to use doctors and medicine. He believed it was always God's will to heal. Yet he had long months and years of suffering, and despite earnest, beseeching prayers of his own and those of many others, he died in pain.
God does often heal the sick. Praise the Lord that He invites us to pray over every time of trouble. He says that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” But He does not always give faith because it is not always His will to heal the sick.
- SICKNESS, WEAKNESS, DEATH ARE COMMON LOT OF ALL
All the disease, the weakness and death entered the world by sin. God plainly said to Adam And Eve about the tree of forbidden fruit, “. . . in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). The very day they sinned, Adam and Eve not only became dead in trespasses and in sins spiritually, but death entered into their bodies and they began to die.
This truth is borne out in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Now death is passed upon all men everywhere.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “. . . it is appointed unto men once to die.” In James 1:15 the same truth is plainly stated, “. . . and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Some people think that when men are saved, God repeals all His rules, but that is not true. Some people think that when they repent, all the curse of the past is instantly gone, and that since they are forgiven there is no penalty yet to be paid for sin. But they are mistaken. Many good and noble Christians have ignored the clear teaching of God, but it is still true that sickness, weakness, and death are the common lot of all mankind.
Some Christians learn the beautiful, marvellous truth that God answers prayer, that God has all power, and that always, in every trouble, we are invited to call upon Him for help. So they leap to the conclusion that all the inbred results of sin are gone, and that now it is always God's will to heal, that any good person may believe and be completely healed of all sickness. Some men themselves have been themselves healed wonderfully, and then, preaching largely their experience instead of the Scriptures, or making the Scriptures fit their own understanding of their experience, they ignore the clear teaching that all men are yet sinners and so under the curse of sin.
It is true that Christians are forgiven sinners. It is true that the eternal damnation which is due sinners has been removed by the atoning death of Christ. But the fact of sin and the death and disease and limitations which sin brings are still facts that must be faced.
So noble men of God taught that healing was available for the body, complete healing, instant healing, in answer to the prayer of faith. But they themselves eventually came to die. Dr. John Roach Straton of famous Calvary Baptist Church, New York City, was a most ardent advocate of complete healing for the body. But Dr. Straton sickened and died. Dr. A. B. Simpson, one of the noblest men of God, made much of divine healing. But eventually Dr. Simpson sickened, and after a long period of depression, died.
Mrs. Aimee Semple McPherson had great crowds over America, and particularly in the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. She laid great emphasis on the healing of the body, stressing that it was always God's will to heal the sick and that only unbelief prevented healing. Yet she herself was sick, was treated in hospitals, and eventually died of an overdose of sleeping tablets, as I understand.
From all I hear, Dr. Alexander Dowie, who made much of healing and had great healing campaigns, must have been a good and sincere man. To be sure, he became fanatical and fell into disrepute and brought reproach upon the cause of Christ. But eventually he died a disappointed and disillusioned man.
As mentioned, Jack Coe died at 38 of bulbar polio, He had a lung abscess and pneumonia. His body was subject to the same weakness and sickness of other people. The congregation prayer for Coe “around the clock” hour after hour after hour , and medical science did all that it could do. But the healer could not get healing for himself. He was a comparatively young man when he died, living out only half of the life expectancy of a strong man.
There is a sense in which everybody in the world is sick already. Anyone who has a decayed tooth is sick. Anyone who has to wear glasses is sick. Anyone who has a hearing loss is sick. Any man whose hair is coming out so he becomes bald is sick. Anyone who has inflamed tonsils is sick. One who has athlete's foot is sick. No living person is perfectly well.
Why should I fool myself, deceive myself that I have perfect health. I am 80 years old, and nominally counted well and strong. But the truth is, in college football I had a broken nose. It is still crooked and one nasal passage is almost closed.
In 1956 I fell in the dark into the basement in my office at Wheaton, Illinois, and sustained a skull fracture. The thin bony structure under the brain was evidently cracked and the olfactory nerve was cut, so I cannot smell. I don't pretend to have perfect health. I have to wear glasses to read. That means I am sick. I have now and then a touch of neuritis or arthritis in a shoulder or finger. That means I am sick.
Now I rejoice in the blessing of God and His loving care through the years, but for me to pretend that I have perfect health would be foolish; so for anybody else. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. I think every other Christian has some such thorn in the flesh, too, though it will not be the same as Paul's, or has some “often infirmities” like Timothy. It is not God's will to heal everybody.
That will come, praise God, at the resurrection, and what a glorious thing it will be! Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can have help in our weakness. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”
There is the true picture. The best Christians in the world have afflictions, but the Lord is present to help, to comfort, to make the evil into good, to make all things work together for good. He can heal wonderfully when it is His will. He can give grace for the thorn in the flesh when it is not His will to remove it.
Paul the apostle was conscious of this great truth of God's help in suffering, so he was inspired to say in II Corinthians 4:7-12:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
- HEALING IN ATONEMENT, BUT NOT ALL RESULTS OF ATONEMENT AVAILABLE UNTIL RESURRECTION
Some people say that since healing is in the atonement, therefore every Christian has a right to claim perfect healing all the time. I think they are justified in saying that healing is in the atonement, from Matthew 8:16 and 17:
“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”
But we should remember that the glorified body, which we will receive at the rapture when Jesus comes to take us to Himself, is paid for in the atonement also. But it is not immediately available. We do not have resurrected bodies. The simple truth is, Heaven is purchased for me but I have not yet entered Heaven. That wonderful time is coming when there will be no more war between the flesh and the Spirit in my soul, but it is not yet mine. And so whatever perfection in body is involved in the atonement must wait until Jesus calls us forth from the grave or changes the living to meet Him in the air.
You see, all healing of the body in this life is only temporary and partial. A person who is healed will get sick again and die, if Jesus tarries. Even though Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, There came a time when Lazarus again sickened and died. All healing now is only partial and temporary. You see, as far as the body is concerned, the full result of the atoning death of Jesus is not ours until the resurrection.
- HEALING OFTEN WAITS UNTIL CHRISTIANS CONFESS AND FORSAKE SIN
James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” A worldly life would certainly hinder one's healing. A careless and frivolous attitude toward the Bible would certainly hinder God's answer to prayer about healing. I do not believe God is likely to show His mighty power, as He showed it in the New Testament times with signs and wonders and miracles of healing, when those prayers are offered to Mary or in a jabber in tongues, or when women are put in leadership in the pulpit or church, or when they associate with modernists and infidels, and otherwise fail of New Testament strict standards.
- SUCH WONDERFUL HEALINGS IN ANSWER TO PRAYER SURELY ASSOCIATED WITH GREAT SOUL-WINNING POWER
Mark 16:17, “And these signs shall follow them that believe . . .” He has just given the command to go to all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature and then says, “these signs shall follow them that believe . . .” There is a connection here between personal witness, soul-winning power, and wonderful healings in answer to prayer following.
It is not surprising that we read in Acts 2, of three thousand people saved, and later about five thousand and then “multitudes both of men and women” saved. And right along with these we find the mighty power of God shown in healing the sick. Peter who preached with such power could walk along the street and his shadow falling on sick people would be used of God to heal them (Acts 5:12,14).
I believe it more important to see one soul saved and kept out of Hell forever than to see many people healed of some incidental disease of the body. One who does not put soulwinning first is not being true to Christ. God has wonderfully answered prayer for me in healing many sick people, but I would be foolish and untrue to Christ where I to put healing equal in importance or above the importance of winning souls. Oh, how much more important to win souls than any other activity. Christ died to save sinners. The Great Commission centers on soul winning. One is not a good Christian who does not win souls
In my own poor ministry, I have found that in the times of great revival when many, many people were being saved, and in the times of persecution for Christ's sake, then there were miraculous answers to prayer, and marvellous signs and wonders.
D.L. Moody never stressed healing especially, yet there were some amazing cases of healing in answer to prayer. John V. Farwell, a layman associated with Moody, tells of some of these healings in Early Recollections of Dwight L. Moody.
Charles G. Finney was a soul winner mightily blessed of God. Though he put no stress on miraculous answers to prayer, yet he tells about a woman who could not read, and when she earnestly prayed, God made it so she could read the Bible.
I believe that when soul winning is made the main thing and we pay the price in tears, toil, and in waiting on God for Holy Spirit power, then we may expect God to give us souls and, when necessary and when it can honor him, some wonderful answers to prayer.
SOURCE: Dr. John R. Rice, Chapter 5 from “THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT”, pp. 184-193; © 1976.
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