What are Modern Views of Jesus Ministry of Healing

Salvation for the Body (2 of 6): Modern Views of Jesus’ Ministry

Posted by danieljkoren on February 26, 2011 in Viewpoints |

Since the question of whether healing is in the atonement has been so largely discussed, this paper focuses elsewhere to confirm the Lord’s mission.  For the purpose of this paper, however, we shall side with J. Sidlow Baxter, who maintains that healing is not in the atonement but comes through the atonement.[1] Neither shall this paper attempt to answer all the questions regarding healing, for as Kydd says, “The claim to have understood healing is evidence that one has not.”[2] Instead, we shall attempt to see the biblical purpose of Jesus healing ministry and how it affects believers today.

Thanks to the work of John Calvin[3], David Hume[4], and Rudolph Bultmann[5], present day understandings of the miraculous stand askew.[6] Kelsey states the situation well: “Certainly most Christian thinking, both Catholic and Protestant, has been swept clean of any idea of Christian healing. On the one hand the successes of medicine have made it unnecessary, and on the other, modern theology has made any belief in it untenable.”[7] Some wish to keep God’s power in the past, saying that in “no other time in human history have so many people been healed” and that the Lord’s “unique healing ministry remains unequaled.”[8] Such narrow views seem to run counter to Jesus’ promise “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”[9] Because of Calvin’s Cessationist belief, Jonathan Edwards killed his own revival.  When a man prophesied that God would restore the gifts of the Spirit as in the Book of Acts, “Edwards himself told this man that he was in error. Shortly afterward, Edwards admitted that the Holy Spirit seemed to have withdrawn from his meetings.”[10] Hume and Bultmann did more damage than Calvin’s Cessationism by saying the miracles never happened.

As some have noted, “A miracle is something very embarrassing to mock professors.”[11] With one-fifth of the gospels devoted to healing, one cannot justify explaining it away.  These rogue theological perspectives “incline to ascribe more historical value to the sayings of Jesus than to His deeds.”[12] Kelsey says this miraculous “emphasis is by far the greatest given to any one kind of experience in the narrative” and it is therefore “difficult to see how Bultmann, and many who follow him, can eliminate this entire ministry on theological and philosophical grounds by calling it mythology.”[13] Sighting a transition from spiritual focus, to material gain, Kelsey shows that to “support this emphasis material things were produced. Hospitals were built to heal the sick by modern scientific methods, some hospitals without even a resident chaplain.”[14]

Some cringe at denying the reality of the miracles, choosing instead to relegate them as exaggerations.  Could they just have been mental conditions and overworked paranoia?  Did Jesus not cure physical maladies, but psychopaths?  If so, how much greater the miracle.  Kelsey puts the issue in perspective:

It may be easier for us, because of the prevailing materialism of our time, to believe that Jesus could heal mental illness than to accept his physical healings, but those who have had experience with it know that this category of disease has been more resistant than any other to the advances of modern medicine. It can be moderated or controlled by drugs, but real healing is rare.[15]


And Bishop Ryle says, “An examination of the gospel records quickly disabuses us of this easy way of explaining the miracles of Christ; and the ‘neurotic theory’ is quite insufficient to account for them.”[16] Therefore, assuming the historicity of Biblical diseases, we must ask a foundational question.


Healing as Part of the mission

Modern Views of Jesus’ Mission

Where Does Illness Come From?

Is Sickness Good?

Why did Jesus Heal?

The Compassion Motive

Healing after Christ

Applying the Promise


[1] Ronald A. N. Kydd.  Healing through the Centuries. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998), 52.

[2] Ibid., xxiii.

[3] Francis MacNutt.  The Nearly Perfect Crime. (Grand Rapids: Chosen, 2005), 140, 165.

[4] Ibid., 146.

[5] Morton Kelsey.  Healing and Christianity: A Classic Study. (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1995), 42-43.

[6] MacNutt quotes Barclay, a popular contemporary author, saying that “it is significant that most of his readers are apparently not disturbed when he implies that Jesus simply used the power of suggestion when He cast out evil spirits. In his commentary on freeing the man possessed by a mute and deaf spirit (Matthew 12:22-29), for instance, Barclay makes his statement as self-evident:

In the eastern world it was not only mental and psychological illness which was ascribed to the influence of demons and devils; all illness was ascribed to their malignant power. Exorcism was therefore very commonly practiced; and was in fact frequently completely effective.

There is nothing in that to be surprised at. When people believe in demon-possession it is easy to convince themselves that they are so possessed when they come under that delusion, the symptoms of demon-possession immediately arise. Even amongst ourselves anyone can think himself into having a headache, or can convince himself that he has the symptoms of an illness. When a person under such a delusion was confronted with an exorcist in whom he had confidence, often the delusion was dispelled and a cure resulted. In such cases if a man was convinced he was cured, he was cured.

“Notice that Barclay uses the word delusion three times.  The next logical question for us to ask is, Was Jesus Himself deluded? But I think Barclay realized that question would be going too far and does not consider it.” 147.

[7] Kelsey, 24.

[8] Richard Mayhue.  The Healing Promise. (Eugene: Harvest House, 1994), 96.

[9] John 14:12

[10] MacNutt, 172.

[11] A. J. Gordon.  The Ministry of Healing: Miracles of Cure in All Ages.  (Harrisburg: Christian, 1961), 4.

[12] Laurence J. McGinley. “Form-criticism of the synoptic healing narratives. 2, Paradigm and apothegm.” Theological Studies 3.1 (Feb. 1942): 47.

[13] Kelsey, 42-43.

[14] Ibid., 24.

[15] Ibid., 60.

[16] Leslie D. Weatherhead. Psychology, Religion and Healing. (New York: Abingdon, 1952), 29.

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