Jesus Still Heals People Today as Witnessed by History
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Salvation for the Body (5 of 6): Healing after the Time of Christ

Posted by danieljkoren on March 1, 2011 in Viewpoints |

The Apostle Peter saw Jesus’ healing power first in the Lord’s ministry when He cured the man’s mother-in-law of a fever.[1] Later, Peter experienced the Lord’s healing power early in his own ministry as he and John were en route to a prayer meeting at the temple.[2] This early church leader testified that Jesus not only “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” but reminded his readers also that “by [His] stripes ye were healed.”[3] The New Testament writers affirmed this promise to believers who would allow this same Jesus to work in their lives.[4]

In the generations following Christ, miraculous healings continued and received record by reputable parties.  Lest any think these early records fabricated or embellished, Mosheim, in his Historical Commentaries, validated them, saying

Only let it be considered that the writers on whose testimony we rely were all of them men of gravity and worth, who could feel no inclination to deceive; that they were in part philosophers; that in point of residence and country they were far separated from each other; that their report is not grounded on mere hearsay, but upon what they state themselves to have witnessed with their own eyes; that they call on God in the most solemn manner to attest its truth (vid. Origen contra Celsum, LI. p.35), and lastly that they themselves do not pretend to have possessed the power of working miracles, but merely attribute it to others; and let me ask what reason can there possibly be assigned that should induce us to withhold from them our implicit confidence?[5]

 

MacMullen states that in this era, people “took miracles quite for granted. That was the general starting point. Not to believe in them would have made you seem more than odd.”[6] He attributes the conversion of Rome to the power of healing and Christian exorcism.[7]

Ignatius testified to a personal knowledge of those who had experienced Christ’s miraculous power:

But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were true, those who were cured, those who rose from the dead, who not merely appeared as cured and risen, but were constantly present, not only while the Saviour was living, but even for some time after he had gone, so that some of them survived even to our own time.[8]

 

Justin Martyr related in his time, that by the Name of Jesus Christ, many “have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.”[9] Minucius Felix confirmed this sentiment, saying that demons were “driven out of men’s bodies by words of exorcism and the fire of prayer,” leaving the victims “reluctantly, in misery, they quail and quake.”[10]

Irenaeus witnessed that some “drive out devils, so that those who have been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ] and join themselves to the Church”[11] and that others would “heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, even the dead have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.”[12] The church’s power, he recorded, came by “calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to “work miracles for the advantage of mankind” and this same name, he said, “cures thoroughly and effectually all who anywhere believe on Him.”[13] In one popular writing, Irenaeus “confronted the followers of two teachers, Simon and Carpocrates, charging them with being unable to heal the blind, the lame, the deaf, the paralyzed, or the injured or to do anything about the demon-possessed.”[14] This statement implies that since his group did enact the miraculous, they were the true faith.

Tertullian documented a man named Severns who sought out a believer who had effected his healing by anointing and prayer.[15] In another place, Tertullian referred to specific instances of demons being cast out and concluded saying, “many men of rank, to say nothing of the common people, have been delivered from devils and healed of disease.”[16] This leader from North Africa said that prayer carried the ability “to recall the souls of the dead from the very path of death, to make the weak recover, to heal the sick, to exorcise demons, to open prison doors, to loosen the chains of the innocent.”[17] He also encouraged believers to cast aside worldly entertainment in exchange for “trampling underfoot the gods of the Gentiles, expelling demons, effecting cures, seeking revelations, living to God” claiming these amusements to be “holy, eternal, and free.”[18] MacNutt puts this in perspective: “Can you imagine a pastor today in his Sunday morning sermon, telling the men that they can have more fun driving out evil spirits on that afternoon than by watching NFL football?”[19]

Of Hippolytus’ writing, Kydd notes that he

thought it likely enough that someone would be used to perform healings that he laid down some guidelines in advance. In other words, the occurrence of healing would not be surprising. Hippolytus did not explicitly say there were healings, but he certainly recognized the possibility.[20]

 

Another Post-Apostolic witness is Origen, of whom Neader states that Origen had been

eye-witness of the fact in which, simply by invocation of the name of God and of Jesus, after the preaching of His history, many were healed of grievous diseases and states of insanity which neither human skill nor demoniacal influence had been able to relieve…. He calls God to witness that nothing was further from his wish than to attempt to add to the glory of Christianity by false statement, yet he could relate many things seemingly incredible which he had himself witnessed.[21]

 

And in Origen’s own words, he said he had, “seen many persons freed, by those means, from grievous calamities and from distractions of mind and from madness and from countless other ills which could not be cured.”[22]

Cyprian told that spirits, “when adjured by us through the true God, immediately withdraw and confess and are forced to go out of the bodies which they have possessed.”[23] Lactantius reported that Christians, “in the name of their Master, and by the sign of his passion, banish the same polluted spirits from men.”[24] Novatian confirmed his contemporaries’ statements, saying that God still “directs tongues, brings into being powers and conditions of health, carries on extraordinary works, furnishes discernment of spirits” and more.[25]

On good record, the working of healings and miracles into at least the fourth century are attested by Mosheim, Tholuck, Marshall, Dodwell, and others.[26] Into the fourth and fifth centuries, we find record of the miraculous as well with Anthony[27], Chrysostom[28], Theodore of Mopsuestia[29], the Donatists[30], and even Augustine.  In his On True Religion, Augustine also attests to miraculous cures. Since his experiences seemed “so like the miracles of old” the church in Hippo began keeping record, and in only two years, they had marked down “nearly seventy attested miracles.”[31]

Unfortunately, the Middle Ages slacken the pace of and record of healings and miracles.  Many of the stories even from the fourth and fifth century begin to outgrow the humble cradle of bringing glory to God and morph into obvious attempts to drive home unrealistic acceptance. Gordon describes the era of Constantine as

a significant date at which to fix the termination of miracles. For almost all Church historians hold that there was a period when the simpler and purer forms of supernatural manifestation ceased to be generally recognized, or were supplanted by the gross and spurious type which characterize the Church of the middle ages. And the era of Constantine’s conversion confessedly marks a decided transition from purer to a more degenerate and worldly Christianity.[32]

 

Here we must emphasize that miracles don’t necessarily prove true faith.  Instead, true apostolic faith proves its miracles.  Baxter points out that “it was Christianity which carried the miracles, not the miracles which carried Christianity.”[33] The great teacher of the Bible, David Gray reminds us “the signs are to follow those who believe the Word when it is preached” and explains that the person who runs after anyone doing miracles “is following the gifts, not the gifts following him.”[34] Let us also remember that even the devil can imitate the divine[35], and though “an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”[36] Real miracles are proofs of the supernatural, but not always proofs of God.  To our relief, God’s power always tromps the devil’s imitations.[37]

Yet just past the middle of that long tunnel named the Dark Ages, where relics and iconoclasm took faith hostage, we find a fresh light shining with the Waldenses.  One of their own said that

concerning this anointing of the sick, we hold it as an article of faith, and profess sincerely from the heart that sick persons, when they ask it, may lawfully be anointed with the anointing oil by one who joins with them in praying that it may be efficacious to the healing of the body according to the design and end and effect mentioned by the apostles; and we profess that such an anointing performed according to the apostolic design and practice will be healing and profitable.[38]

 

The pre-reformation Huguenots gave “constant mention of the exercise of miraculous gifts” with “divine healings and extraordinary actings of the Spirit.”[39] Even the father of the Reformation, got a taste of the miraculous.  Of him, Gordon says the “testimony of Luther’s prayers for the healing of the body are among the strongest of any on record in modern times.”[40] Zinzendorf also affirmed God’s power, testifying to apostolic power:

We have had undeniable proofs thereof in the unequivocal discovery of things, persons, and circumstances, which could not humanly have been discovered, in the healing of maladies in themselves incurable, such as cancers, consumptions, when the patient was in the agonies of death, &c., all by means of prayer, or of a single word.”[41]

 

And a contemporary zealous group found that God had not forgotten the plight of human health.  A. Bost speaks for the Moravians:

“We are, indeed, well aware that, so far from its being possible to prove by scripture, or by experience, that visions and dreams, the gift of miracles, healings and other extraordinary gifts, have absolutely ceased in Christendom since the apostolic times, it is on the contrary proved, both by facts and by scripture, that there may always be these gifts where there is faith, and that they will never be entirely detached from it. [42]

 

They took care to discern between “miracles proceeding from the Holy Ghost” and “lying miracles.”[43] Through the years other beacons of God at work shine through the testimony of John Welch, Robert Bruce, John Scrimgeour, George Fox of the Friends, Vavasor Powell of the Baptists, and Joseph Benson of the Methodists.

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] Matthew 8:14-15

[2] Acts 3:1-8

[3] I Peter 2:24

[4] Galatians 3:13-14; James 5:14-16

[5] J. Sidlow Baxter.  Divine Healing of the Body. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 47.

[6] MacNutt, 86.

[7] Ibid., 87.

[8] Kydd, 20.

[9] Gordon, 60.

[10] Kydd. 23.

[11] Baxter, 32.

[12] Ibid., 32.

[13] Ibid., 32.

[14] Kydd, 27-28.

[15] Baxter, 32.

[16] Ibid., 32.

[17] Kydd, 30.

[18] Ibid., 21.

[19] MacNutt, 83.

[20] Kydd, 29.

[21] Baxter, 32-33.

[22] Gordon, 61.

[23] Kydd, 24.

[24] Kydd, 26.  This reference to the “sign of his passion” indicates how far believers had already come from the simplicity of the gospel, adding ritual to the rite.

[25] Ibid., 21.

[26] Baxter, 47.

[27] Ibid., 39.

[28] Ibid., 33.

[29] Ibid., 40.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Brown, 64.  Augustine shared this experience of prayer with a man desperate for a touch from God:

“We then went to prayer; and, while we were kneeling and prostrating ourselves, as on other occasions, he also prostrated himself, as if someone had forcibly thrust him down, and began to pray: in what manner, with what earnestness, with what emotion, with what a flood of tears, with what agitation of his whole body, I might almost say with what suspension of his respiration, by his groans and sobs, who shall attempt to describe? Whether the rest of the party were so little affected as to be able to pray I knew not. For my part I could not. This alone, inwardly and briefly, I said: ‘Lord, what prayers of thine own children will thou ever grant if thou grant not these?’ For nothing seemed more possible but that he should die praying. We arose, and, after the benediction by the bishop, left him, but not till he had besought them to be with him in the morning, nor till they had exhorted him to calmness. The dreaded day arrived, and the servants of God attended as they had promised. The medical men made their appearance; all things required for such an occasion are got ready, and, amidst the terror and suspense of all present, the dreadful instruments are brought out. In the meantime, while those of the bystanders whose authority was the greatest, endeavored to support the courage of the patient by words of comfort, he is placed in a convenient position for the operation, the dressings are opened, the seat of the disease is exposed, the surgeon inspects it, and tries to find the part to be operated upon with his instrument in his hand. He first looks for it, then examines by the touch; in a word, he makes every possible trial, and finds the place perfectly healed. The gladness, the praise, the thanksgiving to a compassionate and all powerful God, which, with mingled joy and tears, now burst from the lips of all present, cannot be told by me. The scene may more easily be imagined than described.” 90-91.

[32] Gordon, 62-63.

[33] Baxter, 63.

[34] David F. Gray.  Questions Pentecostals Ask, Volume 3. (Hazelwood: Word Aflame, 1993), 243.

[35] Exodus 7:8-12, 22; 8:7; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Matthew 24:24; II Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13-14

[36] Galatians 1:8

[37] Exodus 4:1-9, 29-31; 8:16-19; Numbers 16:28-35; I Kings 18:36-39

[38] Gordon, 65.

[39] Ibid., 77.

[40] Ibid., 91.

[41] Ibid., 67.

[42] Ibid., 66-67.

[43] Ibid., 67.

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