QUESTION: Does The New Testament Give Examples Of “Faith Healers?”
ANSWER: There are those in the church today who claim to be a “faith healer.” They say that the Lord has given them the ability to supernaturally heal the sick, the infirmed and the dying. Those whom they touch and pray for become well from their sickness and infirmities.
Are there such people whom the Lord has given to His church? Should we believe the claims about their ability to heal the sick?
There Were Gifts Of Healing Given To Believers
The New Testament does speak of people who have “gifts of healing.” Paul wrote about them in his letter to the Corinthians.
To one there is given . . . to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8,9 TNIV).
As we look through the Book of Acts we do find that certain people could indeed heal the sick. There is no doubt about this.
Christian Faith Healers Did Not Exist
While the New Testament gives a number of examples of people exercising the gift of divine healing there are no examples of people who were “faith healers.” This is important to realize. In other words, there were not people who went around healing people and basically doing nothing else.
Indeed, every time we find someone exercising the gift of healing in the New Testament it is always in the context of proclaiming and furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is never healing for healing sake. Healing was merely a means to an end. The message was Jesus Christ and eternal life; not temporary physical health.
The Spiritual Condition Of The Person Is The Most Important
What is stressed in the New Testament is not ones physical condition but rather ones spiritual condition. The physical condition is only temporary while the spiritual condition has eternal consequences. Any physical healing is, at best, temporary. It is the nature of the human body to grow old, deteriorate, and eventually die. Sin is the real problem, sickness is merely a symptom.
Indeed, the Bible says that Jesus Christ was made sin for us; He was not made sickness for us. Paul wrote.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).
Thus, the emphasis in Scripture is on forgiveness of sin; not on our present physical health.
Scripture stresses that Jesus Christ forgives our sins when we turn to Him. John wrote.
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake (1 John 2:12 ESV).
God does not forgive our sicknesses, He does not have to because it is not the same as sin.
In another place, the Apostle Paul emphasized how Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins.
Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:4 NKJV).
Neither here nor anywhere else do we find that the Jesus suffered for our present sicknesses. It is clear that the Bible emphasizes the spiritual problems which we suffer from rather than the physical problems.
An Example From The Life Of Jesus Christ
The fact that the spiritual condition of a person is more important than the physical condition is something that the Bible repeatedly stresses. For example, we find that after Jesus healed a certain lame man He later found the man in the temple. Jesus then made it plain to this man what was of eternal importance. John records what took place.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV).
According to Jesus, there are worse things that can happen to a person than physical ailments. The human body will perish but the spirit, the unseen part of us, will live forever. Therefore, it is the spiritual aspect of one’s life that is of utmost importance. This is always what Scripture stresses.
The Outward Person Is In The Process Of Perishing
In writing to the Corinthians, we notice the emphasis of the Apostle Paul about the eternal things as compared with the temporary things. He explained how the temporary things, such as our bodies, are in the process of wasting away. Paul wrote.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 TNIV).
We are to fix our eyes on the eternal matters rather than the temporal. Indeed, the Bible always emphasizes the eternal, never the temporary. Our physical health is something which only temporary. Indeed, none of us will be healthy forever in these bodies.
Consequently, we must also keep these matters of sickness and health in perspective.
Believers Are To Call For The Elders, Not The Faith Healer
There is further evidence that faith healers did not exist in the church. The New Testament provides one clear example that would seem to negate the need of any “faith healers.” James wrote the following instructions to the Christians.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:13-16 NRSV).
Here we have the New Testament advice of what believers are to do when they are sick. They are to call for the “elders” of the church. Nothing is said about calling for a faith healer or for anyone who has the “gift of healing.” This passage makes it clear that faith healers are unnecessary. What is necessary is to call upon other believers for prayer.
We also find that the people who are called to pray for the sick person are to be from the local church – they are not to be iterant healers. This assumes that the prayers of the leaders of the local congregation are sufficient.
In addition, there is to be more than one person who is to pray over the sick person. This, in effect, does away with the need for individual faith healers.
God Does Care About Our Suffering
It is important to emphasize that God does care about our suffering and He has a plan for dealing with it. However it does not include faith healers, or others who can guarantee divine healing for every believer. The healing for all our infirmities will occur when Jesus Christ comes again and changes the bodies of believers. At that time, we will receive a body which will never be sick, never suffer. Until that time comes, we will have to suffer sickness as well as death in these perishing bodies.
Summary To Question 13 Does The New Testament Give Examples Of Faith Healers?
There are a number of people today who claim to be “faith healers.” In fact, they say that they have been given the supernatural ability by God to heal the sick and the infirmed. Is there any biblical basis for their claim? Are we to look for people who have such ability? After looking at what the Bible says we can make a number of conclusions.
First, we find that the New Testament says that God gave the church “gifts of healing.” In addition, there are examples of people exercising the gift of healing. However we find no example of someone being a “faith healer.” In other words, there are no examples at all of people who were going from place to place healing people. None whatsoever. This did not happen.
Furthermore, the healing miracles which are recorded in Scripture were always done in context with either proclaiming or furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this gift was never used as an end in itself. Divine healing never took place merely for the sake of healing.
The Bible also stresses that it is the spiritual part of a person’s life, not the physical aspect, which is of the utmost importance. Our physical bodies are in the process of perishing. However, our spirit is eternal. This is the part of us which needs to always be healthy.
Jesus emphasized this truth after He healed a certain lame man. The Lord emphasized that something worse which was awaiting him if he did not repent. Thus, He placed this matter of physical health in its proper perspective.
In writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul stressed the same thing. The temporary things, such as our human bodies, are perishing. What really matters are the things which will never perish; the eternal things. Consequently, there is no need for any “faith healer” to keep these perishing bodies functioning. They are not meant to last forever.
The lack of any need for “faith healers” is also illustrated in the Book of James. We find James commanding believers to call for the elders of the church when they are sick. Thus, they are not commanded to ask for someone who has the gift of healing or for any “faith healer.” Rather, it is the elders (plural) that are to be called – not for a single faith healer. These elders are to come from the local group of believers. In other words, they do not need someone from outside the congregation to deal with a sick person.
Therefore the New Testament speaks directly to the issue of Christian faith healers – they simply did not exist.
This question is from my forthcoming book “Divine Healing”