Where Are The Healings?

In the Old Testament, through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord gives a vision of a healed Creation (Isaiah 65:17-25). InJerusalemthe sounds of weeping and crying will end. Children will not longer die when they are young. The wolf and the lamb will feed together. In the Lord’s good time there will be healing in Creation.

In Luke 9, this process has begun. The lowly disciples have been given their first assignment. They are given authority and power by Jesus to do four tasks:

  1. Drive out demons,
  2. Cure diseases
  3. Heal the sick, and
  4. Preach that the Scripture is being fulfilled through Jesus and these actions.

More healings happened in Jesus three years of ministry than in the entire 1500 years of so of Old Testament life. Of the 3774 verses in the four Gospels, 484 relate to healing. Some scholars argue that the main reason he was killed was because he insisted on healing on the Sabbath, something outlawed by the Pharisees.

In 1 Corinthians 12, this ministry of healing continues in the church.  The Holy Spirit has given a range of gifts to His church so it can continue to do what Jesus did.

That includes healing.

For the first four centuries of the church, when Christians prayed for healing they believed it would happen.

Dr. Ramsay McMullen writes in his book Christianising theRoman Empire(100-400 AD):

‘The main way Rome was converted to Christianity was through healing and exorcism. Christ’s Kingdom had come to earth.’

But then a change unfolded so dramatic that the church lost its power just as it had gained it.   The Roman Emperor Constantine claimed to have been converted on the eve of a battle.  In a vision he saw himself going into a battle under the sign of the Cross and a voice saying: “In His name conquer.”

And he did.

It became acceptable to be a Christian, but what a Christian was began to change. Unemployed pagan priests with the gift of administration were made bishops. Constantine himself presided over the execution of two of his sons and a number of relatives including his wife, and he was only baptised on his deathbed. The result? From AD 350 healings became rare.

The Holy Spirit seldom comes in power where there is ease, comfort, safety, complacency and a risk free existence.

About 100 years later, the great Augustine of Hippo was dramatically converted through a child.  This eminent teacher and philosopher was called from a life of sensual wastefulness through a child calling out in a game: “Take and read.”

Augustine heard this as the voice of the Lord and turned to Romans 13:143 where it says:

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sensual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

In his writings and preaching he taught that miracles no longer happen.

Then one day a man collapsed on Easter day in 424.  As he died he clutched a relic of St. Stephen and came alive again.  He had dinner with Augustine and they talked about what had happened. Augustine was sceptical, but then the same thing happened to the man’s sister.  Augustine changed his mind.  In 426 he wrote: “I realised how many miracles were occurring in our own day…since keeping records here in Hippo, we have nearly 70 attested miracles.”

Yet he would still not pray for the sick. Shortly before he died a friend insisted he pray for a sick relative. Augustine said, “If I had this power I would pray for myself and become better.”

Reluctantly he prayed for the man who became better! He was prompted to write a final book called Retractions.

We would expect better of the great reformers a thousand years later right?

Yet Calvin wrote in his Institutes: “The gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the gospel marvellous for ever….healing now has nothing to do with us.”

Luther wrote that the day of miracles was confined to the early church.

However towards the end of their lives, after prolonged pressure from some parishioners, they prayed for some people who were all healed.

One of the great disasters in church history has been to see leadership and the ministry of healing taken away from lay-people. The clergy not lay people prayed for healing.

 This climaxed inEngland in the 1520’s when the only person who held and conducted healing services was the king, at that time, King Henry VIII.

A hundred years later Charles I made it a crime for anyone else to pray for healing. It was the same too inFrance. However when the post-revolution royalty offered to start healing services again, the humanistic population now had no interest. So they lapsed, along with the faith of the people.

We might think people are the same today, but look at how people respond to apparent apparitions. Some salt-damp appears on a wall with some vague resemblance to a woman and people flock there for healing. 

An apparition appears on a window and the same. Someone sold on eBay a piece of toast which was said to resemble the face of Christ, and they actually sold it[1].  And think about the role of superstition, which is vestigial sign of formed or possible faith. Some people won’t go out with out being a part of the billion dollars a year astrology industry.

Superstition is nascent faith, looking for a worthwhile object.

Spiritual revival will come about in our land through the healing ministry as people, (firstly inside the church, then outside the church) discover the healing power of Christ which continues today, amidst all our questions.

Healing is part of the Lord reclaiming his world for himself; the human body, the mind, wholeness, the banishment of addictions and unbelief.

Healing is all that the Lord does, to bless and renew people and yet I AM STILL SO SLOW IN LEARNING THIS!

By George Robert Iles (1949-2009)

[1] The Grilled Chees-us (ed.)