This is a topic that has been rattling around in my head and pricking my heart for several weeks now, and I’m not sure that I can adequately unpack it all to my own satisfaction, let alone yours. But I’m going to try…
I’ve been researching just how Jesus’s Church went from promoting Healing as a primary component of the Kingdom message in the first few centuries to such a state of denial in our commission to heal in the present century. Why are we unable to take effective action in healing, which results in a helpless, powerless, and nearly impotent Body of Christ?
Historically, we can see that members of early Christianity held a warfare worldview… they still held tightly to Jesus’s teachings that forces of evil would come against Him and His Church. During His entire time on earth, the Bible records the efforts of Satan to tempt Jesus, to send lying and deceiving spirits to sabotage His Message, and to defeat the ultimate plan of God to deliver Believers out of the hands of the Enemy.
Christians, at that time, knew that this spiritual war between Jesus and the devil was at the heart of the sicknesses and demonic bondage that people were experiencing. They understood that Believers were to fight against sickness, disease and demonic oppression through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which provide historical documentation of countless healings done by Jesus, proving that He came to set the captives free. Jesus was just doing what He saw His Father do when YHWH proclaimed in Exodus 15:26 that “I am the LORD who heals you.” So what happened, and why doesn’t Jesus’s Church believe that today?
It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment that things changed and the Church got off track, but many theologians point to the writings of Augustine which eventually moved the Church to a different worldview — one in which the Church came to believe that everything in life happens due to the predetermined will of God. In fact, it is largely accepted that Augustine was a primary influence on the Reformation and the theologies of Luther and Calvin. (Interested in exploring more about this connection? Read here and here). I am not interested in dishonoring these important figures of the Reformation, but we need to understand how the Church got from a warfare worldview to what some call a blueprint worldview. I think you can see how this new idea of God negated the part Satan plays, and would cause a shift in the thinking of the Church regarding healing.
Augustine’s writings (along with the Reformers) began to move the Church in a new direction. Instead of believing that sickness might be brought on by the devil (who the early Church knew should be resisted), people were to believe that God brought on sickness and personal trials for a person’s spiritual sanctification. Put in simple terms, God allowed sickness to purify a Believer, or in other words to prune them for greater faith. This thinking then led to a belief system that to pray against an illness was to resist God’s work He was trying to accomplish in you. So, instead of praying for healing, the Body of Christ would pray for discernment about why God might have brought sickness or disease into someone’s life. And the truly remarkable aspect of this deception is that it removed Satan’s guilt in our suffering, and placed all the blame at God’s feet!
And I can tell you that I have talked to many good Christian friends who see seasons in their life where they have dealt with sickness [or depression or adversity] as proof that God was trying to bring them to their knees in subjection to His will in their life; that somehow they were enduring a purifying fire to rid themselves of some aspect of sin. I agree that God disciplines those He loves, but if Jesus is truly our model and a picture of how our God loves us, can you find an instance in Scripture where He allowed sickness to sanctify a Believer? Did He ever use sickness as a method to promote His Father’s Kingdom? No! He used the miracles of healing to demonstrate what His Father’s Kingdom was like and to illustrate the goodness of God! God is not the author of pain and suffering in a Believer’s life! He is Life and Mercy and Grace!
For too long, the Church has seen suffering [in its various forms, whether sickness or demonic oppression] as “carrying our cross” and an opportunity to glorify Jesus in our suffering– almost as a badge of honor to prove that we are approved and acceptable to be called “Christian”. But this is just a scheme of the Devil to turn us away from believing in healing and miracles for today! And it has all led to a Church full of people operating in Doubt and Unbelief, which renders the Body powerless to effect the unbelieving world outside the Church doors.
We have lost the Truth of what Jesus meant when He said, The Kingdom is at hand. By using the Power that the Father gave Him to perform miracles, healings, signs and wonders, Jesus was able to grab the attention of the people to share the Good News that God’s Kingdom [as it is in Heaven] had begun on earth and would continue until it was fully achieved at Christ’s Second Coming. He taught that Truth to His Apostles and to the Disciples that He commissioned to continue His works. They were to persist in miracles of healing and deliverance [from demons] through the ever-present power of the Holy Spirit.
But along the way, the Enemy seduced men like Augustine to diminish the supernatural character of God, and convince Church leaders of the impossibility of His working through Believers to heal and deliver and work miracles today. Therefore we have not been equipped to carry on Jesus’s work. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, which believe in the restoration of miracles, healing and deliverance [as part of the Church’s ministry] has been reviled, and any talk of spiritual warfare in these areas is quickly squelched among many mainline denominations.
But I hope you can see the devil’s hand in man’s reshaping of the Church. For me, it is easy to see how the continued work of Jesus could transform our communities, our country, and the world. Just look around you and see how many people could use the release of Jesus’s healing power in their lives — whether their pain is physical or spiritual. And do not believe Satan’s lie that these miracles are meant only for Believers. It is my opinion that we have been given this Power [through the Holy Spirit in us] to show the healing power of God which gives us an opportunity to share a message about the Father’s love for us and what Jesus did for us. It’s all in accordance to what Jesus did Himself. For those with Faith, it confirms the power of God. For those who are Lost, it can be the impetus to become born again.
It is time that we, the modern Church, become partners with the Divine; and Healing becomes a tool in which we can resist the devil’s evil plans and make this world a little more like Heaven. By partnering with God, we release His purposes into the earth, and the Church begins to be restored to its own purpose. Let’s change the Church from a powerless direction to one that is active, formidable, and on fire with the power of the Holy Spirit! It happened in that first Century, and God can do it again!
Thanks to the writings and ministry of Randy Clark for challenging me to ask the hard questions and to determine my own theology after searching the Scripture.
Luke 9:2 “And He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal”.