The Gifts of Miracles & Healings Today?
The problem of human sickness is as real as it is difficult. To desire and search for cures is both understandable and, sometimes, rewarding. Furthermore, the miraculous and spectacular is intriguing and fascinating. The combination of these two -- the search for healing and the desire to perform the miraculous -- was indeed the experience of the early church. New Testament records abound with miraculous events, not the least of which are the miraculous healings of people who were diseased.
Some in the present day have desired and even claimed to duplicate the experience of the early church as recorded in the New Testament. With this, of course, has come both excitement and skepticism -- as well as much discussion. The attempt here is to survey the relevant Biblical data and so provide an accurate guide in this discussion.
*Matthew 17:19-20 -- The disciples fail in an attempted miracle because of their lack of faith.
*Luke 10:17 -- The disciples cast out demons; no details are given.
*Acts 2:43 -- The apostles perform "many wonders and signs"; no details are given.
*Acts 3:3-16 -- Peter heals the lame man at the gate of the Temple.
*Acts 5:1-11 -- Ananias and Sapphira die at the word of Peter.
*Acts 5:12-16 -- The apostles heal many; some are healed merely by being under Peter's shadow as he passed by.
*Acts 6:8 -- "Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."
*Acts 8:6-7, 13 -- Philip, in Samaria, performs miracles and signs, among which were healings and casting out of demons.
*Acts 9:32-34 -- Peter heals a paralyzed man in Lydda named Aeneas.
*Acts 9:36-42 -- Peter, upon request by the believers in Joppa, raises Dorcas from the dead.
*Acts 13:6-11 -- Paul blinds Elymas (Barjesus), the false prophet.
*Acts 14:3 -- Paul and Barnabas perform signs and wonders in Lystra; no details are given.
*Acts 14:8-10 -- Paul heals a lame man while in Lystra.
*Acts 19:11-12 -- Paul performed many "special miracles," healing and casting out demons with the use of handkerchiefs and aprons.
*Acts 20:9-12 -- Paul raises Eutychus from the dead.
*Acts 28:1-6 -- Paul is unharmed by a snakebite on Melita.
*Acts 28:8-9 -- Paul heals many diseases while on Melita.
*Romans 15:15-19 -- Paul declares his ministry established by his "mighty signs and wonders."
*2 Corinthians 12:12 -- Paul declares that his miracles, signs, and wonders form a part of his apostolic credentials.
*Hebrews 2:3-4 -- The author speaks of the miracles, signs, and wonders performed by those who first heard Christ.
1. The healings were instantaneous. Further treatment was not necessary (Acts 3:1-11).
2. The healings were complete. Those who were healed could immediately resume their normal activities unhindered by the sickness in any way (Acts 9:32-34).
3. The healings were permanent. This is not to say that the ones healed were never again sick, but it is to say that the next day when the "healer" was gone, the sickness was not returned (Acts 14:4).
4. Those with the gift of healings had the ability to heal organic illnesses as well. They did not heal mere psychosomatic illness (Acts 3:1-11; 5:14-16).
5. Those with the gift of healings were not selective in whom they would heal. They could heal anyone (Acts 5:14-16; 28:8-9).
6. Those with the gift of healings could heal at will. There were no conditions placed on the ones being healed (Acts 3:1-11). The same was true of other miracles (Acts 13:11-12).
7. Faith on the part of the one healed was not a requirement or condition. Faith was often rewarded, but it was never stated to be a condition of a person's healing, nor was it ever used as an excuse for a failed attempt to heal (Acts 3:1-11; 9:40).
8. The attempts at healing were always successful. (The only exception to this is the one occasion recorded in Matthew 17:20 when the disciples lacked faith.)
9. The healings were usually performed for unbelievers (Acts 3:1-11; 5:14-16).
10. The healings were usually unsolicited (Acts 3:1-11).
11. The healings were secondary to preaching (Luke 9:6). This is also seen in Acts 20:17-38 where Paul reviews his ministry in Ephesus and makes no mention of his great miracles performed there (cf. 19:11-12), only his faithfulness in ministering the Word). No man was ever given a "healing ministry."
12. Those with the gift of healings could also raise the dead upon request (Acts 9:40).
13. Although the healings were not at all hidden, they were generally performed in relative privacy and never in a public healing service. "Healing services" were never a part of the early church (Acts 3:1-11).
14. Miracles and healings were performed by the apostles and their close associates. Philip and Stephen are the only non-apostolic healers.
15. The healings were never performed by a supposed "slaying in the Spirit" or the like.
16. The healings were performed free of any financial charge. Neither were any souvenirs sold or offerings taken.
17. The healings and miracles could not be denied. They were indisputable feats of power (Acts 4:14-17).
18. The powers associated with the gifts of miracles and healings did not extend beyond healing, casting out demons, and raising the dead. These powers did not include the ability to perform tricks, heal animals or raise them from the dead, or the like.
19. Healings were performed in various ways: by touching (Acts 3:6); by being touched (Acts 5:15); usually without physical contact of any kind (Acts 5:14-16; 9:32-34); by speaking (Acts 14:10); with the use of handkerchiefs and aprons (Acts 19:11-12); with prayer (Acts 9:38-41); usually without prayer (Acts 3:1-11; 28:8-9); and sometimes even in absence (Acts 19:11-12).
20. The writer of the book of Hebrews, writing as a second generation Christian, speaks of the miraculous gifts in the past tense (Heb.2:3-4).
Summary and Conclusion
The gift of healings appears in the New Testament as a miraculous (sign) gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostolic company (2 Cor. 12:12) in order to confirm the new message which they were preaching (Heb.2:3-4). The gift involved the ability to cure physical diseases apart from the normal healing processes. The gift consisted of the ability to heal sicknesses and diseases at will, without medical treatment or any other curing agents. The gift is closely associated with that of miracles (the broader term, evidently) and functioned at all levels of human sickness -- physical and spiritual. The man so gifted was able to heal organic illnesses (e.g., 3:1-11, a congenital illness), raise the dead (9:36-42), and even bring physical judgment (5:1-11; 13:6-11). This gift seems also to have included the ability to cast out demons (19:12), which then would be its spiritual dimension.
These observations are most revealing, especially in comparison with present-day claims to the gift. If there are similarities they fade quickly in comparison with differences which are much greater and more obvious. The gift of miracles enjoyed by the early church at the hands of the apostolic company appears to have been a unique experience which served its purpose and then faded away.