By Frank Jamerson
When Scripture is quoted to show that miraculous gifts accomplished their purposes and ceased, those who believe in faith healers make several responses. We will notice some of them and reply to them.
The first response is usually, “Don’t you believe that God has the power to heal?” When we challenge faith healers, we are not denying God’s power to do whatever he chooses. God has the power to make men out of dust and women out of ribs, and he once did it, but he is not doing that any more! The Devil knew that Jesus had power to turn stones into bread, but the fact is that he did not choose to do so. He did produce water out of a rock for Moses, but faith healers never have duplicated that one. The question is not whether he has the power to do what he chooses, but what does the Bible say about miraculous gifts?
Another frequent response is, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Then the conclusion is inferred that if he ever gave miraculous gifts to men he must continue to do so, or he has changed. This is a classic case of “proof-texting” – taking a verse out of context to try to prove a preconceived opinion. The verse was written to give assurance to Christians that God would be with them and that the Christ who had been preached to them by others has not been superceded and would never change. This does not prove that God’s ways have never changed. In fact, the same writer had earlier written, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (Heb. 7:12). The fact that God changed his law did not mean that God has changed. Paul wrote the Corinthians that when “the perfect” (the completed revelation) came, then that which is “in part” (partial revelations) would cease (1 Cor. 13:10). Faith healers try to make “that which is perfect” refer to Christ and the second coming, but even if it did refer to that, it would not fit their interpretation of Hebrews 13:8. The passage says that Jesus would remain the same “forever,” and that would include after the second coming! So, according to their argument that miraculous gifts cannot cease because Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” miraculous gifts will have to continue eternally.
The favorite argument of many faith healers today is that physical healing is in the atonement and all a person has to do is “claim his healing.” They misuse Matthew 8:16,17, which is used of the work Jesus did before the atonement. The death of Christ was for forgiveness of sins, not physical healing. “Who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). If physical healing is in the atonement, then it should be as universal as spiritual healing! What sick person would not “claim physical healing” if it was as available as forgiveness? A little bit of “good old country honesty” would help here! Why did Paul not “claim his healing” if it was in the atonement (2 Cor. 12:7-10)? Why did he leave Trophimus at Miletus sick (2 Tim. 4:20), instead of telling him to “claim his healing”? Why aren’t all who claim to be saved by faith healers today also healed of their infirmities? They should have no sick disciples if their doctrine is correct! (One sure way to know whether your sins were forgiven would be if you could “take up your bed and walk!” Instead, they have many devout believers who continue on their beds.)
Another response is, “Don’t you believe in the power of prayer?” The implication here is that if you do not believe in miraculous gifts today, then you do not believe in praying for the sick. This does not follow at all. We believe in praying for our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), but we do not expect to receive it like the Israelites received manna (Exod. 16:4), or like Elisha multiplied the widow’s oil (2 Kgs. 4:1-7). God can answer prayers through his providence. We believe in praying for prosperity and health (3 Jn. 2), but God does not have to preform a miracle in order to answer these requests. God answers prayer, but he has not promised miraculous powers to men today. There is a difference between “divine healing” (which the Bible teaches) and ,’miraculous healing” (which has ceased).
Faith healers claim that “power will go forth from my hands,” but when they fail, the tune changes to “I have no power, God does the healing.” In this they tell the truth! They do not have any power, and that is a contrast to what the apostles claimed. Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Peter was authorized by Jesus to perform miracles and he plainly said that he had that power. The apostles also could lay hands on others and give them that power (Acts 8:18), but those claiming miraculous powers today have not had the hands of an apostle laid on them and they cannot do what the apostles did.
The apostles of Christ used miracles to prove that the message that they preached was from God (Mk. 16:15-20). Faith healers today use the word to try to prove that they can do miracles. The miracles of the apostles confirmed the terms of salvation – “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Faith healers deny the message that was confirmed, teach salvation by faith only, and argue that they have apostolic powers!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 7, p. 212
April 2, 1992