By Cecil Willis
I think that it is imperative that we discuss two terms “miraculous” and “divine” that appear in the title of this article. This might eliminate some of the confusion around this subject. I believe that all dealing is divine. God has established the laws of nature by which the healing process is effected. But I am endeavoring to prove that miraculous divine healing ceased with the death of the last person on whom the apostles bestowed the power to work miracles. So when I say that miraculous divine healing is no longer being performed, I am not denying that God directs healing today. For example, I maintain that not a man living can instantly cure even the smallest cut that might be administered to my hand. Yet, through God’s law, this small incision will soon be cured, but not instantaneously. Will a single preacher maintain that he can cure a one-inch, one-half-inch, or one-quarter-inch cut on my hand? He certainly will not, and if he maintains that he can, we will put him to the test.
These people would likely attempt to discharge themselves of any responsibility to heal a person, such as myself, by declaring that he is a non-believer. Is it not strange that every time a preacher fails to heal a person, he blames it on the person he is trying to heal? I want you carefully to notice a principle in regard to healing that is plainly revealed in the Bible: one’s power to heal is not dependent upon the faith of the person being healed. The fake-healers would like to make people believe that every time they fail to heal a person it is the fault of the person seeking the healing. But that is not the trouble at all. It is because of a lack of divine power on the part of the preacher. Jesus healed a man sick of palsy upon the basis of the faith of those who brought the sick man. Nothing is said of the ill man’s faith. In Mark 2 we read, “And they came, bringing unto him a man sick of the palsy, borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed whereon the sick of the palsy lay. And Jesus seeing their faith saith unto the sick of the palsy, Son thy sins are forgiven” (vs. 3-5). The multitude began to blaspheme because He had forgiven the man, and to show that the Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins, in verse 9, He said, “Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk.” The man was healed on the faith of those who brought him. Let me make this suggestion: let any man who thinks that he has the miraculous power to heal, choose out four of his most faithful brethren, and let them deliver me unto them, and still he would not be able to heal instantly even a very minute cut.
Again in Acts 3, we find Peter and John going up to the temple. As they started to enter the temple, a lame man asked to receive a gift of them. Peter told the man to look on him. The Scriptures state that the man looked, expecting to receive something. Is this a manifestation of his faith in Peter’s power to heal? Certainly not! The man expected some monetary gift. But Peter said unto him, “Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I unto thee. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Here is another man healed with nothing said of his faith. Or we might inquire into the case of Lazarus (Jn. 11). Was his resurrection dependent upon his faith? Faith healers should cease grumbling about the lack of faith on the part of their subjects and admit that they lack the power. That is very definitely the source of the trouble.
There was one outstanding man who traveled all over the nation in a healing campaign. He had a tent that would seat 10,000 people. Out in Lubbock, Texas, while in a healing campaign, a cyclone hit the tent. What was the result? Sixty people were sent to the hospital for treatment! One of his ardent followers suggested that I meet the man in public discussion in Indianapolis. Knowing what would be his response, I hesitated to waste time in writing him. But when his follower insisted, I wrote. He replied to the offer by sending me an envelope for a contribution to his work and said “Brother, pray for me.” None of the faith-healers can do any better in sustaining their claims to miraculous power.
If these fellows have the power to work miracles, and cannot perform one on a person like myself, because of my unbelief in their power, at least they should be able to perform another kind of miracle on such a person. In Acts 5, by the power of the Holy Spirit, those who rejected Peter’s words were struck dead. Have any of these fellows killed any unbelievers miraculously? No, nor will they. In Acts 13, in the city of Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, a sorcerer by the name of Elymas sought to turn aside from Paul some of his hearers. So Paul struck him blind for a season. Can one of these so-called miracle-workers miraculously strike an unbeliever blind? God knows my heart, and I do not want to give the wrong impression, but if these fellows can work miracles, then I am wrong in my preaching. If they cannot work a miracle on me because of my unbelief in their power, then perhaps they should strike me blind to make me believe. I had rather be blind and saved, than to have my sight and be lost. But I am not afraid of any miraculous power that they might have, for they have no such power. No person has had that power since the death of the last person on whom the apostles of Christ bestowed the power to work miracles.
Sometimes those pseudo-miracle-workers declare that when one denies that God is still working miracles he necessarily denies that God has the power to work a miracle. But that is not so at all. There is not a person living who believes any more strongly that God has the power to work miracles than me. It is not a question of power, but it is a question of fact. It is not what God can do, but what God is doing.
The Bible teaches that God created the first man and woman. But what man is there that would declare that for a person to deny that God is still miraculously creating men and women is to doubt the power of God. The simple truth of the matter is that God’s purpose in creating Adam and Eve was fulfilled, and children are born today by the laws of procreation, rather than by the means of miraculous creation. But while I believe this to be the truth, I do not for one moment doubt that God would be able to create a person today should He desire to do so.
Or again, one can read in the Old Testament (Num. 11) that God miraculously supplied manna as food for the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. But I know of no one today who sits down to the table and patiently waits for God to rain down the manna from above. Am I to say that everybody who does not believe that God is miraculously feeding people today doubts that God has the power to feed us by a miracle? That would be absurd.
So when one denies that Good is yet performing miracles through men, he is not impugning the power of God to say the least. It is simply an unequivocal statement that today He is not working miracles through men. God’s purpose in working miracles was perfected; hence there is no longer a need for miracles today.
I would like to have you read a statement from the book of James that is often used to teach that miracles of healing are yet being done. James says: “Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him” (Jas. 5:14, 15).
In the first place, it might be well for us to observe that James says for those who are sick to call for `the elders of the church. James did not say to call some miracle-working preacher. The elders, or the leaders of the church, were given the power to heal people. I am not sure that James in this passage refers to miraculous healing altogether. Historians tell us that oil was quite often used as a medicinal treatment. In Luke 10:34, we find that the good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the injuries of the man way-layed by the robbers. I have never heard anyone declare that this Samaritan was performing a miracle on this poor man when he poured oil on his wounds. But even if one grants that James is speaking of miraculous healing in this passage, the people of today who pretend to use this passage as their authority fail. at one point. They call for a preacher instead of an elder. They apply the name “pastor” to a preacher. A pastor in the Bible is one who is one of several elders in a local congregation. You find the qualifications of the elder stated in 1 Tim. 3, and in Tit. 1. If one does not meet the qualifications of an elder as stated in these two passages, then he is not the one that James says that one should call for aid. The preachers who use this passage might possibly misapply it so as to make it teach that elders can work miracles, while even this is not its teaching, but you need to find a passage that say that preachers today can work miracles. A man may wear the name of “pastor”, which is but another name for an elder, but who does not have the qualifications.
Notice again, in the passage, that James says that “the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick.” James does not seem to indicate that every time that one of the faith-healers fails in performing. a miracle it is the fault of the patient. He says that it is the fault of the prayer. It lacks faith.
The same truth is taught in this passage that is declared in many others. Certain individuals were given the power to work miracles until the revelation of God was completed, in order that their word might be confirmed. Elders in the Lord’s church were given this power. But one does not find this miracle-working power. perpetuated until the present generation. I want to propound a question to which I would like an answer. It is issued directly at those who claim the power to work miracles. “Jesus had the Spirit without measure; the apostles had the signs of the apostolic office; the disciples of the New Testament day received their gifts by the laying on of apostolic hands; since none of these apply to you, where and how did you get your power to heal? If in answer to prayer or however you may say, give us a Bible example to prove it” (Cogdill, Miraculous Divine Healing, p.37).
A group of members of the body of Christ have offered $1000 in the past to some of the nation’s outstanding men who were claiming to be able to work miracles. The only demand of the offer was that two reputable physicians examine the patient and state that this person had an incurable disease. Then they were to let the patient attend a healing meeting, be healed and immediately they were to get a signed statement from the same two physicians that such a person was now completely free from such disease. The reward was never collected. A national magazine, Time, carried an article about this offer and the fact that the healers left town without claiming the reward. These fake-healers said that they were too interested in saving souls to be concerned with money, yet most of these gracious healers spend thirty or forty minutes nightly in an unsurpassed plea for money.
Try to find one person that has instantly been cured of a disease that one can test with the empirical senses that God gave us. Healing is being done-but not miraculous healing.
Truth Magazine XXI: 13, pp. 198-199
March 31, 1977