Miraculous Versus Divine Healing

By Bobby Witherington

I believe in modern divine healing, but I do not believe in modern miraculous healing. Without a doubt, the opening sentence to this paragraph and to this article will cause some to question either the sanity or the integrity of the writer thereof. Perhaps the more charitable readers will assume that the writer was distracted when he wrote that sentence, or they may decide his computer made a mistake. However, lest some conclude that I really did not intend to say what I just said, I will say it again — I believe in modern divine healing, but I do not believe in modern miraculous healing.

“But,” you ask, “how could a person believe in the one without believing in the other?” Others may ask, “Isn’t all divine healing miraculous in nature?” In my judgment, the more thoughtful might respond by asking, “What is the difference between divine healing and miraculous healing?” In reply, we shall first make some comments regarding:

Miraculous Healing

A miracle cannot be explained by the ordinary workings of natural law. In order for a miracle to occur there has to be an alteration, suspension, or superseding of natural law. For ex- ample, by simply appealing to natural law and the processes thereof there is no way to explain how Jesus walked on water (Matt. 14:25), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43, 44), the sun standing still for a whole day (Josh. 10:12, 13), raging fire having “no power” over the bodies of three Jewish captives (Dan. 3:27, 28), the waters of a sea dividing and forming a “wall” on the right hand and the left with the dry land in the middle (Exod. 14:21, 22), feeding 5,000 men on five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6: 9-11), etc.

Miracles of healing which occurred during some of the times alluded to in the Scriptures, are just as impossible to explain simply by appealing to the processes of natural law. For example, how do you take natural law and explain Naaman’s leprosy being completely cured by his dip- ping seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:14)? In like manner, please explain how a severed ear, by a simple touch (involving no stitches), could be “healed”( Luke 22:50, 51). By the same token, please explain the healing of a “withered” hand (Matt. 12:10- 13), fever going away by the mere touch of a hand (Matt. 8:15), and how Jesus could heal the paralyzed without so much as entering the house (Matt. 8:5-13), or village wherein lay the afflicted (John 4:46-54). Explain how Peter, with neither bandage nor medication, could heal an “over forty” year old man of lameness, and who had been thus afflicted “from his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:1-8; 4:22). And while you are at it, please appeal to natural law and explain how washing in a pool (after having one’s eyes anointed with clay mixed with saliva) can result in a grown man (blind from birth!) being able to see (John 9:1-11). But not only were miracles of healing unexplainable by the usual processes of natural law, they were also instantaneous and complete. When Jesus met blind Bartimaeus, and said to him “your faith has made you well,” he “immediately . . . received his sight” (Mark 10:46-54). When Peter said to the lame man “in the name of Jesus Christ . . . rise up and walk,” and then took “him by the right hand and lifted him up,” his feet and ankle bones “immediately . . . received strength” (Acts 3:6, 7;  cf. Mark 1:42; Matt. 8:13; 20:34; John 5:8, 9, etc.).

Also it should be pointed out that Bible miracles were recognized as being just that — miracles! The Egyptians of Moses’ day did not deny the genuineness of the ten plagues which God brought upon them. Even the enemies of Jesus Christ asked, “What shall we do? For this man works many signs” (John 11:47). The enemies of Jesus Christ rejected his authority, accused him of blasphemy, and resisted much of his teaching, but not once do we read of anyone denying the fact of his miracles! Yes, on occasion they accused him of performing his mighty works through “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matt. 12:22-24), but the fact remains that they admitted the miraculous or supernatural nature of his works.

Yes, miracles were performed by Jesus and certain other selected servants. And, yes, there were miracles of healing (Acts 23:8), and even the raising of the dead in response to prayer (Acts 9:40, 41). We do not deny a single Bible miracle. We believe they all occurred. Nor do we question the power of God. In fact, God is “Almighty” (Gen. 17:1). I believe God has the power to hatch grown elephants from eggs laid by sparrows, but I deny that he produces elephants in such a manner! God, who is all powerful, is also a God “who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2). Hence, because of the integrity of his very nature “He can- not deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). He will not circumvent his own law (Isa. 55:11).

The Purpose and Duration of  Miracles

Regarding purpose, we point out that whether they were Old Testament or New Testament miracles, they were designed to produce faith (Exod. 4:1-8; John 20:30, 31). Through the miracles Jesus performed Nicodemus concluded that he was “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2).

As to duration, it should be observed that miracles (of healing, prophecy, tongues, etc.) belonged to that time period while the Bible was yet incomplete. They were designed to authenticate the message of inspired men (Mark 16:17-20; Heb. 2:2-4). In other words, the age of miracles coincided with the age of inspired men. Hence, in New Testament times miracles were performed by Jesus, by his apostles, and by the 70 whom the Lord personally sent out (John 20:30, 31; Matt. 10:1; Luke 10: 17-19). After the church was established miracles were performed by the apostles (Acts 5:12-16), and by those upon whom the apostles laid hands (Acts 6:5-8; Acts 8:5, 6; Acts 19:6). Moreover, Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would reveal “all truth” to them (John 16:13), and the apostle Paul taught the cessation of the miraculous upon the completion of divine revelation (1 Cor. 13). Though the lack of space forbids our enlarging at this time upon these vital facts, we do affirm that miracles, having accomplished their purpose of confirming the revelation of God, have ceased.

Divine Healing

God created us in his “own image” (Gen. 1:27). We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). The human body, organizationally speaking, consists of cells, tissues, organs, and systems (groups of organs designed to carry on special bodily functions peculiar to those systems). Reportedly, the adult human body contains an estimated “60,000 bil- lion cells,” with the shape of the cells being “related to their function,” and in the nucleus of each cell are DNA molecules that carry “the genetic information necessary for the replication of each cell.” And each cell “has been engineered to make a specific part of the body” — all of which manifest indisputable evidence of divine design. And, because of divine design, the human body is amazingly adaptable to the multitudinous situations and environments to which it is subjected, and is similarly responsive to the millions of disease-producing organisms to which it is exposed. To a great degree, the body is a self- healing organism. Scratch the paint on your new car, and time and rust will make it get worse. Scratch your finger and in a few days (because the body functions according to divine design), it will be completely well. In the course of a life time on many occasions we all get sick and then get well — often without seeing a doctor or taking medication. In view of who made us, of how we are made, and the healing we often experience from our infirmities, could we not call this “divine healing”?

Prayer and Providence

A study of the Scriptures reveal that God is a God of providence. He provides in abundance. And our God both hears and answers prayer (1 John 3:22; 5:14). With faith in God’s ability “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), we seek his help in all areas of our lives, and, yes, we also beseech him in times of sickness (2 Cor. 12:7, 8; 3 John 2). And the same God who responded to Hezekiah’s prayer, adding health to his body and years to his life (2 Kings 20:1-7), is able to do the same for us. The power of God that works through natural law in causing seed to germinate and eventually yield a rich harvest, is equally as able to work through penicillin to destroy infection. If God can work through his people to save the lost (Rom. 1:14-16; Phil. 2:13), he can also work through physicians (Matt. 9:12), “medicine” (Prov. 17:22; Jer. 30:13), and surgery (Mark 9:43-45) to heal the sick. When divinely authorized means are used and divine laws are honored, in keeping with the body’s divine design, and healing occurs, can we not call it “divine healing”? And if God, through prayer and natural remedy (2 Kings 20:7) affected a cure in Hezekiah’s case, he can do the same today. After all, God is the one who so richly provided in nature those remedies that promote physical healing. And through his providence, the usage of these remedies, and the “effectual, fervent prayer” of the righteous (Jas. 5:16), those afflicted with life-threatening illnesses, over a period of time, are often made well. Miraculous healing? No! Divine Healing? Yes! Indeed, our God is a good God!