In Scripture we find different ways by which the Lord heals infirmities through His people. Two of these ways can be classified as power and authority to heal on the one hand, and the gift of healing on the other hand. These two have different functions. Luke 9 describes the function of power and authority to heal.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’”
The Lord gives to his disciples—whether apostles or non-apostles—power and authority to heal the sick and drive out demons specifically for the context of preaching the kingdom of God to the lost. For those who do not yet believe, seeing miracles can be a powerful aid to faith in Christ. In contrast, the gift of healing is given primarily to build up the body of Christ, that is, those who already believe in Christ. The Apostle Paul, referring to the function of the gifts of the Spirit for the body of Christ, taught:
1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
In Chapter 14, continuing to teach on the purpose of spiritual gifts, Paul adds:
1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. …26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
Thus the primary venue for the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit is in gatherings of believers. In such meetings believers are ministered to, strengthened, and blessed in various ways. Among other benefits, believers can be healed from their infirmities as the gift of healing is manifested. For example, as believers worship the Lord in a gathering, the presence of the Lord may appear and the sick are miraculously healed. The gifts of the Spirit can also be manifest in what are called “Healing Rooms” associated with churches where mostly needy believers come for healing and ministry.
How can we better understand the difference between the authority to heal and the gift of healing?
Let’s take the analogy of the United States of America. When America is threatened by foreign enemies, she sends out her armies to fight. The American military has unparalleled power. Through displays of “shock and awe” it defeats the enemy. This is analogous to the Church sending out believers to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Awesome power is released as they exercise their authority over disease and demons by rebuking them and commanding them to go in Jesus’ name. The sick are instantly healed and testify of God’s healing grace. The message of the gospel is confirmed by the miraculous signs and precious souls enter the Kingdom of God by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. The Church is indeed capable of putting on such displays of “shock and awe”—that is, signs and wonders—to defeat the enemy. We have seen this happen time and time again after disciples of Jesus are taught to exercise their authority to heal the sick.
The picture back home in America contrasts sharply. Soldiers and tanks and incredibly destructive weapons are not seen in the streets. There are no displays of military might or “shock and awe” in our communities. Rather we enjoy our peace and prosperity. We celebrate our blessings at various holidays throughout the year. We like to give one another gifts, especially around Christmas time, to bless and encourage one another. This can be analogous to believers blessing one another with gifts and manifestations of the Spirit during their gatherings.
Nevertheless, throughout the larger body of Christ, there is not yet a healthy balance between “military” and “civilian” activities. Most of the activity of the Church today consists of “civilian” gatherings of believers where they are built up through the word of God and manifestations of spiritual gifts. Rarely does the Church send out believers as a well-trained and well-equipped “military” force to engage the enemy kingdom. Rarely do we hear of armies of believers going out to the lost to heal the sick, cast out demons, and save souls through the preaching of the gospel. The awesome “signs and wonders” that the Church is capable of displaying against the enemy kingdom is yet to be seen.
But today God is in the process of restoring the spirit and power of Elijah to the Church for the proclamation of the kingdom of God to the lost. He is restoring the understanding and the function of the kingly office to us. We now understand the clear differences between power and authority to heal and the gift of healing.
As explained earlier, power and authority to heal were given to the disciples for proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost and for confirming the truth of the gospel to them. In contrast, the gift of healing is primarily for ministering healing to infirm believers in the context of building up the body of Christ. In addition to the difference in function between the two,
power and authority to heal were given by Jesus to his disciples when he was still on earth with them, well before the gift of healing was made available through the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Every disciple of Christ who is sent out to preach the gospel—and every believer is called to be a witness of Jesus Christ—is given power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons in that context. But not every believer has the gift of healing.
1 Corinthians 12:30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
The operation of power and authority to heal is very different from the operation of the gift of healing. Power and authority operate through the laying on of hands and the issuing of commands, while the gift can operate through prayer to God in its various forms or through prophetic actions.
Finally, while the gift of healing is not well described and documented in Scripture with regard to exactly how it functions, the operation of power and authority to heal and cast out demons is well documented in the gospels as well as in Acts even after Pentecost when the gift of healing was available. Scripture gives us many examples of miracles performed through the use of authority and a clear explanation of exactly how it functions.
Today the Lord is enabling us to train disciples how to heal the sick and cast out demons effectively and consistently as they preach the gospel to the lost for the sake of the Great Commission. This is a fulfillment of Jesus’s promise in John 14:12.
John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.