Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. …7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
Before Jesus sent his twelve disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, he gave them authority to drive out demons and to heal every disease and sickness.
Luke 9:6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Then Jesus called seventy-two more disciples.
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 has come near to you.’ …17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
It’s very clear from these scriptures that both the twelve and the seventy-two were given a measure of authority to heal the sick and cast out demons when Jesus sent them out to preach the gospel.
“But it’s different today”
According to the teaching of cessationism which is taught by very learned scholars in some theological seminaries, the authority over disease is no longer available to disciples of Jesus Christ today. When the original disciples passed from the scene, this authority disappeared. Because we now have available the written scriptures (or we have already by faith attained to the “perfect” eternal state as maintained by others), miracles are no longer necessary.
Interestingly, however, in many circles which subscribe to this teaching, believers today still have authority to cast out demons and in fact do so. But in accordance with cessationism when a sick person needs to be healed of an infirmity, our only recourse is to pray to God for the healing and of course to consult a doctor. Where someone is afflicted by an unclean spirit, however, the doctor cannot help. In such a case we can cast the spirit out of the person in the name of Jesus.
So today we see casting out demons on the one hand and healing physical infirmities on the other as entirely different categories. But did Jesus see them as being completely different in the way he dealt with them?
How did Jesus deal with demons and with infirmities?
Luke 4:33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us?.…
35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of himand did not hurt him.
Because Jesus had authority over demons, he did not need to pray to the Father and ask Him to drive out the demon. He simply rebuked the demon by issuing an authoritative command to it. The demon was forced to obey the Lord’s command because it was under his authority—it promptly came out of the man. Authority is not exercised by praying to God, but rather by issuing an order or command to whatever or whoever is under our authority.
How did Jesus deal with a purely physical infirmity where no demon was involved?
Luke 4:38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.
Not surprisingly, Jesus dealt with the fever in exactly the same way he dealt with the demon. He rebuked the fever by issuing an authoritative command to it, and it obeyed by leaving the woman. Since Jesus had authority over both demons and physical infirmities, he could deal with both in the same way—by issuing a command. Even though demons and physical infirmities are not the same and are in fact different in nature, Jesus dealt with both categories in much the same way. Whatever is under our authority—whether demons, diseases, our pet dogs, our little children, or our employees—we deal with by issuing commands or orders to them. We do not simply pray to God in such matters and ask him to do it for us, waiting on Him to issue the command and to accomplish the matter for us. No, we do it—we issue the command in some fashion with the authority given to us.
Interestingly, however, cessationism—unwittingly perhaps—allows us to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. In cessationist circles of the Church authority over unclean spirits is in an unspoken way still available and therefore its use is allowed. There are likely believers in such circles who believe in and actually do cast out demons. But at the same time we are discouraged from healing the sick as Jesus did since we are told that authority over physical infirmities is no longer available.
A most interesting situation
Jesus dealt with both demons and with infirmities in much the same way—by issuing commands. He had authority over both categories. He then gave a measure of that authority to the twelve and then to the seventy-two as he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.
He commanded them to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:8).
Mysteriously, however, we are now taught that while driving out demons is still applicable (or at least tolerated), healing the sick, cleansing lepers, and raising the dead are not. Today in the current dispensation we can only pray to God for the sick and trust Him to heal.
Where is this dichotomy clearly taught in Scripture? Where is it taught that the use of supernatural authority over demons is still valid while authority over disease is not?
Cessationism has crippled the Church
It is not taught anywhere in scripture. Rather it is man’s teaching—theological sleight-of-hand sprinkled with a pinch of the history of the Church following Acts. Cessationism has crippled the Church, especially in evangelism to non-Christian gospel-resistant people groups which form the majority of the world’s seven billion inhabitants.
The eternal destination of these billions of gospel-resistant Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and idol-worshippers for whom Christianity is an entirely foreign, “white man’s religion” imported from the west hangs in the balance. If we can show them miraculous evidence that our God is the only true God and that Jesus is the only way to Him—miracles that their “gods” are powerless to do—multitudes will believe on Jesus Christ for eternal life. Apart such signs, most will not believe.
John 4:48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
But cessationism teaches us that we no longer have the authority to minister in such a way—as did Jesus and his disciples in the gospels and Acts. This teaching has crippled the Church.
Surely the Lord is grieved. His unimaginable suffering unto death on the cross paid for the salvation for as many as would put their faith in him. But multitudes in the non-Christian Third World cannot because we deny that we have the authority to perform the confirming miraculous signs which will open their hearts to Jesus Christ and eternal life.
Someday soon the Lord will open our eyes to the supernatural authority he has given us for the sake of the harvest and the salvation of billions during these last days.