With regard to healing, charismatic churches typically focus on the “gift of healing.” However, the overwhelming focus of supernatural healing in the gospels and Acts is rather on supernatural power and authority over diseases and demons to be used for advancing the gospel—separate & distinct from the gift.
While I was teaching in Poland recently, my host who has ministered in various European countries made an interesting remark to me. He mentioned that a certain charismatic leader he knows in Greece thinks that he understands healing very well. My host declared emphatically that this leader really doesn’t.
This is actually true about charismatic churches in general.
The term “charismatic” of course is derived from the Greek word “charismata” which refers to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, one of which is the gift of healing. Over the several decades since the birth of the Charismatic Renewal Movement, many books have been written about healing and several healing ministers have come to the forefront—perhaps most prominently Rev. Benny Hinn.
The focus of nearly all such books and healing ministries is the gift of healing as taught by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 12. According to this chapter, the gifts are primarily for building up the body of Christ and ministering to believers. Therefore the gift of healing is primarily for ministering healing to sick believers. Often added to this understanding of healing is the importance of speaking in unknown tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Often left out is that fact that even before the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to baptize the disciples, in the gospels they were already healing the sick with power and authority.)
Since the responsibility of churches is naturally focused on ministering to the needs of believers, charismatic churches will of course look to the gift of healing. But instances of ministering healing to born-again believers—as is typically done in charismatic churches and meetings today—are hardly seen in the gospels and Acts where virtually all the instances of miraculous healings in the New Testament are recorded.
Instead nearly all the miraculous healings in the New Testament were for the paramount purpose of providing evidence to the lost that Jesus is the Messiah and the only way to the Father.
John 14:11 Believe
me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
John 20:30 Jesus performed many other signs in
the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But
these are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may
have life in his name.
John 10:37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
Although Jesus indeed healed the sick because he had
compassion on the sheep, his overriding purpose was nevertheless for them to
accept him as their Lord and Savior— not simply as a miracle worker.
But as a result of our traditional perspective centered on Church and the needs of believers, leaders have not been taught about healing in the specific context of providing evidence to unbelievers outside the Church that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. An examination of the New Testament reveals that miraculous healing in the context of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost can differ significantly from healing for sick believers in the context of Church.
Churches have not been taught the former, only the latter which focuses on the needs of believers. During these Last Days when the time is short and the Church must fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations—including those highly resistant to the gospel— miraculous healing as conclusive evidence to the lost that Jesus is the Messiah should receive the priority it deserves and is clearly given in Scripture.
Unscriptural traditions, moreover, have also permeated the Church’s practice of healing which has significantly diluted our effectiveness in ministering healing in either context.
This is the calling of The Elijah Challenge—training and sending disciples during these Last Days to heal the sick miraculously exactly as Jesus did in the gospels, and to proclaim the kingdom of God fruitfully as did the early disciples in Acts—especially to gospel-resistant people groups.