In July 2003 the Lord graciously allowed us to hold the largest Crusade meeting in Vietnam up until that time since its fall to communism in 1975. In this meeting the Lord did mass miracles greater than we have ever personally seen. Cripples and paralytics were walking, people with cancer were healed, the blind saw, the deaf heard, demons were cast out, and people with depression were healed. The Lord Jesus did many other miraculous healings that went unreported at the meeting. It was said that not since the 1960’s had such miracles taken place in a meeting there.
Some of these miracles took place as believers laid hands on the sick and ministered with authority in the name of Jesus. Others were healed without anyone laying hands on them or praying over them. These apparently were healed directly by the Lord Himself.
How can we explain such miracles according to specific Scripture references?
Scripture teaches that those who proclaim the kingdom of God have been given a measure of authority to minister healing to the sick as confirmation of the gospel.
After this the Lord appointed 70 others and sent them…”Heal the sick…tell them, ‘the kingdom of God is near you.’” (Luke 10:1, 9)
Scripture also teaches the practice of the laying of hands to heal the sick as believers preach the gospel.
Mark 16.15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. …17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; …they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
The above verses from Luke and Mark teach that all believers who are sent to preach the gospel have a measure of authority to heal the sick through the laying on of hands. And during the Crusade meeting in Vietnam, there were indeed infirm people who were healed when believers ministered to them in this way. But what of those who were healed apart from any believer ministering to them? It is obvious that the Lord Himself healed them directly. How can we explain this more specifically in terms of New Testament teaching on healing?
The gift of healing
1 Corinthians 4:9 mentions “gifts of healing” through which miraculous healings can take place. From verse 30 it is clear that not every believer has been given such gifts. In contrast, every believer who has been called or sent to proclaim the gospel does have a measure of authority to minister healing for the sake of confirming the gospel. But the “special” gift or gifts of healing can be very powerful and are given to only some believers. In Acts we see a manifestation of such a gift working through the apostle Peter.
Acts 5:15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
Such miracles were not a result of Peter deliberately exercising his authority over the sick as a believer—which Scripture records him doing on other occasions—but were “effortless” and powerful as his shadow fell on the sick. I believe this was the operation of the gift of healing through the apostle.
It is reasonable to conclude that this gift was behind the manifestations of “effortless” and powerful healings that occurred in the Vietnam meeting. When a helpless woman dying of cancer who was carried to the meeting on a cot suddenly stands up and climbs up to the platform on her own power to testify that Jesus has healed her, this is a manifestation of the gift of healing. It is powerful and requires little or no effort on the part of a believer…it is “healing grace.”
Scripture teaches that every believer has a measure of authority over disease to use to confirm the gospel of Christ. It also states that there are gifts of healing that the Holy Spirit gives to some believers. Not all believers will receive this gift or these gifts. However, some believers will.
What is the relationship between the authority over disease and the gift of healing?
For possible clarification of this question, let’s look at the Scriptures. In the gospels, before the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost bringing among other things the supernatural gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12, the disciples did not minister through any of these gifts. They ministered healing to the sick simply by virtue of the authority that Jesus gave them according to Luke 9:1-2 and Luke 10:1, 9, 17. However, after the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts 2, some of them—for example, Peter—began to minister with a powerful gift of healing.
Exercising one’s authority over disease can be a prelude to receiving the gift of healing
We see a progression here. First came the authority in the gospels. The disciples learned how to minister healing by virtue of the authority Jesus had given them. Later, after they had become proficient ministering through authority, came the gift in the Book of Acts. This can become a pattern for the believer who is called by the Lord to this type of evangelism. Learn how to minister healing through authority first. This is the most basic type of healing available to all those who are called to preach the gospel. In this way, you are prepared to receive and minister through the gift of healing, if indeed the Holy Spirit wills. As we have seen, the operation of the gift of healing can be very powerful and effortless.
But even if a believer receives the gift of healing from the Lord, that does not mean that he ceases to minister through authority. The gift is not always operating, but according to the will of the Holy Spirit. When it is not operating, the believer can still minister healing through authority alone. This is how Peter raised the lame beggar at the temple gate in Acts 3 and in Christ’s name healed the paralytic Aeneas in Acts 9. There is still a third possibility. Some believers will learn to minister through a dynamic interplay of both the authority and the gift operating in turns. But whatever the case, the goal is the same: to heal the sick as a means of drawing souls to Christ.