When believers of charismatic persuasion attempt to minister healing to an infirm person in Jesus’ name, there can be some degree of “drama” involved. Before or while praying over the infirm person, the believer might intone “hallelujah” a few times along with a sprinkling of “thank you, Jesus” and speaking in unknown tongues—which of course is directed to God. Mixed into this drama we might hear, “Father, in the name of Jesus, we command (or declare or speak forth) healing for this person.” When hands are laid upon the person, there might be some shaking involved. During all this our eyes can be shut tight in reverence to God.
It is interesting to note that ministry to the infirm of this kind is not found in the New Testament. When Jesus ministered to the sick, there was no drama of this kind at all. While he did often lay hands on the sick, he would speak directly to the infirmity, to the infirm person or to the afflicting demon issuing authoritative commands. And since infirmities and demons were under his authority, they obeyed his orders and left. During this time Jesus would direct no action and words to his Father, absolutely none at all.
The same pattern we see duplicated in Acts as the Lord’s disciples ministered to the infirm and demonized. They also did not stage any drama as we see today, but followed very closely what they had learned from Jesus. They continued to use the authority over disease and demons which Jesus had delegated to them in the gospels by issuing authoritative commands to the sick (Luke 9:1-2). There was no praise or thanksgiving mixed in with the commands.
Why is it that today ministry to the sick is so different from what we see in the gospels and Acts?
It may have to do with the overwhelming popularity of what is called “the gift of healing” for ministering to the sick. While this gift certainly exists, how it operates is not well described in Acts. Lacking this documentation in Scripture there has come to be quite a bit of latitude in how believers actually operate in the gift of healing. This could partly explain why current practices when the sick are ministered to (as described above) are actually not recorded in New Testament Scripture.
But there may be a still weightier factor which explains why ministry to the sick today is so different from what we read in the New Testament: the authority (and power) with which Jesus and the early disciples ministered to the sick are for the most part no longer taught today. It has given way to the much more widely accepted “gift of healing.” What is the reason for this?
Well-known, media-savvy healing ministers have glamorized and greatly popularized the gift. Some ministers would give their eye-teeth to have the gift which they appear to have. It’s very exciting when after we lift up worship and praise unto Him in song and dance “God shows up and takes over.” Miraculous healings begin to break out as the Holy Spirit moves. We have come to expect that when God shows up, miracles happen. When He doesn’t show up for some reason, miracles don’t happen. It’s completely up to God, and not up to us. There is a degree of comfort in this, because if the sick are not healed it’s not due to any inadequacy on our part. It’s just because the Lord didn’t show up, not because we failed in some way. Praying for the sick in our traditional way is risk-free of personal failure on our part since we are simply asking God to heal. After we pray, the rest is up to Him.
Enter Authority & Power
Authority and power over infirmities and demons, by contrast, are largely (but I would say not totally) in our hands. When we choose to use them as the early disciples did, the infirm are healed. Note how Peter ministered to the paralytic Aeneas:
Acts 9:32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
There is no mention here of a leading or sovereign move of the Holy Spirit resulting in the miracle. From the text we see that Peter simply commanded Aeneas to get up, and he was miraculously healed. This is clearly not a manifestation of the gift of healing as the Holy Spirit moved. Rather it is simply Peter exercising the authority he received from Jesus in the gospels even before Pentecost when the Spirit descended. It’s important to note that this authority was to be used in conjunction with proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost.
While at one time years ago this authority for use in ministering healing was taught, it is now largely ignored. The reason is likely due to frequent failure to minister healing effectively when authority is applied, as befell the disciples when they were asked to heal an epileptic boy in Matthew 17. With failure, especially in public, come embarrassment and a host of other uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. It would seem reasonable that after being burned time and time again with failure when exercising authority, a believer would eventually be more disposed to the “gift of healing” or traditional prayer where there would be no possibility of failure. When it is in operation (or when the Lord shows up), miraculous healings are “guaranteed.” It has little to do with us, and is completely up to God. It’s fail-safe. And of course “God gets all the glory.”
No wonder the teaching of authority over infirmities and demons has been largely supplanted by an overwhelming focus on the gift of healing where there is no risk or possibility of failure for us.
But there is a slight difficulty here. Nowhere in the gospels did Jesus teach or command his disciples to pray for the sick as is done traditionally today. And nowhere in the gospels and Acts did the disciples simply pray for the sick as we do today and after that without the disciples exercising authority God performed the miracle all by Himself.
So why do we fail?
There is a definite reason why today we are not effective in using authority to minister healing as we see Jesus and the disciples doing in the gospels and Acts. As Jesus explained to the disciples in Matthew 17:20 after they failed to heal the epileptic boy, it’s because we disciples have so little faith—that is, mountain-moving faith. We experience doubt in our hearts when speaking to the mountain, infirmity, or demon.
Mark 11:23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
Disciples today nearly without exception entertain considerable doubt that they can actually minister miraculous healing effectively as the early disciples did. This doubt comes vividly to the surface at the moment they minister face-to-face to the infirm person, especially in the presence of others or a crowd of onlookers. This goes a long way in explaining the drama we observe when believers attempt to minister healing today.
Because of the doubt in our hearts, we feel inadequate and need the Lord’s help or presence when we minister healing. How do we secure that help or “invoke His presence”? We say “hallelujah” or “thank you, Jesus.” We might sing and dance before the Lord with all our might, hoping that he will be pleased with us and then show up to help us. Not having been trained from the Scriptures exactly how Jesus healed the sick and not knowing what else to do, we might speak in tongues. (To some, such practices might be reminiscent of what the servants of Baal did at Mt. Carmel when they tried to get their god to send fire down to burn up their sacrifice.)
But when we are properly trained from the Scriptures, specifically the gospels and Acts, we will have no doubt that we can heal the sick as Jesus commanded the 72 disciples when he sent them out.
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
And there will be no more drama. (This might not be the case if we are operating in the gift of healing which is very different from the authority and power to heal.) The Elijah Challenge trains believers to minister healing with power and authority as Jesus did as he taught his disciples. Without the drama.