During these end times, our culture of Hollywood celebrity-worship and mass media has enabled some gifted full-time servants of the Lord to become very famous world-wide and financially prosperous. However, the Lord might not mean for His “unworthy servants” to enjoy excessively opulent lifestyles that are reserved for the rich and famous of the world. The kind of mentality that justifies such a lifestyle for a highly visible, full-time minister of the gospel does not come from following Scripture. Rather it may be the consequence, among other things, of being the subject of adulation that is meant for the Lord alone. Lavish praise upon a human being results in an irresistible temptation to pride. “Since God has blessed my ministry so much, it’s alright for me to enjoy living at the same high level. I deserve it.” Prosperity teaching can become imbalanced in the hearts and hands of human beings and result in a stumbling block to many.
This is not quite following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who had no place to lay His head.
God’s blessings upon a ministry do not necessarily indicate His approval of that ministry, for His gifts and calling are irrevocable. The miracles that occur in a ministry do not necessarily prove that God is pleased with that ministry, but may be simply the result of the evangelist operating in the irrevocable gifting the Lord has given him. The miracles do not even necessarily indicate that the evangelist is known by the Lord.
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
I believe the Lord is grieved with such pride of life in a full-time minister of the gospel. It can be a stumbling block to many both within and without the Church. And He is doing a new thing in these last days. Since we human beings are designed neither to give to man nor to receive from man the praise which is meant for God alone, He is removing the focus of man’s attention away from individual superstar ministers and re-focusing it upon the Body of Christ—who alone is His representative on earth.
The “age” of the Body of Christ is at hand. God’s promise in John 14:12 is being fulfilled and those who believe in Him will do the works—including the miracles—that He did. As they preach the gospel to the lost, believers will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. Jesus sent the Twelve and then the Seventy out to proclaim the Kingdom of God, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons. “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” (Luke 9:6)
In these last days as it was in the gospels, those who are sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost have been given this authority. Who has been sent out as a witness but every believer, the entire Body of Christ? In such a way, our miracle-working God will be found in and through His “Temple” on earth, not simply in the ministries of a handful of world-class evangelists.
We have witnessed this with our own eyes as by the Lord’s grace we equip the Body of Christ to do the works of ministry.
How this is being accomplished: a more complete understanding of ministering healing
Typically when we think about healing, the gift of healing as taught in I Corinthians 12 comes to mind. We desire to see every believer involved in ministering healing as promised in John 14:12 and Mark 16:18. However, 1 Corinthians 12:30 tells us clearly that not all have gifts of healing. We have tried to resolve this by positing that while not all believers have spectacular gifts of healing, all believers can minister healing at some time and to some degree. For example, one can prophesy without being a prophet or having the gift of prophesy. This is all well and good. It is clear also from the context of 1 Corinthians 12 and in particular verse 7 that the purpose of the gifts is to build up the body of Christ. Thus the gifts of healing are primarily for ministering healing to infirm believers.
There is another approach which is well-documented in the gospels and Acts which can complete our understanding of healing. Before the day of Pentecost and his death and resurrection, Jesus had given authority to his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons as he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost (Luke 9 and 10). This authority differed sharply from the gifts of healing in four different ways:
• Since it pre-dated the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, it was not a gift of the Holy Spirit. (This, however, is not meant depreciate the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit.)
• It was not for ministering healing to infirm believers inasmuch as the body of Christ did not yet exist at that time in its present form; it was rather for confirming the truth of the gospel to the lost as the gospel was being proclaimed.
• It was given to every disciple whom Jesus sent out to proclaim the gospel; in contrast, not all believers had gifts of healing.
• Unlike gifts of healing, the authority was to be exercised not by prayer but instead by issuing mountain-moving commands directly to infirmities and demons under the believer’s authority. (In contrast, prayer is asking the One with all authority to do it directly by Himself.)
With this understanding we can easily comprehend how all believers have some measure of this authority since every believer is called and sent out as a witness of Jesus Christ to the lost. And since the context of exercising this authority is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God to the lost, believers are emboldened to step out from the security of the church to bring the gospel to the world outside its walls.
This understanding helps deliver the Church from its unbalanced overemphasis on ministering healing primarily to infirm believers. Rather, it is arguable that the Lord’s higher priority is the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Part of this Commission is to bring all nations into submission to Christ the King. This can be accomplished with gospel-resistant Musl__m, Hindu, Buddhist, and animistic people groups only when the gospel is preached with irrefutable miraculous signs proving that the LORD is God and that Jesus Christ is indeed the only way to God. These miracles can be performed when believers exercise their authority over infirmities and demons in Christ’s name. This is usually different from the exercise of gifts of healing.
We have witnessed this in operation with our own eyes, seeing gospel-resistant people come to Christ after they hear the gospel preached and see the miraculous healings done by His disciples in His name. The restoration of the Church is at hand, not simply for the sake of having a healthy Church, but to equip her to complete the Great Commission before the return of Christ, the King of kings.