In some cultures and countries, sorcery and idolatry are practices well-known to the local people. People afflicted by some kind of infirmity or tormented by demons will commonly seek out the paid services of a sorcerer. The sorcerer will employ witchcraft to treat the person. At times, what appear to be “miracles” take place and the sufferer finds relief through the treatment. The treatment itself, as we shall see below, itself involves the participation of evil spirits. We know, however, that only God is the author of genuine miracles of healing and deliverance. And so a pertinent question arises. Is it possible that unbelievers will confuse and identify healing from God with healing through sorcerers and evil spirits? For that matter, how can we be sure that Biblical miracles are from the one true God, and that the miracles behind sorcery are not of God?
How would God deal with demons afflicting a person?
The one true God is in heaven on high. Everything else is under His authority. He therefore has authority over demons and diseases. How would God therefore deal with demons and disease which are afflicting someone? God would use His authority and issue commands ordering them to leave. And because they are under His authority, they would obey His commands and leave. Those afflicted would be set free and healed. This is precisely what Jesus did when he was on earth.
Luke 4:32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
The way in which Jesus dealt with the demon proves that Jesus was sent by the one true God and was in fact the Son of God—he had the authority of God and he used it to deliver the man. When disciples of Christ today use the same authority and power to give orders to evil spirits and infirmities in the name of Jesus, people are healed and set free. This is the evidence to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that we are sent by the one true God.
Sorcerers do it differently
By contrast, sorcerers and the like use a very different approach—they employ witchcraft. When someone afflicted by a demon goes to a sorcerer for help, he typically will instruct the sufferer to go to the market and purchase a chicken. He will then take the chicken, slaughter it if needed, and prepare a tasty meal. He will eventually eat the chicken. However, the meal has important symbolic significance. It is actually a sacrifice to the demon for the purpose of appeasing it. The hope is that the demon will be pleased with the chicken and therefore stop tormenting the afflicted person. But any relief accomplished in such a way, of course, will either be short-lived or result in even greater darkness in the future. The demon will later return with even greater fury.
Luke 11:24 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Even if the demon does not return, the person’s belief and allegiance to witchcraft has been hardened. He will be in greater spiritual darkness than before.
Who has greater authority—the sorcerer or the demon?
A moment’s thought will make it clear that the one who offers the sacrifice (the sorcerer) has less authority than the one who receives the sacrifice (the demon). For example, a dishonest businessman who offers a bribe to curry favor with a corrupt government official obviously has less authority than the government official who receives the bribe and who has the official authority to help the businessman with a favor.
Sorcerers and the like therefore have no authority over demons and diseases. Conversely, demons have authority over them. The power of sorcery is therefore not from the one true God. Those who offer sacrifices as appeasement, who use mantras, fetishes, charms, amulets, incantations and the like to perform “miracles” clearly do not have authority over demons and diseases to rebuke and to command them to leave as only the one true God does. And He has given this authority to His disciples today to rebuke and command demons and diseases to leave, especially in the context of sharing the gospel. When we explain these things to unbelievers as we minister to them with authority, they will see the clear difference between healing from evil spirits and healing from the one true God in the name of Jesus Christ.
With proper understanding of the contrast between the two approaches, miraculous healing from the Lord can actually help unbelievers understand which power is from the one true God. It can actually help and not confuse and hinder the lost from coming to Jesus Christ.
Only the one true God has authority to forgive sin
When someone commits a sin, he or she is sinning against the one true God—the Holy God in heaven who hates sin. And since God is just, the sinner must pay for the sin through eternal punishment in the lake of fire. If there is forgiveness or remission of sins, it can only be from the one true God in heaven against whom we have sinned. It is clear therefore that only God in heaven has authority to forgive sin—no one else.
In this light let us study what Jesus did at one occasion.
Mark 2:1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The teachers of the law were indignant because Jesus was clearly claiming to be equal to God by saying to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Look at what Jesus said to them next.
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
Which is easier to say before a crowd of people?
His question is most significant. Clearly the forgiveness of sins is far more important than the healing of physical disease. However the forgiveness of sins is an invisible spiritual transaction. There is no outward evidence that it has in fact taken place. Therefore it is relatively easy to say to someone, “Your sins are forgiven.” Who knows if anything has actually happened?
In contrast, telling a paralytic to “get up” in front of a crowd of people demands visible action and is therefore very risky. Everyone will be looking at the paralytic to see if a miracle actually takes place and he gets up. If he does not get up, then you will feel and look very bad indeed in front of the crowd. Therefore, it is much easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ than to say to a paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’. Look what Jesus does next.
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Jesus healed the man miraculously by commanding him to get up—by using authority. He performed that which was more difficult to say. By successfully performing that which was more difficult to say, he proved that he had authority on earth also to do that which was easier to say. By healing the man,Jesus proved that he also had authority to forgive the man’s sin. It is interesting to note that Jesus used authority to heal the man by commanding him to get up.
Jesus’ many miracles proved that he was the Messiah
Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ performed many miracles, perhaps most of which were miraculous healings. These miracles proved that he was the promised Messiah who had authority to forgive sin through his upcoming death on the cross.
He has given authority to his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons in his name. And when we use this authority to perform miracles in his name, we are again providing the evidence to the lost that our Lord Jesus Christ has authority to forgive sin and to save sinners from condemnation in hell.
Infirmities are ultimately the consequence of sin. The One who has authority to remove the consequence of sin—for example, infirmities—also has authority to remove sin itself.