BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS

Really, there are two different thoughts when it comes to faith healing: (1) the scandalous evangelist standing on stage healing some cripple, and (2) some person living through or receiver from some tragic illness or accident. We picture the little girl in the wheelchair in an audience that can move nothing but her eyes, as the preacher is walking back and forth on the stage ranting to the point of spit flying everywhere. Soon some attendant wheels the little girl onto the stage, where the priest shakes her, screaming to God, speaking in some unknown language (gibberish), in the end, the girl starts to move, and in minutes, she is able to get up out of the chair and walk, to the joy and tears of thousands in the audience.

Then, thousands of miles away, there is another little girl critically ill at home under hospice care. She has an inoperable brain tumor. She is in the last days of her life. Her church prays one night through the entire night, only to find the next morning the girl is taken back to the hospital because she has appeared to of made a turnaround. When they do a brain scan, the doctors find no traces of a tumor; it is as though she never had one in the first place. We can hear this hypothetical little girls words, as her lips tremble through the tears, “The doctors were so stunned and could not believe it,” she said through the tears. “I was supposed to be dead within the 48-hours, I was literally on death’s door. Then it happened, I started to feel myself literally come back to life as it were. I should not even be alive, but God has chosen to save me.” Imagine the joy of those church members, the families of both children. Both are being hailed as a miracle from God.

What is Faith Healing?

 The faith healers in the West, i.e., countries of Europe and North and South America, take place by evangelists or ministers of different denominations, but more so with those of the charismatic movement (e.g., Pentecostals). The faith healers claim that they are carrying out a similar work of Jesus Christ and his apostles, having the power of God move through them.

Of course, there are the “healers” from religions outside of Christianity, which is more in line with voodoo priests, witch doctors, medicine men and the like. These believe that evil spirits cause sickness and they carry out ceremonies to drive the evil spirits away. There are what is known as “psychic surgeons” as well, who literally carry out psychic surgeries” in places such as the Philippines. Then, there are those that claim that miraculous healings are from the natural forces that surround us and have nothing to do with any religion. We only mention these in passing, because this book is dealing with Christians, and claims of what appears to be miraculous faith healing within Christianity.

Does Faith Healing Work?

Many times, we have seen or heard a doctor on the news saying that it is a miracle that so and so is alive, and they have no explanation as to why. If asked specifically about their use of the word “miracle,” they usually are not attributing it to God, but rather as an event that appears to be contrary to the laws of nature, which the religious regarded as an act of God. The doctor generally uses the word as a figure of speech. One thing is for certain; the faith part of faith healing is really at play here and not in the way one might think. We cannot say for certain nor can we prove that any person’s recovery is because God intervened because similar recoveries have taken place with atheists and even those of the darker side of things, like Wiccans.

What we know about the human mind is so minuscule that it cannot even be expressed accurately. What we do know or think we know is like a piece of sand out of all the beaches of sand in the world, and it amazing and astounding, which could fill thousands of books. Now, try to imagine what we do not know. The effect of the mind on the body’s health is similarly unknown. How diseases react to the mind is not fully understood either. However, all medical professionals will tell you that if the patient has the attitude that they are going to die and that they could never beat their disease, it takes place far, far faster than those that see the victory over the disease and fight as if they are in an Olympic game. Now, couple that latter person with the mindset of one of great faith in God. The real miracle here is the brain and the mind, a gift from God.

Is There Any Harm In Believing in Faith Healing?

If a person is charismatic in their belief, believing that whatever happens is God’s will, or worse still that God will help the faithful regardless. While this positive attitude may help the body to stay the course for a time, this person might not see the need for a doctor. Truly, that question lies before us as well. If God is going to heal the person regardless, why even see a doctor? What is the purpose? On the belief that the person living or dying is predestined, and nothing can change the outcome, why see a doctor? This author is personally aware of a person who did not see a doctor for her cancer, and she eventually dies a horrific death, which some confused Christian minds would say that was God’s will. However, the cancer she had could have been easily beaten through medical technology. What many ultra-religious persons are not aware of; medical science is a gift from God as well. The knowledge and understanding that enables doctors to cure and save people come from the human mind, which God created, and even in imperfection, we have the capacity to accomplish much.

Some Similarities Cannot Be Ignored

During faith healing services or healing prayers by the church for the sick, it is noteworthy that some “speak in tongues,” with some even falling into a trancelike state, where they cannot move, but say they were ware of everything happening. If we were to get the complete picture in many of these services, it would be very similar to the fits and trances, which include the other religious healers, i.e., the voodoo priests and witch doctors. While the psychic healers believe that their healings are not like that of religions, yet the procedures and experiences are very similar to the end. The procedures ad experiences are very similar to Spiritism, which come from many of the ancient oriental religions. Let us take a moment and consider what the procedure and experiences were like when Jesus and his apostles healed.

Jesus Heals

When Jesus healed, we find not charismatic jumping around, emotionalism, no speaking in tongues, no rants and ravings, no fits and trances, and no emotional sermons beforehand. In fact, when Jesus healed someone there was no big scene, it was quite informal. The one who was sick might touch Jesus, or Jesus might touch him, but there was no shaking him or smacking him in the forehead. At times, Jesus just lovingly spoke to the person, and they were healed.–Matthew 8:14-15; Luke 8:43-48; 17:12-19.

When Jesus healed physical illness, the cure was not by mental factors of mind and body. On one Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. Jesus said him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. Psychosomatic healing cannot cure a withered hand. Certainly, there is no psychosomatic healing when raising the dead, which Jesus did with Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. (Matt. 4:23; Luke 6:6-11; 8:49-56) There was not one person who simply made small improvements in their healing; he never failed, but rather Jesus fully healed every disease and every affliction. We never hear of words like “disappointment” or “deception” in connection with Jesus’ healings. Even Jesus’ enemies, the Jewish religious leaders complained, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.” (John 11:47-48) Do we notice the differences?

If faith healers heal any today, in their connection with spiritistic procedures and experiences, we must ask what the source of this power is. The Bible made the following warning, which I believe we need to take to heart.

Deuteronomy 18:10-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,

The purpose of this publication is to protect the modern day Christian from being contaminated by demonic spirit forces, which are under the leadership of Satan himself, seeking to stumble any in their walk with God. When we think of the modern day faith healers and their practices that very much resemble spiritistic practices, are in no way similar to those carried out by Jesus Christ. The common sense of seeing through these fraudulent ones is further appreciated when we realize the purpose of Jesus’ healing was completed in the first century and will not be seen again until his second coming.

What Was the Purpose of Jesus’ Healing?

1 Timothy 5:23 English Standard Version (ESV)

23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

Here we see the Paul’s closest traveling companion and friend, Timothy was suffering from some frequent stomach ailment. Paul told Timothy, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” but rather to use a common medical treatment. It should be noted that the early Christians who personally witnessed actual healings, even the raising of others from the dead by Jesus and the apostles, did not view the gift of healing as some form of therapy. Moreover, they were not given the commission to care for the physical well-being of humanity.

They had another commission, one that Jesus carried out and assigned to every Christian just before his ascension, to proclaim the gospel, to teach and to make disciples. Jesus told Pontius Pilate the purpose of his coming to earth. He said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”–John 18:37.

Why then did Jesus and the apostles heal people in the first-century? The healings and other miracles served as a sign. The Jewish people had been God’s chosen people for 1,500-years, and now God was choosing another way for humankind to approach him, i.e., Christianity. Thus, the healings and other miracles were a sign that Christianity was now the Way and the Truth. The apostle Paul wrote,[1]

Hebrews 2:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The primary focus of first-century Christianity was not miracles but the bearing witness to Jesus Christ. This is why Christianity grew from five hundred disciples in 33 C.E. to over one million by 125 C.E., less that one hundred years later. The miracles simply were the evident demonstration to the Jews that God had chosen another course of drawing close to him. After the Christian congregation was well grounded in the first-century, the gifts of the spirit, which included healing were no longer needed. (1 Cor. 12:27–13:8) What about those claiming to perform miracles today in Jesus name?

Matthew 7:21-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Rather, here is where Jesus said the work of the Christian would lie,

Matthew 24:14 English Standard Version (ESV)

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 28:19-20 English Standard Version (ESV)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

When the Bible was completed, thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and twenty-seven books of the New Testament, the Christian had everything they needed to get them to Jesus second coming. When we think of the videos of the Pentecostal Church and other Charismatic groups, and the jumping around, body jerking, speaking in tongues, trances, and faith healing, we must realize that this showy display of oneself is not for God. In fact, the apostle Paul identified the speaking in tongues (not ecstatic speech, gibberish, but rather speaking a foreign language), with the babyhood of Christianity. After mentioning that speaking in tongues would cease, Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” According to Paul’s own words, the historical evidence of the book of Acts and second-century writers, speaking in tongues passed away. (1 Cor. 13:8-11) Please see Chapter 5 Is Speaking in Tongues Evidence of True Christianity?

Therefore, these showy displays of oneself must come from a different source than the “gifts of the spirit” in the first-century. The source is spiritistic, not the Spirit of God. Thus, we need to heed the warning of the apostle John, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”–1 John 4:1.

God’s Word is Alive

Hebrews 4:12 English Standard Version (ESV)

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Nowhere in Scripture will we find a promise that we will receive an instant relief from sickness.[2] However, while the Bible is not a medical journal, it does offer extensive help on health matters. People who obeyed the Bible’s guidance on physical and moral cleanness were able to avoid diseases long before science ever had knowledge of germs. Then, if we were to apply the counsel on envy, jealousy, and fits of anger, we would avoid many stress-related illnesses, including strokes and heart attacks.–Proverbs 14:29, 30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:19-23.

If we are not anxious but rely fully on God’s Word in the times of sickness; we can have,

Philippians 4:6-7 English Standard Version (ESV)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

One day soon, Jesus will remove the selfish, violent, wicked humankind and these oppressive human governments, to rule the earth for a thousand years. The apostle Peter said that Jesus’ miracles were “mighty works and wonders and signs.” (Acts 2:22) They were “signs” of the truths that Jesus gave us, and they were “wonders”[3] of what God will do for humanity when Jesus’ kingdom carries out the will and purposes of the Father to be done in all the earth. Envision the healing and restoration work that will occur.

Moreover, while there is a heavenly hope, there is also another hope,

The New Earth: The Earthly Hope

In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a human’s ultimate destiny is an earthly one.[4] This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8).

The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).

The fact that the universe will be created anew[5] shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal [heavenly] and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)

God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen. 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps. 104:5; 115:16; Eccl. 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); on the contrary, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to redeemed humans, (1) a heavenly hope, or (2) an earthly hope. It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number, and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. In addition, it seems that those with the earthly hope are going to receive eternal life here on a renewed earth as originally intended. The book of Revelation describes this future healing,

Revelation 21:4-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

What we have learned within this publication thus far is that God performed miracles in the past, but they were the exception to the rule. Even during the 4,000 years of biblical times, miracles were not the norm, and many times hundreds of years passed without any record of miracles taking place. When we see a cluster of miracles taking place within Scripture, it was a transitional period, such as,

  • Abraham being called to a new land,
  • Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery,
  • prophets warning of a coming punishment for northern Israel and southern Judah,
  • and Jesus establishing a new way to God through the Christian congregation, no longer fleshly Israel.

We have also learned that God does involve himself miraculously into humankind, but not as often as we are crediting him. When someone claims that a tumor miraculously disappeared, and a child was saved from certain death, we have to recognize rationally that thousands of other children died that same year from brain tumors. In addition, we have to accept rationally that some of the other “miraculous” tumor cases took place with atheists. Moreover, we have to admit that we have only a very minuscule understanding of the mind-body relationship. Finally, we can thank God for the wonderful body and mind that he gave Adam and Eve, which still seems so miraculous in our imperfect condition.

miracles

Lastly, we admit that there are times when god does perform miracles on behalf of humankind, but these are exceptional and are for his will and purposes. Let us offer a probable example. William Tyndale published his translation of the English Bible from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek in 1526 (NT), 1530 (OT). The Catholic Church, who sought his death for daring to make a translation, treated him like an outlaw. He accomplished his translation while on the run from the Catholic Church. Like Jesus, a friend with a kiss, Philips, betrayed Tyndale. He finished his translation while being held in captivity. “Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorden for over 500 days of horrible conditions. He was tried for heresy and treason in a ridiculously unfair trial and convicted. Tyndale was then strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard, Oct. 6, 1536. His last words were, ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes. This prayer was answered three years later, in the publication of King Henry VIII’s 1539 English ‘Great Bible.’ Tyndale’s place in history has not yet been sufficiently recognized as a translator of the Scriptures, as an apostle of liberty, and as a chief promoter of the Reformation in England.”[6] Tyndale brought us the first printed English Bible, which was the foundation for the King James Version of 1611. If the reader of this book were to read in detail of the life of William Tyndale, he would see the likelihood of God coming to his aid, to countermove Satan, so that we got the translation that changed the English-speaking world.

If we are to remain rational in our thinking, we need to grasp the fact that God does not always perform miracles when we believe he should or did, nor is he obligated to do so. As was stated earlier, he has greater issues that need resolving, which have eternal effects for the whole of humankind. There are far more times when God does not perform miracles, meaning that our relief may come in the hope of the resurrection. However, for his servants that apply his Word in a balanced manner, fully, God is acting in their best interest by way of his inspired, inerrant Word.

[1] http://www.christianpublishers.org/the-jews-chosen-people

[2] See Chapter 2 Does God Provide Bible Absolutes or Guarantees In This Age of Imperfect Humanity?

[3] The Greek word rendered “wonders” is teras, has the sense of any amazing or wonderful occurrence; especially used of something seemingly preternatural, i.e., exceeding what is normal in nature. (Bible Sense Lexicon by Logos) Teras appeals to the imagination, manifested as divine operations. W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 682.

[4] It is unwise to speak of the written Word of God as if it were of human origin, saying ‘OT authors express the belief,’ when what was written is the meaning and message of what God wanted to convey by means of the human author.

[5] Create anew does not mean a complete destruction followed by a re-creation, but instead a renewal of the present universe.

[6] Greatsite.com

http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/william-tyndale.html