We have two new questions shared with us by Anonymous. As they are related to each other, so we see the answers in the same post.
I heard that these following thoughts are being circulated among believers.
“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15).
This verse is giving a sure promise:the absolute healing of the sick person after the prayer of faith “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up”.
Why it is that we are not seeing many healings among biblical churches. ? It is not because these churches lack faith ? (as pentecostals point out to them) and as Jesus prophesied “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).Interestingly, the context of Luke 18 is also on prayer of faith.
“Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Ps 103:1-3)
Somebody asked me: If believers can believe and be sure of forgiveness of all sins now, why they can’t believe and be sure of healing of all their diseases now ? After all didn’t the inspired psalmist put them parallel and next to each other ?
thank you in advance,
The context of James 5 is about having patience and relying on the Sovereignty of God as the Absolute Judge in all circumstances. And as in suffering and sickness people may become the most impatient, James gives instructions to believers concerning what is to be done in those difficult cases. He says that in this also the believer should rely on the Sovereignty of God, and not on any human means.
Let’s see what he says:
“Does any one among you suffer evil? let him pray. Is any happy? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call to [him] the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of [the] Lord; and the prayer of faith shall heal the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be one who has committed sins, it shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:13-15)
In James 2 we see that some of those believers had a wrong understanding of what faith is: They thought it’s just a mind-belief that presents a kind of merit before God. James explains that the true faith has works with it, as it receives God’s Grace and is not something that comes from the human sinful nature. A person who has a dead mind-belief will think that his belief in God has a kind of merit in it that will make God indebted to the believer! But James says that even demons believe in one God, and yet they have no merit before Him. So when it comes to sickness, once again those false believers will think that their belief has a kind of supernatural power in it that will make God forced to heal them. That’s what many Pentecostals and Charismatics believe today, and that’s what James points out as wrong, as we will see.
In every circumstance of his life, the true believer should live the event with His Lord. Whether he suffers or he is happy, all must be to God’s Glory. When he suffers evil, he should go to God only and rely on Him in prayer; he should not rely on the arm of man. When he is happy, he should celebrate with God, praising Him with spiritual songs and psalms; he should not celebrate in a worldly way. This is what James says in this context.
And when he is sick, once again the believer should rely on God alone, and not on human methods.
He should call to him the elders of the Church
The promise of the sign gifts was given in Mark 16 to ACCOMPANY “those who have believed”, i.e. the whole Church. Read the following article for more details about this: What about the signs that Jesus talked about in Mark 16?
The elders represent the Church. When a believer is sick, he should not rely on human means, but he should call the elders in order to seek God’s help, and that help is present in the Church as we have seen in our study of Mark 16’s signs. As for the human methods available in those days, there were no good medical methods; people who used to claim that they were healers or physicians were in fact charlatans most of the time. In the Old Testament, the Word of God blames a king of Judah:
“In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12)
Now, if this king would seek the Lord, He would call to him a prophet or he would go to the Temple and thus seek God’s help. In the same way, James advises the believers to seek God when they are sick, and not to rely on human means. But you can’t expect that all elders would have the gift of healing; so on what should the Church (represented by the elders) rely for the healing of the sick? They should rely on what God has promised and has provided within His Church.
Let’s see what God has provided for the Church:
The elders should pray over the sick, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord
In the apostolic era, there were two means for healing closely related to each other: prayer of faith with the sign gift of healing.
This prayer is a prayer of faith: It relies on the promises of God and submits itself to the Sovereignty of God’s Will.
Anointing with oil
Now, in those days the sign gifts had not ceased yet. Many healings and miracles were happening by the hands of the Apostles, and the Word says:
“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” (Acts 19:11-12)
You see that the one who performs the extraordinary miracles is God Himself by the hands of a gifted man, Paul. And so people were taking handkerchiefs or aprons from the body of Paul to the sick, and they were healed. Besides the handkerchiefs and the aprons, all what could be blessed by such a gifted man and taken to the sick could be also used. The main symbol of healing in those days was the oil (see how the good Samaritan uses oil to heal the wounded man in Luke 10:34); this was a symbol of healing since the Old Testament, and the Apostles used it as a sign of God’s healing even before our Lord was crucified:
“And they went forth and preached that they should repent; and they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many infirm, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13)
So James says that the elders should anoint the sick with such an oil as the representatives of the Church through which the sign gifts appeared and confirmed the apostolic nature of the Church (see 2 Corinthians 12:12). So that oil was the symbol of the sign gift that was present in any apostolic local church as a confirmation for the Apostle who planted that local church.
But that oil should be applied prayerfully IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. Let’s see what this means.
In the Name of the Lord
In the passage that I quoted above from Acts 19:11-12, we see that God was performing miracles by the hands of Paul. Paul was using his gift in the Name of the Lord Jesus. As we have seen above, it was not Paul who was performing those miracles, but God was performing those miracles by the hands of Paul. If you want to say this in another way, you say: Paul was doing miracles in the Name of the Lord. Therefore, some men thought this “Name of Jesus” is a magical formula by which they could perform miracles, and so they used it. Look what happened:
“And certain of the Jewish exorcists also, who went about, took in hand to call upon those who had wicked spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches. And there were certain [men], seven sons of Sceva, Jewish high priest, who were doing this. But the wicked spirit answering said to them, Jesus I know, and Paul I am acquainted with; but ye, who are ye? And the man in whom the wicked spirit was leaped upon them, and having mastered both, prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who inhabited Ephesus, and fear fell upon all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” (Acts 19:13-17)
It is very dangerous to use the Name of Jesus as a magical formula. That’s a disrespect to the Glorious Name. And because the judgment of God does not fall today on blasphemers immediately, many false prophets today use that blessed Name and claim to do miracles in that Name… Their condemnation is just. You see that the wicked spirit answered those men and told them about the identity of Jesus and Paul. The Name of Jesus means all who He is. And as Paul is truly in Christ and has received that gift from Christ and was using it in submission to His Will, so he could use that Name and the demons recognized him as in Christ. In other terms, when you say “in the Name of Jesus”, you are representing that you want only what the Will of God is in a particular matter, and that you are ready to submit to His Will even if it doesn’t please your flesh. When you come to God in prayer in the Name of Jesus, you are declaring that you ask only what Jesus would ask; you come as Jesus.
So Paul did not use his sign gift according to his wish; he used it in the Name of Jesus, i.e. in obedience to what JESUS decides, and not to what he decides. If God does not want to perform a miracle, the true gifted man does not disobey and does not try to perform a miracle by the flesh. That’s what “in the Name of Jesus” means.
The prayer of faith will heal the sick
As I said above, in James 2 we see that some of those believers had a wrong understanding of what faith is: They thought it’s just a mind-belief that presents a kind of merit before God. James explains that the true faith has works with it, as it receives God’s Grace and is not something that comes from the human sinful nature. A person who has a dead mind-belief will think that his belief in God has a kind of merit in it that will make God indebted to the believer! But James says that even demons believe in one God, and yet they have no merit before Him. So when it comes to sickness, once again those false believers will think that their belief has a kind of supernatural power in it that will make God forced to heal them. That’s what many Pentecostals and Charismatics believe today, and that’s what James points out as wrong.
True faith means relying on what God says and promises. True faith does not command God, but submits itself to God’s Will. True faith prays: “let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth” (Matthew 6:10) and not “let my will be done as upon the earth so in Heaven”… So true faith prays in the Name of Jesus Christ, and asks that only the Will of God be done and that only God be glorified.
Now, this faith about which James talks here is not the faith of the one healed, although he may also have real faith. James talks about the faith of the Church (represented by the elders who pray that prayer of faith). The Church submits itself to the Will of God concerning the healing of that sick (that’s what “in the Name of the Lord” means). In other terms, the Church seeks the Will of God concerning that sickness, and if the Will of God is to heal that person, he will be healed, and it will be GOD who healed him, and not any human method or means. That’s all what James is saying. So this promise of healing is not without a condition; the condition is that this prayer of faith be done “in the Name of the Lord”, i.e. in agreement with God’s Will concerning that particular sickness. So James says that if God wants to heal that person, then it is faith that will receive that healing. So the promise is not absolute, but conditional.
Even Paul who had the sign gift of healing, could not heal himself when God refused. Paul says:
“And that I might not be exalted by the exceeding greatness of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn for the flesh, a messenger of Satan that he might buffet me, that I might not be exalted. For this I thrice besought the Lord that it might depart from me. And he said to me, My grace suffices thee; for [my] power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of the Christ may dwell upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
This is a typical prayer of faith in the Name of Jesus, i.e. in submission to God’s Will. Paul prayed to God three times, asking Him that this thorn of his flesh might depart from him. And as he was not commanding God, but he was seeking God’s Will in prayer, so he received the answer from God, and God’s decision was that this thorn should stay, as that would glorify Him and be for the good of His servant. If God decided that this thorn should depart from Paul, then — James says — it is the prayer of faith that would have received this healing, and not any merit in Paul.
And this is indeed what our Lord told us. He didn’t promise that he will answer all the prayers that we say with a strong head-belief or even a strong heart wish. He only promised to answer the prayers done in His Name, i.e. the prayers that are done according to His Will. To understand this, compare these two passages, and concentrate on what I have underlined:
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
“And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
James is actually saying what John says in 1 John 5:14-15: If we pray in the Name of the Lord and we are sure that what we ask is according to His Will, then we know that we receive from Him whatever we ask, including healing.
So it’s very essential to understand the truth about what prayer is. Prayer does not mean that we come to command God to do for us things against His Will and things that will not glorify Him. If the healing of that particular sickness will not glorify Him, He will not use the sign gift to perform the healing. Prayer means that we humbly make our requests known to God, and we enter with Him in a conversation full of reverence and filial respect and confidence, and we are ready to accept from Him the answer that He decides to give, and not the answer that we wish. If He says I will heal, we are sure that this will be to His Glory. If He doesn’t answer immediately, then we should wait for the answer patiently, persevering in prayer, for this also is to His Glory. And if He says that He doesn’t want to heal, this also should make us rejoice, as it is His Will and as it will glorify Him and bring the greatest good to us, His children.
Now, although all of this was about the time when the sign gifts had not ceased, and yet the same principle applies to us today.
Today we don’t have the sign gifts, so the anointing with oil part is not to be used in the same way that it was used in the days of the Apostles. Non-biblical groups still claim to have their gifted men and still claim to bring oil from them to heal the sick, but we have seen that all this is superstitious, and it clearly contradicts the Word of God concerning the sign gifts. And yet, we have better medical methods today, the “oils” of today, and we should use all those available methods in the Name of the Lord, seeking His Will and His help, and relying only on Him for healing. A true Christian does not rely on medicine, but he relies on God to heal him through that medicine, just as He may choose to heal us without any means. Don’t be deceived by the charlatans who tell you that they have the gift of healing and that they can heal you: the sign gifts have ceased and the Canon of Scripture is closed; there is no more new revelation. But rely on God to heal you, as He is the only one who heals. Follow the instructions of your physician, for God may use him to heal you, but do not put your trust on any man; rely only on God, because without Him all the physicians of the world cannot do any good for you. Ask the Church to pray for you and with you. As you continue in your right relation with God in prayer and in reading His Word and obeying it, you will learn how to hear His answer, and you will know what is His will for your particular sickness. And when you know that your healing is according to His Will, you will know deep inside of you that you will have that healing, not because of any merit in you or in your faith, but because of His mercy. It is God who heals you and not your physician.
Many healings are happening in the biblical churches. Let us pray that the people of God may learn to give all the glory in all healings to God alone. Many are deceived and think that the medicine that they took healed them. Thus, when they are healed, they forget to thank God who healed them through that medicine. And some people are also healed miraculously. But God is neither making a show so that you may see it, nor is He using sign gifts anymore. And He has not promised to heal anyone in absolute.
You asked if the lack of shows of healings means a lack of faith. But we have seen that it is not any merit in faith that makes the healing. True faith submits to the Will of God. I wonder where you ever read that a strong faith will make the sign gifts exist…
In Luke 18, Jesus talks about the faith that relies on the Sovereignty and mercy of God. And this is what we saw above about true faith. So the Pentecostals who say that the lack of sign gifts means a lack of faith prove to have a wrong understanding of what the true biblical faith is.
Psalm 103:1-5 —
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
The psalmist is not telling us the promises of God, but he is telling us what God does: ONLY God pardons sins, only God heals our diseases, only God saves us from death, only God gives us all good gifts with His lovingkindness and compassion.
And when this Psalm was written, the forgiveness of sins had not come yet. The forgiveness of sins is according to the Grace that was revealed in the New Covenant, not according to the Law:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and will write it in their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will pardon their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Although the psalmist was sure by faith that God forgives his iniquities, and yet no one in the Old Covenant received the forgiveness without the coming of Christ who brought the forgiveness.
And although God is the One who heals all diseases, and yet He never promised to heal all diseases. For instance, the prophet Elisha got sick and died:
“When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”” (2 Kings 13:14)
And Elisha died because of that illness (see 2 Kings 13:20), and God didn’t heal this disease, and God didn’t redeem his life from the pit… And yet, whenever a believer is saved from any trouble or sickness, it is God who saves him.
I repeat once again what I said in the answer to the first question: There is no promise for healing, but there is a sure word that ONLY God heals our sicknesses if He chooses so. So let us submit ourselves to His Sovereignty, relying on His love and mercy alone, so that we may know His Will:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your intelligent service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [your] mind, that ye may prove what [is] the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
If we begin to think like the world and like those false teachers, we will not be able to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect Will of God. All what they care about is the healing of the flesh and personal gains, while we should seek the Glory of God alone.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ