v) CURRENT TENSIONS
It is at this point that I want to direct our attention to some of the tensions I perceive in the current situation. I am indebted to a number of contemporary and interesting sources for help in my consideration of the challenges.
a) J. Rodman Williams: Renewal Theology:3 vols.
Vol. 2 deals in particular with the themes of Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living. In his section on the Nine-fold Manifestation there is a commendable discussion of the gifts of healings and the place of faith in ministry. He is at one and the same time complementary and critical of some leading views today.
b) William DeArteaga: Quenching The Spirit – a concise and clear overview of the history of the manifestations of the Spirit and how they have been resisted at every point of history by what he describes as pharasaism within the Church.
c) Journal of Pentecostal Theology – a number of current articles, in particular, one by J.C. Thomas on James 5:4 – 6 and another by H.H. Knight o God’s Faithfulness and God’s Freedom which is a comparative study on contemporary theologies of healing.
From all this there are certain tensions I would like to highlight from a positive perspective. In other words, my intention is not the debunk healing but rather build it up. These tensions do, however, encapsulate much of the unease some feel about some of the claims and practices tat are apparent today.
I want to highlight four areas of tension.
1) HEALING AND MEDICINE
Williams recognises this as a special area of concern. Sometimes people are not healed. There may be a number of reasons why this is so. Among them may be: – “The illness may be dealt with in other ways than through ministry in the gifts.”
He quotes the occasion with King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 where the king is instructed to make a poultice of figs “and he recovered.”
We will notice, however, that apart from direct prophetic instruction there was also a direct sign from God when he made the sun go back ten paces.
Williams – “The mistake sometimes is made to fail to see God at work in the natural as well as the supernatural, through physicians and nurses as well as through the prayers of believers.”
Ecclesiasticus 38vv1-15 – an apocryphal scripture which succinctly presents a balance between God and man with regard to healing.
One thing that is clear from 1 Corinthians 12 is that the gifts of the Spirit work in co-operation with one another. It seems to me that here is an area where the gift of discernment needs very much to be in operation so that we take the right way in ever case.
2) HEALING AND THE HEALER
It is clear from Scripture and experience that there are certain people who are given the gifts of healings in a special and significant way.
Others have stressed within their ministry the priesthood of all believers even within the ministry of healing prayer. Like James K. Wagner: The Upper Room Prayer and Healing Ministries. He describes his ministry as being with “those Christians who counsel and pray with people for healing – not necessarily claiming the gift of healing, but offering this ministry of love and compassion out of obedience to Christ.”
** 1 Corinthians 12v9 – gifts of healings.
This is the only occurrence of the word charismata within the list of spiritual gifts.
Williams makes 3 important points about this:
i) undoubtedly individual appointments by the Holy Spirit within the community of believers.
ii) the one who receives such gifts does not directly perform the healings; rather he simply transmits the gifts. He is a kind of ‘delivery boy’ who brings the gifts to others.
iii) the word charismata emphasises their continuing divine origin and character. The come directly from the exalted Lord. Where He is recognised and received as Lord, He freely moves through a particular person to bring about healings.
3) FAITHFULNESS AND FREEDOM
This is the issue raised by Henry H. Knight in the current issue of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology. He reviews different approaches to the healing ministry and demonstrates each in alignment with these two emphases of faithfulness and freedom.
By Faithfulness he means faithfulness to God’s promises in Scripture. Sometimes healing is seen as almost automatic because of a certain view of the promises of God.
By freedom he means just this. God is free to choose how, where, when and whether to bring physical healing to any given situation.
There have been ministries through the years that have come down more heavily on one side than the other. He reviews the Faith Confession Movement, for example which falls heavily on the side of promise and therefore faithfulness. Then again Agnes Sandford with her Healing Light in which God’s healing energy flows through the person like electricity flows through a wire. These emphasise the faithfulness of God. On the other side he quotes Katherine Kuhlman and the likes who put stress on the freedom of God. She relied heavily on a word of knowledge and took the view that “only those God chose to heal at that time would be healed.”
He continues to look at McNutt and James Wagner which he sees as integrating faithfulness and freedom. McNutt stresses three important aspects:
i) Do not expand any one method or experience into a universal method.
ii) Ask God to meet your needs with confidence, but don’t tell Him when or how to do it.
iii) Our faith is in God not in our faith.
He concludes by looking at Wimber and the signs and wonders movement and quotes Ken Blue: Authority to Heal – “First, there will always be a mystery in what God does and why. He does not answer to us for His actions nor does He always explain them. Second, until Christ’s return all our ministry is partial, for now we only have a foretaste of what we will have perfectly then. And third, our obedience is never perfect.”
4) DIVINE HEALING AND OTHERS HEALING
This is the final area of tension I want to raise. It is quite clear that we are surrounded by many alternate voices claiming the power to heal. The evidence is that some of them are successful, sometimes to a degree that the Christian church is not. However, I suggest three important distinctives –
i) The name of Jesus.
The phrase “in my name” or “in the name” occurs in many passages of the New Testament. In early Christian experience a number of things were done in the name of Jesus:
baptism Acts 2:38 et al exorcism Matt 7:22 et al
speaking boldly Acts 9:28 assembling together 1 Cor 5:4
giving thanks Eph 5:20 healing Acts 3:6 4:10
James 5:14 – “anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Thomas – “to anoint ‘in the name of the Lord’ meant to act in conformity to the Lord’s directions and on his behalf as eschatological agents”
“At the very least, this qualification clearly designates this action as a religious anointing and distinguishes it from magical rites of the day.”
ii) The Place of Healing
Wesley – while healing is a manifestation of God’s love, salvation is even more so, for there the very image of God in us is being restored. God has a bias toward healing without making healing an end in itself.
This surely is an important point. It is so possible to stress physical healing that fear of death can actually be imbibed in the hearts of the very believers who have supposedly been given victory over the last enemy.
iii) The fellowship of the saints
The Epistle of James brings a necessary balance to 1 Corinthians 12. It does not negate it – it contextualizes it. I am convinced that specialist healing ministries are best operated within the context of front-line evangelism where the miracle gives such credibility to the power of the Gospel.
But it is the context of the fellowship of believers that prevents the rise(and fall?) of the charismatic guru.
Let us go for what is best and for what is real. When God works we don’t need to make false or exaggerated claims. We will see the evidence and power of the Living God. Let us not be unbelievers but those who believe and trust in God.
“And Let us encourage one another and the more so as we see the Day approaching.”