|HOME - Faith and Healing: the Biblical Teaching|
|ARTICLE:||FAITH AND HEALING - THE BIBLICAL TEACHING|
|OUTLINE:||PART I - The Problem|
|PART II - The Answer of Scripture|
|2. 'Faith' in the Old Testament|
|3. 'Faith' in the New Testament|
|4. 'Faith/Belief' in Twelve New Testament Stories|
|5. The 'Faith/Belief' Sayings|
|6. Having 'Faith-in' Someone|
|7. Faith and Obedience|
|PART III - Faith and Healing in Focus|
|8. Jesus, Jairus and the Woman in the Crowd|
|PART IV - Today|
|9. Two Questions Often Asked|
|10. Real Faith|
|PART I - The Problem||(back to top)|
|FAITH & HEALING: The right relation of faith to healing|
|The formula 'If you have faith you will be healed' has caused as much misery as it has blessing. That is why I am dealing with the topic in this article.|
The Church world-wide has experienced a recovery of faith in a God who is alive, and at work among us. For countless
Christians their spiritual life has risen from the dead! Prayer is real, the Scriptures speak, lives are changed, and
there is a thirst for teaching.
Part of that change has been the rediscovery of Christ's healing work at various different levels, and with it has come a wealth of teaching. Some have taught the formula 'If you have faith you will be healed'. That's fine when things turn out that way, but when they do not, then there can follow guilt, depression, and the loss of the very faith that was promised to guarantee so much.
A balanced and biblical understanding of faith, and in particular its relation to healing, is therefore vital if folk are to be rightly encouraged rather than misled. God heals; faith is certainly important. What matters is that we understand not only how the two do link, but also how they do not.
Those who promise that 'healing' will follow 'faith' rarely define either the meaning of 'healing' or the meaning of 'faith'. Indeed the formula is used by non-Christians, and led to the recommendation over forty years ago that Christians would be better off not using the term 'faith healing' because it is so vague and means almost anything according to who is using it.
The term faith healing means to some faith in the human 'healer'; to others, it means a mental certainty of healing on the sufferer's part. Neither view need be even religious, let alone Christian!
HOW DO WE FIND THE BIBLICAL VIEW?
We cannot simply reply - 'Because it is in the Bible'. Biblical statements lifted out of their Biblical context do not give us the true Biblical view. For example Psalm 14:1 asserts There is no God ! Only when we look at the context and the setting in which those words were spoken do we learn that 'There is no God' is what the fools say in their hearts ! To find what is truly 'Biblical' we must -
|PART II - The Answer of Scripture||(back to top)|
|2. 'Faith' in the Old Testament|
The word 'faith' is seldom used in the Old Testament.
The Hebrew Bible talks, instead, of Trusting in the Lord. It is another way of saying the same thing.
So the Psalmist sings:
Trust in the Lord and do good...
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him...
Our faith, or trust, in the Lord is due to the fact that -
In the Old Testament Abraham was the supreme example of the man of faith; knowing that God would keep his promise, he handed everything over for God's direction and disposal.
|3. 'Faith' in the New Testament||(back to top)|
Similarly in the New Testament the only right object of our faith is God himself, but a great change has
Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief equally accurately as
I have faith...help me where faith falls short.
Since English uses two words for the original one in the Greek New Testament, it means that some passages mentioning belief will be as important for us to look into as passages that refer to faith.
Because Jesus Christ is the centre and focus of Christian belief and faith in God, New Testament writers use the word faith as a shorthand term for many great Christ-related things. Thus -
THE FOCUS OF FAITH
For Christians, the centre of Faith is Christ. I had this in mind when I designed the cover for this article when it originally appeared in pamphlet form. I wanted to symbolise the main point of the New Testament's teaching about faith in relation to healing.
The formula 'if you have faith you will be healed' can so easily have I at its centre: my need; my faith;
my healing. The centre of New Testament Faith is not I but Christ.
|4. 'Faith/Belief' in Twelve New Testament Stories||(back to top)|
a) Where faith/belief is mentioned.
THE TWELVE STORIES ARE:
In Mark, Matthew & Luke (5 events)
(1) Paralytic carried by friends [healing]
(2) Woman with haemorrhage [healing]
(3) Jairus' daughter [raising] (Faith/belief omitted in Matthew)
(4) Epileptic demoniac [exorcism] (Faith/belief omitted in Mark)
(5) Blind Bartimaeus [healing]
In Mark and Matthew only
(6) Canaanite woman's daughter [exorcism] (Faith/belief omitted in Mark)
In Matthew & Luke (1 event)
(7) Centurion's servant [healing]
In Matthew only (1 event)
(8) Two blind men indoors [healing]
In John (2 events)
(9) The Official's son with a fever [healing]
(10) Lazarus [raising]
In The Acts (2 events)
(11) Lame man at Gate Beautiful [healing](Peter's ministry)
(12) Cripple at Lystra [healing] (Paul's ministry)
To summarize, Faith/belief is mentioned -
b) Where faith/belief is not mentioned
|5. The 'Faith/Belief' Sayings||(back to top)|
The use of numbers like this > (1), (2), (3), etc., refers to the 12 Healing stories listed above.
a) Faith is ENCOURAGED.
Jesus to Jairus. (3) Mark.5:36
- 'Do not fear, only believe.'
Jesus to Martha prior to Lazarus' raising. (10) John 11:26-27
- 'Do you believe this?'...'Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah.'
b) Faith is NOTICED.
The four with the paralytic. (1) Mark.2:5
- When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son your sins are forgiven.'
Jesus to Centurion.(7) Matthew.8:10
- '...in no one in Israel have I found such faith'
Cripple at Lystra. (12) Acts 14:9
- Seeing he had faith to be healed, ...
c) Faith is CONFESSED.
Father of epileptic-demoniac. (4) Mark. 9:24
- 'I believe; help my unbelief!'
d) Faith is RELATED to the healing.
Jesus to centurion concerning his servant. (7) Matthew 8:13
- 'let it be it done for you according to your faith'
Cripple at Lystra. (12) Acts 14:9
- Seeing he had faith to be healed, ...
e) Faith is part of the EXPLANATION.
Jesus to woman with haemorrhage, (2) Mark 5:34
-- '...your faith has made you well'
Jesus to Bartimaeus. (5) Mark 10.52
- 'Go; your faith has made you well.'
Peter about man at the Beautiful Gate. (11) Acts 3:16
- '...by faith in his [Jesus'] name, his name itself has made this man strong...
and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health...'
f) Faith is GENERATED by the event.
Official with ill son. (9) John 4:50
- The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him...
The categories cannot be rigid, and alternative classifications could easily be made. This illustrates the important point that - faith in the N.T. healing stories has no one clear role!
How should we best understand faith?
|6. Having 'Faith-in' Someone||(back to top)|
If you have 'faith in' someone, it will help you to understand faith in the New Testament!
I hope you have faith-in your family doctor.
If you do not, you will probably avoid meeting him/her, or ignore his/her advice.
But if you do have faith in him/her you will be willing to
Such obedience may mean doing things that you neither understand nor enjoy; it may mean agreeing to surgery that frightens
you. Such obedience is possible if you have faith-in your doctor that all he/she directs is for your ultimate good.
Trust and obey!.
On one occasion I remember a doctor advising me to do something.
He actually asked me why I didn't, like other patients, question his advice or argue with him!
I said,'You're the expert not me! I lack the necessary knowledge to argue against what you suggest. I've come to you to help me! I'm here to do what you say! I don't see that I have any choice!'
(He was sufficiently startled for me to conclude that faith-in one's doctor can nowadays be pretty rare! - but that doesn't alter the point I am making about what it means!)
|7. Faith and Obedience||(back to top)|
Faith shows itself in OBEDIENCE,
that is the heart of the matter.
In the twelve stories with 'faith-sayings' that we have noted obedience is there in almost all of them.
[The numbers (1), (2), (3), etc. refer to the 12 Healing Stories (1) - (12), listed in section 4 above, in which faith is mentioned.]
The Paralysed man, (1) is healed because he obeyed three seemingly impossible commands of Jesus '...stand up, take your mat and go to your home.'
In the raising of Jairus' daughter (3) , Jesus not only commands the child to rise, but after clearing away the crowd, Jesus strictly ordered them to tell no one but to give the child some food.
In the account of the epileptic demoniac (4) Jesus commands the father to bring his son to him, because he probably lacked the freedom of will to do so himself.
Jesus commands others to lead blind Bartimaeus to him (5)
The Canaanite woman's daughter (6) was freed from demonic forces by Jesus' word of command. 'Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.'
It is the Centurion's description of military authority and obedience that prompted Jesus to say 'in no one in Israel have I found such faith.' (7)
The Two Blind Men (8) had exemplary faith, but Matthew sharply points out how they failed to obey once they were healed, when what Jesus commanded did not suit them!
The Official with the sick son (9) is commanded to go by Jesus, and it is in going that he finds his son healed.
In the Raising of Lazarus from the dead (10) the Lord orders the stone to be removed, and commands the dead man 'Lazarus, come out!'
The man lame from birth, (11) was ordered to do two seemingly impossible things: '...Stand up and walk.' and did so - with help.
The man crippled-from-birth (12) was ordered by Paul, 'Stand upright on your feet' (12) and he obeyed him!
Why are faith, command and obedience so closely related? The answer is very simple.
Matthew writes of the Lord at Nazareth - ...he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief (or lack of faith as other translations have it, e.g. CEV, NAB, NCV, NIV.)
There is one New Testament healing-story in particular that says so much about faith/belief that I shall reflect on it in detail in the next section.
|PART III - Faith and Healing in Focus||(back to top)|
|8. Jesus, Jairus and the Woman in the Crowd|
These stories are interwoven and each illuminates the other by its contrast.
The earliest and fullest text is Mark 5:21-43 (used below) with the story of the woman coming between verses 25 and 34.
Jesus is by the lakeside with a great crowd around him.
22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came, and when he saw him, fell at his [Jesus'] feet 23and begged him repeatedly 'My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.' 24So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
Everything that she had hoped for is dashed!
Everything she feared most is now about to happen!
The privacy she had hoped for will be shattered; her dishonesty will be exposed; the crowd may turn nasty; Jesus (she probably assumed) will be cross with her. She has been caught virtually red-handed. Already guilty, she is now racked with guilt - and her body-language says so!
33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. Luke adds by way of further explanation she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed [better 'cured'].
She probably hated doing anything in public!
She wanted to remain anonymous!
She needed the shelter of the crowd!
Her religion, she probably felt, was a private matter, and not something you talk about!
She feels she has the right to be left alone, by others and by God himself!
God is useful to have in an emergency!
Confrontation and commitment must be avoided at all costs!
She had enough faith in something to be convinced that she was religious!
It was not a faith in which she wanted to grow!
She stood on the edge of religion but had the stirrings of faith. It moved her in the direction of Jesus.
The Lord builds upon this to give her what she needed.
Jesus' stopping and asking who touched him brought the woman to the right place for real and total healing.
Had she left Jesus' presence cured but guilty she would have left him with dis-ease.
Now, as she prostrates herself before him, being honest and straightforward, Jesus can turn the stolen cure into a truly healing event.
She had taken steps for the cure of her ailment; Jesus now takes five steps for her total healing and salvation. Jesus says to her,
a) HEALING of RELATIONSHIPS.
Jesus first heals the relationship between the woman and himself, and in so doing heals her relationship to the crowd.
She was, you remember, in fear and trembling because she knew that her relationship to the crowd and to Jesus was wrong. She had been dishonest with both. Those in the crowd who had been touched by her were undoubtedly furious that they were now ritually unclean. She is trembling on the ground because of her guilt and fear.
My criticism of the woman is clear, and over the decades I always find it difficult to see beyond her shortcomings!
How very different is the Saviour!
Jesus does not remind her of her failures, nor does he list them! It is plain to all that she is going through punishment enough. The time has come to be positive and to build upon the cure she had taken from him.
Jesus turns to the woman, and welcomes her as a Father would his child, and he uses a word of parental affection - Daughter - translated more warmly by some as My daughter
Jesus does not add to her judgement or condemnation, but heals both with a single word!
No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in him is mine!
That warm, friendly address declared everything she needed most - acceptance and forgiveness.
It establishes a right-relationship with Jesus.
The story of Jairus and the Woman might be headed the Healing of the Two Daughters.
Hugh Anderson has expressed it clearly:
Jesus' affectionate mode of address denotes that a crucial thing had happened: she has been brought into close personal relationship with Jesus.
It is as if Jesus can turn to Jairus and say - "I too have a daughter now!"
The transformation of the relationship between Jesus and the woman undoubtedly changed the attitude of the crowd.
The day I wrote that sentence I saw a TV programme about a British comedian, Stanley Baxter, who, decades ago, was the first person to impersonate the Queen. He recalled getting 'hate mail' from many royal supporters world-wide, and cited Colonels who wanted him horse-whipped! What he had done caused many to hate him. They assumed that his comedy must have broken his relationship to the Monarch. But then the hate-mail suddenly stopped!
What had happened was that the Queen had agreed to Baxter being publicly presented to her! When everyone could see that the Queen had not broken off the relationship with Baxter because of what he had done, their grounds for hatred were instantly removed.
Jesus' perfect love for the woman must have defused the anger of the crowd in an ever greater way.
b) HEALING of BELIEFS.
Jesus' next level of healing is to heal her wrong beliefs, just as he would heal Zacchaeus's. There are few things more important than the healing of wrong belief, since our decisions and actions arise mostly from them, whether the beliefs are good or bad!
It is clear from the accounts that the woman regarded Jesus as a source of supernatural power, and that was true enough. She believed him to be a spiritual battery whose power she could tap anonymously by touching his clothes. (Indeed one translation uses the word discharge of Jesus' awareness that power had left him!)
It is in this context of her wrong-thinking about power that Jesus says this.
The woman needs a ministry that is positive.
Jesus therefore does three things -
Out of context it could be taken to mean that her faith was the cause of her cure, and is such, therefore, that it should be commended!
Her faith was immature and misguided, but it set her on the right path, the path to Jesus.
I noted earlier that faith-in our doctor might well enable us to visit him/her. It gets the healing ball rolling - it does not, in itself, bring or guarantee the cure.
(How sad today that this story, which so clearly demonstrates the initial inadequacy of her faith, provides a Biblical faith-text by which some teach that faith guarantees healing! Indeed, the image of the woman touching Jesus' garment appears in some Christian publications as a symbol and example of faith and Christian healing!)
c) HEALING of DIRECTION
Jesus first establishes his saving relationship with her as Saviour and Lord.
He then re-interprets her cure not in terms of power but in terms of relationship. What some might today call 'the healing of the past'.
In her new faith-relationship to Jesus, Jesus is now able to command and she to obey. (See section 7 above, Faith & Obedience).
Having first assured her of his close personal relationship to her, Jesus can then command her to Go. (The assurance has to come first, otherwise the foundation is too shaky to leave him.)
There are two permanent dangers in healing situations.
d) The HEALING of GUILT
Go in peace is here not just a Jewish 'Goodbye', but a command and a blessing. It is the very opposite of the picture of the woman on the ground trembling with fear at the feet of Jesus.
It is a great word of healing in the New Testament, and translates the Hebrew Shalom. One idea behind it is rest from strife, but primarily it is of that wholeness that comes from a right relationship with God, and from which alone comes real peace.
Had the woman left Jesus anonymously, guilty and troubled, she would have left with a physical cure but dis-eased. Jesus' words are to heal the dis-ease that is not physical.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven! She received, like us, more than she either desired or deserved.
e) The HEALING ASSURANCE
'Be healed of your disease'
This is Jesus' final recorded comment to the woman. At first sight it seems unnecessary! She was already cured wasn't she?
Yet, on her return, thoughts of her surreptitious theft of a cure from Jesus might always have bothered her. Did the reconciliation-scene with Jesus really put it right? Had he really forgiven her? Had she really made clear what she had done? Was the cure part of Jesus' will for her?
Against such nagging doubts and uncertainties, Jesus gives his word.
Space means that I must leave the story at this point, and most readers will know that the news of Jairus's daughter's death comes immediately. Jesus goes off to her home, expels the crowds, takes Peter, James and John with him, and taking her by the hand commands her to get up. She does! Jesus demands that she be given something to eat.
A Story of Faiths
It is a great story of faiths. Of faith rightly placed and of faith misplaced; of strong faith, of growing faith, of faith transformed, of faith rewarded.
It shows how God in his love wants to draw us ever more fully into that faith-relationship to his Son; into that place where we will learn to listen and obey that we may move into the riches of that full salvation that he has for us.
The two intertwined stories illustrate the sovereignty of God at work. Our Lord did exactly what Jairus hoped and did exactly what the woman feared most! However much we stress faith we must stress God's sovereignty more, lest we distort and exaggerate what God has disclosed to us in Scripture.
If we divorce faith from the sovereignty of God then we will fall into the trap of thinking that if we can produce enough of it we can get God to do what we want! Such thinking turns Scripture on its head! It can lead to a faith that God will obey us, rather than a faith which enables us so to trust God that we want to obey him.
|PART IV - Today||(back to top)|
|9. Two Questions Often Asked|
|1.||Does God require our faith before he can heal us?|
|2.||If we have faith will he automatically heal us?|
The answers are not difficult. To each the answer is - NO!
How can we be so sure of our answers?
That God is not dependent on our faith to heal us is clear from those Scriptures which record the healing of those with no faith. In particular one would note in John's Gospel the detailed account of the healing of the man at the pool, a man who, when questioned, did not know who Jesus was. Also, the dead son of the widow at Nain was presumably unable to exercise any active faith at the time!
Nowadays there are reported healings through Christian ministry of those of other religions, whose healing cannot be the result of Christian faith, though often the prelude to it.
If God could only heal us when we had faith and then only in the way that our faith demanded then he would not be our Lord, but we would be lording it over him.
If God 'automatically' did anything in response to us we would be in the realm of magic, not of sovereignty and grace.
Both Scripture and present-day experience show that the Christians of faith are not invariably granted physical healing. Health is not a sign of Christian faith, nor is illness a sign of Christian faithlessness.
St. Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his 'thorn in the flesh'. He was not physically healed, but learnt instead that God's grace is sufficient, and that his power is made perfect in our weakness. Paul urged Timothy to take wine for the sake of his stomach and his frequent ailments Yet Paul rejoices in Timothy's sincere faith. Faith does not guarantee healing.
|10. Real Faith||(back to top)|
It is not necessarily strongest when we affirm our certainty of what God is going to do because of it! Indeed, too
restrictive an anticipation of what God is going to do on any particular occasion can actually be a lack of real
trust in him that is willing to accept whatever God wishes to do, at whatever timing he wishes to accomplish it.
For me the greatest faith is expressed in a total surrender to God's will whatever it is, rather than in any attempted bargaining with him. John Wesley's prayer expresses, for me, the essence of faith -
'LORD GOD: I am no longer my own, but yours,
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to enduring;
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you,
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.'
|(back to top)|
|Copyright John Richards 2001, but waived for users of www.helpforchristians.co.uk|