Churches like One City Memphis claim divine healing is "available to all believers" as a result of the atonement through the power the Holy Spirit gives us. In their "New Wine" sermons, Chris Conlee preached that God gave us the same authority as Jesus and the Apostles. Many charismatics and the "New Apostolic Reformation" make the same claim. Is it true? Do we have the same authority over disease as Jesus and the Apostles?
Well, they could heal seemingly any disease. I'd love for that to be true with all the people I'm praying for with cancer and other debilitating conditions. I even believed it myself when I first read the Bible. That changed after I watched many suffer and die even though highly-faithful people prayed for their healing. In churches today, suffering is common, God usually heals through normal means (esp time or medicine), and supernatural healing is rare. What's in the New Testament vs what I observed led me to change to a different interpretation of Scripture that matched that.
Like before, we'll test their claim per 1 Thes. 5:20-22. We'll look at Jesus and the Apostles' healings, what churches do today, and do a comparison. We'll use the clearest examples. I'll also give you simple tests to see if your church has the same authority.
(Note: Unlike authority and healing on command, I do believe supernatural healing happens today as a result of prayer when God decides to grant it. Keep praying for God to heal people and grant signs to build up His church.)
Let's look at what Christ and specific disciples could do in the NT. Today's healers mostly talk about conditions that might be psychosomatic or placebo healings. As in, the kind the mind can cause that belief of any kind might cure. You always want to eliminate that possibility if assessing if healings are miracles.
Here's a random article I found listing Jesus' miracles. We see Jesus heal incurable, physical conditions. Leprosy was so hopeless that lepers were quarantined from others in society. Jesus both touched and healed them. That some healings involved just speaking words showed that's all His authority really needed. In this case, He wasn't even present for the person to hear that He was about to do it. He also casted out demons. He made a specific amount of food break the laws of physics to feed thousands of people. He rebuked a hurricane-like storm into still waters with His words.
How did people react? Whatever Jesus and the Apostles were doing looked real to everyone around them. Even Jesus' enemies, like the Pharisees, said He could heal. A professional deceiver, Simon the Magician, not only believed in the Apostles' power: he tried to buy it from them. That he was a believer needing to buy it already suggests we don't all have it. Unlike Jesus and the Apostles, charismatic and apostolic churches today leave most visitors thinking their power isn't real. Atheists, "spiritual" people, believers... all accuse them of being fake. Big difference.
What about Scripture examples? Most passages about healing have multiple interpretations, esp due to ambiguities. I prayed that God give me passages that would show a clear difference between then and now if it existed. Here they are:
"Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people The report about him went out into all Syria. They brought to him all who were sick, afflicted with various diseases and torments, possessed with demons, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them. Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him." (Matt. 4:23-25)
"When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. So she got up and served him. When evening came, they brought to him many possessed with demons. He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'" (Matt. 8:14-17)
Excerpts of Mark
came and took her by the hand and raised her up. The fever left her
immediately, and she served them. At evening, when the sun had set, they
brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by
the city was gathered together at the door. He healed many who
were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons."
(Luke 4:36-5:9) with of one above. Note "When the sun was setting, all those who had any
sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his
hands on every one of them, and healed them." Scripture can't
contradict. One passage said "many," one said "every one of them," and
so he healed every one of them. "Many" just meant it was a large number
Another example: "He came down with them, and stood on a level
place, with a crowd of his disciples, and a great number of the
people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre
and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; as well as those who were
troubled by unclean spirits, and they were being healed. All the multitude sought to
touch him, for power came out of him and healed them all."
"They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mattresses, so that as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some of them. The multitude also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed." (Acts 5:15-16)
worked special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even
handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the
sick, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went
out." (Acts 19:11-12)
Jesus went in there preaching like He had special authority from God. He proved it by instantly, effortlessly healing the sick by either touch or words. They were usually physically there but didn't have to be. Multitudes of people brought Jesus all their sick, they often had incurable conditions, and He healed "every one of them." Jesus didn't give sermons trying to argue He had healing power, set up healing tents, or beg people to come see Him. After Jesus got started, His reputation preceded Him. Whatever He did was so convincing that His fame as a healer spread everywhere with people bringing Him even more sick people. He had no failures. People didn't wait weeks to a month. His healings always get results. Two Apostles did the same thing to whole areas of people. Even Paul's clothes healed people!
If your church can do this, then you would know without them having to tell you or explain healing. We should see many people come in who are blind, deaf, mute, epileptics, paralyzed from provable injuries (eg X-rays), have stage 4 cancer, missing body parts, massive damage to their skin (eg burns), huge cysts, whatever. The witnesses would include people who are believers, neutral, and hardcore skeptics. In view of witnesses, preachers at your church then just touch the person or say "be healed." The condition goes away as if they never had it. Sometimes instantly. They go tell everyone with all kinds of people knowing your church heals for real. Like Jesus, the only question they and outsiders have is how you're working all these miracles. Is that what happens at your church?
Some churches today claim the same authority. They say they can work those miracles, talk about how the "Spirit" is telling them someone will be healed, and the people that came in with conditions walk out just as sick. Some churches lay hands on people for various signs without them happening. Especially healing and speaking in tongues. This can go on a long time. Then, their preachers talk about "spiritual, emotional, and financial healing" because they can't do real, physical healing. What we read about above is actual, physical, immediate healing of large numbers of incurable people on command. You either can do that or you can't. If you can't, then you don't have the same authority Jesus and the Apostles had.
Prove it like Jesus did! He healed whole towns worth of people with skeptical witnesses. Here's some suggestions:
1. Go to places for the blind and deaf. Say "be healed." They should see and hear.
2. Go to hospitals where there's medical evidence of physical disabilities and incurable conditions. Say be healed. Re-run the tests to prove it.
3. Go to morgues, tell the dead to "Come forth!," and they should get back to normal.
4. If you do some of that, go to St. Jude and children's schools for deaf and blind. Otherwise, don't even go there to avoid letting them down.
I'll go further than healing. Jesus rebuked a storm for His disciples. He calmed a raging sea! These preachers claim they have Jesus' authority. Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey put whole cities worth of homes underwater with many dead or in need of rescue. Many were our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why didn't these preachers get in the middle of that hurricane, tell it to be quiet, and prevent all of that? Did they lack the power of Jesus Christ? Or did they not care about human suffering?
They say we have Jesus' authority. They say
we will do greater works than Jesus did which they say means miracles.
They can't even do what Jesus did, much less greater works. Many claim
to be apostles with their authority. They can't do what the apostles
did. Their claims are false.
Jesus and the Apostles had special authority to establish the New Covenant, bootstrap the first churches, and finalize Scripture. God used the authority to put a spotlight on them. We clearly don't have that authority. We do have the Holy Spirit helping us in countless ways with our mission. We also can, and should, pray for healing and signs and wonders which God sometimes grants. We must not deceive people with false teachings, though. That hurts our mission.
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