about the sick and suffering
Editors note: This
is the seventh in a series of eight monthly articles on the 16 Foundational
Truths of the Assemblies of God, written by faculty of Assemblies
of God Theological Seminary.
"Divine healing is an
integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided
for in the Atonement, and is the privilege of all believers."
Early in my ministry
I was called by a church member to rush to the hospital. Her 10-year-old
was in a coma and near death, diagnosed with Reyes syndrome.
The doctors were saying the little girl had 48 hours to live. Believing
that God cared enough to enter this tragic circumstance, we began
to pray for healing. The morning this little girl should have died,
she awoke from the coma. The doctors were thrilled at what had occurred,
but predicted a three-month rehabilitation. Because of Gods
healing power the little girl walked out of the hospital, with full
use of her limbs, in three days.
This wonderful testimony
highlights the ongoing work of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We do not find it problematic or outdated to believe that when our
total well-being is impaired, our God would be actively involved
in restoration. Healing is part of the ongoing work of Jesus in
His church, while we eagerly wait for His return when the completeness
of salvation will be our experience (1 Corinthians 13:10; Revelation
Old and New Testament
references to healing
The Bible teaches that God did not cause human suffering. Human
suffering, including sickness, is the result of the fall of Adam
(Romans 5:12,13). This fall, though human in its origin, was not
a surprise to God whose desire is to bless His creation (Genesis
12:3; Revelation 14:6). This fallenness is seen in the Old Testament,
as sin and physical suffering are regularly associated together.
For example, the Genesis account of Adam and Eves fall (3:16)
clearly lets us know that the consequences of human sin include
affliction and sickness. Psalms 38:3 and 107:17 clearly emphasize
the linkage between sickness and sin.
Healing also occurred
in the Old Testament as referenced in the accounts of Naaman (2
Kings 5:3-14) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-21). Jesus disciples
and New Testament believers had a very solid foundation in the Old
Testament Scriptures that they would have had access to. Thus when
Jesus says that deliverance and healing are evidence of present
Messianic salvation, divine healing can be viewed not only as a
part of the gospel message, but an important verification of the
truth of the gospel (Matthew 11:4,5).
Jesus earthly healing
ministry was substantially recorded in the Gospels. For example,
more than 30 percent of Marks Gospel is given to Jesus
ministry of healing. John records in his Gospel that if he were
to write down all the miraculous acts of Jesus, there would not
be pen and paper enough to do so (21:25). John 20:31 clearly says
that John wrote his Gospel with the full intent of recording certain
of Jesus miraculous acts (many of which were healing) for
the express purpose of helping people to believe in Jesus as the
Son of God.
Salvation and healing
While complex schemes exist to understand the varying dimensions
of a human being, the gospels fullest impact is on the whole
person. The Bible simply does not offer a view of salvation that
excludes any part of human existence (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Isaiah 53:4,5 provides
a key Old Testament text referring to healing in the Atonement.
The key phrases, "surely he took up our infirmities" and "by his
wounds we are healed" (NIV) when evaluated in the original Hebrew
language, carry solid connections to physical suffering. Gods
desire to restore peace (shalom) is connected to the suffering of
the servant Jesus Christ. Matthew 8:17 is a clear connection linking
the healing ministry of Jesus to the Isaiah 53 passage. Matthews
intent is to connect Jesus suffering on the Cross to physical
healing present in that atoning act. The work of the suffering servant,
Jesus Christ, on the Cross is about a restoration of spiritual shalom
(peace), but because Gods intent is a restoration of the entire
existence of a human being, this restoration includes physical dimensions
as well (1 Peter 2:22-24).
The Atonement provides
all the benefits available to believers. While some of these benefits,
like our resurrected bodies, are yet to be experienced, the atoning
work of Christ guarantees their fulfillment. Healing should never
be thought of as something separate from salvation. To suggest that
the atoning work of Christ is limited in its scope or impact does
a disservice to God, whose nature is clearly restorative and redemptive
to all facets of human existence (Jonah 4:2; Isaiah 9:2-7; Colossians
2:15; Romans 5:6-21). In Romans 8:23, Paul also refers to the fullest
impact of Christs work on the Cross. Even the simple observance
of a present-day healing points us to the future reality that Christs
atoning work was provided to return people fully to wholeness (physically
and spiritually). The ministry of Jesus on earth was a clear indicator
that the influence of the victorious reign of God had broken into
our present history. Every time a person is healed we are given
a visible testimony that our Lord is faithful and will one day return
and bring to fruition the wholeness that we now are given a glimpse
of in the healing of a physical body.
A biblical promise
to build hope
Illness and suffering are part of a fallen world. While healing
is provided in the Atonement and testifies to the victory of our
Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, there are situations where people
are not healed that are hard to explain. What is clear in the Bible
is Gods concern for the well-being of His followers. Early
believers regularly and with anticipation brought their need of
physical healing to prayer. James 5:14-16 clearly describes the
practice of the Early Church. This community of believers wasnt
simply turning to prayer as a last resort. They believed that prayer
and healing for their physical needs were linked together and could
be regularly and expectantly part of Christian experience. Our Lord
is the Creator of life and the re-Creator of life.
The clear expectation
of the Early Church community, that healing should be part of normative
Christian experience, critiques some contemporary opinions. Some
today would affirm healing is possible, but would consider it an
exception to Gods usual way of acting. While we wait for our
Lords return, suffering is surely part of human existence.
But because Jesus is the Healer and His atoning work on the Cross
has resulted in the power to restore wholeness, we have the privilege
to pray for that restoration to meet our physical needs. We can
confidently believe that Jesus is our Healer.
D. Klaus is president of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
in Springfield, Mo.
E-mail the author at