This is going to sound strange initially (especially for those who have read my posts with regards to Joseph Prince), but here it goes. The answer to the question, “Is it always God’s will for all believers to be healed?” is YES!
But, here’s the qualifier. Sometimes He chooses to do so in the coming age instead of this. In other words, it is not a matter of whether God will heal. He will. But it is only a matter of whether He chooses to do so in this age or not. Let’s be perfectly clear about this. God is a God of miracles and He continues to heal in miraculous ways today. (And as a quick aside, His healing through rest, diet, and medicine is no less a work of His grace than if He were to do so without these means. We over-spiritualise things when we do not marvel at His ‘common’ means of healing and rob God of His glory when we do not recognise His hand at work in this area and thank Him for it.)
The common theological slant coming from the word-faith/health-wealth gospel camp is that all the effects and benefits of salvation has already been purchased at the Cross of Jesus Christ, and we need only appropriate them by faith. In my opinion, this belief is overly simplistic and does not square with two things: the biblical evidence and human experience and therefore runs the risk of over-realised eschatology.
Consider biblical evidence. The Cross of Jesus Christ has brought about the full and final defeat of Satan, sin and death; this is true. And yet, we will not see the full extend of Christ’s victory until He comes again. This is not solely a matter of faith versus unbelief. Scripture does not give us a picture of the Church rising up in faith and pushing back every effect of the Fall and the curse that resulted. Rather, the Church is to be faithful to the Great Commission in a world broken by sin and feeling the ravaging effects of sin and call humanity into the coming Kingdom in which all the effects of sin will fully and finally be done away with.
Revelation 21:1-6 is instructive… “1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.””
It is in the new heaven and the new earth that there will no longer be sickness and pain, nor suffering nor sorrow, neither death nor disease. In the meantime, we praise God for healing and we mourn the devastating effects of sin and long for the new kingdom when there is no healing. It takes faith to do both!
Furthermore, there are too many passages in Scripture that defy the “rest in the finished work of Christ, and you will be healed” mantra. Certainly we are to do so; meaning, we recognise that it is not by our good works or good deeds that God would heal us. He does so in His undeserved grace. And when we do receive healing, of course we need to remember it wasn’t because any effort on our part necessitated God healing us.
But consider the following passages:
1 Timothy 5:23 “(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)”
This passage implies that Timothy did suffer frequent ailments. His physical body wasn’t in the best of shape. And the Apostle Paul’s advice to him wasn’t to receive healing by faith, trusting in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. His advice was “use a little wine”. Some of us would delight in this suggestion, but I digress.
2 Corinthians 4:16 “16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Here the implications again seem clear. Our outer self (our physical bodies) do decay due to aging. Once again, we see the effects of the fall. The Apostle Paul seems to imply that this reality is ok, because inwardly our spiritual body can experience daily renewing. It goes against the grain of the “mystical” teaching that somehow partaking in the communion will spare us the effects of the Fall physically.
In fact, far from the communion being a means of divine healing, we see quite the opposite in the passage about the Lord’s Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 “27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
This sobering text reminds us believers of presumptuous faith. Instead, the Lord’s Supper is a solemn and serious affair that we would do well to partake with appropriate self-reflection. If we do not do so, the stern warning is that disease and death await us. Now again, this goes against the grain of the word-faith/health-wealth gospel and I’ve heard many exegetical gymnastics performed in order to worm out of the obvious implications of the text.
Let me address some of them.
- It is not God doing the judging, but Satan. Not true because “But when we are judged by the Lord…” v. 32.
- It is non-believers who are being judged not believers. Not true because “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.” v. 33, 34.
3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Well meaning believers have used this passage in order to expand what they perceive to be a slight on the prosperity gospel and they argue that prosperity is not merely material but well-rounded: spiritual, material and physical. In my humble opinion, this is not a strong argument. Again, this is not to say that we cannot or even should not pray for God’s provision materially, and healing physically. But this is not a blanket promise here. It is the prayer of one believer for another. It is not a promise to claim by faith.
Divine protection. Divine provision. Divine healing. Should we trust God for all these? Of course we should. But we should also trust He knows best when He chooses when He withholds any of them. I know a dear brother in Christ who believes that the only suffering that is legitimate for Christ is that of persecution. I submit that this definition is too narrow in the light of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul for example says this of himself and the apostles/believers in 1 Corinthians 4:11 “To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless…”
His response to this is not to claim anything in the name of Jesus, or faith in the finished work of Christ; rather, his attitude had everything to do with his apostleship in Christ and the willing taking on of this burden for the sake of the gospel. In fact the way in which we adorn the gospel is by treasuring Christ above health and wealth. It shows to the unbelieving world how beautiful Christ is. Because indeed, He is!