Wednesday, June 13, 2012


If you listen to the wrong people, you'll come away believing that every Christian today should be healing the sick and raising the dead at will. It's simply not true.

First of all, when the New Testament mentions miraculous healing we see that it is only the Apostles who peform such signs and wonders. For example:

"...apostles prayed and laid hands on them..." (Acts 6:6)

"The apostles performed many signs and wonders..." (Acts 5:12)

"...wonders and signs peformed by the apostles..." (Acts 2:43)

"...with great power the apostles..." (Acts 4:33)

"...the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands..." (Acts 8:18)

Better yet, when Paul is appealing to his genuine apostleship in his second letter to the church in Corinth, he says, "The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perserverance." (2 Cor 12:12)

So, if every Christian was expected to heal the sick and raise the dead, then what would Paul's ability to do so actually prove? Only that he was also a Christian like they were. Not that he was an apostle. However, since Paul uses the phrase "the things that mark an apostle" to refer to signs and wonders and miracles, we can safely assume that the apostles - and only the apostles - were the ones who worked genuine miracles in the early church.

But what does that mean for us today?

If you believe that God still works miracles today (and I do) then it can mean one of two things. First, that those who work miracles today are also apostles, or it means that in the absence of apostles we are all potentially capable of being filled with God's Holy Spirit for the purpose of healing those who are sick or working miracles as God gives us grace.

I tend to lean towards the second option.

I suppose this might beg several questions, such as "Are there no apostles today?" and I would say, "Yes and No."

An apostle is a "sent one" but who sends is the key. The New Testament seems to identify two sets of apostles; those who are "Apostles of Christ" and those who are "Apostles of the Church". As you might suspect, one group is sent by Jesus directly (that would be Peter, James, John, and even Paul), and the other apostles are sent out by the Church.

I would say that we have apostles of the Church today, but I'm not sure about whether or not we have apostles of Jesus. By that, I mean I'm not aware of anyone who has an annointing that is equal to Peter's or Paul's or the other original apostles who were sent out personally by Jesus. Maybe they are out there, but if so I'm not personally aware of them.

However, there are plenty of those who are gifted by the Holy Spirit and sent out by the Church to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, plant and establish new churches, and provide prophetic instruction to the Body of Christ. These are still apostles, of course, but these are much more common and the working of miracles may or may not accompany their ministry.

Still, as I said earlier, I do believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today. They have not ceased.

I say this because I have experienced divine healing, and I have seen it in my own family members, and because I have had dreams from God and even - just once - an open vision from God. I also speak, or pray, in tongues, but that's another story.

However, even though I do believe that God heals today, I do not believe that every single follower of Christ should expect to heal the sick or raise the dead every single day of their lives. Why? Because the Bible says so.

Just read 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Done? Ok, see? Paul is very, very clear that God has given each person in the Body of Christ a different and specific set of gifts. Not everyone has the same gift, and no one should look down on another person if they don't have the same gift that you have.

I've been in churches where the expectation was that everyone should be able to speak in tongues or to prophesy or to heal the sick, and those of us who didn't do those things were made to feel as if God didn't love us, or that we weren't really filled with the Holy Spirit. Those things are not true, of course, but we were made to feel that way nevertheless.

Paul is clear when he says, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" (1 cor 12:29-30)

And the implied answer is "No."

So, it was normative in the early church for every christian to heal the sick and raise the dead. Nor is it normative today for every christian to heal the sick and raise the dead.

In the early church it was the apostles who healed the sick, raised the dead and worked miracles. In the church today it can potentially be anyone the Lord chooses, but it is not to be expected that we all have the same gifts of the Spirit.

In the church the pattern is that there are many members and there are many gifts and the Lord distributes them to each one of us just as He determines and wills.

Your gift might be teaching. It might be encouragement. It might be helps. It might be service. It might be healing. But whatever your gift might be, please do not expect everyone else to have the gift that you do. Enjoy the variety. Celebrate your uniqueness in the Body. Embrace all of the wonderful gifts of God's Spirit together.

Remember: The gifts are given for building up the church, not for building yourself up. The gifts are for the common good, not for your selfish good.

It's no coincidence that each time Paul speaks about spiritual gifts in the New Testament he follows up immediately by talking about love. That's because we are expected to use our gifts for the benefit of others - not for ourselves - and they only work as God designed them to if we use them in love to bless and strengthen our brothers and sisters in the Body.



Anonymous said...

While I agree with the basic sentiment of what you've written, I disagree that initially only the apostles "operated" in the gift of healing. In Luke 10 the 70 are sent out by Jesus and are told to heal the sick. More likely than not, these were not all apostles.

Also, in the latter part of Mark 16, it states that as they preached to all creation, "these signs" would would accompany "those who believe". I think this extends beyond just apostles.

I wonder if perhaps the gift is not available to all, but only some will yield to God's Spirit in such a way that it can operate through them. Not sure...

Jeanne S. said...

What of the verse from Mark 16? I know some say these verses were not in some of the original manuscripts:
“17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Bill said...

Hey Keith. We have in the Acts Stephen and Philip having meetings with signs, wonders and miracles. I don't find a description of an "apostolic" ministry or an apostle. I do find evangelist (Philip)and simply a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Stephen). Because we have now the priesthood of ALL believers all can serve with Christ's authority and power, from serving tables to standing before many preaching the good news. As for the "expectation" that anyone/everyone raising the dead and healing the sick, I would say not to lay that "trip" on anyone. I don't think everyone is "gifted" with the same gifts but they should be taught them and be willing to be taught along with the character and nature of Christ's expression. We all just need to be open to what the Lord is doing or wants to do. In short, an apostle is a groundbreaker, foundation layer. Propagator. Anyway, my dos centavos :-)

Keith Giles said...

If Jesus sent out the 70 that makes them Apostles of Jesus.
The verse in Mark is telling us that a variety of Christians will do a variety of things but not that all will do everything.
Stephen was an Apostle. Philip was an exception and the only one we see in the NT but to me this shows God's prerogative to distribute the gifts as he wills. But not every christian had the gift of healing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarity in this, Keith. I'd like to add that I think sometimes we err by "camping down" on our gift or calling, when God often works through our flexibility. Meaning, He may use us in a certain gift for awhile, but use us in other ways during another season of life. Staying focused on Jesus, and not the gifts, is His desire for us. (But, please don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you're implying we focus on gifts.) :)
I wholeheartedly agree we must expect each other to be different in our giftings. Wonderful reminder!

Laura Anaya said...

Thank you, we all need to know it is ok not to be demonstrating all the gifts.
As a nurse it was helpful for me to think of it like the cells in our body. When we are conceived we are made of stem cells that have the ability to become any cell in the body, we could become a Muscle cell or a bone cell or a retinal cell and once you have become one of these defined cells you still have within you all the information on how to become one of the other cells it is just turned off so you can be a part of the body and not the whole body. And as long as the cells in the eye are connected to the body they have the ability to walk, smell, feel, talk and hear through the body and the body has the ability to see through them.
So at the core of the cell it has all the DNA information of the cell but in differentiation only some is turned on to function as part of the body. Interestingly their are adult stem cells within our bodies ready to take on any role when their is damage to a part of the body.
Likewise I see the gifts of the spirit at the core of each of us we have them all but in order to function in the body of Christ some must be turned on while others turned off. Unlike a human body though I believe if there is an injury to the body of Christ we can all be re-activated in the core to take on a new role if needed. But not everyone will display all the gifts at once however they will have all the gifts at their core and through the body.