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The Pentecostal Doctrine
Of Healing

By

Neil Armstrong B.A., M.Div.



There is a great deal of interest in the subject of healing in the Church of Jesus Christ. In the forefront of groups with an interest in this subject are the Pentecostals. Over the years they have consistently taught and encouraged Christians to practice this important ministry. Their doctrine which is called, "Divine Healing", is found in their constitution. Over the years some groups have changed the wording but the following statement still reflects their basic teaching.

The Doctrine

The doctrine is, "Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers." Isa. 53:4-5; Matt. 8:16-17

Analysis

There are three main questions that we need to ask when considering this doctrine. 1) What is meant by "deliverance from sickness"? 2) What does "provided for in the atonement" mean? 3) What does "privilege" mean in terms of "all believers" being healed. This doctrine raises many questions that go to the very fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Question 1: What is meant by "deliverance from sickness"?

Deliverance is a word which is weighted with meaning in the Christian faith. In Greek, the word which is translated "deliverance" is the same word which is also translated "salvation". In fact the word salvation means; "deliverance, preservation and safety". Deliverance has a specific meaning having to do with the saving work of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer. It is almost never used in any other context. Because deliverance is a term which is so heavily weighted with meaning, it's use in any other context must be clearly explained. The lack of a clarification in this doctrine results in deliverance from sickness being raised to a level of importance which should be reserved for salvation alone.

Another problem with this doctrine is that it leaves no room for any other approach to healing. Deliverance from sickness means an ill person is no longer afflicted and is completely restored to health. When Pentecostals claim this is provided for in the atonement the expectation is that this can only be an instantaneous healing. What about the possibility of someone receiving only a partial healing? What about healing which occurs through natural means? What about the assistance of the medical profession? This doctrine gives the impression that the only form of healing which can legitimately take place is a full restoration to health through a complete deliverance.

Question 2: What does "provided for in the atonement" mean?

Is it true that healing is "provided for in the atonement"? The atonement is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. The primary purpose of the atonement is to make amends for the sin of mankind. 1 John 2:2 "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world." It is correct to say that the forgiveness of sin is provided for in the atonement, but physical healing is not provided in the atonement because sickness is a consequence of living in a fallen world.

There is a major problem with applying the work of the atonement directly to a Christian in terms of ones physical well-being. Once someone places their trust in the blood of Jesus Christ and repents, their standing with God is assured for eternity. Ephesians 1:7-14 When no substantial distinction is made in the atonement between the cleansing of sin and deliverance from sickness, healing is just as available as forgiveness. If this is true, not only could a Christian expect immediate healing but it would be impossible to get sick. Christians would be immortal! They would be able to live forever in perfect health. Obviously this expectation presents major problems when viewed in the light of Scripture, not to mention reality.

Question 3: What does "privilege" mean in terms of "all believers" being healed.

Nowhere in Scripture is it said that healing is a privilege. Webster's Dictionary defines privilege as: "a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage or favor." If healing is a right, there can be no exceptions, every Christian must be healed! To prove that this doctrine is incorrect all one has to do is show in Scripture that one believer experienced sickness and was not instantly healed. The Scriptures not only provide us with one instance but gives several examples of Christians who were sick and not healed.

The first example of a person who was sick over an extended period of time was the apostle Paul. "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn." Galatians 4:13-14 Paul's illness must have continued for some time if he was a "trial" to them. The next example is Timothy. "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." 1 Timothy 5:23 Perhaps one of the best examples is Trophimus. Paul writes, "Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus." 2 Timothy 4:20 We do not know much about Trophimus but one thing is sure, this brother was sick and was not instantly healed. This did not seem to concern Paul because he went on his journey and left him behind, sick. We must therefore conclude that it is not "the privilege of all believers" to be healed because the Scriptures show, great men of faith were not always healed.

As if it were not enough to show that great men of faith get sick, Corinthians 4:7-18 completely demolishes the idea that healing is the privilege of all believers. This passage teaches that Christians carry around in their bodies the death of Jesus! "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 Paul concludes the chapter by writing; "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 These Scriptures give ultimate meaning to the "outwardly" "wasting away" of our bodies and the experience of death. If the Pentecostal doctrine of healing were true, it would be impossible for us to carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus or to waste away, let alone experience death!

Conclusion

Even though there are many problems with this doctrine it does not mean the whole subject of healing should be discarded. When understood in the broader context of redemption and sanctification, the doctrine of healing is very important to the Christian faith. When developing a doctrine on such a significant aspect of the faith it is important to accurately reflect the teaching of the New Testament. Unfortunately, the Pentecostal teaching on healing is inadequate in this regard.


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