Have you ever thought when faced with some sickness or physical problem, “If only Jesus was here on earth and healing still; I’d just go to him and touch him and be made well!”
I certainly have.
But I had a realization recently: Jesus himself, the head, is not physically with us here on earth, but his body, the church is. His Spirit, who empowers miracles, is. The Spirit of Jesus is present in the body of Jesus, the church, giving gifts to people as he wills, including the gift of healing, for the common good and to maintain the Body united.
That’s what 1 Corinthians 12 says:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit....All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Cor 12:4-9, 11)
Paul goes on to expound on the metaphor of a body: just as one body has many parts, and each part has a different function but works together as a united whole, so are we in the church, Christ’s body. We wouldn’t choose to lose any of our body parts, and neither can we do so in the church. Every member with every Spirit-given gift is equally valuable and necessary, and no one has all the gifts so that we will need each other.
This led me to thinking that when we are in need of healing, we should seek out those who have the gift of healing, to pray for us. This honours God because it honours his design for the Body, that we are not independent, self-sufficient units. We cling to each other because we need each other.
I’m sure that God can and sometimes does heal in response to the sick individual’s private prayer of faith. But throughout Scripture, we see the pattern is that others pray for, lay hands on, or anoint with oil, and sick people are healed.
Most obviously, this happened in Jesus’ ministry. But it continued with the apostles and others in the early church. James instructs the sick to call for the church elders, who will anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and heal him (James 5:11).
Another reason I think this honours God is that it requires faith and humility. It’s easy to pray in private for healing, so we won’t be embarrassed if it doesn’t happen. But faith often requires bold action steps, like the people who cried out to Jesus or pressed through crowds to touch the hem of his robes.
It also requires humility. It means admitting our need. It means placing ourselves at the mercy of someone else (both Jesus and the person doing the praying); it might mean admitting embarrassing physical conditions or the sin that led to them. But as James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to healing, but this is one that I’ve been thinking about as I was struck by it when searching Scripture for this topic. What do you think?