Physical Healing in the Name of Jesus!
Causes of sickness and the promises of healing according to the Bible
For practical aspects of healing and healing ministry, see Healing Guidelines
For examples of healing see Sidebar
1. Causes of Sickness and Disease
According to the Bible there are essentially two sources of sickness and disease: natural (the ‘Curse of the Law’), and unclean spirits (‘spiritual attack’).
1.1 The Curse of the Law
Adam and Eve were created ‘a little lower than God’ (Ps 8:5-6) [note: the Hebrew ‘Elohim’ here is more properly translated ‘God’ rather than ‘the angels’]. Man was second in the hierarchy of beings, and angels (including Satan) were in third place below God. Man initially had full authority and was to rule over the whole earth:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over all the earth … and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it … (Gen 1:26,28)
Man’s Loss of Authority: But as a result of Adam’s disobedience (the so-called ‘Fall of Man’), man gave his God-given authority to Satan, who then placed himself in second place in the hierarchy. Satan, not man, now had full authority over the world (Luke 4:6). Satan, not man, is described as ‘ruler of the world’ (John 14:30). Satan had deceived man in order to usurp him and take his place – which is why Jesus refers to him as a thief (John 10:10). As a result of The Fall, the angelic realm now had second position in the hierarchy, and man third. So when Jesus temporally took man’s form, He too was made “a little lower than the angels” (Heb 2:7) – in third place so to speak.
Since Satan is currently ruler of the world (John 14:30) – although he no longer has full authority – there is a temptation to blame him and his demonic spiritual powers for all forms of calamity (including sickness and disease). After all, Satan’s objective is “to kill and destroy” (John 10:10). But this view doesn’t follow from scripture. Rather, as a result of The Fall, all creation was subjected by God to corruption; perfection was lost and imperfection (death and sickness) came in. Things went wrong from that point in time. God cursed the ground because of Adam’s disobedience (Gen 3:17) and consequently all creation suffered (Rom 8:20-23). Many find this basic biblical teaching difficult. How can a loving God do this to mankind just because of one man’s sin? Maybe you have a better explanation for all that is wrong in the world?
The biblical defence against this charge of an unjust God is that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, all can be made righteous before God:
As through one man’s (Adam’s) offense judgment (corruption and death) came to all men (and all creation) … through one Man’s (Christ’s) righteous act the free gift (of reconciliation to God) came to all men (Rom 5:18)
Moreover, if we see God answering prayers for healing (as He promises to do), then maybe we have to accept this seemingly harsh theology; we accept ‘the rough with the smooth’ so to speak!
So according to the Bible, The Fall and God’s curse brought sin, suffering, pain and death into the world, and man came ‘under the law’. It was God, not Satan, who decreed that man would now have limited life span and would eventually return to dust (Gen 3:19). So in this fallen, corrupted world we see people born with birth defects (John 9:1-12), paralysed people (Mat 9:1-8), child deaths (Luke 8:49-56), accidents (Acts 20:7-12), people with disease (Mark 1:40-42), and people suffering from fevers (Mat 8:14). We simply cannot blame all accidents (as in Acts 20) on Satan, just as men can’t blame him for loss of hair.
Put in a more scientific way, as a result of The Fall it is ‘natural’ for all created beings and created things to deteriorate from an ‘ordered state’ to a ‘disordered state’. This implies that our health naturally deteriorates with time, accidents will occur, things will break and things will decay. A garden left unattended for months will deteriorate from an ordered state to a rough, disordered state with weeds, and a car without maintenance for ten years will gradually fall to pieces. Similarly, man’s body seems to be programmed to last for just 70 or 80 years (even a healthy person might lose 10,000 brain cells (neurons) each day, link). Such a natural law cannot be described as coming from direct spiritual attack; rather, it was God decreed and sometimes the enemy helps things along (Job 1:12).
1.2 A Scientific Explanation
The scientist refers to this natural progression of things as The Second Law of Thermodynamics. One form of this law is described as increasing entropy, whereby systems tend to go from an ordered to unordered state (entropy is a measure of disorder or uncertainty). According to science, the entropy of the universe is increasing such that, eventually, all interesting (ordered) activity will cease! This has been described as the ‘heat death of the universe’, whilst the Bible describes this natural progression to chaos as ‘the curse of the Law’.
The good news is that Christ has redeemed us from this natural law by being made a curse for us (Gal 3:13). Man has been redeemed from both sin and sickness and can become ‘whole’ through Christ, irrespective of age (see Section 2 below). Even if there is no redemption from sickness (and this is common), and even though the present creation around us deteriorates, the Bible promises that believers in Christ will one day enter a world of perfect order, as in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21).
In passing, we note that evolutionary theory requires that things gradually and naturally (without the input of external intelligence) become more ordered and complex (decreasing entropy). But this is only possible if we acknowledge the existence of an external intelligence to create more order and complexity, and such intelligence is unacceptable in evolutionary theory!
1.3 Unclean Spirits
According to the Bible, sickness, death, accidents, and general disorder and strife all came about after God cursed the world following The Fall. These are so-called ‘natural’ processes and can be described by scientific law. There is a general run-down of all creation. At the same time, Satanic forces took rule over the earth in place of man (1 John 5:19), and Satan’s aim from that point was the death and destruction of mankind. Principalities and powers of darkness started working against mankind (Eph 6:12). So sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the effects of God’s decree for a fallen world, and direct spiritual attack. This calls for wisdom and discernment. Baldness and wrinkles are ‘natural’, but madness or some crippling disablement could be from principalities and powers.
According to the Bible a prime cause of sickness and disease comes from unclean spirits (Acts 10:38)(Luke 8:2, 13:11,16)(Mat 8:16, 10:1, 12:22-24, 17:14-18). These powers can influence our lives in at least two ways. First, God may allow such activity in order to test our faith, even though we may be living good lives in His sight (Job 1:8,12 ; 2:3). More often, unclean spirits can make a direct attack on our lives, and from biblical examples these attacks can cause oppression, madness, blindness, dumbness, physical crippling etc.. Once we discern this, we can take steps against these demonic forces in Jesus’ name and with His authority. For a comprehensive discussion on the use of Christ’s authority and power see Healing Guidelines and Our Authority in Christ.
Summary so Far
Adam’s rebellion against God and His statutes was responsible for an overall law of deterioration, and sickness and disease followed naturally. But we must also recognise that man’s rebellion today continues to inflict sickness and disease. For example, when we fail to recognise God’s rule over our bodies we can directly inflict problems. Lung cancer can come from smoking, liver disease can come from excessive drinking, and venereal disease and AIDS can come from promiscuity and biblically immoral practices. Sickness and disease can also come directly from God by way of judgement i.e. when a nation or individual is deliberately disobedient to Him (Deut 28:59-61)(Exod 15:26)(Rom 1:27). The plague of boils inflicted on the disobedient Egyptians is a classic example (Exod 9:8-9). Even Christians can be disobedient and inflict sickness upon themselves (1 Cor 11:29-30).
Sickness (physical or mental) and disease can also be inflicted by unclean (demonic) spirits, but the Spirit-filled believer has Christ’s authority and power to combat such attacks.
2. God’s Will for Man
2.1 His normal will for us
Given that the present world appears to have natural, in-built problems, should we expect physical healing? Recall the Lords prayer: ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. Since there is no sickness in heaven it seems that it is God’s will that there should be no sickness on earth; Jesus certainly demonstrated this by healing people. In the Old Testament (OT) we read that it was God’s will that those who chose to follow Him and refrain from sin would be protected from sickness and disease (Exod 15:26, 23:25-26). We also read that healing is inextricably linked to forgiveness for sin:
(the LORD) Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.’ (Ps 103:3)
The prophet Isaiah underscores this point:
Our griefs He Himself bore. And our sorrows He carried … He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities … and by His scourging we are healed.’ (Isa 53:4-5)
Here we have forgiveness and reconciliation to God (spiritual ‘wholeness’) alongside wholeness in body and mind. Not only was Christ pierced for our sins, but He also bore our sicknesses, and by His scourging we are healed. The word ‘grief’ (v4) is from the Hebrew ‘choli’ meaning sickness or disease. The word ‘sorrows’ is from the Hebrew ‘makob’ meaning pains. The word ‘healed’ (v5) is from the Hebrew ‘raphah’ meaning cured or healed. The healing theme of the OT is confirmed in Mat 8:17 (which refers back to Isa 53:4):
He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases
It is interesting to note that when Jesus’ authority to forgive sins was challenged, He responded by healing a paralytic (Mat 9:1-8). So He both forgave the man and healed him at the same time. The man went away ‘whole’ in body and soul!
In the New Testament, the Greek word ‘soteria’ (salvation) means both spiritual and physical salvation. The theme is both a good soul and good health (3 Jn 2)! Clearly, from both Old and New Testaments God normally wants man to be healed in body and mind just as much as He wants man to be saved. Salvation through Christ embraces the triune nature of man, not just his soul and spirit. This truth is underscored by two redemptive names of God:
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU meaning “The Lord our Righteousness”
JEHOVAH-RAPHA meaning “The Lord our Physician”
2.2 Our Response to Sickness
The above verses clearly state that salvation (of the soul) and healing (of the body and mind) were both achieved through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They come together as a gift of grace from Christ to all those who believe. So when we claim that we are forgiven, we can also claim that we are freed from sickness; we are freed from the curse resulting from Adam’s sin:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13)
Many Christians find this a difficult concept, especially when faced with sickness. As Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (Mat 9:5). We find it much easier to accept salvation through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, compared to accepting that we are at the same time freed from sickness! But it is illogical to accept one without the other. If we reckon ourselves ‘dead to sin’ (Rom 6:11) then we should also reckon ourselves dead to sickness.
Unless God tells us otherwise, this should be our mindset when confronted with sickness. We should remind ourselves that we are no longer under the curse and so we are dead to both sin and sickness; neither has the right in our bodies. We are temples of the Holy Spirit and so are swept clean from sin and sickness.
A Statement of Faith
Having looked at God’s normal Will for us, you may feel able to make the following statement of faith when faced with sickness in your own body:
‘I stand on the word of God. I confess Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord of my life. I believe His sacrifice on the cross reconciled me to God my Father and also freed me from the power of sin and sickness. I am freed from the power of the curse over mankind and from the power of all principalities and powers. In the name of Jesus and by His authority I command all attacks on my health to flee and never return. Through His work on the cross I am made whole in body, soul and spirit. Christ offers me both salvation and healing. So I confess all known sin in my life …. and ask Jesus to forgive me and to heal my body. I believe that this is the normal will of God for me.’
2.3 Our Response to Spiritual Attack
What about spiritual attack? Can’t demonic forces still rule over the health of our bodies despite the above promises? Not necessarily! The good news is that, although Satan is still officially ruler of this world, he no longer has full authority over the world. His kingdom has been invaded. It is rather like a country’s president who still officially rules but who is losing control and authority. Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and, in Jesus’ name, Satan and demonic forces are rendered powerless. All authority on earth (and in heaven) has now been given to Jesus (Mat 28:18):
He (Jesus) Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14)
Now the ruler of this world will be cast out (John 12:31)
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, man is now engaged in an on-going battle to be reinstated as number 2 in the hierarchy of things. The outcome is certain; Satan will soon be crushed under our feet (Rom 16:20). So, even if principalities and powers have inflicted a sickness or disease, we have the authority in Jesus’ name to cast it and claim wholeness in both body and spirit.
2.4 Our Response to Old Age
What about infirmity in old age? Surely the natural law of ‘running down’ implies that sickness and infirmity in old age is virtually inevitable? As noted above, man’s body seems programmed by God to last for just 70 or 80 years and so it seems reasonable to expect health problems later in life. But there is hope! In a believer’s case, God promises to remove sickness and let them live out their full years (Exod 23:25-26). He promises ‘good things’ throughout their years and to renew their youth (Ps 103.5). Sickness is not a ‘good thing’ and is not promised even when we age. When we become weary with age God’s will is to renew our strength (Isa 40:31). God’s will is that we come to death with full vigour (Job 5:26) and simply ‘fall asleep’ as God removes the spirit (breath) of life (Ps 104:29)(1 Thes 4:13-14).
Half of all people over 65 have arthritis, link. Arthritis can compromise bone strength, density and cushioning of the joints, causing severe pain. Osteoporosis is another age-related bone problem that leaves bones less dense and prone to fracture. Does the Bible say anything about our bones? Yes! It acknowledges that our bones can be a problem (Ps 6:2) but promises help:
A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to my bones. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov 14:30, 16:24, 17:22)
The biblical message is that, if our heart and view on life is right with God, this will have a real healing effect upon our bodies, even in old age.
We come back to Isaiah 53, the basic theological support for healing. If we still claim salvation and redemption from sin when we are old, why not healing also? There is no age limit in Isa 53:4-6 or Ps 103:3. It is unscriptural to believe that when we age we lose one aspect of these verses (delivery from sickness) but retain the other (delivery from sin – salvation). So even in old age we can stand on the promises of good health. It is rather like the people of Israel travelling through the wilderness (Num 21:6-9). When they were in trouble they looked to the bronze serpent on a standard; when our bodies are in trouble due to ageing we look to Christ.
2.5 Inner Healing
Many people, including many Christians, are inflicted by inner hurts. They are damaged in mind and heart rather than in the body. They are crying inside. They feel downtrodden. They are in bondage to hurts from the past. If they are Christian they lack the freedom to live the victorious Christian life. And the problem may not be just emotional – demonic powers may have entered through the mechanism of the hurt and they need dealing with.
This inner hurt and bondage can go on many years, wearing down both sufferer and counsellor, but it need not be so! Isaiah 53:4-5 refers to both physical and inner healing. As discussed, the word ‘sorrows’ (v4) is from the Hebrew ‘makobah’ meaning pains or sorrow or grief. And Jesus was chastened (v5) for our well being (mind and body). Jesus started His public ministry by saying:
He (God His Father) has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives … to set free those who are downtrodden … He has sent Me to bind up the broken hearted (Luke 4:18, Isa 61:1)
That sounds like inner healing. Jesus is the best counsellor in the world:
And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God (Isa 9:6)
We rest on such firm promises. If it is an emotional hurt we pour it all out to Jesus, we hand it over to Him and let Him carry it, we take His free offer of peace (John 14:27), and we take His offer of freedom (John 8:36). Releasing chains off captives takes minutes not years so the basic process of inner healing can be just as quick. And after this:
… the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7)
Such release and peace is complete and supernaturally given and does not need the months or years sometimes taken by human counselling. We rest on His Promises and Gifts. But if the hurt has opened up a way for demonic control then this needs dealing with first. There may be ‘bonds of wickedness’ and Christians are called upon to break such bonds in the name of Jesus, see for example Ellel Ministries and Our Authority in Christ. Sometimes this needs prayer and fasting:
Is this not the fast which I chose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? (Isa 58:6)
3. Concentrate on Jesus!
3.1 His Healing
In order to distinguish God’s healing from other forms of ‘healing ministry’, it is vital to acknowledge that Jesus is the healer at all times (Isa 53:4)(Mat 8:17). True God-given healing is always in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6) and it is Christ’s power through us (Luke 8:46). Man is simply His instrument through whom healing is sometimes administered. All other processes that appear to heal cannot be of God if Jesus is not honoured as the healer.
3.2 His Authority
Whilst Jesus was on earth, all the disciples needed was His authority over the causes of sickness (Mat 10:1)(Mark 3:15). This, together with the power God gave Jesus (Luke 3:22) was sufficient for God to perform healing through the disciples.
3.3 His Power
Jesus healed people because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38). Once Jesus had risen, the disciples could not go out into the world until they were ‘clothed with power from on high’ – an anointing of power and a sign that Christ was still with them (Luke 24:49).
So today’s Church goes out with the authority Christ gave His disciples and with the anointing of the Spirit (evidence of Christ’s presence and power). The authority and the power are essential since sickness is sometimes from powerful unclean spirits.
4. The Mystery of Healing
As we have seen, it is normally God’s will for us to be healed, just as it is His will for us to be redeemed from sin and be saved. Healing and salvation are inseparable in Isa 53:4-6, and often the healing is instantaneous when we call upon Jesus for help. Remove healing from Isa 53:4-6 and you might as well remove salvation.
But, as discussed in Section 1.1, where there is deliberate disobedience, sickness and disease may remain whilst God reproves us, or tests our faith. And in rare cases some may suffer for a while in order that God may be glorified (John 9:3; 11:6-15), although this wasn’t the norm in the gospels. Paul asked the Lord three times to remove some physical problem but he was told it was there for a reason (2 Cor 12:7-10). But apart from Paul’s case, there is no record of Jesus saying to someone who asked for healing ‘Sorry, you must suffer a little longer with this illness’, or ‘Sorry – I can’t/won’t do it’.
On the other hand we must acknowledge that some people are not healed despite obedience, repentance, authority, power, faith, prayer, and compassion. God is sovereign and we see only in part. In this age some are victorious over troubles (Heb 11:30-35a) whilst others suffer despite their faith (Heb 11.35b-38). As is often said, the Kingdom of God is ‘now, but not yet’ (John 14:30) and the god of this age still wages war against God’s Kingdom (2 Cor 4:4). But a time is coming when the saints take full possession of the Kingdom (Dan 7:22). Be encouraged.
5. Praying for Healing and Healing the Sick
We have examined the biblical basis for healing – the theology! But what about the practicalities? How should we pray for healing? How should we heal the sick? Are there any guidelines? Well, yes – whilst there are no fixed rules (God is sovereign and moves in mysterious ways), we can at least identify some common aspects of healing, and also identify what not to do! See Healing Guidelines.