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Thursday, February 28, 2013

What about healing diseases and casting out demons?

We saw on Sunday that just as Jesus’ ministry consisted of preaching the gospel, healing diseases, and casting out demons, so also He called His disciples to do the same.  In our application of the passage we discovered that as Jesus’ disciples, we too should take the gospel to the people around us. 
But that brings up an obvious question.  Why is it that we are to share the gospel, but we are not expected to cast out demons or heal diseases?  If those things were part of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the disciples/apostles, why are they not part of our ministry today? 
The answer pertains to where we are in salvation history.  There is evidence in the New Testament that the miraculous deeds done by Jesus and the apostles served the purpose of validating their message.  Jesus indicates in Matthew 11:21 that His miracles were intended to lead the people to repentance: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  So that we don’t miss the point, Matthew introduces this quotation with an editorial comment: Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent (Matt 11:20).
Hebrews 2:3-4 also shows that miracles were intended to validate the message.  There we are taught that the gospel was first given by Jesus, then by “those who heard” (the apostles), and that God Himself bore witness to the truth of the message “by signs and wonders and various miracles.”  One example of this is in Acts 8:6-7: And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.  Additionally, in Acts19:11-20, the author describes how Paul’s various miracles and exorcisms directly led to the successful spread of the gospel.   
But, as I have previously written related to exorcism, now that the canon of Scripture has been completed, such validating signs are no longer necessary.  When we speak the truth, we do not appeal to the authority evident in miracles we perform, but we appeal to the authority of the Bible.  That is why we do not see the same kinds of miracles and exorcisms today that were prevalent during the time of the apostles.  [Some would disagree, perhaps citing healing services by people like Benny Hinn.  This objection does not hold water because the miracles that Jesus and the disciples performed were qualitatively different than the “miracles” performed by Hinn.  Benny Hinn has never instantly removed leprosy from a leper.  He has never instantly regenerated a withered hand.  He has never given sight to a person confirmed to have been born blind.  He has never instantly cured a hemorrhage of blood.  With the miracles of Jesus, everyone could see with their own eyes that a true miracle had taken place.  With Hinn, you just have to take his word for it, which defeats the original purpose of miracles.]
A second reason to believe that sharing the gospel is to be our main focus is that the Great Commission makes no mention of healing and exorcism:  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mat 28:18-20).  This seems parallel to Jesus’ command to the disciples in Matt 10 to go to the lost sheep of Israel, except now the mission is extended to all nations.  Missing is the exhortation to cast out spirits and heal every disease and every affliction.
So don’t think that if you aren’t an exorcist or a healer you are a substandard follower of Christ.  Just recognize the lost and give them the gospel.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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