(Healing, Miracles, Prophesy and Discernment of spirits)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10)
God first blessed us with His Spirit to dwell in us to lead us to Him and then bestowed special capacities through the spiritual gifts on us to perform equally special tasks that He has decided for each of us. Apostle Paul refers to the Church as a body and each has a specific purpose and in like manner each member of the ‘body of Christ’- His Church, has unique traits to glorify Him. These gifts are for His glory and need to be used for the same under the direction and power of the giver of these gifts – The Holy Spirit. “There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4) and these are for ‘the profit of all’.
Gifts of healing – This is the only gift of the Holy Spirit which is in a plural form and the two Greek words “charismata iamaton” are both plural in form. Charismata is translated as a ‘spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large number of people’ and “iamaton” derived from “iaomai” meaning healings. Faith is the fulcrum providing leverage to all the Spiritual gifts and the gifts of healing totally hinges on faith of both parties- the one exercising the gift and the beneficiary. All gifts are given as per the requirement of God’s work and purpose and not for individual benefit. The sickness of Lazarus and his being raised from the dead is a manifestation of the glory of God as proclaimed by the Lord “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God” (John 11:4). The Divine glory is reflected in the love and compassion of God, a trait very dear to God and this is displayed the most in the process of healing the sick.
Wherever Lord Jesus visited and the sick were brought to Him, “He healed them all” of diverse types of diseases- physical and psychological caused by the evil spirits. The gift is given by the Holy Spirit to:
- Reveal the love of God towards the suffering.
- To show the nearness of God to His people and His care for their sufferings.
- Draw people to God through His Son Lord Jesus.
- Affect healing of the soul tormented by the devil and cause spiritual healing.
- Build up faith in all believers.
- Show proof of forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5).
Healing in itself is a gift from God and we are expected to respond with thanksgiving and praise like the Samaritan leper who returned to thank and worship the Lord though the other nine did not. Our Lord through this and the healing of the woman with the twelve years old blood flow showed another aspect of healing- wholeness. The sick person suffers financial loss, physical and psychological trauma and the leper would lose part of the extremities of the hands and feet. Our Lord blessed them with “Wholeness” encompassing healing in all the affected areas of life that went beyond the haling of the body. The gift of healing therefore includes ending other aspects of suffering also in addition to the end of disease and pain for the Lord gave us His peace which covers all areas of turmoil.
But will healing be affected in all persons always? – Apostle Paul prayed three times for the removal of ‘the thorn in his flesh’ but his prayer was answered in a different way through grant of more grace to face the challenge and the pain with the blessing “My grace is enough for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Healing may also be impacted due to unbelief and the example of the residents of Nazareth is glaring for “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Healing in certain cases may not happen to keep the individual from self exaltation and turning away from God. The gift of healing like other gifts is a pointer to the kingdom of God where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Gift of miracles – Lord Jesus performed no miracle which could be misconstrued by others to be for His glory for on the earth He was in the form of a man who was here to reveal the glory and love of the Father God. This gift is taken as something similar to the gift of healing but if that was so then why term it as a separate gift. The Greek words ‘energemata dunameon’ used here are translated as “working of miracles”. The singular word ‘energema’ translates as “that which is wrought through energy, the effect produced, operation’ and this word in itself is derived from ‘energeo’ which means ‘to work in, to be active in, energise and operate’. This word is first used to denote the power of God operative in man to produce the effect for the working of each gift (1 Corinthians 12:6). Later it is used with the word ‘dunameon’ to describe the gift of ‘working of miracles’. ‘Dunameon’ comes from the word ‘dunamis’ meaning strength, power or ability and in the ‘Parable of the Talents’ Lord Jesus illustrates that the servants are given wealth according to their ‘dunamis’ or ability to handle it (Matthew 25:14-30). Dunamis refers to the inherent power that exists in a thing by virtue of its nature and this has the power to regenerate and replenish itself. But we as Christians neither live nor operate the gifts in our own power but in the power of the One who has given these gifts and these are available only till we are united to “the true vine”.
The two words used together imply the ‘acts of power’ or ‘working of miracles’ in Divine power to create a lasting impact on the lives of people and even the nations like the miracle of opening up of the red sea, parting of river Jordan or collapse of the walls of Jericho and many others in the Old and New Testaments alike. These acts are of an extraordinary nature never seen before and Apostle Paul’s being bitten by a viper snake after the shipwreck with no ill effect on him (Acts 28:3-6) is in conformity with the blessings given by our Lord in Mark 16:17-18. The gift is given by God to the Church to reveal His Divine presence, glory and power among His people to lead them to Him and to reveal the hand of God working through the believers. After the Pentecost day, Peter and John healed a “man lame from his mother’s womb” in the temple and members of the ‘Council (Sanhedrin) threatened them not to preach the name of Jesus but accepted that “What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle had been done by them” (Acts 4:16). The enemies of the church are silenced by God through this gift witnessed by them and many are converted to the faith by this.
The gift of working of miracles is operable in and through those believers only who have strong faith and are willing to work for the glory of God and not for self promotion. Humility coupled with prayer of intercession and faith in the power and presence of the Lord Jesus as Savior through the Holy Spirit in us is the key of operation of this and all other gifts also.
Gift of Prophesy – Even before the arrival of our Immanuel on the earth God had declared the gift of the Holy Spirit and through Him of prophesy “And I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Joel 2:28). On the other hand “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1) clarifying in essence the reason for the gift of prophesy. Prophecy is not only about foretelling future events, for if that was so, then it will be like divination or astrology which would be a contradiction of sorts for these two are sinful acts. Gift of prophesy is thus communicating God’s commands to the listeners and this would include three aspects- a reminder of the past; a warning for the present sinful state of the individual concerned and then the future repercussions of this. Prophesy would also include a forewarning of God’s plans for the creation provided to the prophet. The gift would operate in two levels as shown in the Scriptures- one of an immediate nature with limited application usually for an individual like the prophetic messages of Agabus (Acts 11:28 and 21:11). Another would be of a much later period with larger ramifications affecting large number of people as of Daniel and Isaiah concerning the Messiah and Apostle John in the book of Revelation.
How does the gift of prophecy work? – This spiritual gift is an extraordinary gift and the Greek word for prophecy is ‘propheteia’ which is translated as ‘the ability to receive, interpret and deliver a divinely transmitted message to the intended recipient’. Apostle Paul further elucidates that this message could have various forms for reminding of past sins and correction; exhortation and encouragement ( as to Zerubbabel through Prophet Zechariah for repair of the Temple); prediction of future events or revelations given to encourage, warn or edify the Church and thus reveal the glory of God to others. And then he specifies the guidelines for its operation in the Church that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” and that while one speaks the others should judge the same for accuracy. Thus the gift must be used not to create confusion but edify each other (1 Corinthians 14: 3-4; 23-24 and 29-33).
Is prophesy always accurate? – The prophetic utterances are not exactly the authoritative “Word of God” as it was most times in the Old Testament. It is a revelation from God interpreted by man using his own knowledge and wisdom and spoken in human words. Because of this there is a possibility of errors creeping in unintentionally. Apostle Paul cautions the believers not to despise prophesies but test them in relation to Scriptures as well as with other similar messages from other prophets (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). In the Old Testament the prophecy was in exact words as “Thus says the Lord” and human interpretation was not there while in present times it is to reveal the heart and presence of God to the believes and unbelievers alike. Those endowed with this gift are aware of the needs of the ‘Body of Christ’ as well as the urging of the Holy Spirit and in an attempt to reconcile the two discrepancies may arise. It is thus necessary to be in regular fellowship with the Lord through prayer and worship as well as Scriptures study and meditation. Even then before declaring a message there is a necessity to humbly test it in the light of Scriptures and still be prepared to face the testing by others.
The Gift of discerning of spirits – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1) are the words of warning to the believers by Apostle John. Our Lord’s coming as man was to vanquish the designs of Satan and victory was declared on the cross. Despite this Satan is still free and not chained yet and “walks about like a roaring lion” spreading lies ass is his wont. To obviate this believers are provided with the gift of discerning of spirits by the Holy Spirit enabling them to search the hearts of others to know their real intents and purposes. It was through this gift that Apostle Paul could discern that the lame man in Lystra “had faith to be healed” commanded him to stand up straight (Acts 14:9). Apostle Peter used this same gift to know about the deception of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10).
Why is the gift of discerning of spirits given? – With the gift of prophecy being made available it was apparent that false prophets would emerge to mislead the believers and take undue financial and social advantage over the believers. It is to detect such imposters and prevent misuse of the gift through pretensions of being blessed with the same the believers were equipped with the power to discern the truth from lies. But this is not an ability of reading the minds of everyone to know their secrets in a routine manner but to understand the influence of God, the devil or the human mind in a situation. The Greek word used for this is ‘diakrisis’ from ‘diakrino’ and is translated as ‘ability to distinguish or judge a person, situation or statement in light of evidence to pass judgement’. The aim of this is clearly singular to differentiate good from evil to avoid being led astray by false teachings or doctrines (Hebrews 5:14). This is not to assess a believer’s character, qualifications or other personal traits which was available through the gift of wisdom.
Should every believer seek these spiritual gifts? – All gifts are dependent on the gift of faith and this is one important gift for the believer. The father of the demon possessed boy cried out to the Jesus “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) and the boy was healed. Every believer should humbly seek the gift of faith to overcome any vestiges of pride and self sufficiency first. The gifts belong to three different categories/genera- firstly, the gifts of intellect/intelligence as of knowledge and of wisdom. Secondly, are the gifts based on faith as gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy and discerning of spirits. Third category is of gifts pertaining to tongues and interpretation of tongues. The first two gifts operate for the building up of believers and the last two for revealing the presence of God to unbelievers, though the gift of miracles and healings would also apply to this category. The very fact that they are termed as gifts we do not have an inherent claim over these for God gives these to each individual according to the specific purpose for which he is chosen. Apostle Paul was chosen to be shown by the Lord “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:16) and was gifted and filled with Divine grace to suffer accordingly to reveal the Lord to the gentiles. But we are not fully aware of God’s plan for us and must pray to God for all the gifts to be able to perform the assigned task without envying the gifts received by other believers.
Believers gifted with these spiritual gifts of charisma are blessed to experience a great sense of presence of God and His power available through the Holy Spirit and earnestly seek God to reveal Himself to draw others into His Light. Their aim is on leading others to Christ and not develop a personal band of followers and Apostle Paul could say “Who then is Paul and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed as the Lord gave to each one? (1 Corinthians 3:5). We have to first recognize and accept the sovereignty of God over us and humbly surrender ourselves before Him through prayer and supplications always glorifying God. Always give glory and credit to God for every act performed by Him through us and point others to the Lord Jesus. In this way then the aim of God in giving these gifts to reveal Himself to others, edify the church and bring others from darkness to light will be fulfilled.
“There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit…. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:4 and 7). God is sovereign over giving these gifts but we must earnestly seek the same “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). The presence of the Holy Spirit must fill us with Divine love to such an extent that the fruits of the Spirit are more evident in our lives to the glory of God, for all is to reveal God to others in our lives.