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Spiritual Gifts: Healing and Miracles
A series on Spiritual Gifts: part 12

Author's Bias: Interpretation: conservative
Inclination: promise
Seminary: none

Healing

The Greek noun "iama," translated as "healing," is from the word group "iaomai" which means "to cure."

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing (iama) by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor 12:8-10)

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings (iama), helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings (iama), do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Cor 12:28-30)

By 500 B.C., "iaomai: to cure" was used literally to mean physically cure someone or figuratively to restore someone from evil, a psychological illness or an intellectual shortcoming. It was the Greeks who established the science of medicine on an empirical and rational basis despite the inability of distinguishing clearly between magic and medicine. Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C), from whom the Hippocratic Oath is attributed to, is considered by many as the father of medicine.

As early as 1450 B.C., the Old Testament presents the idea that God is the source of healing and based on faith in Him.

And He said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer." (Ex 15:26)

From this time on, Jews believed that illness was the consequence of a sin.

When Jesus arrives in the New Testament, His healings appear miraculous by curing medically impossible maladies (i.e. congenital blindness [John 9:1-12], severe mental illness [Mark 5:1-20], etc.) instantaneously.

Jesus healed to bring glory to God and announce the coming kingdom of God:

But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)

Jesus' ability to heal revealed that He was the Messiah and validated His message of the gospel:

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)

The twelve disciples were given the ability of healing for the purpose of authenticating their proclamation the kingdom of God:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. (Matt 10:1-10)

It is worthwhile to observe that Judas Iscariot, one who did not have a genuine faith in Jesus as the Messiah, is included as receiving "power and authority over all demons and to heal diseases."

The apostle Paul, who was not of the original twelve disciples, received the ability to supernaturally heal. In one case (Acts 14:8-10), the supernatural healing appeared to occur as a means to affirm the genuine faith of the afflicted, which could only be discerned by God.

At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he leaped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:8-10)

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. (Acts 19:11-12)

And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. (Acts 28:8-9)

However, Paul was unable or did not exercise the ability to heal all the time. 1 Timothy 5:23 indicates that Paul gave traditional medical advice contemporary with the first century.

No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Tim 5:23)

But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. (Phil 2:25-27)

Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. (2 Tim 4:20)

In view of the above data, how is one to understand what Paul meant about the spiritual gift of healing?

The gospel accounts of Jesus supernaturally healing do not seem appropriate to consider as examples of the spiritual gift of healing. Unique in person and mission, Jesus' ability to heal was distinctive to the Messiah and cannot be equated with the human being's spiritual gift of healing.

The gospel accounts of the disciples supernaturally healing to affirm Jesus as Messiah and His message do not seem to apply as well. Judas Iscariot's empowerment, in light of his unbelief, stands in contrast to the Holy Spirit's gifting of the Believer and in service / edification of other Believers.

Paul's supernatural ability to heal served the purpose of affirming Jesus as Messiah and His message. The beneficiaries of Paul's healing ability appear to be non-Believers and the people that Paul records as ill and unhealed appear to be Believers.

Though supernatural in origin, the spiritual gift of healing is not limited to mean that the healing outcome is spontaneous and beyond the realm of science and natural law. Within the context and meaning of the Greek noun "iama," the spiritual gift of healing may include contemporary medical practices and skill. From one perspective, the capacity to go through medical school is God given and could be considered a gift.


Miracles

The spiritual gift of miracles is translated from the Greek noun "dynamis."

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles (dynamis), and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor 12:8-10)

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles (dynamis), then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles (dynamis), are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Cor 12:28-30)

The Greek noun "dynamis" describes "the inherent power of a thing by virtue of its nature or ability to act." In context of its nature, it could be understood as a force of power within a thing. In context of its ability, it could be understood as the ability to achieve. When "dynamis" was used in reference to human beings, it was independent of his social position or government authority; however, "dynamis" was not limited to refer only to human beings.

In Greek literature regarding human beings, "dynamis" has been used to refer to a person's physical strength, a person's ability to achieve, the fighting strength of military troops and political power.

The Greeks also used "dynamis" with a metaphysical sense. In context of medicine and the nature of man, "dynamis" referred to one's spiritual faculties. In context of nature, it referred to nature's power of heat and cold, the healing power of plants and elements, or the creative force or healing powers of gods.

"Dynamis" is found frequently in the New Testament and is used with a similar meaning as first century Greek culture.

"Dynamis" is used to refer to the inherent power of God:

And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see he Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power (dynamis), and coming with the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:62)

Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power (dynamis) of God? (Mark 12:24)

"Dynamis" is used to refer to the inherent power of Jesus Christ:

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers (dynamis) that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power (dynamis) and glory. (Mark 13:24-26)

"Dynamis" is used to refer to the inherent power of the Holy Spirit:

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power (dynamis) from on high. (Luke 24:49)

He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power (dynamis) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)

"Dynamis" is used to describe the gospel as an expression of the inherent power of God.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power (dynamis) of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power (dynamis) of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

"Dynamis" is used to refer to the inherent ability of human beings:

To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability (dynamis); and he went on his journey. (Matt 25:15)

While on earth, Jesus was enabled with the inherent power of the Holy Spirit and God the Father:

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power (dynamis) of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. (Luke 4:14)

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power (dynamis) of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. (Luke 5:17)

The apostles were enabled with the inherent power of the Holy Spirit:

And with great power (dynamis) the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. (Act 4:33)

And Stephen, full of grace and power (dynamis), was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)

God was performing extraordinary miracles (dynamis) by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. (Acts 19:11)

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles (dynamis) and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Heb 2:1-4)

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power (dynamis) of God. (1 Cor 2:3-5)

Believers were enabled by the inherent power of the Holy Spirit and God, which provided a capability that surpassed their normal ability, for the purpose of building up the church:

For I testify that according to their ability (dynamis), and beyond their ability (dynamis), they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (2 Cor 8:3-5)

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power (dynamis) that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20)

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power (dynamis), according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. (Col 1:9-12)

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power (dynamis), which mightily works (dynamis) within me. (Col 1:28-29)

It is not clear, in the above four examples, if Paul is speaking about the normal activities of the Holy Spirit in a Believer's life or if they are exemplary results of spiritual gifts. Nonetheless, when pertaining to human beings, the Greek noun "dynamis" places a focus on the inherent nature of a person; his actions are a reflection of his "dynamis".

This has posed a difficulty in understanding the spiritual gift of miracles, because the Paul's spiritual gifts are all defined by what they do (i.e. teaching, giving, etc). The English translation of "miracles" places a supernatural emphasis on the activity of one with this gift. This perspective implies that one who receives the spiritual gift of miracles does things beyond scientific understanding or laws of nature.

It is possible that the spiritual gift of "dyanamis" includes activity beyond human understanding; however, if one kept within the limits of the Greek noun as it was used in the first century and pertinent to the edification of the church, the spiritual gift of miracles appears to be the ability to go beyond one's normal limits in a general sense of human activity so that he could accomplish things that could only be perceived as through the power of God.

"A Christianity which does not prove its worth in practice degenerates into dry scholasticism and idle talk."

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)

References:

1. Brown C, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1979).


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