THE GIFTS OF HEALING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-19-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on the gifts of healing. In this long series of services on the Holy Spirit, we have been following a series of sermons in the series on the gifts of the Spirit. And Paul names thirty in four different places: in the twelfth chapter of Romans [Romans 12:6-8]; two times, two lists in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians [1 Corinthians 12:8-11, 28-31]; and a list in the fourth chapter of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:11-12]. And when we check off the duplicates, the repeated gifts in the list of four, there are about eighteen or nineteen left. So Paul names nineteen separate gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the first message we discussed the basic gifts for the propagation and teaching of the gospel; the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, the teacher.
Then the next sermon concerned the precious ministering gifts of the Spirit; these gifts of wisdom and knowledge, of compassion and mercy, of comfort and understanding. Then there are four sign gifts of the Holy Spirit; miracles, the gifts of healing, the gift of tongues, and the gift of interpretation of tongues. The sermon last Sunday morning concerned the gift of miracles. This Sunday morning the sermon will be on the gifts of healing. I found it altogether impossible for me to place in one sermon, and this is a burden to my heart because the sermon ought to be preached at one time. It is not complete to divide it in two. But I could not begin to deliver in one message the sermon on the gifts of healing. And yet I condensed it and worked hard to try to do it.
So the sermon this morning will be on The Gifts of Healing, the sermon next Sunday morning will be the second part of the message on the gifts of healing. Then following that will be a message on the gift of tongues and speaking and interpretation of tongues. Twice in the lists and once named does Paul refer in 1 Corinthians 12 to the gifts of healing. First Corinthians 12:8:
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge . . . to another faith . . . to another the gifts of healing . . . to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
[1 Corinthians 12:8-10]
In the nine gifts of the Spirit that he mentions there, he names the gifts of healing [1 Corinthians 12:9].
Now in the list in verse 28, he names prophets, apostles, teachers, miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues [1 Corinthians 12:28]. Then in verse 30, “Have all the gifts of healing?” [1 Corinthians 12:30]. Three times he names it gifts of healings and always in the plural, charismata, grace gifts, iamatōn, of healings, plural. And the phrase is exactly the same in all three instances. [First Corinthians 12:9]: charismata iamatōn. The same phrase in verse 28 [First Corinthians 12:28], the same phrase in verse 30, gifts of healings [1 Corinthians 12:30]. It refers to the different kinds of diseases and the different kinds of healings. We can be sick in our bodies, we can be sick in our minds, we can be sick in our souls. When we turn to this discussion on the gifts of healing, we are discussing a subject that touches every life and every home; you in yourself, and you in your family, and in the circle of friendship, sickness and disease.
The first appeal that I can remember when I began to be a pastor as a teenage boy, in my little country church; a two year old baby daughter with blond flaxen hair, out in the country, was afflicted so grievously. The little child had diphtheria, and when I began preaching, if anybody had pneumonia, they almost always died. If a child had diphtheria, or typhoid, or scarlet fever, ah! the people I buried as a youth, before the days of antibiotics, penicillin, or the sulfonamides, or any of those diseases that are subject to these specific antibiotics, oh, it was a world of sadness!
And the fist appeal that I can remember was being called to the home of this deacon, and he and his wife said to me, will you kneel and tell God for us that we will do anything God wants us to do. We will turn over all that we have including ourselves to the Lord if He will just heal our little baby girl. Oh! those appeals are so pitiful and sorrowful. They continue through the years. This is a letter that I received this week from the wife of the pastor of one of the fine churches in Louisiana, the First Baptist Church of this city in Louisiana.
Dear Dr. Criswell,
I’d like to give you a tremendous challenge to your faith in Jesus Christ. My husband (and the pastor of that First Baptist Church) is sick here in a Shreveport hospital. There are no medical answers and the time is urgent! You have great faith and have seen physical and spiritual miracles. If you believe (and she names these passages and many more) and I know you do, please pray in Jesus name for my husband’s healing. We are not expecting this healing because he is a preacher. My husband would say that he is the least of God’s children. We trust God for a miracle because of His love, mercy, power, and willingness to heal.
Then she thanks me for praying.
I know you’re so busy, but I want to hear from you. Any promise that you can claim for his healing will be helpful, or any suggestion on prayer, we want God to get glory to His name.
Is that right? Is that correct? Are we to turn to God when we are sick? Have we any scriptural warrant or right or encouragement to appeal to God for the healing of our bodies?
First, two observations: one, it is preeminently right and correct for us to turn to God in our hour of illness. Only God heals. The physician may operate and cut, or saw, or sew, or diagnose, or prescribe. But only God can heal [Deuteronomy 32:39]. The physician cannot heal. The pharmaceutical genius cannot heal. The chemist cannot heal. The anatomist cannot heal. It is only God that heals. The only healing there is, is divine, miraculous and heavenly healing. There is none other. And for us to make appeal to the great Physician for the healing of our bodies is preeminently right and scriptural and correct.
It is interesting to me to see in the Word of God how all three Persons of the Godhead are presented as healers. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, when the people of the Lord cried unto the Lord because of the bitter waters at Marah, the Lord directed that Moses place a tree in the springs and the waters were made sweet, and the people were given health and life [Exodus 15:22-25]. And the story closes, “For, says God, I am the Lord that healeth thee. I am Jehovah Ropheka; I am God that healeth thee” [Exodus 15:26].
Now the second Person of the Godhead, our Savior the Lord Jesus.
When the even was come, they brought unto Him those that were possessed . . . and He cast out the evil spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
And the third Person of the Godhead; “For if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by [His] Spirit that dwelleth in you” [Romans 8:11]. He does not say quicken your dead bodies, but quicken your mortal bodies. God is presented in the Bible as a great Healer [Exodus 15:26], and a great Physician [Luke 4:23].
Nor have I time to recount the miraculous healings of God in answer to earnest supplication and prayer. When Abimelech was afflicted [Genesis 20:1-18], God directed Abraham His prophet to pray for Abimelech, and God healed him [Genesis 20:7, 17]. When Miriam was struck with leprosy, Aaron her brother made appeal to Moses that Moses cry unto God for his sister. And God answered Moses’ prayer, and Miriam was healed [Numbers 12:10-15].
One of the most striking of all of the stories in the Bible is the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. When Isaiah the prophet was sent to Hezekiah the king to announce to him to set his house in order, for he should die and not live, and Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and wept before the Lord and prayed before God [Isaiah 38:1-3]. And the Lord turned Isaiah around and sent him back to the king, and said, “Thus saith the Lord, I have seen your tears, and I have heard your prayers, and I have also added to your life fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:4-5]. Nor have I opportunity to describe those who were ill who made appeal to Jesus. And the Lord heard their supplications, and healed the sick [Matthew 8:14-15], and cleansed the leper [Mark 1:40-43], and opened the eyes of the blind [Luke 18:35-43].
When we had our men of the church sports award banquet last month, they brought here the strongest man in the world to speak to those boys. At the world Olympics, he was acclaimed the strongest man in the world. Why, I never saw anybody like that. He took a nail, and with his bare hand, thrust it through two solid one-inch boards, two inches thick with his bare hand. He lifted a table on which I have forgotten how many people were seated. And it was an amazing thing to me, as he began to speak, the first thing he said was this. That in the old days in South Carolina where he grew up, they always brought the casket back to the house. They did that when I began my ministry. When a member of the family died they brought the casket to the house, and there the neighbors and friends came to weep with the family.
Well, when he was a little four year old boy, he said, he was given up to die, and they rearranged the furniture in the grandmother’s home for the casket to be brought back. And he said his grandfather who was a godly man went to a preacher, went to his pastor, and made appeal to the pastor to cry unto God for the life of the little child. And the pastor prayed, and the boy, he said, he, he was wondrously saved and immediately was made well. That’s the way he began his testimony. When we therefore speak of God as the Healer [Exodus 15:26], and when we speak of divine healing, and when we speak of prayer and supplication in behalf of our sick, we are preeminently speaking correctly and right! It is woven into the very warp and woof of the Word of God.
Now my second observation: but, when you come to a discussion of the gifts of healing and of professional divine healers, you are entering an altogether different world. And you are entering an altogether different thing. Now, all of these sermons are built one upon the other, and I have to remind you now of the sermon last Sunday morning. The gifts of healing is in the framework of the larger gift of miracles. “Gifts of healing” is just a specific category in the great, larger area of the gifts of miracles. Now, the gift of miracles, which includes the gifts of healing, were signs of authentication and substantiation and corroboration in the day when we had no Bible New Testament. And the gifts of miracles were God’s designation that this man is with God’s message, for they had no Bible to go by, no authority to appeal to. How were the people to know that this man brought God’s message? God’s way of doing it was to designate the man with signs, and wonders, and miracles [John 10:38, 14:11].
Now you find that plainly here in the Word of God. For example, the Lord Jesus: in the Pentecostal sermon, Simon Peter says, “Ye men of Israel, hear Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved, appointed, designated by God among you with miracles and wonders and signs” [Acts 2:22]. God pointed Him out: this is My Son; these are the credentials of His Messiah-ship, miracles and wonders and signs. That was their purpose.
When I turn in the Book of Acts, the Lord did the same thing in designating and corroborating His apostles. “And now, Lord . . . grant unto Thy servants boldness by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy Child Jesus” [Acts 4:29-30]. These marvelous miracles of healing, and the other marvelous signs that the apostles prayed for and were given, were corroborations that they were the messengers of heaven.
Paul avows so, as he writes to the Corinthian church. “In nothing,” he says, “am I behind the chiefest apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” [2 Corinthians 12:11-12]; always those three words, semeion, terasin, and dunamis, those three words, signs, wonders, and miracles or mighty deeds.
Now you see the same thing in this second generation Christian who wrote the Book of Hebrews. “That great salvation which at the first began to be spoken of by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness”; not confirming it to us with signs and wonders, but God confirmed it to those who heard the Lord Jesus, the first generation of Christians; “God also bearing them witness, with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles” [Hebrews 2:3-4]. The gifts of miracles, the gifts of healing, the gift—not miracles, God works miracles through the years. God works miracles today. On the mission field and sometimes in our very presence, God works the most astonishing and marvelous deeds. Not miracles, but the gift of miracles, not divine miraculous healing, but the gifts of healing. The gift of miracles and the gifts of healing were signs whereby God designated the Son of God as the Savior and Messiah of the world, whereby God designated these men as His apostles and emissaries from heaven; before the Bible was written.
And when the office of the apostle passed away, and when the Bible was completed, the gift passed away. There was no more need for it. The sign passed away when the office passed away [1 Corinthians 13:8-9]. Same thing identically as the children of Israel: when they were journeying through the wilderness, God took care of them with manna from heaven [Exodus 16:15]. But in the fifth chapter of Joshua, when Israel entered the land of Canaan, and ate of the corn of the land, the manna ceased [Joshua 5:12]. There was no more need for it. So it was in the apostolic office and in the writing of the Holy Scriptures [1 Corinthians 13:10].
Before there was any Bible New Testament, God confirmed the witness of the apostle and the emissary from heaven by signs [Acts 3:12, 16; 1 Corinthians 2:4]. But when the Bible was written and the apostolic office ceased, the gift of signs, the gift of miracles, and the gifts of healing ceased; not miracles ceased, not healing ceased, not God’s intervention in human life ceased, but the gift ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8-10]. And no man possesses it; no man ever. Not now, not now. They were apostolic signs and prophetic signs, and there are no more apostles in the holy office and no more prophets in the holy office [1 Corinthians 13:10].
And that’s where we come into this marvelous and unbelievable world of today. I read. A periodical recently made the assertion that in Britain alone the number of spirit healers belonging to the National Federation of Spiritual Healers is in the region of four thousand. And the number of people who claim to be spirit healers, faith healers, divine healers is increasing all over the world. In the lengthy article the case is told of a healer who all his life has been guided by a voice. He claims this healing power has come from God. He smokes cigars. He does not go to church. He believes that God does not need the trappings of any religion, and he goes down to the pub or for a stroll after a days work. Yet the reported healings are numerous and remarkable. And the reason is obvious: eighty-five percent of all sick people will get well anyway. So when a man says, “I am a divine healer, bring your sick to me,” eighty-five percent of them will get well. And the other fifteen percent, he says, they didn’t have the faith. There’s no way for him to miss. He can’t miss.
Yesterday I received this through the mail:
Send now a small apron to be prayed over by the party. The apron that you send to be prayed over will be returned to you. Be sure to enclose a properly stamped envelope addressed back to you so that we may return the blessed apron to you. Send a photo picture or snapshot of yourself or anyone in need of prayer, we will lay our hands upon these pictures and ask God to meet every need. Your generous gifts and faithful pledges are needed. Read God’s Bible promises for your healing, and as you pay your vows to the Lord, surely every Bible believing Christian can vow to give a hundred dollars, some can give a thousand. I will be looking for your letter––and in parenthesis I’d say, “and your money.”
Yours in God’s miracle revival.
I have an intuitive and basic reaction to anything like that, and it is this. If a man had, which he doesn’t have, if a man had the miraculous gifts of healing, he ought not to use it for money. Under God, under God; to prey upon the miseries and the agonies of God’s people for money is of all things to me inexcusable and opprobrious. Oh! There is so much that I wish to say, but I must skip over these things.
Now let us turn to you who are ill. So many of you will be listening to me on this radio, and at the eleven o’clock hour so many others will be listening on television and radio again. I want to speak to you this morning about the sadnesses, and the sorrows, and the distresses that are brought to the sick by the doctrine of these self-professed divine healers who say that they have the gifts of healing.
What do they say? First; they avow, they avow that it is God’s will that we never be sick. It is God’s will they say that we be well and never be sick. It is God’s will they say that all of the sick be healed. It is God’s will they say that we never fall into illness or infirmity.
Now, what I cannot understand about that is this. If it is God’s will that we never be sick, we do not ever fall into illness, I cannot understand this: Paul writes to Timothy and says, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23]; thine often infirmities.
You could not have the practice of medicine without alcohol. The tragedy of alcohol is that it is perverted and used for beverages. And Timothy so reacted to that, he was such a teetotaler that he wouldn’t touch the stuff even for illness, for medicinal purposes. So Paul wrote him an injunction: Timothy, it’s all right for you to be a teetotaler, and don’t touch the stuff of alcohol, but you are sick, thine often infirmities. You are sick, and take this medicine. Take it.
If it is not God’s will we ever be sick, I cannot understand that. All right, once again, in the last letter that Paul wrote, 2 Timothy 4, verse 20: “Erastus abode at Corinth: and Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.” Even the apostle who had the sign gift was not able to use it indiscriminately, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do it. These miraculous gifts, we’re talking about the gift, these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were sovereignly bestowed, and they were used for signs and corroboration. And the apostle himself could not heal indiscriminately. He couldn’t do it. And he wrote to Timothy this last letter out of the Mamertine dungeon in Rome and said, “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.” Why didn’t Paul heal him? Because he couldn’t heal him. That lies in the sovereign purpose and elective choice of God [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. “Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick” [2 Timothy 4:20].
All right, the second thing: they say that Christ heals all of the sick. But you’re sick. Christ healed all of the sick. My brother, Christ no more healed all the sick than He raised all the dead. No, no, no! We know of three that Christ raised from the dead: the son of the widow of Nain [Luke 7:11-15], Jairus’ daughter [Luke 8:41-42, 49-55], and Lazarus [John 11:43-44]. And I am sure there are others He raised from the dead. But the great throng of the dead saints still sleep in their graves, in their bodies. Their spirits are in heaven [Luke 16:22].
There are many passages, and if we had time we’d look at all this carefully, there are many passages that says Jesus would enter a village and they would bring out the sick, and He would heal all the sick [Matthew 4:24, 12:15; Luke 4:40, 6:19]. That is true. But oh! in the fifth chapter, for example, in the Book of John, there was a multitude of sick at the pool of Bethesda. And every one of them believed in divine healing. They were waiting for the stirring of the waters and the miraculous heavenly healing. Jesus healed one and walked away from all of the rest [John 5:3-9]. Oh, how many He did not heal! For the gift of healing was a sign to designate, a credential to present, “This is God’s Son the Savior of the world!” Then, of course, out of compassion for us, [Jesus] who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, our sicknesses, Jesus healed [Hebrews 4:15-16].
Third: they say that healing is in the atonement of our Lord. But you are saved, and you are a Christian, and you are sick. Why? What they say is correct. All disease came because of sin, and the atonement of Christ washes away sin [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. And they add, therefore it takes away all of our illnesses and our infirmities. All of that is true, but the full benefits of the atonement of Christ are not all seen yet. There are other and other chapters to be added that God will yet do as a result of the marvelous efficacy power of the atonement of Christ [Romans 8:25; Hebrews 2:8].
We do not see it all now. We do not receive it all now, not now. For example, the earth is still cursed, deserts, waste, the earth is still cursed. For example, the woman still bears children in labor pains and sorrow [Genesis 3:16]. For example, the man still earns a living by the sweat of his brow, toiling. If we ever get to the place where we don’t toil, we will starve to death as a nation and as a people. That’s a part of the curse of God upon the earth [Genesis 3:17-19]. And our bodies age as God said they would, and die [Genesis 3:19]. And the drag of sin is still with us. And we know illness and infirmity. As Paul says, he discusses all this minutely in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, even though we are forgiven and redeemed, our spirits regenerated and we are saved [Romans 8:1-22], yet we groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of the body [Romans 8:23]. The full purchased possession is not in God until we are raised from the dead [Romans 8:11]. The full effects of the atonement are not now. We still live in a house of clay, and we still know infirmities, and aging, and sickness, and death [Romans 8:23].
Now last brief thing: and they avow that illness is because we don’t do God’s will. “If we did God’s will, we would not be sick. And if we do God’s will, we will be made immediately well.” All right another thing of this week; “I don’t care,” quoting now: “I don’t care how many times you have been prayed for, it is God’s will that you have a well body. Friend of mine, will you obey God, will you? When you make up your mind to obey God you will be healed.”
This tract, fifty cents for one hundred, two dollars per five hundred, three dollars per one thousand. “If you will obey God you will be healed. The reason you are sick is because you do not obey God.” Therefore you who are sick live in an agony of soul searching, “What have I done? O God, what have I done?”
My friend, that is cruel and inhuman, as well as unscriptural. Read the story of the life of Job. God said he was the best man in the world [Job 1:3, 8], but also he was the most afflicted [Job 1:13-19, 2:7-8]. Read the twenty-first chapter of the Book of John, and Jesus prophesied that [Peter] should die by crucifixion, the most agonizing of all the ways to die. And Jesus said, and by this death shall he glorify God [John 21:18-19], in his suffering and agony.
Turn the page, in the life of Daniel, because of the visions, Daniel said, “I fainted, and was sick,” Daniel 8:27. Turn the page, in the life of this man born blind: “His disciples asked Him, saying, Master who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? And Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” [John 9:1-3].
Turn the page to the eleventh chapter, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He said; “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God” [John 11:4]. Turn the page, Paul says, “Because of the abundance of the revelations, there was sent to me a thorn in the flesh” [2 Corinthians 12:7]. Now they denied that that is physical. I do not know what the thorn in the flesh is, but I do know this; that when Paul besought concerning it to the Lord [2 Corinthians 12:8], the Lord said, “No, no I will not take it away!” Then God said unto him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my sickness, in my infirmities” [2 Corinthians 12:9]. Then he adds again, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, and in sicknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in distresses [for Christ’s sake], for when I am weak, then am I strong” [2 Corinthians 12:10].
It is not because we have fallen into grievous disobedience and sin that we get sick. Well, there are times, that’s why I need the whole sermon, there are times, I know, when a man will have syphilis, or when a drunkard will destroy his life, and he falls into illness because of his sins. But there are saints who have suffered, and there are godly people who lie on sick beds today, this minute. And they are ill unto death. Because they are vile and disobedient? No. Because God is glorified in our infirmities [2 Corinthians 12:7-10].
Why my brother, if I come and see you and you are well, and happy, and affluent, and everything’s going your way, and you sing songs, I tell you, my friend; an infidel can sing songs when everything is going his way. I want to come and knock at your door when you are sick, and the baby is sick, and the whole house is filled with infirmity and necessity; then, I want to see if you can sing songs and praise God, as Job did. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. “Yea, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. That glorifies God! And sometimes our infirmities, and our necessities, and our sorrows, and our sicknesses are used in an elective purpose that I cannot enter into, to glorify our Lord.
Now we’ll pick up from there next Sunday morning and preach the rest of the sermon.