The Cessation of New Testament Supernatural Gifts - Part one
Study 5 - The Cessation of New Testament supernatural gifts - Part two
Study 6 - The Errors of Tongue Speaking
In both these examples the occasions of healing are to be viewed as a mean to an end. The act of healing was not an end in itself.
While the Lord does not heal in the fashion of the sign gifts today as He did when the canon of Scriptures was not complete, He still does heal. There is a directive on 'healing' mentioned in the New Testament that has nothing at all to do with the sign gifts of an apostle or their purposes. Its purpose is not to authenticate the authority of anyone. The existence of this directive in the New Testament would suggest that the gift of healing was indeed to eventually pass away as the New Testament age developed. Something else was instituted in its place.
This directive about healing for today is given in James 5:14,15: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
There are a number of points to notice from these two verses:
1. The person in question was severely ill and had been so for some time. The type of sickness envisaged is not temporary backache or a bout of flu. The word 'sick' suggests 'feebleness' or 'helplessness'. The picture presented is of one who is bedridden. As we will see the elders are to pray 'over them'. This suggests someone languishing on a bed of sickness unable to get up. If the Lord answers prayer it is said that the 'Lord shall raise them up'. They are unable to attend the regular church meetings, hence the need to call for the elders. The second use of the word 'sick' in v15 translates a different Greek word which has the added meaning of 'mental weariness', 'despondency' and/or 'fatigue'.
2. It is the individual who is sick that is to instigate the matter. This rules out so called 'faith healers' convening large or small scale healing meetings and inviting all who are afflicted to attend. Healings performed in specially arranged rallies by so called 'faith healers' do not fit into the scheme outlined in this portion of Scripture. It is the person's home that is in view and not some auditorium where the faith healer's supposed gift is on display for all to see and applaud.
3. It is the elders of the Church who are to be called. It is not a visiting 'faith healer' that is to be sought. The person who is sick is not commanded to call for the well known and gifted faith healer. They are to call for the 'elders' of the local church. It is those who have the oversight of the local congregation that are to take the lead in this matter.
Oil is a type of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. The anointing of oil is a recognition that the Lord may indeed graciously intervene and heal the person who is sick. The point of emphasis is that it is the Lord who does the healing. Their recovery is subject to His sovereign will. It will be solely according to His will and not any supposed powers in a faith healer. There is to be a recognition of, and a submitting to, the will of God.
It may not be God's will to heal the person who is sick. It may be His will for them to continue in a state of sickness and prove the sufficiency of God's grace during that time of sickness. It may be God's will to take them home to glory. Not every believer is promised a long and healthy life. Christians take sick and die, even those who are young can die.
What is certainly absent from this scene, as recorded by James, is that which features in the testimonies of faith healers, where they tell of entering a hospital ward; or of going to a bedside in some home; or hosting a great healing meeting where they command sickness or death to depart upon their authority. Neither is there here in James' words any calling down of the Holy Spirit to effect some remarkable and immediate cure.