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   Review Essay: The Healing Promise: A Charismatic Response

Review Essay: The Healing Promise: A Charismatic Response

by Graham Old

As appearing in the PNEUMA REVIEW Winter 2005

The Healing Promise: Is it always God's will to heal? Richard Mayhue. Christian Focus Publications (2001), 228 pages.

Richard Mayhue states that his purpose in writing this book is to "develop a biblical model of healing by which we can test anyone who claims to heal—past, present, and future."1 Thus, I had high hopes for this book. I hoped that we would finally encounter an argument that relied upon a thorough examination of the biblical data and avoided the focus upon testimonies of bad experiences within the fringe element of the Charismatic movement. I hoped that we would find someone genuinely attempting to interact with the finest of Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars, rather than repeating the arguments of a former generation of anti-supernatural cessationists. I was disappointed.

Let us not build an argument on experience—good or bad

The book begins with the usual mockery of the fringe elements in the Charismatic movement. Mayhue is something of a protégé of John MacArthur, so it should not cause too much surprise to find the same methodology employed here that MacArthur resorts to in Charismatic Chaos. What is surprising is the way that Mayhue questions the place of experience in Charismatic theology, while simultaneously using bad experiences as a negative defense of his own position.

Yet, he seems completely unaware of the irony. The book contains a chapter on the bad experiences people have suffered at the hands of healers, a chapter on how healers can create the illusion of healings, a chapter on Joni's struggle with physical infirmity and what she has learned through it, a chapter on the healing of John MacArthur's wife, Patricia, and a number of references to the paucity of healing in the post-biblical Church. All of this from an author who would suggest that the problem with Charismatic theology is that it is based on experience!

Mayhue criticises Jack Deere, claiming, "one gets the distinct impression that experience at least equals scripture" in Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.2 This is ironic, because Deere actually makes the point that Charismatics are accused of basing their theology on experience, when what often happens is that cessationists do exactly the same.3 Their lack of an experience of the supernatural—and their consequent perception that such a lack mirrors Church history—is the actual basis for their theology of cessationism. While Deere is ready to admit the place of experience in his theology—which is fully supported by the biblical approach to formulating our doctrine—Mayhue seems painfully unaware of the place that experience is playing in his theology.

Perhaps the lesson here is that we need to carefully assess our theological arguments and be aware of the place that experience plays in that. Pentecostals have often acknowledged the invaluable role of experience in confirming or clarifying theology (more so than Charismatics, who have not always been as honest as Deere in this respect).4 The thing that is to be avoided on all sides is using experience as the foundation of our theology. The degree to which Cessationism has done this is a topic that merits further consideration.

Healing in the Bible

Early on in his book, Mayhue reveals his understanding of the nature of biblical healings. These then form the basis of his rejection of modern-day charismatic healings. He is openly acting upon the presupposition that any modern-day healings would mirror the healings of the New Testament by sharing the same characteristics. If he can then demonstrate that there is a disparity between miraculous healing today and the healing seen in scripture, the conclusion would appear to be that healing today—if it occurs at all—is not a genuine work of God:

When God miraculously healed through the prophets, Christ or the apostles, these qualities, among others, characterised the healing:

1)   It was immediate

2)   It was public

3)   I took place on ordinary, unplanned occasions

4)   It included illnesses that were untreatable by the medical community

5)   It was complete and irreversible

6)   It was undeniable, even to detractors.5

The characteristics listed reveal a common understanding of biblical healings, particularly amongst cessationists. However, as we proceed, we will see that Mayhue has built his understanding of biblical—and contemporary—healing upon a foundation that is not only weak but non-existent.

The biblical section of the book begins with a "summary of Old Testament healing experiences."6 Mayhue states that "only 20 specific healing incidents appear in the Old Testament record."7 While this may be true, strictly speaking, it portrays a false impression of the biblical data. The Old Testament healing experience is not solely contained in records of specific "incidents." To grasp the fuller picture we would need to include passages like the following:

See now that I, I am he, and there is no god besides me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. (Deut 32:39)

The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these (Isaiah 45:7)

You performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, both in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours. (Jer. 32:20)

In the light of such passages, I find it difficult to comprehend how Mayhue can claim that divine healings in the Old Testament "were few and far between." On the contrary, it seems to me that the Old Testament suggests it is characteristic of God to heal.

Mayhue makes a valid point in stating that the "means of healing varied widely and numbered almost as many as the actual healings themselves."8 Yet, in his quest to find a biblical "model" he is unwilling to let the data speak for itself. He sums up the Old Testament evidence by stating "If we set aside the highly unusual, one-of-a-kind circumstances out of the 20 incidents of Old Testament healing, we are left with eight healings."9 Mayhue's summary and conclusion—which is used to "define the Old Testament pattern by which we can compare today's healings"10—is then based upon the eight healings that remain.

This is a strange methodology, to say the least. How can we claim to be assessing the biblical data when we write off 60% because it is "highly unusual"? If 60% is unusual, then it is precisely such "one-of-a-kind circumstances" which define the Old Testament pattern. In short, there is no pattern! Or, rather, the pattern is that God will heal how he sovereignly chooses to heal. He will not be confined to our models, systems or patterns.

Jesus and healing

We noted above six mistaken cessationist assumptions regarding healings in the Bible. Number 1 was that healing was immediate. Mayhue repeats this claim when examining the healing ministry of Jesus.11 Yet, to come to such a conclusion is to ignore Mark 8:22-25; Luke 17:11-19 and John 9:1-7. Mayhue implies that these verses are merely the exceptions that prove the rule. He argues that the "delays in healing involved minutes only, and the men involved were totally healed."12

There is no evidence to confirm or deny that the delay in healing lasted only minutes—and I am not sure how significant it would be if there were. How much of a delay does there have to be before we conclude that the healing was not immediate? Yet, it seems to me that the account of the lepers healed may have taken place over a number of hours. I am also tempted to ask what would have happened if the man born blind had walk away from Jesus at the point when he still saw men walking around like trees. The point is, there was nothing about Jesus' healings that necessitated their being effective immediately.13

Cessationists will often argue that when Jesus and the Apostles healed it was at will and such healing was not only immediate, but it was total and irreversible. We have already seen the account of the man born blind from birth. Unless theological commitments intervene, that is evidence enough that Jesus' healings were not necessarily total. Here we should note that we would expect the gospel writers to include those healings which were most dramatic, but we know nothing about the many healings merely covered by summaries such as, "Jesus healed many." Yet, their integrity leads them to include cases like Mark 6:5-6, where Jesus could not heal. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus could not heal at will as he had willingly emptied himself of such divine prerogatives and could only do what the Father showed him to do.14 This explains why modern-day healers do not go and empty the hospitals as they are often chided by cessationists to do.15 The incident at the pool of Bethesda reveals that even Jesus did not—or could not—do this. As we have already seen, God is sovereign over who and how he heals.16

We do not know if the healings of Jesus were irreversible. The gospel writers did not conduct the kind of follow-up that is often practised today. Moreover, we would hardly expect them to include cases where the sickness returned, but we may be able to detect a few clues. Jesus' warnings in Matthew 12:43-45 and John 5:14 suggest that a healing can be lost. It is only logical that if a sickness was the result of some sin or other contributing factor, then a healing may not last if the root of the problem is not dealt with. As an example, a man suffering from chronic back-pain as a result of stress may find momentary relief in a healing, but should not expect this to be sustained if he does not deal with the tension in his life or develop healthier mental habits.

What we have found is that according to the criteria set up by Mayhue and others, even Jesus and the Apostles would not be accepted as genuine!17 Let us take a closer look at healing in the early church.

Apostolic healing

When he proceeds to discuss the healing ministry of the Apostles, Mayhue repeats the tactic used while discussing Old Testament healings. He tells us that, contrary to what we may think, there are only 16 incidents of healing recorded in the 30-year span of the book of Acts. Again, this gives a completely unsatisfactory picture of what was actually taking place. To develop a more accurate portrait we would need to bear in mind passages such as the following:

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles (Acts 2:43).

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all (4:33).

The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed (5:12-16).

Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people (6:8).

When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city (8:8).

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders (14:3).

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them (19:11-12).

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured (28:7-9).

Though Mayhue points to a few of these references, he fails to mention that they are all examples of numerous healings. These are not merely "incidents of healing,"18 but summaries of the many healings that characterized apostolic ministry and the spread of the early Church.19 It seems to me that Mayhue's methodology is not only inaccurate, but it actually lacks integrity.20

It seems that the book wants to portray miraculous healing as a rarity in order to protect its perceived purpose. The following quote reflects a common understanding amongst cessationists:

God used signs, miracles, and wonders to authenticate the apostles and their ministry (Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4). Whether the apostles themselves (or, on rare occasion, those they ministered with) did the signs, those signs were to attest the authority of the apostles as revealers of truth (see Acts 2:42-43)... If non-apostolic Christians through the centuries were supposed to perform such deeds, then they could not have served as the signs of apostleship (see 2 Corinthians 12:12).21

Let us look at the references listed and then examine the logic of this argument. Romans 15:18-19 tells us that "signs and wonders" accompanied Paul's preaching of the gospel. This is exactly what we might have expected from Mark 16:17, yet nothing is said about the signs authenticating Paul. We are merely told that they accompanied his preaching. Hebrews 2:4 tells us that God testified to "this salvation, which was first announced by the Lord' with signs, wonders and various miracles. It is the gospel—the good news of Jesus—that is authenticated, not the messengers.22 Acts 2:42-43 simply tells us that the Apostles did many wonders and miraculous signs. So, none of these commonly used verses actually tell us that the purpose of the "sign-gifts" was to "attest the authority of the apostles as revealers of truth." It is the message preached that is authenticated. Just as they did in the ministry of Jesus, the signs point to the truth of the gospel and the presence of the kingdom. They do that not by authenticating the messenger, but by demonstrating the reality of the message.23 That being the case, there's no reason why we should not expect God to continue to confirm the preaching of the gospel with signs and wonders. If anything, these verses actually encourage such a conclusion.

Mayhue implies that the "signs of an apostle" in 2 Corinthians 12:12 are miraculous deeds, thus authenticating the apostles.24 However, this is an impossible reading. Here is the text as it appears in the Revised Standard Version: "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works." The Greek grammar insists that the signs of an apostle are distinct from the "signs and wonders and mighty works."25 That is, rather than being the signs of an apostle, they accompanied the signs of an apostle. In fact, to insist that signs and wonders are the sign of an apostle completely misses Paul's point in 2 Corinthians 11-13. Paul is not distinguishing himself from other Christians and suggesting that it is his miracles that prove he's really an apostle. Rather, he is making a contrast between himself and the false apostles. As the false apostles were known to perform signs and wonders (however genuine they may be perceived to be),26 such deeds can not be the sign of a true Apostle.

The signs of a true apostle are: care for the churches (11:1-6), genuine knowledge of Jesus and the gospel (11:6), selfless self-support (11:7-11), not taking advantage of the church (11:20-21), enduring suffering for Christ (11:23-29), God's strength seen in weakness (12:7-10). Ralph Martin correctly observes:

Paul is insisting in 12:12a that such signs are not the primary criterion for deciding whether or not a person is an apostle. Instead, he is suggesting that the true signs of apostleship—his life and ministry—are the signs that matter most.27

Here we can begin to see the logical problem with this argument. If false apostles worked miracles and if non-apostles worked miracles, then miracles cannot be seen to authenticate who is and is not an apostle! If the primary purpose of the sign gifts was to authenticate the apostles there is no reason why Philip and Barnabas should have performed miracles. Even if they did so through their close association with the apostles, the fact that they performed miracles negates the apostolic purpose of miracles as authentication. As Deere writes, "permitting anyone other than apostles to do signs and wonders actually weakens the value of signs and wonders as an authenticating tool of the apostles' ministry."28

Gary S. Greig writes conclusively:

"Signs and wonders" are not in any way restricted to the apostles and their immediate associates... Who among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12-14) with gifts of healing, miraculous powers, tongues, or prophecy—all "signs" according to Mark 16:17,18 and 1 Cor. 14:22—was an apostle? Who among the Galatians, among whom God worked miracles (Gal. 3:5), was an apostle? Who among the Ephesians and Thessalonians with gifts of prophetic revelation (Eph. 4:11; 1 Thess. 5:20) was an apostle? Which of Philip's daughters who regularly prophesied in the church at Caesarea (Acts 21:9) was an apostle? How many of the churches in Asia Minor, which 1 Peter 4:10 suggests were fully conversant with all the gifts of the Spirit, were apostles?29

Still, Mayhue wants to insist that healing and other miracles died out with the apostles and that the New Testament contains no expectation of their continuing presence.30

New Testament expectations of continued healing

We are told that in the Letters of Paul "frequency of healing declined with the passing of time."31 He cites Paul's illness (Gal. 4:13-14), his affliction (2 Cor. 12:7-10), his failure to heal Epaphroditus (Php. 2:25-30), his recommending Timothy to resort to medicinal help (1 Tim. 5:23) and his failure to heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) as evidence that healing was diminishing even before the "apostolic age" came to a close. When this is placed beside the paucity of healing in the epistles when compared to the book of Acts, it is easy to see why Mayhue believes that "healing became significantly less noticeable with the passing of time in the apostolic era."32

In response, we should firstly note that at least five Epistles devote explicit attention to the gifts of the Spirit. Yet, it should hardly surprise us that the epistles devote more space to other themes. Their primary concern is with the purity of the Church and godly living, but we do not thus conclude that the Epistles therefore portray the decline of, for example, evangelism. Walter Bodine notes that, in contrast to frequent exhortations to exercise spiritual gifts, there is not "one express command to verbal witnessing in the Epistles. Does this mean that the writers of the Epistles viewed personal evangelism as an initiating activity, which would cease once the Church was established, or once the New Testament was complete?"34

Secondly, we should note that the presence of sickness in the early Church is hardly evidence that healing was not in operation. We have seen that even Jesus did not heal at will, but only under the direction of the Father and empowering of the Spirit. Why then should we think that Paul had the ability to heal whomever he chose? Epaphroditus, Timothy and Trophimus were not healed miraculously because God apparently chose not to heal them miraculously.35

The fact is that the New Testament expectation of continued healing is in explicit contrast to that of The Healing Promise. In fact, the New Testament consistently points to the time of Christ's return as the only point at which any of the gifts will cease:36

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-8).

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:8-12)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:16-23).

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).

With such clear statements as to the continued need of gifts until the return of Christ, what more should we expect from the Epistles?

A major hurdle for cessationists to get over before they can embrace modern-day healing is the belief that the Bible "reveals three major time periods during which God performed miracles through men."37 The three periods are perceived to be 1) Moses and Joshua, 2) Elijah and Elisha, 3) Christ and His apostles. This line of reasoning, which was popularised by B.B. Warfield, notes that these three periods were times of new revelation when God was performing signs to authenticate his messengers.

However, though we might legitimately say that miraculous activity was more prevalent in these periods of redemptive activity, it would be inaccurate to conclude that it was limited to such time-frames.38 Leaving to one side, the miraculous phenomena present in the life of Daniel,39 what do the scriptures teach about miracles out-side of Mayhue's revelatory periods?

In Jeremiah 32:20, the prophet prays, "You performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, both in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours." I take two important points from this statement. Firstly, miracles and wonders—as we saw in our Old Testament section above—were so common that God was renowned for them; they characterised God's activity in the Old Testament. Secondly, anyone seeking the Lord's renown in our day would do well to join the early Church in praying that the Lord might move in the miraculous to the glory of His name.40 This explains why the subsidence of the miraculous did not cause believers to conclude that God only heals during certain time-periods, but lead them to mourning and repentance.41

Nonetheless, even if we were to concede that miracles in the Bible are primarily clustered around 3 time periods, we would still need to demonstrate that miracles ceased completely with Christ and the apostles. Everything changed with the coming of Christ. Unless we are going to say that the only reason for miracles was to authenticate those writing Scripture,42 what reason do we have for concluding that they would not continue after the closing of the canon. In scripture God performed healings for a number of purposes: to glorify His name and His Son (John 11:4; Acts 3:12-13), out of compassion (Matthew 14:13-14; 20:34; Mark 1:41-42; 9:22; Luke 7:11-17), in response to faith (Mt. 9:22; Acts 14:8-10); to fulfil His promise to heal (James 5:14-16), to gain attention (Luke 5:15; Acts 8:6), to provoke faith (Jn. 11:45, 12:11; 14:11; Acts 9:35, 42), to manifest the kingdom (Isaiah 35:6-7; Mt. 12:28; Rom. 15:18-19), and for the pleasure of His sovereign will. Are we really willing to say that none of these reasons now exist as a valid purpose for healing?

Peter's quotation of Joel 2 in Acts 2:16-21 is extremely significant. There we see that miraculous phenomena not only inaugurate the messianic age, they characterise it. In that sense, we may well subscribe to Mayhue's three time-periods theory. The difference is that the third time-period, the time when the Kingdom is both now and not-yet, continues to this day.

Is there Healing in the atonement?

Mayhue joins J. Sidlow Baxter in denying that there is present physical healing in the atonement.43 He wants us to believe that Isaiah 53:5 refers to spiritual healing and that 1 Peter 2:24 demonstrates this. How then does he handle Matthew 8:17 where Matthew describes the healing ministry of Jesus as a fulfilment of the promise in Isaiah? Mayhue points out that the Greek words used by Matthew for "took" and "carried" are different from those used in the LXX, which speaks of the suffering servant bearing the diseases and sicknesses of his people. He feels that Matthew made this change to make it clear that he is not using the text in its natural sense to speak of the "spiritual diseases" that Christ was to bear for us, but that the Isaiah 53 promise can be used to illustrate some of the healings of Jesus. Exactly how it illustrates this or why Matthew would adopt such a procedure, we are not told.

Michael Brown's approach to the Matthew passage is much more satisfactory:

By bearing sin and iniquity the servant bore sickness and pain; by taking his people's guilt he thereby incurred their punishment; and it is at the cost of his wounds that total healing has come.44

No Jewish reader of Isaiah 53:5 would have interpreted it as a reference to spiritual healing alone. Such a distinction is more Greek than Jewish. The Messianic hope was for one who would cleanse the nation, restore the people of God, bring about an outpouring of the Spirit and inaugurate the new age, including the restoration of Creation and the resurrection of the dead. That this was as much a physical hope as a spiritual one is clear from such passages as Isaiah 35:3-10; 61:1-6; and 65:17-25.

Turner addresses this question accurately when he writes that, "all the benefits of Christ (including resurrection life) may be said to be theologically "in (or through) the atonement", but that does not mean they thought all were fully available in the present age to all."45 We currently live in the age of tension between the inauguration of the Kingdom of God and its full consummation. So, not all benefits of the atonement, such as a complete removal of the decay of death within our bodies, are available automatically. Some must await death and the resurrection of our bodies.

This is not to deny that Healing expresses God's ultimate will—or that which He is working towards. We should have a positive expectation of God's healing interventions as his kingdom is revealed—healing and wholeness is a characteristic note of life under God's reign. Yet, in this present age we must recognise that the full realisation of His reign will only be revealed at the consummation and new creation. We have tasted the powers of the age to come, but only the first-fruits.46

James 5 and contemporary healing

I personally found this to be the most disappointing chapter in the book. If one is questioning the existence of a "healing promise" surely James 5:14-15 is the place to start. Yet, it is clear that by the time we reach this chapter Mayhue has already made up his mind. I will briefly quote Mayhue's understanding of this passage, demonstrate why it is not satisfactory and then offer an alternative reading:

A believer has wandered off into sin and has remained in sin. God has chastised him by bringing sickness into his life to bring him back to Himself. When the believer recognizes that God has brought an untimely and severe illness to incapacitate him, he is to call for the elders of the church. The elders are then to come. He is to confess his sin, and they are to anoint him with oil and pray over him. If sin is the cause of the sickness, then God will raise him up.47

This may seem like a natural reading of the text, but Mayhue has actually added a number of significant thoughts into what is a straightforward healing promise. My main complaint is with his use of the word "if." He implies that God will only heal the sick person if sin is the cause. He is so sure that this is the correct meaning of the text, that he characterises this believer as one who has "wandered off into sin and has remained in sin."48 When I read the text it simply speaks of "sin;" any idea of a pattern of besetting sin has to be read into the passage. Mayhue makes the passage conditional on the presence of sin. If the believer has sinned, God will forgive him. If he has not, the passage does not even apply to him. Yet, when I read the passage, the conditional element is not the healing, but the presence of sin in the first place. The passage clearly states, he will be healed. And if he has sinned, he will be forgiven also.

I would like to suggest a more natural reading and then demonstrate why I find it preferable. A believer is too sick to approach the elders, so he calls them to his home. The elders will ensure that the believer has followed any necessary medical procedures. Then, if they have received a word from the Lord they will pray for him and he will be healed. If sin was the cause of this sickness, that also will be dealt with.49

That this is not any ordinary sickness is clear from the fact that the believer has to summons the elders to his house. The Greek words used for sick in v. 14 (astheneia) and v. 15 (kamno) do not refer to any kind of sickness, but to severely debilitating, possibly life-threatening illnesses.50 I also believe that the oil used to anoint is not merely symbolic because the normal word for ceremonial anointing, chrio, is not used, while the word that is used, aleipho, is normally to speak of anointing with oil for medicinal purposes51. It is important to note the order of events in this passage, something that can be lost in some English translations. Literally, v. 14b reads, "let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil, in the name of the Lord."

I also believe that Mayhue misses something significant about the kind of prayer offered by the Elders. I believe that the prayer of faith that James writes of is another description of praying in the name of the Lord. When I consider how this phrase is used elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g. John 14:13-14; 15:16) and what it means to act in someone else's name—i.e. as an authorised representative - I believe that it refers to prayer initiated by the Spirit of God in response to a specific word from the Lord. I believe that 1 John 5:14 refers to the same type of prayer.

Letting God be God

There is little else in the book that requires a response. It is helpful to see a Christian response to suffering and I completely agree with the statements given there. However, we need to avoid giving the impression that it is better to be sick than well. While granting that God works for his glory through sustaining believers through their trials, I cannot help thinking of the healing of the man born blind (Jn. 9) or the resurrection of Lazarus. Mayhue almost gives the impression that it is better that people are not healed today. If this is always the case, then we would have to assume that Christ was mistaken to think that healing the blind man and raising Christ would glorify God. Leaving them would have glorified Him far more!

I have to conclude that The Healing Promise demonstrates precisely the kind of anti-supernatural hermeneutic that Deere warns us about.52 He does not notice the miraculous when it occurs in scripture and where we have a clear, uncontested healing promise53 he fails to let it speak for itself. Charismatics are often accused of basing their arguments upon experience, rather than scripture. I will have to let the reader judge if I have been guilty of that. Yet, it seems to me that Mayhue reveals a deep seated unease about letting God work however he chooses to, through whomever he chooses to, whenever he pleases to.


1 P. 7.

2 P. 272. Unfortunately, Mayhue does not give a single reference to verify this accusation.

3 See Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, ch. 5, The real reason Christians do not believe in miraculous gifts.

4 See Deere's helpful chapter on The Myth of Pure Objectivity.

5 Taken directly from Mayhue, p. 35. In what follows, I will not respond to this list point-by-point but it will form the basis of the argument to which I am responding.

6 P. 86.

7 Pp. 86-87.

8 P. 90.

9 P. 92.

10 P. 92.

11 P. 99.

12 P. 99.

13 Additionally, Mark 9:18, 28-29 teaches that some exorcisms would take some time to come to fruition.

14 See Php. 2:5-11; Jn. 5:19.

15 See MacArthur, The Charismatics, pp. 150-151.

16 It is equally true of the Apostles that they could not heal at will. See Acts 3:12.

17 This is even clearer when we consider the lack of documented medical evidence they could provide to back up the healings!

18 P. 108.

19 Mayhue goes so far as to describe healing in the book of Acts as "occasional"! (See P. 114.)

20 Mayhue writes that "only six healings appear in all of Paul's journeys (Acts 13-28)." (P. 109.). Reading such a statement in the light of the summary passages above leaves me somewhat disturbed. This is simply untrue and gives a false picture of what was taking place.

21 P. 112.

22 That is, what is authenticated is not the writing of scripture, but the preaching of the gospel—that good news that is Jesus himself. If signs were merely to authenticate scripture, why did God work through Philip in such a way?

23 Cf. Isaiah 35:6-7; Luke 4:16-21. See also Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, pp. 244-250.

24 As well as the quote above, see also p. 179.

25 See Martin, 2 Corinthians, p. 436. One wonders what it might mean to do miracles with patience!

26 Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9.

27 Ibid., p. 434.

28 Deere, p. 231. Emphasis mine.

29 Gary S. Greig, The purpose of signs and wonders in the New Testament: what terms for miraculous power denote and their relationship to the gospel in Greig and Springer, The Kingdom and the Power.

30 P. 112.

31 P. 112.

32 P. 113.

33 Cf. Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Thess. 5:19-22; 1 Peter 4:10-11.

34 Power Ministry in the Epistles in Greig and Springer, p. 198.

35 See also Matthew 17:16 which occur after Jesus had given the disciples power and authority over all demons and diseases (Mt. 10:1).

36 This is, presumably, because until that point all of the gifts are needed for the Church to do and be that which she is called to.

37 Mayhue, p. 181. See also Macarthur, p. 112-114.

38 See Deere's conclusive response to this argument. Pp. 253-266.

39 Warfield included Daniel as a fourth time-period, but has not been followed by most cessationists. This is unfortunate for their position, because, "proportionally Daniel's book contains more supernatural events than the books of Exodus through Joshua (the books dealing with the ministries of Moses and Joshua) and 1 Kings through 2 Kings 13 (the books dealing with the ministries of Elijah and Elisha)." (Deere, p. 263.)

40 See Acts 3:12-13; 4:30.

41 See Ps. 74:9; 77:7-14

42 It is impossible to defend such a claim. See the section, Apostolic healing above.

43 D. A. Carson states that such an argument can only be defended "by the most strained exegesis" and goes on to insist, "Of course there is healing in the atonement. (Carson, Showing the Spirit, pp. 175-176.)

44 Brown, Israel's Divine Healer, p. 198. Matthew's choice of words can be simply explained as by the fact that he is writing before the Cross.

45 Turner, p. 257. Turner rejects the distinction made between "in" the atonement (meaning available now) and "through" the atonement, as unhelpful.

46 In this sense, the Church has the awesome calling of providing a preview of life in God's fully consummated Kingdom. Therefore, we would expect to see healing as a foretaste of what is to come.

47 P. 135.

48 Mayhue believes that this can be implied from the wider context of the chapter. However, I would want to argue that James is discussing a number of circumstances that believers may find them in and that it is an exegetical leap to read vv. 19-20 back into vv.14-15.

49 As with the case of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, the act of calling someone to pray for one's sickness seems to be taken as an act of repentance and humbly confessing one's need of God.

50 This argument is not quite completely conclusive. While kamno can refer to sickness where death is imminent, it can also simply refer to someone who is down-trodden or weary. Yet, I believe that the case is strengthened by the apparent fact that this sick person needs to call the Elders out to their bed-side.

51 Cf. Burdick, James, p. 204 and Swindoll, pp. 246-249. This is a point that Mayhue accepts, though he concludes that the way the words are used in James 5 is unique. See Mayhue, pp. 133-134.

52 See Deere, Anatomy of a deception, www.theheresy. com/view.cfm?Key=19 and Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 111-112.

53 Isaiah 53:4 and James 5:14-16.

Graham Old worked with Youth With A Mission ministry internationally for two years and has experience in the mental health field. Graham is a graduate of Spurgeon's College, London, and is the pastor of Daventry Baptist Church in Northampton, England.

As appearing the Pneuma Review Winter 2005
The Pneuma Review is a quarterly printed journal of ministry resources and theology for Pentecostal/charismatic ministries and leaders. http://www.pneuma foundation.org/intro_pr.jsp

Prepared for the Pneuma Foundation website by KenJ