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),
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
14 See Php. 2:5-11; Jn.
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.
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,
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
26 Mark 13:22; 2 Thess.
27 Ibid., p. 434.
28 Deere, p. 231. Emphasis
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
com/view.cfm?Key=19 and Surprised by the Power of the
Spirit, pp. 111-112.
53 Isaiah 53:4 and James
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
2005Prepared for the Pneuma Foundation website by KenJ
The Pneuma Review is a quarterly printed
journal of ministry resources and theology for Pentecostal/charismatic
ministries and leaders. http://www.pneuma