8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 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, KJV)
My family and I are currently reading about the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 guided mainly by “Chapter 53: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2): Specific Gifts” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) in our after-breakfast Bible reading time. In my last post I reported on our reading about the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. In this post I’ll report on our reading about what are sometimes called the gifts of power–faith, the gifts of healing, and the working of miracles.
Since Grudem doesn’t include faith among the spiritual gifts that he considers in Chapter 53 of his Systematic Theology, my family and I read what J. Rodway Williams says about it in Chapter 14, “The Ninefold Manifestation,” of his Renewal Theology (Grand Rapids. Michigan: Zondervan, 1996). My comments here are based on that reading.
The gift of faith is distinct from the faith through which a person is saved (Ephesians 2:8) and the fruit of faith or faithfulness in a believer’s life (Galatians 5:22). It provides the atmosphere in which the next two gifts, the gifts of healing and the working of miracles, take place. As well it may enable a person to encourage others such as Paul did those aboard the storm-tossed ship of Acts 27:13-44, including unbelievers.
The Old Testament includes many examples of special faith, some of which are referred to in Hebrews 11:32-33, “And what more shall I say? for time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (ESV; all Biblical quotations except the opening one are from the ESV). And shortly after listing faith among the spiritual gifts, Paul refers to “faith, so as to move mountains” (1 Corinthians 13:2), perhaps referring to what Jesus told the twelve in Mark 11:22-23, “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
Since the gift of faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, we may ask God for it as the twelve asked Jesus in Luke 17:5, “Increase our faith.” Jesus replied to their request, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6). However when making the similiar promise referred to in the preceding paragraph, Jesus qualified it with “and does not doubt in his heart,” indicating that although not much of this kind of faith is needed to do amazing things it cannot be accompanied by doubt.
Also important in exercising this kind of faith is prayer. When the disciples who hadn’t accompanied Jesus up the mount of transfiguration asked him on his return why they hadn’t been able to cast the demon out of a demon-possessed boy, he told them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). Williams ties together faith, doubt, and prayer thus: “Mountain-moving, demon-exorcising faith, while truly from God, is given to those who in much prayer are open to receive it. Prayer, accordingly, is an antidote to doubt arising in the heart because in such prayer God is experienced as powerfully present and at work” (page 363).
The Gifts of Healing
Grudem opens his consideration of the gifts of healing by observing that sickness is part of the curse and healing is part of the atonement. To demonstrate the latter he refers to Matthew 8:16-17: “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and healed our diseases.'”
“He took our illnesses and healed our diseases” is part of a passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) which we generally think of as picturing Jesus’ suffering and dying to save us from our sins. However Matthew states that the passage was also fulfilled by Jesus’ healing ministry. Surely if healings worked by Jesus before his death were enabled by his atoning death, then those worked in his name since then were/are also enabled by it. And just as the victories over sin that we experience in this life foreshadow the spiritual perfection that we’ll have when Jesus returns, the physical healings that we experience now foreshadow the physical perfection that we’ll have when he returns.
Examination of the healings recorded in the New Testament shows that they had various purposes and used various methods. Among their purposes were to help the sick (obviously), to authenticate the Gospel message, and to bring glory to God. Among the methods used were laying on of hands and anointing with oil. Essential was faith–faith by the sick person, faith by ones seeking healing for the person, and/or faith by those praying for the person.
Grudem closes his consideration of the gifts of healing by discussing the troublesome question, “But what if God does not heal?” He quotes several passages from Paul’s writings which show that even in New Testament times God chose not to heal and says that when this happens we should remember Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He concludes: “The emphasis of the New Testament, both in Jesus’ ministry and in the ministry of the disciples in Acts, seems to be one that encourages us in most cases eagerly and earnestly to seek God for healing, and then to continue to trust him to bring good out of the situation, whether he grants the healing or not” (page 1069).
The Working of Miracles
Because earlier in his Systematic Theology Grudem devoted a whole chapter to miracles (Chapter 17; see my December 3, 2013, post), he doesn’t say much about them in Chapter 53. He observes that Paul’s listing the gifts of healing as a separate gift from the workings of miracles indicates that the latter includes other kinds of miracles than healings. Then he gives these examples of miracles other than healings from Acts: the freeing of the apostles and Peter from prison (5:19-20; 12:6-11), the judging of Ananias and Sapphira and of Elymas the magician (5:1-11; 13:8-11), the casting out of a demon (16:18), and the protection of Paul from a viper’s bite (28:3-6). Suggesting that the working of miracles could include miracles similar to those, he concludes: “All of these would be works of ‘power’ [earlier he’d explained that the Greek word for ‘miracles’ is the plural of the Greek word for ‘power’] in which the church would be helped and God’s glory would be made evident” (page 1063).