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Where gifts of healings and other miracles are recognized (and not denied outright), one often finds a tendency to limit them to believers and to occurrences within church services, where they are administered mostly by recognized "ministers." Whether those in need are believers or not, the message is the same: come to church if you want to get the miracle you need.
But is this according to God? We suggest not. In the New Testament record, the great majority of the healings and miracles occurred on the street, out in public, and explicitly not in church meetings. Their purpose was to get the attention of unbelievers, and also to destroy the works of the devil (see Acts 10:38), and not to increase attendance at church worship services. This is true service: the church went out to the people, the people did not come into the church.
However, this does not answer the situation of a sick believer. God has given us clear instructions for this situation:
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 heal the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.
Thus, even for a sick believer, the scriptural instructions do not read "come to a church meeting and get healed." Rather, a sick believer is encouraged to call for the "elders" (which should be read literally as "elders," plural, not "pastor" or "minister"!) and to confess his faults to them when they come to him. The elders are then to anoint him and pray over him. This will lead to healing of soul and body. And we all need this healing of soul, regardless of how healthy our bodies are at any moment.
The traditional messages — "come to church and get healed", and "come to church and get the miracle you need" — really do not fit the scriptural model for either believers or unbelievers. Healings and miracles are supposed to go out to those who need them, not to wait for them to come into churches. By getting this backward, we seriously limit the intended effectiveness of these gifts.
Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2003 and 2016 Ian B. Johnson and Jonathan E. Brickman
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