Does God Heal?


A woman gave testimony that she was to undergo surgery to remove a cancer from her body. When doctors performed a pre-op scan there was no evidence of disease. The previously detected growth was not visible. The tumor was gone. The woman’s doctor could not explain it as anything but a miracle.

I have been sharing the story of Joey Martin Feek. Last year she gave birth to a precious little girl — born with DS. A follow-up examination revealed that Joey had cervical cancer. Her doctors performed a radical hysterectomy, but the cancer had spread to her colon. Additional surgery and a first round of grueling treatments have failed to halt the spread of the disease.

Tens of thousands of people have prayed for Joey. A prayer service was held in the barn at her farm in Tennessee.

I ask, is the instruction of James relevant today?

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed  (James 5:14-16).

Contrary to popular teaching, James may be speaking of spiritual healing — for by the confession of your sins you may be healed — and not physical. That the one who is (spiritually) sick will be restored and raised up suggests a recovery of holiness and righteousness. This interpretation, however, is not sufficient. The word “sick” (ἀσθενεῖ, asthenei) literally means physical weakness or bodily illness. And James is not restricting this gift of healing to the apostles, but calls upon the presbyters to lay their hands upon the infirmed.

Some Bible expositors suggest that the gift of healing has ceased — that the miracles of the first century were for the purpose of spreading the Gospel — that Jesus healed only as a testimony of His divine authority.

How often do faith healers cite the prophet Isaiah as a witness of their power to heal? The television pastor exhorts the sick to touch the screen as he quotes from the Bible:

… by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Seminary trained pastors actually believe that this passage speaks of physical healing, but Peter clarifies its literal meaning:

… and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

From what were we healed? Peter is quite clear — from our sins we have been healed, and our soul restored to righteousness. So, then, we have read the witness of Isaiah, James and Peter, but our assurance of physical healing is still inconclusive.

In 53:5, Peter correctly interprets that the prophet is speaking of our spiritual condition, but in the preceding verse Isaiah addresses our physical condition:

Surely our griefs (חלי chăliy) He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried (Isaiah 53:4).

It is unfortunate that the Greek rendering is griefs when the ancient Hebraic understanding of Isaiah was that the prophet was speaking of bodily diseases, and so taught by the Rabbin. In fact, some Greek manuscripts use the word ἀσθενείας (astheneias) from which we derive the word anesthesia which is to suggest physical infirmities. Ninety-three times this word appears in scripture and it always refers to sickness — not sin.

Matthew, like Peter, interprets Isaiah:

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)

In context, Jesus had just healed Peter’s mother-in-law. (Sidetrack … this means that Peter had a wife. If the Pope is successor to Peter then why does the Roman church forbid marriage?) That evening many who were demon-possessed and sick were brought to Jesus to be healed.

Albert Barnes:

The Greek in Matthew is an exact translation of the Hebrew, and the same translation should have been made in both places. In Isaiah 53:1-12, Isaiah fully states the doctrine of the atonement, or that the Messiah was to suffer for sin. In the verse quoted here, however, he states the very truth which Matthew declares. The word translated “griefs” in Isaiah, and “infirmities” in Matthew, means properly, in the Hebrew and Greek, “diseases of the body.” In neither does it refer to the disease of the mind, or to sin. To bear those griefs is clearly to bear them away, or to remove them. This was done by his miraculous power in healing the sick. [1]

Does Matthew suggest that the miracle of healing was fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ? And how do we sort out the seeming confusion between spiritual and physical disease? When Jesus saw a paralytic man lying in a bed He said to the man, Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2). Because only God can forgive sins, the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins — then He said to the paralytic, Get up, pick up your bed and go home. (Matthew 9:4-6)

From ancient days the Rabbin have affirmed an interconnection between sin and disease — that our physical infirmities are a direct consequence of our spiritual transgressions. James exhorts the brethren to confess their sins that they might receive healing in their bodies. Are we lacking in faith? Is there unconfessed sin in our lives? It causes me to tremble in fear that I am sorely afflicted because the LORD has not forgiven me.

But do not fear my brothers. Timothy had stomach problems … Trophimus was left sick at Miletus … and Paul prayed three times for healing, but was not. How, then, do we understand that a tumor disappears in one while in another the disease is ravaging?

Rory Feek wrote in his blog:

Sometimes there just aren’t enough surgeries — or doctors — or chemotherapies — or prayers. And you have to wipe the tears from your cheeks and say the words that you were hoping to never have to say …

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this …” That’s how the conversation began.

So we did what you do when the medicine isn’t working, and the doctors are at a loss … and when the ‘statistics” say you can do more chemo, but it will only buy you a little time …

We came home.

Not to die. But to live.

So, even though we know we’ve reached the end of what medicine can do — and while we prepare for what God has put in front of us … Joey and I will continue to pray for a miracle.

We ask for your prayers, too. For a miracle.

Brothers, I confess that it is hard to understand. Paul asked of the LORD only three times, and was not … I have prayed ten thousand times, and have not … but what I believe is this …

God still performs miracles.


1. Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament. London, Blackie & Son, 1884. Reprint: Baker Books, 1998.

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