Do Christians today heal the sick and raise the dead

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Miracles of Healing Matthew 9:18-36 (NASB)

18 While He was saying these things to them, behold, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will become alive again.” 19 Jesus got up from the table and began to accompany him, along with His disciples.

20 And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him, and touched the border of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus, turning and seeing her, said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” And at once the woman was made well.

23 When Jesus came into the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24 He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26 And this news spread throughout that land.

27 As Jesus went on from there, two men who were blind followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 And after He entered the house, the men who were blind came up to Him, and Jesus *said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They *said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done for you according to your faith.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows about this!” 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout that land.

32 And as they were going out, behold, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him. 33 And after the demon was cast out, the man who was previously unable to speak talked; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

36 Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

If someone were to ask me about the purpose of the Book of Matthew, I would tell them one of the important themes of the book is to show that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.  Matthew 9:18-36 continues this theme as it records healings and other signs Jesus did that fulfill prophecy. So, let’s ask a few questions.  Do the apostles of Jesus, or anyone else heal, give sight to the blind or perform miracles? Are these things upon which a doctrine should be made? Perhaps we should ask if some preachers today present inferences about what Matthew and others had to say as if their inferences are scripture itself?  Let’s delve into my inference (which I do not claim are as important as scripture) along with the questions I’ve posed.

I believe Matthew’s theme is made clear by his repeated use of the phrase, “…to fulfill that which was spoken through the prophet.”  Matthew 9:18-36 records Jesus healing the sick and blind. This is in harmony with the theme of demonstrating Jesus as the Messiah because prophecy says a time will come when the blind will see and tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy. His acts of healing serve a purpose. They fulfill prophecy. I think scripture shows us these acts are for something beyond improving an individual’s health (not to make light of someone’s wellbeing.)  Matthew records healings to reveal the nature of Jesus.  This idea brings up a few questions. Did anyone other than Jesus and his apostles have the power to heal? Are healings, raising the dead and other miracles something we see today?

The first question is easy to answer.  Matthew tells us Jesus instructed his disciples to heal the sick. The Bible also tells us the Holy Spirit gave others the ability to do signs and wonders as well.  This is Biblical evidence that some use as they argue that such things happen today; that is, the idea that of someone other than Jesus healed then we must be able to do these things.  Many use the same line of logic as they point to Luke  where Jesus gave 70 others power to do miracles as evidence that all Christians have the power to heal. One could also point to Acts 6:8 where the Holy Spirit gave power to perform, “great wonders and signs.”  I do not contradict what is written in the scripture when I ask if these scriptures mean God is obligated to give this power to all Christians; meaning, each and every Christian and not just those to whom he is speaking to or speaking about. Some say yes and point to Mark’s account which tells us, “…these signs will accompany those who have believed…” This is perhaps the strongest evidence some people use to say any believer can do miracles.  So, that’s a summary of one side.  Let’s look at Biblical evidence that some say show this is a wrong inference. We’ll begin with three observations of these scriptures.

Jesus’ instructions to his disciples are limited to the number of disciples. I say this because Matthew 10:1-9 stipulates a specific number. Acts 6:8 stipulates a specific person performed wonders and signs. And Mark was speaking to the disciples about the people they would lead to Christ, and he also stipulated a purpose for the healings. Mark says it was so they could identify who believed? Let’s look at this in context starting with Mark 16:16.

The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

My point here is Mark tells us the miracles are done. He stipulated by whom: those who are saved as the apostles witnessed to them.  He also stipulated for what purpose: So the apostles would know who was saved. It does not say anyone else presenting the Gospel would see these miracles. That is an inference made by those who say miracles are for all people at all time. I am not denying God can heal anyone at any time. I am not denying that God can raise people from the dead.  I am not denying that God can give any individual whom he chooses the power to do miracles.  God DOES have the power to heal and could give anyone such power to serve his purpose.  This does not contradict my observation that Jesus and the Holy Spirit in these verses gave specific people power to heal to individuals so that they could do His will.  Nowhere in these verses does it say all Christians will heal or raise the dead. This conclusion could be reached through inference, but inferences bring the possibility of error.  It is also important to point out these scriptures do not contradict those who believe anyone can heal. But both conclusions cannot be right.  It is possible they don’t contradict either claim because they do not address either side as an absolute for all Christians throughout all time. Those who say either way based on these verses are inferring something from them.  I will repeat this for emphasis: Inferences are our ideas based on scripture and we could be wrong.

I’ve been to Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic and many other church services and have never seen someone raised from the dead and I don’t know anyone who says they personally have done all of the signs and wonders mentioned in scripture. God may give someone the power to do a miracle. But my reading of scripture, and observations of the world around in light of those scriptures, imply that miracles are not for everyone throughout all time but for specific people, with a specific purpose that is part of God’s plan. Here’s another observation. I’ve been to many funerals and every time the individual who arrived in a casket also left in a casket.  Before we get off of this thought, I have some important questions. If every Christian could pray and raise the dead, would this result in people turning to God out of their own understanding? Does the scripture not tell us that saving faith is a gift given from the Holy Spirit so that no one can boast? Wouldn’t turning to God out of our own understanding be something other than a Gift of the Holy Spirit? How would raising thousands of people from the dead serve to do anything but have people turn to God by their own understanding at best, or worse, scare people into submission? Wouldn’t God be doing exactly what the anti-theists often falsely claim when they say the only reason Christians turn to God is because they are scared?   

I know some have created doctrines on this matter, and I am not attempting to do that here. I suggest this disagreement among Christians is the result of a bigger problem.  People tend to infer things from the Bible, then hold their inferences equal to scripture. There’s nothing wrong with inferring things from scripture as long as they are not presented as scripture.  The problem is when someone teaches an inference dogmatically.  I save such dogmatic judgements for things about which the Bible gives a clear direct command.  

Did Jesus raise a child from the dead or heal a very sick little girl?

I’ve not heard any preacher deny that Jesus performed miracles. But I have heard some make dogmatic statements as they disagree about which miracle Jesus performed in the verses above.   Matthew tells us of Jesus’ encounter with a little girl. Some say Jesus healed a sick child while others say he raised a child from the dead.  Why is there disagreement about what actually happened? I suggest it’s another case of inference taught dogmatically. Let’s delve into this a bit and keep these questions in mind:  Do these verses in Matthew fulfil scripture no matter which understanding is correct? Do these scriptures give a definite answer either way; and if so, what is the purpose of the miracle?

Those who say Jesus healed a sick child often point to verses in Matthew that say when Jesus arrived at the man’s house Jesus told the people who were there, she has not died, but was only sleeping. Jesus didn’t say she isn’t dead, he said she has not died.  Luke describes the girl as “dying.” But Luke does not say she was dead.  Mark tells us the girl’s father told Jesus, “My little daughter is at the point of death.” Beyond this, consider, touching a dead person’s body would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean for seven days according to the law, so wouldn’t this mean she had either risen from the dead by the time Jesus touched her or was not actually dead in the first place? These questions are built on the premise that Jesus healed a sick child. Now for the other side.

Those who say Jesus raised the little girl from the dead correctly note that Matthew records the man telling Jesus his daughter was dead.  They are correct in saying this is the man’s account. They often point to Mark who tells us when they arrived at the house someone told the girl’s father, “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore,” This is the account of a person who met them as they arrived. I apologize at this point for giving more evidence on one side. I have not intentionally left out any evidence of which I am aware from either side of this argument and am open to anyone who wishes to add something for consideration. My writing is lopsided here because I’ve found more evidence for one side.

Jesus very clearly raises the dead in other scriptures, so whether or not he does so here, prophecy is still fulfilled. (1) I’m not trying to convince you either way.  A Biblical argument could be made either way. My point is that whether or not she was raised from the dead is NOT something upon which I would make a doctrine.  The encounter with the little girl is evidence that Jesus is the Messiah no matter which understanding is correct. 

On the way to the little girl’s house Jesus healed a woman who had just touched his garment. He also gave sight to two blind men and cast out a demon.  All of the healings in Matthew fulfill prophecy of the Jewish Messiah. Others healed at Jesus’ direction.  Others to whom Jesus gave the power to heal directed still more others to do so. All of this fulfills that which was spoken through the prophet. So, if someone wants to know if healings and miracles should be performed by every Christian throughout time, I think they first need to find a scripture that clearly states that they do without the need to infer something from that which is written.

What are your thoughts?

(1) The original post has been edited to add this footnote. Isaiah 26:19-20 tells us, “Your dead will live…” While we are clearly told in the New Testament that Jesus raised people from the dead, Isaiah does not specifically say Messiah would do this.  Isaiah appears to describe a future after Jesus’ second coming, but some say it speaks of the Day of Salvation; meaning, when Jesus arrived as Messiah.