Miraculous Healing

Henry Frost



Chapter VI




IT is my purpose now, to consider the leading propositions presented in the previous chapter concerning miraculous healing. As the writings of Dr. Gordon and Dr. Simpson present the best, and, therefore, almost the last word to be said in favour of faith healing as generally held, their utterances deserve special consideration.1 We shall then take up their principal propositions one by one. In quoting, it seems best to refer to the words found in The Gospel of Healing as these are similar to those used in The Ministry of Healing and they are put in a more analyzed and consecutive form.

Man has a twofold nature. He is both a material and a spiritual being. And both natures have been equally affected by the fall. His body is exposed to disease; his soul is corrupted .by sin. How blessed, therefore, to find that the complete scheme of redemption includes both natures, and provides for the restoration of physical as well as the renovation of spiritual life! The Redeemer appears among men with His hands stretched out to our misery and need, offering both salvation and healing. He offers Himself to us as a Saviour to the uttermost; His indwelling Spirit the life of our spirit; His resurrection body the life of our mortal flesh. (Gospel of Healing, page 9.)

This, as any one will recognize, is a noble utterance; and it is largely true. But the question arises, is it wholly true? There is no doubt of the fact that Christ’s redemption includes man’s two natures—indeed, three, spirit, soul and body— and provides for the restoration of the physical life as well as the renovation of the spiritual. Those who believe in the resurrection of the body will hold that redemption includes the body; and those who believe in present-day miracles of healing will agree that they are the direct result of Christ’s redemptive work and power. But does it follow that Christ appears among men, in the sense of all saved men and at all times, with His hands stretched out to their physical need, offering healing?

Many men, indeed many sanctified and believing men, have pleaded with Christ for healing and have not received it. Mr. Hudson Taylor, for instance, who lived through a long life in almost unbroken fellowship with God and who trusted Him as few men on earth have done, had few ailments healed in answer to prayer apart from medical aid, though he was delivered from death again and again with such aid. With this one case before us, not to speak of the cases of countless other saints, some of us hesitate to conclude that Christ stands prepared to heal all Christians at all times, with its unjust and unhappy implication that Mr. Taylor and others like him were not healed because they were not sufficiently holy or did not sufficiently believe. The quoted statement seems so inclusive in its phraseology as manifestly to be contrary to experience.

The earliest promise of healing is in Ex. 15:25, 26: ‘There he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord thy God which healeth thee.’ The place of this promise is most marked. It is at the very outset of their journey, like Christ’s healing of disease at the opening of His ministry.

‘God meets us at the very threshold of our pilgrimage with the covenant of healing, declaring that, as we walk in holy and loving obedience, we shall be kept from sickness, which belongs to the old life of bondage we have left behind us for ever. Sickness belongs to the Egyptians, not to the people of God. And only as we return spiritually to Egypt, do we return to its malarias and perils. Nay, this is not only a promise; it is ‘a statute and an ordinance.’ And so, corresponding to this ancient statute, the Lord Jesus has left for us in Jas. 5:14 a distinct ordinance of healing in His name as sacred and binding as any of the ordinances of the gospel. (Gospel of Healing, pages 11-13.)

Those who have studied prophecy will recognize that God has connected different and contrasted purposes with the various dispensations. For instance, He made Israel a nation and gave them a land, which He has not done for the church. For instance again, He wrought miracles in Israel’s behalf, such as making the sun to stand still in the heaven, which he has never wrought in behalf of the church. To argue, therefore, that what God did for His ancient people He will do for His present people, is fallacious and misleading. To illustrate again, out of many illustrations which might be chosen, it says this in Deuteronomy 29:5 concerning Israel, “Your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.” Here is a thing which God did in the physical realm and a most easy thing for Him to repeat; and, we might argue, as He loves the church as fully as He did Israel, that He will do now, in respect to clothes and shoes, what He did formerly. This if it were justifiable, would be a heartening line of thought. But let the Christian, even the holy and believing Christian, “claim the promise” and try to put it into effect, and then see what will happen.

And why will not God respond to the saint now as He did of old, and, for instance, make old clothes and shoes perpetually new? There is but one answer: it is not because He is not able to do so, nor because He does not love now as He did of old, but simply and only because, in respect to such matters, He does not choose to do in this present dispensation what He did in the former. And it is much the same in respect to healing. God made Israel an earthly people and He gave them in a marked way earthly, and, therefore, physical blessings. God has made Christians a heavenly people and He gives them in a marked way heavenly, and, therefore, spiritual blessings. Hence, whatever He now does for the bodies of Christians, He does, not on the basis of what He did for Israel, but apart from it, in fulfillment of His special purposes of grace in this present dispensation.

Isa. 53:4, 5: ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . and with his stripes we are healed.’

This is the great evangelical vision, the gospel in the Old Testament, the very mirror of the coming Redeemer. And here in the front of it, prefaced by a great Amen—the only ‘surely’ in the chapter—is the promise of healing, the very strongest possible statement of complete redemption from pain and sickness by His life and death, and the very words which the evangelist afterwards quotes, under the inspired guidance of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 8:17) as the explanation of His universal works of healing.

‘The translation in our English version does very imperfect justice to the force of the original. The translation in Matt. 8:17 is much better: ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.’ The literal translation would be: ‘Surely he hath borne away our sicknesses, and carried away our pains.’

Therefore, as He has borne our sins, Jesus Christ has also borne away and carried off our sicknesses; yes, and even our pains, so that abiding in Him, we may be fully delivered from both sickness and pain. Thus ‘by his stripes we are healed.’ Blessed and glorious gospel! Blessed and glorious Burden-Bearer! (Gospel of Healing, pages 15-17.)

The above quotation infers that there was a vicarious element in the healings of the Lord in Galilee, and they argue, since these healings were then and there for all, that this vicariousness, confirmed by the atonement on the cross, makes divine healing now and here for all. This argument seems to be unscriptural. There was no vicarious element in the Galilee healings, Christ not having yet suffered on the cross, and hence universality cannot be founded upon them or deduced from them. Peter in his first epistle gives the divine interpretation of Isaiah 53:4, 5, which Dr. Simpson quotes, in the following words, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Pet. 2:24). Here manifestly, the apostle has Isaiah 53:3-5 in mind, and he declares that the meaning of the verses is that Christ bore the burden of our sins not in His life, but in His death “on the tree,” that is, on the cross, and that by the stripes, or punishment laid upon Him, there we are healed, or saved. And with this declaration, the other writers of the New Testament agree (Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:25; 5:6-11; I Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:18-21).

We may conclude then that the atonement was wrought out on the cross, and there alone. Nevertheless, we cannot turn aside from the declaration of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 8:17 to the effect that the healings in Galilee were a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4, 5. This raises the question as to what was the fulfillment which took place. In regard to this, two things are to be noted; first, the Spirit says that the prophecy in Isaiah 53:4, 5 as related to the healings, was then and there “fulfilled,” which forbids the thought that it was, in the sense spoken of, fulfilled by the subsequent atonement on Calvary; and second, the context indicates that the fulfillment referred to was related only to healings, and hence had no relationship with sin or an atonement for sin.

It appears, therefore, that Isaiah 53:4, 5 was written with a double prophetic outlook: first to an atonement for sin, of which Peter speaks (I Pet. 2:24); and second, to the healing of disease, before and apart from the atonement, of which Matthew speaks (Matt. 8:17), this last, undoubtedly, as an evidence and proof of Christ’s messianic claim. This double significance, if a rightful interpretation is to be reached, must be kept in view, and the two must be held separate and must not be confused. In other words, Matthew 8:17 does not refer to the atoning work of Christ, and universal healing cannot be founded upon it. It refers to a temporary content connected with the earthly ministry of our Lord, which being “fulfilled” was not to be renewed.

John 14:12: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me. the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to my Father.’ Here is another: ‘Verily,’ nay, a ‘verily, verily.’ Then it must be something emphatic, and something man was sure to doubt. Now, it is no use to tell us that this meant that the church after Pentecost was to have greater spiritual power, and to do greater spiritual works by the Holy Ghost than Jesus Himself did, inasmuch as the conversion of the soul is a greater work than the healing of the body; because Jesus says: ‘The works that I do shall he do also,’ as well as the ‘greater works than these’—that is, he is to do the same works that Christ did, and greater also. And so we know they did the same works that He did. (Gospel of Healing, pages 19, 20.)

This is an instance of generalization, for, as a matter of fact, the apostles, not to speak of subsequent disciples, did not do greater works than Christ, that is, in the physical world. Did any apostle or disciple turn water into wine; or bring up from the sea a draught of fishes; or still a tempestuous lake; or feed five thousand persons with five loaves and two fishes; or heal a man at a distance who was sick and ready to die; or raise a man from the tomb who had been dead four days? Aside from Peter and Paul raising the dead, the apostolic miracles of a physical kind did not approach those which the Lord wrought, either in quality or quantity. One can but conclude, therefore, that the Lord in the words quoted (John 14:12) had reference to acts in the spiritual realm, in respect to which His statement is wholly applicable and true. If this is the case, then they do not refer to acts of healing, and they are not to be made the basis of an assumption to the effect that the apostles and all following Christians may equal and even exceed Christ in His healing power and acts.

Mark 16:15-18: ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’

“Here is the commission given to them, the twofold gospel, and the assurance of His presence and unchanging power. What right have we to preach the one without the other? What right have we to hold back any part from the perishing world? What right have we to go to the unbelieving world and demand their acceptance of our message without signs following? What right have we to explain their absence from our ministry by trying to eliminate them from God’s Word, or consign them to an obsolete past? Nay, Christ did give them, and they did follow as long as Christians continued to ‘believe’ and expect them. For it is important to observe the translation which Dr. Young gives of the seventeenth verse: ‘Signs shall follow them that believe these things.’ The signs shall correspond to the extent of their faith. (Gospel of Healing, pages 20-22.)

As will be seen, these words make large claims for the church, and lay down unequivocally the proposition that any Christian who believes may bring to pass the signs spoken of by Christ as recorded by Mark. But these facts are to be noted. A “sign” in Scripture is never a frequent, continuous, or universal event. When the sun rises and sets in its daily course about the earth, it is frequent, continuous and universal, and hence it is not a sign. But when, at the command of Joshua, the sun stood still in the heaven, it was neither frequent, nor continuous, nor universal, and hence, it was a sign. The fact then, that Christ said that these “signs should follow them that believe was the divine indication that they should not be frequent, continuous and universal. In addition to this, what is argued for one of the stated signs must be argued for all of the others; that is, if Christ gave to all believing Christians the right to lay hands on the sick that they might recover, He also gave them the right to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, and, if they should drink any deadly thing, to recover. But we do not read that the author of the quotation elsewhere argued for the putting into effect of these other signs of which the Master spoke. He did indeed tolerate seeking for the receiving and exercising of the gift of tongues, during a series of “waiting meetings” at the New York Tabernacle. But this was only for a comparatively short time, for spiritual abuses developed and he brought the meetings to an end. And, finally, it is to be observed that the commission in Mark does not give the right to be healed, but to lay hands on the sick and heal, which two things, though somewhat similar, are distinctly unlike, coming under different classifications and being for different purposes.

Rom. 8:11: ‘If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.’ This cannot refer to the future resurrection. That will be by the ‘Voice of the Son of God,’ not the Holy Spirit. This is a present dwelling and a quickening by the Spirit. And it is a quickening of the ‘mortal body,’ not the soul. What can this be but physical restoration, which is the direct work of the Holy Ghost, and which only they can receive who know the indwelling of the divine Spirit. It was the Spirit of God that wrought all the miracles of Jesus Christ on earth (Matt. 12:28). And if we have the same Spirit dwelling in us, we shall experience the same works. (Gospel of Healing, pages 26, 27.)

Those who hold the doctrine of miraculous healing as the right and privilege of all saints make much of this verse in Romans. But before the interpretation which the quotation expresses is given to it, two or three things should be observed. First, the verse does not make the quickening of our mortal bodies dependent upon conditions of any kind, such as the prayer of faith or a sanctified life, as it would do if present experiences were in mind. It simply announces the fact that the Spirit will bring the quickening mentioned to pass. Second, what is promised in the verse is not said to be for a few, peculiarly sanctified and specially believing Christians, but for all saints in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, that is, for every member of the body of Christ. And third, the verse does not say that the Spirit now quickens the mortal body, but that He will do so, the difference being between a present and future action. In my opinion, these considerations are insuperable difficulties to making the verse apply to present times and experiences. It seems clear that the words used point forward to the coming of Christ when all who live and believe in Him will be quickened by the Spirit into His form and beauty. It will be of interest to my readers to know that Dr. Gordon, whose miraculous healing views would naturally have led him to an opposite interpretation of the verse than this, told me that a prolonged study of it, including its Greek wording, had forced him to conclude that it could not possibly be made to refer to the present time; and he added that undoubtedly it spoke of the transformation of the body which is to take place at the return of the Lord,

As a voice that has been speaking for eighteen centuries, let us hear the sweet words (Heb. 13:8), ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.’ And this is but an echo of that voice that spoke these parting words a generation before: ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ He did not say, I will be; that would have suggested a break; but I am, an unchanging now, a presence never withdrawn, a love, a nearness, a power to heal and save, as constant and as free as ever, even unto the end of the world; ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.’ (Gospel of Healing, page 28.)

There are few verses in the Word of God more comprehensive in implication and more establishing in effect than the one which is here quoted. It shows, to the comforting and strengthening of the soul, that we have an eternal Christ, who is enduring and unchangeable. The promise, therefore, is a rock foundation upon which to stand and in which to rejoice, through all the events of time as related to oneself, the church, the nations, the world, and the whole universe of God. But, granting this, may one found upon it what the quotation does? Is it true, because Christ is unchangeable in His being and attributes, that also, He is unchangeable in His will and ways? Is He, for instance, doing the same in this church age that He did in the Jewish age, and that He will do in the millennial and eternal ages? To ask these questions is to answer them. The fact is, one of the most blessed things about Christ’s unchangeableness is His changefulness. If He were so changeless as to know no change, He would be a machine, not God, nor even man. It is because He is the God-Man, that He thinks and plans, and acts, and so, by various ways and diverse means, brings to pass different purposes at different times. In the nature of the case, therefore, it seems a false line of argument to declare, because Christ healed men in the days when He was on earth, that He will do so now that He is in heaven, and for the simple reason that He is the same “yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Whether He will or will not heal in our day must be ascertained, not from the standpoint of His eternal sameness, but from that of His revealed will and purpose as related to the present age.

Jas. 5:14: ‘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 save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.’

Observe the nature of the ordinance enjoined—’the prayer of faith,’ and the ‘anointing with oil in the name of the Lord.’ Now, this was manifestly not a medical anointing, for it was not to be applied by a physician, but by an elder, and must, naturally, be the same anointing of which we read (Mark 6:13 and elsewhere), in connection with the healing of disease by the Apostles themselves. Any other interpretation would be strained and contrary to the obvious meaning of the custom, as our Lord and His apostles observed it. In the absence of any explanation here to the contrary, we are bound to believe that it was the same—a symbolical religious ordinance expressive of the power of the Holy Ghost, whose peculiar emblem is oil. The Greek Church still retains the ordinance. The Romish apostasy has changed it into a mournful preparation for death. It is a beautiful symbol of the divine Spirit of life taking possession of the human body, and breathing into it His vital energy.

Again, observe that this is a command. It ceases to be a mere privilege. It is the divine prescription for disease; and no obedient Christian can safely dispense with it. Any other method of dealing with sickness is unauthorized. This is God’s plan. This makes faith so simple and easy. We have but to obey in childlike confidence; He will fulfill. (Gospel of Healing, pages 22-25.)

Almost all writers upon the subject of miraculous healing regard the passage in James (5:14-20) as basic and pivotal. Most students of the subject of such healing agree with them in this, at least in this sense, that it is their opinion that it is most important carefully to study and accurately to interpret the passage. But some teachers feel that these last requirements have not always been fulfilled, and, on the contrary, that many expositors of the verses have come to them with biased minds and with the object of confirming predetermined views. I do not know that I may wholly be delivered from such a bias of opinion. Nevertheless, I shall beg to point out certain facts about the passage which often have been passed by, and which, I think, must be before us if we are to reach safe conclusions. Let me state these as follows:

  • James, as the president of the church council at Jerusalem, had connection with the church when it was largely Jewish, both in personnel and character (Acts 15:13-29; Gal. 2:9).
  • James wrote, not to Gentile Christians, but to Jewish ones, addressing his epistle to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” (1:1).
  • James wrote to Jewish Christians when they were yet meeting in synagogues, the words, “If there come into your assembly,” being literally, “If there come into your synagogue” (2:2).
  • James wrote in a transition period, when the Old Testament was giving place to the New, and as a Christian Jew to Christian Jews. He thus continued in part, as Christ did when He was on earth, the teaching of the Old Testament, where grace and faith have place (1:6-8), but obedience, works and visible signs have prominence (1:22-25).
  • James, in applying Old Testament truths to New Testament conditions, looks upon Christianity, not from the inward point of view, but from the outward, and thus emphasizes legal and ceremonial observances. This leads him, among other similar statements, to define pure and undefined religion as visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping oneself unspotted from the world (1:26, 27), a definition which falls far short of what the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul who wrote at a later date (Rom. 12:1, 2; I Cor. 15:58).
  • James wrote his letter soon after the Gospels and the Acts were written and before any of the other epistles were penned. His epistle, therefore, is the first which was written. For this reason, it stands, historically and spiritually, just after the Gospels and the Acts. Hence it links these books with the later epistles of Peter, John and Paul. It is thus a primary, midway and partial revelation as between the early Christian church, where Jewish conditions prevailed, and the later Christian church, where Gentile conditions prevailed. This does not raise the question as to whether or not the Epistle of James is inspired any more than a similar statement in respect to the Old Testament or the Gospels would raise the question as to whether or not they are inspired. The question is simply one of time, place, meaning and application.
  • James, it is to be noted, directed those who were sick to call for the “elders of the church” (5:14). These elders, in the synagogue congregation, were always men, and were a formally elected and officially designated ecclesiastical body. Women, therefore, have no place in this ordinance, nor have self-appointed independent and unconnected men.
  • James does not say that the use of means is wrong and that the physician and medicine are to be excluded, and his silence, in view of other scriptures which endorse the use of means, is presumptive evidence that he recognized the place and service of each. Moreover, it may be assumed that the cases of sickness which were in his mind were those, in general, which physicians and medicines could not cure, for otherwise he would not have turned from them to the church elders, whose power of healing lay alone in spiritual processes. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that Christ and the apostles chiefly healed, not minor and otherwise curable diseases, such as toothache, headache, etc., but major and otherwise incurable ones, such as palsy, blindness, deafness, dumbness, lameness, insanity and leprosy.
  • James, I judge, commanded the use of poured-out oil as a sign and symbol of the poured-out Holy Spirit. If this is the case, he thus signified that the Christian patient, openly and loyally, was to accept the fact that the Holy Spirit was present, and the additional fact that He was Lord over the whole being, spirit, soul and body. It was thus an anticipation and declaration of the truth which Paul expressed, the body for the Lord and the Lord for the body (I Cor. 6:13). It was under this sovereign overlordship of the Spirit that healing, when granted, was procured and produced.
  • James affirms that it is the “prayer of faith” which heals the sick (5:15), and he gives an illustration of such a prayer by citing the case of Elijah, who prayed that it might not rain and it rained not, and again prayed that it might rain and it rained (5:17, 18). The apostle thus defines the “prayer of faith” as one which originates in heaven, for Elijah’s prayer, before it was offered, was given to him by the Holy Spirit, which fact revealed to him the will of God and thus made him bold to ask for the thing desired. It is manifestly this kind of praying for healing, that is, God-given praying, which produces the recovery of the sick from disease.
  • James makes it clear that not all sickness is consequent upon and in punishment of particular sin. He says that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up” (5:15), which is an unconditional statement. He then adds, “If he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (5:15), which is a conditional statement. That is, a man may be sick and need healing apart from particular sin; or he may be sick and need healing in consequence of particular sin. In the first case, the prayer of faith will obtain healing. In the second case, it will obtain both forgiveness and healing. So we must discriminate between one sickness and another, and we must not assume, because a man is sick, that he has committed some particular sin. Paul confirms this thought in his reference to Epaphroditus, who, he declares, was nigh unto death because of his work for Christ (Phil. 2:30), and who, with all such, was to be held in honour (Phil. 2:29).

Light is thrown upon the James passage by considering the New Testament in general in respect to the use or non-use of oil. There is only one other passage in this part of the Bible which speaks of the use of oil in cases of sickness, namely, Mark 6:13. This reads thus: “They cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” This quotation establishes the fact that the apostles at times used oil in their acts of healing. But other passages indicate that at other times they did not do so (Acts 3:1-8). It is to be remembered that their using oil, so far as the Word records, was in the lifetime of Christ and thus before the church had been formed. James brings the practice within the time of the church. But again it is to be remembered that he wrote in the early period of the church, during Jewish supremacy. In connection with this, it is to be carefully observed that there is not a passage in the New Testament subsequent to Pentecost which says that the apostles, in cases of healing, used oil, and thus not one which indicates that Paul, the great healer, did so.

This silence of Scripture, as related to the church period and especially as related to its later portion, is suggestive. It seems to indicate that the instructions of James concerning healing were intended particularly for the church in a condition of a large Jewish membership and at a time when it was emerging from Judaism and was spiritually undeveloped; and hence, that they are not so much intended for the church in its present Gentile condition and spiritual maturity. In the last analysis of the case, Paul’s writings are to be taken as containing the latest and highest church truth, and it is to be observed that he gives no hint, in his teaching or practice, of sending for the elders in cases of sickness or of anointing by oil. It seems fair to conclude, therefore, that the instructions of James, as related to present-day Christians, are to be regarded as permissive but not mandatory. Dr. Simpson, in spite of his saying that anointing with oil is a command and the divine prescription for disease, seemed to sense the truth of this conclusion, for in his various sicknesses, as already noted, he never sent for the elders of the church and was never anointed with oil.


  1. A clear and forceful presentation of the subject of miraculous healing from the usual standpoint has recently been made by the Rev. Kenneth Mackensie, in his book The Divine Life of the Body, published by the Christian Alliance Publishing Co., New York City.

Chapter VII

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