Is the spiritual gift of healing active in the Church today? Leading biblical scholars weigh in (part 3)

Unsplash/Elia Pellegrini
Unsplash/Elia Pellegrini

Leading Christian thought leaders delved into the theological divide between cessationism and continuationism and the role of spiritual gifts, particularly healing, in the Church today and whether a lack of healing results from an individual's insufficient faith or sin.

In a four-hour roundtable discussion, Justin Peters of Justin Peters Ministries and Jim Osman, author and pastor of Kootenai Community Church, debated Michael Brown, host of "The Line of Fire" podcast, and Sam Storms, pastor emeritus of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City.

The four men debated whether gifts like healing and prophecy, as described in the New Testament, particularly in 1 Corinthians 12, continue to operate in the modern church.

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Read part 1 of their discussion here and part 2 here.

Cessationists, like Peters and Osman, argue that certain spiritual gifts ceased with the apostolic age or upon the completion of the New Testament canon. In contrast, continuationists, including Brown and Storms, maintain that these gifts are still active and accessible to believers today. 

"There's nothing in Scripture that would indicate that God ever intended to operate for only 50 or 60 years in the life of the church," Brown stated, emphasizing the belief in the perpetuity of spiritual gifts.

“I've seen so many people's lives transformed by the extension of God's grace through one of these gifts or through healing,” he said. “And as the Gospel is preached, especially around the world, especially where it's going for the first time, it's very, very common for the Gospel to be followed [by] the signs and wonders that are the very testimony of the Lordship of Jesus that draw people to recognize that He is the one and only God, the one and only Lord. So I don't just see this abstract theology; I see it as really important in terms of God doing real things in our lives in an ongoing way.”

“It's a great way for God to be glorified. It's a great way for Him to manifest His love in tangible ways. And it's something that we should pursue as part of the gracious operation of the Spirit, and we lose out by not doing it. So I believe it's important scripturally, but also practically.”

Storms added that many cessationists also “misunderstand” what charismatics believe about healing, adding: “Paul could not heal at will … healing is always subject to the will of God and His timing and His purpose is not to any particular individual who claims that they have this gift.”

Osman, while acknowledging the possibility of God's intervention in healing, expressed skepticism toward the notion that certain individuals hold a special anointing for healing today.

"I've seen and we've prayed for people that were not healed and ended up dying," he shared, underscoring the complexity and mystery of God's will in such matters.

“We believe that God still heals,” Osman said. “We have prayed in our congregation for God to heal people and God has healed them. And sometimes that has been inexplicable. We've had other times when it has happened through medicine or through times when God has granted healing rather than taking somebody's life … what you're calling a gift I would just call the sovereign act of God and bringing healing to somebody.”

The dialogue also ventured into the contentious issue of the "prosperity gospel" and its emphasis on faith as a prerequisite for healing. Osman and Peters criticized the harmful teachings associated with certain strands of charismatic theology that blame individuals for their lack of healing. 

Peters, who is physically disabled, countered Brown’s sentiment that healing is “always the will of God,” adding: “I see too many examples in the Old and New Testament of faithful servants of God who were sick and as best we know were never healed.”

“Sometimes, when it pleases God to do it, He does heal people, and I've seen a few examples that are very compelling to me that I have no problem with,” he continued. “But I will not and cannot, because I'm not convinced from the Scriptures, I'm convinced otherwise from Scriptures, that it is always God's will to be healed because that places the burden upon the one who is sick.

If you begin with the premise that it is always God's will to be healed and a person prays for that healing for days, weeks, months, years, some people for decades, and the healing does not come, then the question must be asked, ‘Whose fault is it?’ And by definition, it cannot be God's fault. So the only other one to whom to look is the one who is sick. It's his fault, her fault. … I could give you thousands of examples of that very thing being taught by prominent prosperity Word of Faith preachers,” he said.

Storms agreed there are “multiple reasons” an individual is not healed. 

“Unconfessed, unrepentant sin can be an obstacle to somebody's physical healing. The lack of faith, could be a demonic presence,” he said. “The woman in Luke 13 who was held in bondage by Satan for 18 years had a spirit of infirmity. So there are multiple reasons … is it's a mystery. We cannot fathom God's will and His purpose.”

Peters criticized teachings that place the burden of unanswered prayers for healing on the individuals themselves, suggesting it’s a failure in their faith or spiritual discipline. He noted that in 2022, Beni Johnson, the wife of Bethel Church Senior Pastor Bill Johnson, died following a battle with cancer despite the pastor’s belief in supernatural healing.

 “What they teach doesn't even work for them,” Peters said.

Despite the differences, there was a consensus that, regardless of one's stance on the continuation of spiritual gifts, the Church's primary focus should be on proclaiming the Gospel and caring for those in need, including praying for the sick with compassion and sensitivity.

Peters said he’s been to Joyce Meyer conferences, Lakewood Church, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland meetings, and sees “absolutely no difference in the amount of sickness and disease that I see in those circles as to what I see in any cessationist church that I go to.”

“There's not a less prominence of sickness and disease in Word of Faith circles … than there is in cessation circles,” he said. “There's no difference.  I don't believe that God is healing more people in those circles than He is in our circles. I just don't believe it. I don't see proof of it.”

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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