One way to decide how to practice healings and other miracles in crusades is to look at how Jesus did it in his own ministry. Miracles figured prominently in his work. At the same time, there is a key point that makes the difference between his healings and those performed today. So, what was the place of healings and other miracles the ministry of Jesus and what should it be today?
The following are observations from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles:
- Primacy of the gospel: Priority is given to the preaching of the gospel. Healings are secondary, never primary. We see this in many places in the gospels. Jesus sent out his disciples to preach, and in preaching, to cast out demons and heal the sick (Matt. 10:7-8). Many people sought Jesus for healings, but he chose to go to many towns and preach, for that is why he came. When Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, the response of the crowd was to talk about his message and his authority (Luke 4:33-37). When those sent out by Jesus returned rejoicing that demons were subject to them, Jesus told them not to rejoice in that fact, but to revel instead in the truth that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).
- Authenticate the gospel: Healings and other miracles authenticated the message of Jesus and the apostles. They brought wonder among the people as to who Jesus. They were often amazed and wondered if he could be the Son of David (Matt. 12:23; 9:32-34; Luke 11:14-23). The miracles showed that the message was from God and therefore true, and that the apostles were serving God (Acts 4:23-31).
- Opportunity to advance the gospel: Healings also provided an opportunity for healed individuals to testify about Jesus and to follow him. The demoniac desired to follow Jesus (Mark 5:17). He went about proclaiming “what great things the Lord has done” for him and how God showed him mercy (Mark 5:19, 20). His response to the work of Jesus was to testify about him.
- Authority of Jesus: Healings were performed by the authority of Jesus, that is, in his name and by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:5-22; Matt. 12:28). He appointed and sent out people with authority to heal and cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13).
- Demons approached Jesus: Demons that were cast out would often recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They feared him, and in some cases begged him not to destroy them. We see here that Jesus never went looking for demons to cast out. He confronted them when they posed a challenge in his preaching ministry (Matt. 8:28-34; Luke 4:33-37).
- It is possible to cast out demons and heal the sick other than by the power of Christ. This is what Jesus implied in his question to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:24). This is also clear in what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-27.
From the above observations, healings and other miracles are a work of God. They were never set aside as a ministry in themselves. When Jesus and the apostles were preaching and there was need for one to be healed, they did so. The primacy of the gospel in the healing accounts is obvious. The focus is never on the one healed but on the power and authority of Jesus over demons and sickness, his identity as Son of David, and his mission as the one bringing in the kingdom of God. His healings brought amazement and pointed people to God. They advanced the gospel preached and those healed testified to the power of God or Christ in their healing. Jesus shows that to be healed is a great work of God and also mercy from God.
In the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, healings were never planned into the preaching ministry of the day. They went about preaching and doing ministry, and healed as the occasion arose. Their primary concern was to proclaim the gospel.
May we be like the apostles and pray to God to embolden us to preach the word without fear while HE (not WE) stretches out his hand to heal and perform wonders to authenticate the message we preach (Acts 4:23-31). God decides who is healed and when and for what purpose. We do not decide.
The place of healing and other miracles in our crusade ministries can be clarified by carefully understanding the methods of Jesus and the apostles. We cannot go wrong when we follow them. Like Jesus and the apostles, let us strive to proclaim the message of the kingdom first. Then, God will do the rest through us for his glory.