Friday, March 2, 2012

Faith, Healing, and Miracles - Part 6 of Spiritual Gifts

Our base verses for today are 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, but I’ll also include verses 8 and 11 for a bit of contextual review:

8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

These three gifts we are covering today – faith, miracles, and healing – are somewhat interrelated, yet all distinct.  Let’s dive right in!


The word used for faith here is pistis, meaning faith, faithfulness, pledge, or proof.  It is the only word used for faith in the New Testament.  It is derived from the root word peitho, meaning to persuade or have confidence.

We’ve talked about what, precisely, faith is in our study on James 2:14-26 before (you can access it under the “Faith Defined” tab in the topics section and I encourage you to read or reread it; I will only provide a brief review of those concepts here, as I wish to focus on faith in the capacity of a spiritual gift, rather than just in general). 

We discussed in that post how faith is not synonymous with belief; rather, faith = belief + action.  Faith is a state of believing in something so strongly – being so utterly convinced of its reality – that you cannot help but live it out…it is so deeply ingrained in you that it seems illogical to you to act any other way.

With this understanding, however, we are left with more confusion when trying to figure out what faith means in terms of being a spiritual gift.  I mean, all Christians have faith (Hebrews 11:6), right?  Right.  Romans 12:3 teaches us that “…God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  There is the clincher – Christians have different levels of faith.  Remember our study on the spiritual gifts of giving and voluntary poverty, where there was a hierarchy within the gift?  The same thing is going on here.

So, it is clear now that the spiritual gift of faith is just having more than most…but that’s still obnoxiously vague.  1 Corinthians 13:2 – written in the same passage as our base verse – holds the key to boiling this down more: “And if I have a gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  This is a reference back to what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “…for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible for you.’”

Jesus tells them this right after the disciples were unable to cast out a demon because of the “littleness of their faith.”  Now, did they lack faith in Jesus?  No.  But, they lacked faith that his power would truly extend through them.  Therefore, based on both this Scriptural example and personal experience, I contend that the spiritual gift of faith is a spiritual ability to accept God’s promises to us as true and not shy away from experiencing/exhibiting them ourselves on a regular basis.  Think about it – do you believe that Jesus could command a mountain to move?  I’ll bet you do.  But do you honestly believe that if you invoked His name and you told the mountain to move, that it would?  That’s where it gets tricky. ;-)

Faith is actually one of my spiritual gifts.  I’d like to share a few ways that this gift has played out in my life – not for the sake of bragging or anything like that, but rather to provide a few examples.  These are listed in no particular order:

1.      It is because of my gift of faith that I have been to accept the principle that “God can talk,” as I like to put it.  The kind of conversational prayer found in Acts 10:19-20 is very real – hearing God speak is not something reserved for Saints-with-a-capital-s or only super-elite apostles or anything like that; it is open to all of us.  I mean, people sometimes try to explain away John 10:4 and 27 (“…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice”) as figurative, but when one considers the abundant examples of God literally speaking to people throughout the entire Bible, that interpretation loses its weight.  Yet, most “evangelical” Christians in the American church don’t know this kind of intimacy because, frankly, it is scary to ask God to literally speak to you for the first time – because it’s scary to think that if you don’t hear anything, does that reflect something about you?  So, after that mini-tangent, back to my main point – if you don’t yet know this particular kind of intimacy with God, here’s a solution – ask Him for the faith to ask to hear His voice! :-)

2.      At the end of last semester, I was contemplating writing letters to give to each of my professors sharing the gospel with them, including one in particular who had openly mocked Christianity throughout the semester and I feared would knock points off my grade if I ticked him off by giving him such a letter.  Then, God spoke to me in a dream telling me to do so.  What I could have done was refuse to believe that God really does speak to everyday Christians in dreams and just explain it away as eating weird food that night or something, but because of the faith God has gifted me with, I obeyed the dream and wrote the letters.  That specific teacher ended up writing back to me, saying that it touched him deeply and he was definitely going to think about the issue further.

3.      God promised me a couple of years ago that His mission for me is to spend my life writing for Him.  Now, I’m one of those people who like to psychotically plan every last little detail out – so, given my nature, it would be extremely beneficial to know if that means, for example, writing Christian novels as my career, working outside of ministry as an advertising copywriter but doing it to His glory, or holding some completely unrelated job and doing some sort of writing on the side.  But, He has not chosen to reveal these specifics to me – so as such, I am forced to live in a state of complete dependence on Him – I can’t plan college more than one semester in advance, I don’t have the security of knowing exactly how I’ll spend my post-college life, etc.  In this, the faith He has given me ensures that I walk with Him every step of the way, more fixated on what He wants me to do right now rather than planning for a far-off future.  His gift to me of faith is also growing my faith even more. :-)

Bear in mind too that, as we have discussed before, sometimes God gives people concentrations of a spiritual gift on a very temporary basis to accomplish some particular task.  Therefore, it is possible to have a super-charged dose of faith at one particular time in your life.

Miracles and Healing

As we’ll see shortly, the gift of healing is a part of the gift of miracles – that is, you can have the gift of healing but not be gifted to do other miracles, or you can be gifted in doing all miracles (this is confirmed later in today’s passage in 1 Corinthians 12:28, in which healing is put lower on the gifts hierarchy than miracles).  Therefore, we will address them together.  I also include them on the same post as faith because I personally believe you would have to have the gift of faith in order to be willing to actually lay hands on someone to heal them or order a storm to stop, etc.

Let’s get the basics of the Greek down first.  The word used for miracle in our base verse is dunamis, which means a (supernatural/miraculous) power, might, strength, and ability (it is translated in those four ways, as well).  It is used exclusively to mean miracle in the New Testament in all but two verses, Acts 4:16 and 22.
Healing in this case is the word iama, meaning simply healing.  It and its variations are used frequently in the New Testament, and are only translated as healing(s).  Another word carrying the same meaning, therapeuo (and its variations), is also sometimes used, and unfortunately, I was not able to figure out any difference between the words with my still-limited knowledge of Koine Greek.  Anybody out there fluent who wants to weigh in? :-)

Now, let’s look at a few examples of miracles from the New Testament (this list is in no particular order and not intended to be all-inclusive – neither in content nor in Scripture references…this is just a very brief overview):
-          Healing illnesses and handicaps (Matthew 8, John 9:1-12, Acts 3:1-10)
-          Casting out demons (Matthew 8)
-          Walking on water (Matthew 14:22-36)
-          Multiplying food (Matthew 15:32-39)
-          Calming storms (Mark 4:35-41)
-          Raising the dead (John 11)
-          Foreknowing/Directing the location of fish (John 21:1-11)
-          Calling down curses with immediate effect (Acts 5:1-16)

Now, are these miraculous powers really limited to Jesus Himself, or does He sometimes extend His power to believers?  Let’s look at a few verses on this topic:

(Jesus speaking to His disciples) “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leapers, cast out demons; freely our received, freely give.”
(Matthew 10:8)

And the seventy (disciples) returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’  And He said to them, ‘…Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.’”
(Luke 10:17-19)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.”
(John 14:12)

Now, some people who have the gift of healing or miracles may be able to do this kind of stuff all the time.  Again, as mentioned before, I also wholly believe (and have witnessed) that may occasionally give an individual one of these gifts only for a very short time to use in one specific circumstance.

Let’s Make It a Conversation

Some questions for you:
1 – Do you or anyone you know have the spiritual gifts of faith, healing, and/or miracles (whether temporary or permanent)?
2 – Have you ever witnessed a healing or miracle?
3 – What cool ways has God given you faith to step out onto the water, so to speak?

As always, don’t feel limited to my questions – they’re just discussion starters. :-)

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