Today there are many who claim to be healers in the name of the Lord. With great commotion and public display, healing services happen all over the world. However, most who observe them are skeptical. They think the healing is fake and the healers are in it for the money. Perhaps they are right.
When Jesus was here, He did say that His followers would do miracles: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12–14)
Yet I noticed something this morning that I’ve not noticed before. The miracles done in the early church had a significant difference from much of what is happening today.
For instance, Peter and John encountered a lame beggar. Peter said to him, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” The man did just that. “Leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
The people who observed this were “utterly astounded” and ran to that place. Peter talked to them about Jesus and glorified Him saying that the healing came from Him through faith, and had nothing to do with their own abilities. (Acts 3:5–16)
This continued through the book of acts. “People gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:16)
One was a person named Aeneas. Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” He did so and “all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” (Acts 9:34–35)
Another example was a man crippled from birth who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking, and Paul looked at him and said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” The man “sprang up and began walking.” At first the crowds though Paul and Barnabas were the gods coming to them as men, but Paul said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:8–18)
In these example and all other cases, there were no skeptics saying the healings were not real. The crowds may have misinterpreted their source, but no one said it was “all in their heads” or somehow fake, or temporary. Not only that, those who called for these people to be healed insisted that this was not their power. They pointed all the attention away from themselves and to Jesus Christ. They repeatedly told the astonished crowds that they were not special, but mere men who trusted their Messiah. He did the miracles; He was the healer, not Peter or Paul or any of the others
The Gospel exposes our sinfulness. I am without any merit or resources of my own. I cannot do anything to earn or deserve what Christ has done for me. This is good news because all my burden and efforts are lifted and I’m free to be loved and love others.
The Gospel is harsh news in that my pride cannot stay. I cannot claim anything. Jesus Christ has done it all. While the Gospel elevates me to a salvation I do not deserve, it also humbles me. Not only am I saved by grace alone, every breath that I take is by the grace of God.
This shapes the difference between the ‘faith healers’ of today and the servants of the Lord in the early church. Those servants never pointed to themselves. They never made a big show over what they were doing, and they refused any credit for the miracles. For them, all the miracles, even any other good thing, were from God and not their doing.
Perhaps the reason there are less miracles today is that too many ‘miracle workers’ are attempting to do them for their own glory instead of bringing glory to Jesus Christ — and wind up blocking God from doing His mighty works?