Wet Willies for Jesus: Gifts of Healing and Workings of Power (1 Corinthians 12)
Peanut butter and jelly, fries and ketchup, milk and orange juice. These combinations complement each other to produce something even more delicious than if one was to eat just one of the ingredients alone. (Try the third one with a dash of sugar; it tastes like a creamsicle milkshake!) Continuing the third part of our series of the spiritual gifts, we come to perhaps the two most spectacular manifestations of the Spirit: “gifts of healing” and “miraculous powers.” These are complementary gifts often overlapping so much that it is difficult to tell them apart. Let’s unwrap these gifts together.
“Healing” refers to a healing of the physical body, which either improves from its present condition or is completely cured of the disease or injury that afflicts it. It can be as small as a wart falling off your big toe or as big as a cure from cancer. It can be instantaneous or progressive healing, beginning a process of improved health over time.
Physical healing can also be a symptom of the healing of one’s soul. In Luke 8:50, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” The word translated “healed” means “saved” in most contexts. Jesus purposely used this word because He had a double meaning in mind; as a result of her physical healing, she would believe as her father did, and receive spiritual healing as well. The child had died in her sins, but she was raised to life, physically and spiritually. The same is true today: often when people talk about the day they turned their life over to God, that day also marks their first day of freedom and the turning point in their battle against alcoholism, abuse, and/or habitual sin.
Miraculous powers are similar to healings. They are literally translated “workings of power” and cover everything from moving mountains to exorcising demons to the Detroit Lions winning the Superbowl. Some simplify things by translating it “miracles,” but that term does not include everything that displays God’s “power.” Fee thinks works of power “covers all other kinds of supernatural activities beyond the healing of the sick” (Fee, p. 594). In other words, if it does not fit in the “healings” category, then it is a miracle.
Both of these gifts are plural (“gifts” and “powers”), showing that the operation of these gifts are “enacted in a diversity of ways to address a variety of conditions” (Thiselton, NIGTC, p.948). In other words, they are done in different ways by different people in different situations. Jesus healed a deaf man by giving him a wet willy (Mark 7:32-37) and healed a blind man by making mud from His own spit and applying it to the man’s eyes (John 9:6-7). Jesus’ disciples followed suit including Peter healing some with his shadow (Acts 5:15) and Paul healing the sick with his sweaty hanky and aprons (Acts 19:11-12).
No one has these gifts exclusively. During His ministry, Jesus sent out His disciples two by two to drive out demons and anoint and heal the sick (Mark 6:12-13). No one has control over the use of these gifts either. Even Jesus was limited in the operation of this gift “because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58). Paul could not remove his own “thorn in the flesh” (possibly chronic migraine headaches or eye ailments) even though he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
What does all this mean? Fee suggests both gifts are “not a permanent ‘gift,’ as it were, but that each occurrence is a gift in its own right” (p.594). Arnold Bittlinger says it even better. “Every healing is a special gift. In this way the spiritually gifted individual stands always in a new dependence upon the divine Giver.” (Gifts and Graces, 1967, p.37)
Some claim that miracles and healings don’t happen anymore, but my experience tells me otherwise. I have been miraculously provided for (read about it here.)I have driven a car with no oil because God answered my prayer when I did not know why my car wasn’t running. I have seen my dog’s body restored so that she did not need a bolus of saline injected three times a day. She lived happily to the ripe old age of 14 without needing a single injection. I have seen the power of God displayed in my life on many more occasions. If we would stop being afraid and only believe, we will see God come through in mighty ways with more frequency.