Author Greg Koukl
Published on 01/03/2022
Christian Living

Is God Always Willing to Heal Believers?

Do Christians have the authority to command a person be healed? Greg and Amy offer biblical examples to show that while the atonement may make healing possible, it doesn’t guarantee it.


Listener: When praying for healing, what is the basis for commanding in Jesus’ name versus asking in Jesus’ name for healing?

Greg: I don’t think you command healing. You can only command healing if you have the authority to effectively direct it—to speak to it. I don’t think we have that. If you command healing, then healing is done. Jesus had that authority, and he delegated that authority in a limited way to his disciples when they went out on special mission trips. We see that clearly. But when Jesus had that authority in himself, he healed everyone immediately. So that suggests that Jesus’ pattern of healing on the earth is not the pattern we’re following now. Otherwise, everyone, at the command of the authority of the believer to declare the healing just as Jesus did, would be healed. Period.

Now, sometimes the Word of Faith crowd will say, well, you’re not healed because it’s your problem. When you look at the occasions when Jesus healed, there were lots of times where it was a person’s faith—their reaching out to him in trust—that was the operative factor for him responding. It was significant. Sometimes they only reach in halfway. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” The leper of Matthew 8 says, “If you are willing, you can heal me.” And Jesus says, “I’m willing. Be healed.” So, he wasn’t presuming on Jesus. That’s my prayer, by the way, when I pray for healing. “If you’re willing.” I don’t know if God’s going to be willing. Sometimes he’s not. How do I know that? Because he doesn’t heal, at least not at that moment—sometimes not ever. So, he’s not always willing.

Sometimes, it was not the person’s faith. It was Jesus simply acting. Later on, there’s Peter’s mother. She’s sick. He heals her, and off she goes. There’s no reference to her faith, and it’s clear that sometimes Jesus is acting in a way to bring healing as a response to great human need. Everything is not dependent on the strength of the faith of the receiver in order to get healed, such that, if you command the disease to go away and it doesn’t happen, then it’s the diseased person who is at fault. And this is sometimes the maneuver that the Word of Faith crowd makes.

The power is not in us. We do not have the authority to heal every single disease, obviously, because there are massive numbers of godly people who are praying for God to work, and God doesn’t respond every time. He does sometimes. Why? That depends on whether he’s willing. I don’t know why. That’s up to him. And this is where we trust. We appeal to him in trust to move and then let Jesus decide on his authority to heal based on what he has done for us, not on our authority. It is by his stripes we are healed. Our infirmities, he bore. I think there’s a reference there to Isaiah 53, which makes a clear point that Isaiah 53 is talking about Jesus, at least in the mind of Matthew, who cites it.

So, there is healing through the atonement, but there is not healing in the atonement. People who believe in healing in the atonement want to say healing is available to everyone just simply in virtue of the atonement. Boom. Boom. It’s a done deal unless you screw up. But when, on my view, healing is available as a result of the atonement, but not a guarantee in virtue of the atonement, God extends his mercy to heal when he chooses. It’s based on his authority, not our authority. In the circumstance where the disciples were sent out, they were sent out to do very specific things, and they did those things, and they were given authority to do that. And the church in general, in the Great Commission at the end of the Gospels, is given an authority to accomplish these things, too, but not like a machine. Every time you say these words, boom, the person gets healed. It doesn’t work that way.

Paul was physically sick. There are two occasions that stand out. One, he’s appealing, I think, to the Galatians, and he says, “When I first came to you, I came to you in weakness, and I was sick.” And then another time, I think he says, towards the end of one of his letters, “And I left Trophimus, who was sick.” Notice, this is the great Paul, filled with faith and power. He didn’t have automatic power just to heal whoever, because he couldn’t help this guy, and so he left him there, and he went on with his journeys. That ought to be instructive to us about how this works.

Amy: There are also many passages talking about how we are to view suffering, how we’re to deal with suffering. When we’re asking, we are submitting to God’s will because we do not know what he intends to do in us through our suffering. By commanding, there’s a sense of “You owe me perfect health, and I’m not submitting to your will for me in this.”

Greg: I think what they would say is, “Well, we think the will of God is that we be healed, and so, we are submitting to his will by making this demand.” But what you have done in the counterexamples is to show that they’re mistaken in their understanding of what God’s will is. It is clear, if we are to endure suffering, which is all through the Scriptures, then this is not a blank check for us to get out of jail free, so to speak, and get free of all this if we just say the right words.