Since we didn’t address any questions live in the service this past week, here’s a bundle of them all in one post, with some insight and answers as well. Keep in mind this is territory that is laden with opinions, even when we have Scripture to begin with. So humility of heart, mind, and mouth is not just a luxury, but a necessity.
1. If healing is not a gift “possessed” by certain people, but rather something given at will by God, seemingly random to us on the lower level, how did Peter have the confidence to apparently order this man to “rise up and walk?”
A quick piece of background: Healing, as a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians), is not listed as someone, but rather as something. In other words, it is described literally with the plural words “gifts of healings,” perhaps indicating that God’s supernatural healing can come through a variety of avenues and mechanisms, no doubt including people. So, though the New Testament speaks of healings, it doesn’t specifically call out those who are healers. This is different than how other gifts — and the people who use them — are described, such as prophets, teachers, etc. The point? I lean towards saying there is divine healing, rather than divine (as in permanent and “on-demand”) healers.
With that background, the question points to an obvious dilemma: Doesn’t Peter seem like a man who “possessed” the ability to heal at will and on-demand? Yes, but the difference is in what I mean by “possess.” While no one would doubt Peter “possessed” this gift at that moment, the question is did he possess it all the time and could he use it at will? That’s where I would say probably not. I think, instead, that he experienced this gift when God sovereignly willed, and through His Holy Spirit empowered and informed him of it. So I think his experience fits better within the understanding of divine healing by God through various avenues, even people. What gave Peter the confidence to speak so boldly was the Holy Spirit’s empowerment at that moment to supernaturally be gifted with healings, not the fact that he possessed a gift in a permanent, on-demand manner. I tend to think that at that moment in time, Peter was not only empowered by the Holy Spirit, but also informed by the Holy Spirit (i.e., led), which is why he acted so decisively and confidently.
Consider this additional nugget: Later in Acts, it was Peter’s and Paul’s clothing and, believe it or not, shadows, that were used by God to heal! One could probably make a case that since it was Peter’s and Paul’s “items,” it was essentially the same thing as them. But I’d contend that this is actually more evidence for what I propose — that it wasn’t a permanent, on-demand gift, which is why in this case, God elected to use even these “neutral” things as an avenue for healing. I don’t think the gift resided in them continuously, but rather was deposited in them spontaneously and sovereignly when necessary by God (1 Cor. 12:11).[Incidentally, a stronger case for why their clothes and shadows were so powerful may be connected to their position as Apostles, not their permanent and on-demand gift of healing.]
Could this be how healings are experienced today when done through the avenue of a man or woman? Perhaps. At God-ordained times, he not only empowers his servants to supernaturally heal, but may even inform them of that gift at precisely the right moment, giving them the boldness and confidence to speak, pray, and/or act for the healing of another person.
In summary, Peter’s boldness doesn’t demand the gift be permanent, but that the Giver be powerful. That’s where, I believe, his confidence came from.
2. Wouldn’t it be okay to assume that the 24 healings recorded in the Gospels were not the only healings that Jesus performed, but rather the only healings that were recorded?
You’re exactly right! And after receiving your question Sunday, I wish I had been more clear in my opening comments. In fact, John 20:30 states exactly what you have clarified — “Now Jesus did many other signs…”
Of course, my point was to show that, since not all were healed, there must have been more going on than just the eradication of disease. And there was! It was the validation of his deity. Still, your attention to detail has helped me be a better communicator, and for that I am appreciative.
3. Is there one specific sin that is linked to sickness, or is it sin in general?
The Bible doesn’t seem to link a specific sin to sickness, apart from participating in the Lord’s Table in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27-32). Still, even that, while it does have a degree of specificity to it, contains a spectrum as well — What exactly is “unworthy”?
Furthermore, when James connects sickness and sin (James 5:13-16), he doesn’t list a specific sin, nor is one mentioned in the surrounding context.
So I think it safe to say that though God may, at times, use sickness to get our attention when we are sinning, the specific sin is never clearly spelled out, and may even vary from person to person.