Lecture 10

Divine Healing: Resurrection Bodies

The Christian and Missionary Alliance was never a healing ministry. Simpson was known and sought out for his teaching and practice of divine healing but it was never allowed to dominate his ministry. Healing was a quiet and consistent emphasis of the early Christian and Missionary Alliance and public spectacle was studiously avoided. Part of this grew out of the fact that Simpson did not believe divine healing to be a spectacular event. It was simply a part of the Gospel for all true believers to request and receive. Healing meetings were for those who were "saved" and "sanctified," whose lives were right with God. They were characterized by careful teaching rather than emotional appeals and quiet anointing and prayer for the sick according to the instructions in James 5:14,15.

This lecture is meant to be considerably less directive that the lectures to this point. We have covered a good deal of ground. I have first explained and then tried to model a "living tradition" approach to denominational history. I'm now leaving it to you to work with what you have to assess how Simpson's view of divine healing can provide spiritual and pastoral resources to us today.

What follows is a guided reading of Simpson to point out some of the key features and difficulties late 20th century interpreters need to address. All of the quotations are from your Reading so you can check the context and see if  I am interpreting Simpson faithfully.  For the most part I will not attempt to resolve the problems but will wait on the results of your Position Papers to see how you have worked it out. The overall objective of this module is to answer the question: Are there resources for a living tradition here?

Source of Healing

Not surprisingly Jesus and his death and resurrection are the source of divine healing. Simpson's "Himself" approach should be quite familiar by now.

Healing in the atonement

The clearest and probably the most convincing articulation of the teaching that physical healing is connected with the atoning work of Jesus is this: "If sickness has come into the world through sin, which is conceded, it must be got out of the world through God's great remedy for sin, the cross of Jesus Christ." This makes perfect theological sense and convinces me of the importance of this insight even when Simpson's attempt to establish this exegetically seemed strained or just plain misguided.

Probably the best scriptural foundation comes from Matthew 8's use of the "Suffering Servant Song" in Isaiah 53.

It is an easy step from Isaiah to Matthew viii: 17, for this is but a translation of the Old Testament verse. Happily it is a translation by the mouth of the Holy Ghost, and leaves no doubt of the meaning of Isaiah. The meaning of sickness and infirmities, especially when taken in connection with the context and the healing of human bodies in which He was at the time engaged, which this verse was quoted to explain, is beyond the possibility of a question; and the verbs employed--"took" and "carried"--are even stronger than those used in the Old Testament.

The argument here is that Matthew quotes the Isaiah passage in the context of Jesus' healing of physical infirmities. The Isaiah passage is about the suffering of the servant of the Lord which Matthew and Simpson agree looks forward to the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
        "He took up our infirmities
                and carried our diseases." (NIV)

Redemption right

Because healing is covered in the atonement, Simpson concludes that it is a "redemption right." Just as we can call on Jesus to save us from our sin fully confident that we will be saved because of what Jesus did on the cross, so Simpson argues we can claim healing with full confidence. It was this realization which Simpson sees as key to his ability to claim healing for himself back in 1881. It was a lack of confidence that kept Simpson from asking for healing.

I could not take it for myself, because I was not quite sure that it was included in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as purchased and finished for all who accepted Jesus fully. I did not feel that it was my redemption right. I thought it was something I might have, or might not. It was a reality when it came, but it was an uncertainty in each particular case; and, never, till I saw it in His Word, in the redemption of Jesus, as my redemption right, could I stand upon it and take it, without hesitation or doubt.

I am fully convinced that healing is in the atonement, that it is "purchased and finished for all who accepted Jesus fully," but I am still uncomfortable with this idea of "redemption right." Does Simpson really mean, as he seems to here, that any who have accepted Jesus as their saviour should also have full access to healing? Are the saved never to be sick? What are we to conclude about our spiritual well-being if we are sick? How would Simpson comfort Job?

Sanctification and Healing

Simpson's understanding of divine healing is almost a direct application of his understanding of sanctification to our bodies. The prerequisite for sanctification was conversion and it seems the prerequisite for healing is sanctification. Simpson believed that before we go to God for healing our spiritual house must be in order. "You must be right with Him yourself." But this Simpson believed should not be a cause for delay. Making things right with God is to be our way of life, not a major obstacle. "But it need not take you a month in order to get right, you can get right here where you are, if you are really willing to be led by the blessed Holy Spirit." This emphasis seems perfectly in line with the instructions in James 5 which connect prayer for healing and confession and forgiveness very closely together.

What those who are sanctified experience when they are healed, seems to be the physical effects of the life of Christ already indwelling them. The language used to describe healing is closely parallel to the language of sanctification.

Jesus Himself

Remember the statement from the Fourfold Gospel: "The heart and soul of the whole matter is seeing that Jesus is himself our sanctification," something the same could be said in the matter of healing. Healing is not something Jesus does to or for us but something the indwelling Christ does in us. The imagery is very much Jesus taking over our physical selves just as in sanctification he took over our spiritual selves. Here it is - Jesus manifest in your mortal flesh.

He does not put into you today a little bit of health that only heals the old disease and staunches the old wound; but He, the living One, comes into you, and henceforth lives in you Himself in your body, so that your bodies are members of Christ, and you are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." … It is not something you receive, or something you thought you had secured, but it is Somebody, it is Christ you get. It is Jesus Himself, your Life, manifested in your mortal flesh. Now that is the foundation of it.

The "crisis" parallel

In his teaching about sanctification, Simpson felt it important that there be a particular beginning. This was ideally at conversion, but if not some subsequent time when we really give everything over to Christ and begin trusting him at a new depth. The same is true of healing. Healing seems also to be viewed as a new level of trust, this time for our physical well-being but our trust must begin somewhere if it is to grow in us. Here Simpson describes a healing "crisis" or point of turning.

…come right out to a definite point, and cross it, and put a stake down, and mark it forever; and date from this afternoon till the great day of His coming, as an epoch in your life when something was settled, and passed out of your hands forever, so that you have no more to do with it. Be definite.

Live for Jesus

With Simpson every benefit we receive from Christ is to direct us to service for him in the world. Here again is the reminder that health is not for our benefit. Strength and vitality are not given to serve our selfish purposes to do what Christ has called us to do. We use his resources to accomplish his will.

It is an awfully sacred thing to have the very blood of Christ flowing in your veins; it is a solemn thing to have the life of Jesus quickening your heart, and lungs, and nerves, and it would be a dreadful thing to defile it by contact with sin and the world. I could no more go now and spend an evening for my own selfish entertainment, that I could go and deliberately walk in to sin. I feel this life belongs to Jesus; I feel it is Jesus Himself; and He expects me to walk through the world as He walked, and to use every breath, thought and power constantly for Him.

I'm quite taken with the literalness with which Simpson makes his point. It seems somewhat over the top. But it makes the same point Paul was making to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:19,20). What we do in our body is important to God because our body is His temple.

Issue of Faith

Repeatedly Simpson makes it clear he does not teach faith healing but divine healing. It is not faith that heals but Christ through his death and resurrection. However faith is a key element in receiving the divine blessing. All the blessings that God offers are received on our side through faith. Thus faith must be operative although it is not decisive. Here Simpson recounts his struggle to find the faith to accept Christ as his healer and again discovers Christ Himself.

One of my greatest stumbling blocks was this - I found healing was promised to the obedient ones, to those who are righteous with God, and I could not feel conscious of being so myself. But then the Lord showed me that He was my righteousness as well as my healing, and that He was my faith as well as my healing, that I was not anything but a babe, and that He did not expect anything from me in myself, that He knew when He took me, that I was helpless and useless; and so I threw myself upon Him and covenanted with Him that He should be to me righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and so, to this hour, if I need faith for anything, I don't try to work up faith, I don't agonize in prayer until I get a certain degree of faith; I just say, "It is Thy faith, not mine; Thou hast it for me, just as Thou hast the blood, and the power, and the cleansing; it is all Thine, and I just borrow it for the time. Lend me Thy faith for this hour;" and I take His faith, and depend upon it to be mine, I go forward and act as if I had it, and I find that He meets me and gives me the blessing of confidence in His healing and His power.

Christ is our faith as well as our sanctifier and healer. We can look to him for all that we lack, but does this answer really satisfy? Does this save us from second guessing our faith? Can this teaching be a guarding against blaming ourselves and our lack of faith for a continued chronic illness? Can it guard us against blaming others?

The "wellness" model

The following paragraph I refer to as the "wellness" model of divine healing.

He has such a heart as man, only glorified; such a brain, such a set of nerves and vital organs. His body is not for Himself, nothing that He has is for Himself, all the fullness of Christ is for His Church, His spiritual fullness has sanctified your soul, His bodily energy vitalizes your body, and you can take it, you have a right to take it, today. I take it afresh today from the living Christ - His nerves, and heart, and brain and bodily strength for my own life. I think whole people need it as much as sick people. It is like the water which Christ turned into wine. It is a better kind of health. I have been trying it in all ways, and working on it for four years. We who are well can take it; and live on it, day by day, and I do take it every morning, and it has given me many times the strength of my natural energy.

Here Simpson recounts his understanding of how we experience divine healing. The implication he draws from this is that we are not to experience the physical empowering of Christ's resurrection body only when we are sick. This is something available to us all the time. This is quite an important insight which if we take seriously may help us overcome the functional dualism most of us live with. We tend to make stark distinctions between the physical and the spiritual and see little or no overlap. It is more our western philosophical heritage than Biblical revelation that divides the world up like this. The reality of the incarnation should serve as a model of how God integrates the spiritual and the physical. We need to live out of the resources of God's redemption of our bodies just as we do his redemption of our spirits.

Key to healing is the indwelling Christ

Simpson seems to indicate that the focus of divine healing might not be perfect health but total dependence on God.

God expects nothing from your own natural life. Let the whole thing be done with, and just identify yourself with Jesus, and say, "Jesus is within; not I, but Christ; He is my righteousness, and my faith, and He is my bodily life too." He does not promise you that you will never be sick, He does not promise you that you will never die; but He does promise you that, until your work is done, until His purpose is fulfilled concerning you, He is the strength of your life, your victory for bodily as well as spiritual infirmity and oppression. Just go forth now, and walk in His strength, moment by moment, step by step, with sweet and thankful rest.

This paragraph may provide an interpretative key which sets some of the issues raised above into perspective. The focus is on the indwelling Christ and on empowerment to fulfill God's calling. Health is not guaranteed but service is. Moreover Christ is the strength of our lives even in weakness. This teaching seems to be very much in line with important biblical/theological themes. It would seem like this might provide a start in building toward a living tradition in regard to divine healing.

Kenneth L. Draper, 1998