Another question came my way recently asking about particular denominations that believe receiving medical attention proves a lack of faith in God’s healing power. Along with that belief is the one that says sickness is a form of judgement from God. Think Job’s really amazing friends who encouraged him through his trials by telling him he brought them all on himself.
I’ve been hearing about this belief ever since I was growing up in Portland. There is a church in Oregon City that has been in The Oregonian multiple times because several members—mostly children—had died from illnesses that were easily treatable if medical attention were an option. Some of these incidents went to court and recently one was convicted of manslaughter. There is also a church of similar belief in the outskirts of the Eugene area.
They say that medicine is just a practice and is no guarantee to heal. True. But they also say that taking your health into your own hands is sinful; only God should have that right. Additionally, they believe healing and victory are offered to us through Christ’s atonement on the cross; like salvation, it can only be accessed through faith.
But what does the Bible actually say?
Here are some snippets of Scripture showing God’s attitude towards medicine and the like:
For one, Luke (author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts) was a doctor! Nowhere do we read of Luke declaring his life of medicine as detrimental and renouncing it for a true life of dedicated faith (much like the tax collectors). Instead, the Holy Spirit actually uses Luke’s skills in medicine and anatomy to bring to life the descriptions of Jesus’ miracles.
Jesus spoke of doctors in a positive way when he compared himself to one in Mark 2:17.
Being sick or plagued with disease does not mean you are lacking in faith or are enslaved to sin. Paul talked about a “bodily illness” he had (Galatians 4:13-15) and he also suffered a “thorn in the flesh” which God allowed him to retain (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). God doesn’t take away Paul’s ailment but uses it as an object lesson of God’s sustaining grace in the midst of human weakness.
God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering even though Job was a great man of faith (Job 1-2).
It is noteworthy that on one occasion Jesus indicated that even some sickness occurs for the glory of God (John 11:4).
In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul instructs Timothy to drink a little wine for medicinal purposes. Paul did not suggest that Timothy was sick because of his lack of faith. Paul just proposed a practical way to treat his illness.
Interestingly, James prescribes a combination of faith and medicine for the sick in James 5:14-16, by anointing the sick with oil and praying for them. The oil here is not special, made holy through prayer. If that were the case, could I cook my bacon in said holy oil and avoid clogged arteries? Instead, John MacArthur states that the oil here was used for medicinal purposes, especially for skin diseases. This offers a picture of trusting God to make the medicine effective.
Neither Paul or any of the others acted as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement.
Paul couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach problem (1 Timothy 5:23) nor could he heal Trophimus at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20) or Epaphroditus (Philippians 3:25-27). They accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace to carry them through.
The idea that it is wrong to use doctors and medicine for health and healing is unbiblical and can be harmful. Using such means for health does not mean you lack faith in God and his power to heal. God heals your asthma attack by giving you the means to obtain an inhaler. God takes away your flu through antibiotics. We just have to take hold of the means God has placed right in front of us.
This is not a faith issue, it is whether or not we are willing to accept His gifts.
Can God answer prayers through miraculous healings? Absolutely. He has done it on more than one occasion.
But sometimes we are the answer to our own prayers.