|We believe that God heals in accordance with His will. This may occur miraculously, medically, or naturally. Supernatural healing may occur in response to prayer and in accordance with God's sovereign will. However, physical healing cannot be claimed solely on the basis of the atonement. (1 Corinthians 12:28-30) *(Full AMC Statement)|
This is a study on the divine healing of physical ailments.
There is much perplexity in the body of Messiah on the matter of divine healing as well as abuse and just plain error. I have therefore chosen to address the subject fairly extensively in an attempt to throw out the bathwater while saving the baby. It is not the purpose of this study to cover all aspects of divine healing, but to substantiate the claims in our Statement, to set divine healing in a biblical perspective, to address some key contemporary issues, and to deal with many claims and passages of Scripture used erroneously or deceitfully.
This study follows on the heels of a series on the spiritual gifts, which include gifts of healings - double plural explained below - and will pull together many of the principles and facts in those studies, mostly in a summary manner, and then some. A thoughtful reading of those studies, particularly the sections on gifts of healings and apostleship, would be a good, and in some cases, necessary, foundation for this study. One important point that I've established and wish to emphasize is that Scripture neither says nor implies that God may not choose to heal today (Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Page 1, II.J.4), and this will be presumed throughout this study. The studies on "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit" may be accessed via the Study page.
Please note that throughout this study, such words as "sickness" and "illness" are meant to convey every form of physical malady. Also, it is important to establish a foundation of understanding the causes and divine purposes for physical malady before we study divine healing proper; and this we will do.
Without exception, the root cause of all physical malady is the sin of Adam (Genesis
3:16-19). The judgment for his sin included:
1. physical conditions that cause injury and illness, and
2. death, the doorway to which is injury, illness, or senescence (the aging process, the gradual deterioration of the body).
1. Genetic or Hormonal
Some maladies are genetic in total, such as, Down syndrome, or genetically based, such as a propensity for diabetes. Some are hormonally based, such as, hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism.
2. Accidents Apart from Sin
Some accidents are simply part of life on a cursed earth: toddlers bump their heads, autos collide on slippery roads, etc.
3. Attacks by People or Animals
These include assaults, wars, dog bites, and the like.
4. Personal Sins
It is probable that all sins lead to some form of physical degeneration to one degree or another. This degeneration may begin with an afflicted conscience, which causes the body to turn against itself in different ways. Some sins have a more obvious effect on the body. Some well known examples are: sexual promiscuity leading to venereal disease, intemperate use of alcoholic beverages leading to cirrhosis of the liver, daredevil activities leading to injuries, or holding a grudge (unforgiveness), which may lead to abdominal ulcers or high blood pressure.
5. Attacks by Satan
Satan afflicted Job with boils (Job 2:7); caused a woman to be doubled over for eighteen years (Luke 13:11-16); began the destruction of the Corinthian sinner's body (flesh, 1 Corinthians 5:5); caused the blindness and deafness in the man in Matthew 12:22 and Luke 11:14; and the blindness, deafness and apparent epilepsy in the boy in Mark 9:17-27. It is important to recognize that all attacks by Satan on believers and unbelievers are permitted by God for some divine purpose, as with Job (Job 2:7), and as with the armies of the world, which Satan will gather for bloody battle for the outworking of God's purposes in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:14).
6. Direct Divine Judgment
God may judge by means of illness or an immediate death stroke apart from the agency of Satan or man as with the plague in the days of David (2 Samuel 24:15).
God may afflict His own believing children with physical maladies for the sake of testing, sanctification,
discipline or the securing of their salvation.
1 Corinthians 11:30-32: 30. For this cause [partaking of the Lord's supper unworthily] many are weak and sickly among you, and many have died.... 32. We are [all] disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.
At times, God will use Satan in these matters, as in allowing him to afflict Job with boils for the sake of sanctification (Job 2:2-7, 42:1-6); to afflict Paul with a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7); to discipline the Corinthian man (I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh [body], so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 5:5]), and the same for Hymenaeus and Alexander, that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20).
Natural healing refers to the healing of physical maladies by the body's built-in healing mechanisms, and may include the assistance of medical applications such things as herbs, medicines, poultices, body casts, therapies and surgeries. For our purposes, the purely natural and the medical may all be thought of as natural as they are both physical in nature.
A supernatural or miraculous healing is one which involves supernatural intervention in addition to whatever natural healing processes may be operating.
Of course, faked or imagined healings are not healings, at all. Sadly, it has been discovered that many of the healings of some prominent "healers" have been staged. In addition, many who come forward for healing imagine that they are healed when they are not, either because of wishful thinking, or to call attention to themselves, or because they have been instructed to "confess" their healing when none was in progress (this will be discussed later), or some other reason. If a healing is claimed but not obvious, it behooves the observer to require medical verification before believing it.
Miracles of healing have been reported and attested to throughout history right up to the present day. It seems irrational to believe that none are of genuine healing miracles. In my early years as a believer, I personally observed numerous immediate and undoubted healings, such as the lengthening of short legs up to three or four inches so that both in the pair were even. (One fellow had worn a lift in one shoe to even the length of his legs. After prayer, his short leg lengthened, he got rid of the lift in his shoe, and had not worn it again even when we inquired several weeks later.) At times, I observed such healings from a distance of mere inches, and many have observed them right along with me. In addition, others whom I trust have testified that they have seen or performed healings, as well, some quite dramatic.
There are only two possible sources: God and the Devil.
Many passages of Scripture show that God has healed, such as:
6. The LORD furthermore said to him, "Now put your hand into your
bosom." So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7. Then He said, "Put your hand into your bosom again." So he put his
hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.
~ Exodus 4:6-7 ~
Mark 1:34: And He healed many who were ill...
Scripture shows that Satan is able perform true and astounding miracles, including healings.
Pharaoh's sorcerers turned wooden staffs into serpents (Exodus 7:10-12), water into blood (7:20-22), and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt (8:5-7).
The False Prophet of Revelation will give life to the lifeless image of the Antichrist. (Revelation 13:11-15)
Revelation 13:3 tells us that Satan will resurrect the Antichrist: 3. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast....
Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, [A]s if it had been slain "does not simply mean apparent death, for it is also used of Messiah in Revelation 5:6. This is simply an idiom for a resurrected individual and real death is involved"1.
The results of Antichrist's resurrection show that its source will be Satan: 4. they worshiped the dragon [Satan] because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast....
Satan will give life to a lifeless image and raise a dead man back to life. There should be no doubt that he can heal any physical ailment.
Just as God and Satan can perform healings, even so both believers and unbelievers can be agents of supernatural healing.
The Book of Acts is replete with examples of healings performed by believers. Some examples are: mass healings by the apostles (Acts 5:16; 8:7), and the prophet Ananias' healing of Saul of Tarsus' blindness (Acts 9:17-18). Also, gifts of healings is differentiated from the gifts of apostleship and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:28), indicating that the Lord intended for some who are not apostles or prophets to be given gifts of healings.
22. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23. And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS."
~ Matthew 7:22-23 ~
a. Did they perform genuine miracles? It is inconceivable that anyone will be able to feign incredulity before the Lord at the white throne judgment from whose presence earth and heaven fled away (Revelation 20:11). The incredulity of the "many" must be predicated on the genuineness of the miracles they will declare.
b. The Lord never knew them; they are unsaved.
c. Yet, their miracles are done in the Name of the Lord.
Luke 11:19: And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Some unsaved Pharisees were capable of exorcisms, and some exorcisms result in physical healings, as those of the blind mute and the boy with epilepsy (Matthew 12:22; Mark 9:17-27).
Though healings of the body are not specifically mentioned of the many and the Pharisees, it is almost certain that they are included.
Three questions are involved:
1. Does he have the means?
2. Does he have a reason?
3. Would the Lord allow him?
Does Satan have the means to heal through a believer?
1. Satan can enter into a believer, even fill (control) him. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul exhorts individual believers, neither give place to the devil. Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, "The Greek word for give place means 'give a beachhead.' It is a military term for gaining an area of control from which a full-scale military attack can be launched"2; and "a beachhead [is] an area of control, which is in enemy territory"3. In Acts 5:3, we see that Satan filled the heart of Ananias, a believer.
2. Is Satan able to launch "a full scale military attack" through true believers? Martin Luther printed pamphlets to incite murderous attacks against Jewish communities; and indeed, such attacks ensued. It is also a fact of history that Luther's anti-Semitism was an inspiration for Hitler's "final solution."
The false prophet will give life to a lifeless image, Satan will raise a dead man, he can fill a believer and launch "a full-scale military attack" through him. Satan's attacks through Luther, were frontal, but often his attacks are more of an inside job, being internally subversive, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
There should be no doubt that Satan has the means to heal through a believer.
In Matthew 4:9, Satan offered to "bless" the Lord with rulership over the kingdoms of the world if He would but worship him; but he was after a prize: getting the Lord to sin so as to disqualify Him as the sinless Lamb of God.
Satan's design is to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). He will "bless" the believer if permitted to in order to mislead him further or to entrap or cripple him in an area of greater consequence than the state of his health (See also 1 Corinthians 11:3-15). He would heal through a believer if it serves his ends.
I have not turned up a passage that is specific to that question. Nevertheless, inasmuch as the Lord permits him to move through believers in other ways, it is safe to assume that He would allow him to heal through believers, as well. The believer must therefore do his best to determine the spirit working through the healer.
It stands to reason that the more imbalances that Satan has established in a healer's personality, such as perverse sexual tendencies, a hunger for power or control or recognition, or a covetousness for donations; or in a group, such as a spirit of pride in relation to non-healing groups; or, be it in the healer or the group, serious aberrations in doctrine or practice, the more likely it is that healings carried out by that healer or group are energized by demons.
When such problems exist, and yet the true Gospel is upheld and healings are done in the Name of Jesus, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to determine the source of the healings. However, Scripture does provide us with tests that will determine, or help us determine, if a healing is energized by God or Satan.
If the appeal for healing is to Satan or a demon or is carried out by means of occult practices, the source is the Devil.
If the healer or group does not hold to the full divinity and humanity of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3), or does not believe the Gospel as spelled out in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, it can be presumed that the healing is of the Devil.
It may similarly be presumed that the healings are of God if all of the following tests are passed:
The leader or healer truly loves the Lord.
He is of a placid personality, not in undue need of recognition or control, is balanced sexually, and is free of other serious imbalances.
His appeals for donations are not showcased in his meetings, are not intimidating, unduly eloquent or drawn out or filled with promises of reward that the Bible does not substantiate.
The doctrines that he and his group represent are reasonably sound. (The Devil is the father of lies [John 8:44]; and what better lie for him to support than a perversion of Scripture?)
One more test: Jesus said, If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 24:26).
This indicates that Satan will not cast out a demon. Therefore, if a true exorcism is carried out, it is by the Spirit of God; and if that's the case, it is a good sign that other works
of power carried out by that group are also by the Spirit of God.
I came to Messiah from a background of intense occult practices, pantheistic and polytheistic religions and hallucinogenic drugs. If you have never been there I cannot convey how far out I got. I can only assure you that for several years after my salvation I still had intense psychological problems that I can only classify as demonic. During those years I underwent perhaps three successful exorcisms, and clearly remember that after each one I experienced two things: first, for several days I felt that something was missing; and second, I experienced significant and permanent relief. I can only conclude that the something that I felt was missing was a demon, and that the expulsion of the demon is what brought the relief.
I have said repeatedly throughout my studies that testimony must never be used to determine doctrine, and I am not using it for that purpose. I have already established two relevant doctrines by Scripture: first, that no Scripture indicates that God will not or may not choose to perform exorcisms or healing miracles in this day and age; and second, that Satan will not cast out Satan. My testimony is that demons were cast out of me. I must therefore conclude that it was God who cast the demons out and that He does operate in the realm of true exorcism today; and if He moves in the realm of true exorcism through a person or group, then there is no reason to doubt that if that individual or group also moves in the realm of physical healings, it is God who is energizing those healings.
If one applies the above tests in any given healing situation and is still not sure of the source, it would behoove him to do three
1. be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19) lest he attribute the work of the Lord to the Devil;
2. exercise personal caution as regards that healer and group (Ephesians 6:11); and
3. no matter how severe his physical condition, he must be very cautious about submitting to a healing ministry if Satan may be the moving power.
Finally, let every group and believer recognize that divine healing is a wonderful gift that the Lord may desire to impart at any time and in any place, and that vigilance should be exercised in recognizing opportunities for inviting the Lord to do His wonderful work.
There are a number of other perspectives which, if understood, will help to provide a balanced approach to various aspects of divine healing.
"Miracles did not happen at random throughout Scripture but occurred in three major periods: in the days of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the apostles. There were select miracles outside that scope of time, but not many. Miracles were given to authenticate a message, and in each of the above mentioned periods, God enabled His messengers to perform unusual miracles to substantiate the new message they were giving"4.
Each of the three periods that Enns mentioned contained healing miracles that authenticated the messages of God's select leaders. A fourth such period of miracles will be the Great Tribulation in which the resurrection of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:11) will authenticate their message; but only two miracles of divine healing are recorded of that period: the resurrection of the two witnesses.
God has ordained that the unfurling of His story in history have its mountaintops and valleys. We are somewhere between the apostolic age and the Great Tribulation (which the church will not experience). We should not fret, therefore, if we are not among those who see divine healings, or see them as often as we'd like.
Two issues need to be addressed here: the frequency and magnitude of Jesus' healings, and the matter of faith in regard to His healings.
2. Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the
works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3. and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall
we look for someone else?" 4. Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5. the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. 6. "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."
John, languishing in prison, began to wonder whether Jesus was really the prophesied Messiah. Jesus assured him by summarizing His miracles and the preaching of the Gospel to the poor.
Plainly, astounding and frequent healings were part of Yeshua's prophesied messianic credentials (Cf. Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 61:1), the
signs of His messiahship (John 2:11, 23; 3:2, etc.). Let us also remember that His Father gave Him the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). It is unreasonable to expect, on the basis of Messiah's ministry, that healings of the same magnitude and frequency
should be commonplace today.
But what about John 14:12? Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
One common explanation of what the greater works will be are healing miracles (and perhaps other good works) that will be greater in number, but not in power, for it is impossible to perform works of greater power than resurrections. The body of Messiah, then, taken as a whole from Pentecost to the Rapture, will do the greater works.
As I see it, there may be one catch to that explanation: He did use the pronoun he, which refers to the individual believer, and that needs to be dealt with.
Jesus presented the reason for the greater works that he, the individual believer, will do: because I go to the Father. What is it that His departure to the Father rendered possible? The permanent indwelling of the Spirit into the heart of every believer; and He spoke extensively of the coming of the Spirit after His departure in that very discourse (John 14:7-29). It may very well be that the greater works that Jesus said that the individual believer will do because I go to the Father will be the leading of others to Messiah that the Spirit may abide permanently in their hearts, as well.
However, let us suppose that the first explanation is the correct one. We're still left with the fact that it is impossible for anyone to perform healings of greater magnitude than Jesus, and that it is unreasonable to expect, on the basis of Messiah's ministry, that healings of the same magnitude and frequency should be commonplace today.
As forerunner of Yeshua, John the Immerser cried out, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2), and Yeshua Himself: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:7).
Jesus came with the offer of establishing the prophesied Messianic Kingdom in that generation (which we now look forward to as the Millennium) on the condition that Israel as a nation would receive Him as their Messiah (Matthew 23:37-39; Hosea 5:15). As it turned out, their leaders rejected His messianic claims by concluding that His power was not of God, but only of the Devil: This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons (Matthew 12:24). Jesus consequently rescinded the offer of the kingdom to that generation, and the purpose of His ministry radically changed. No longer did He minister to demonstrate His messiahship, but to prepare His apostles for ministry in the now necessary Church Age. Before His rejection, faith was not required of those coming to be healed as healings were an essential element in His messianic credentials (e.g., Matthew 8:14-17; 12:9-13). After His rejection, faith was required (e.g., Matthew 9:27-30; John 9:1-7). Even corpses did not get away cold. (Very punny!) Jesus required belief of Martha for the resurrection of her brother Lazarus (John 11:21-27, 39-44).
(For more on the Kingdom and the ramifications of Jesus' rejection, the author recommends Dr. Fruchtenbaum's mbs 003:
The Basis of the Second Coming of Messiah, and Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology and The Footsteps of the Messiah, all available at Ariel
1. To summarize, Jesus did not require faith before His rejection, but did after His rejection.
2. One should not assume that faith is required in post-Pentecost healings because Jesus required it after His rejection. Different age, different ball game. Faith requirements in this day and age will be examined.
Yeshua had His signs and the apostles had theirs. 2 Corinthians 12:12: The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. Also, Matthew 16:16, 20.
Acts 2:43: Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
The age of the apostles is long gone (The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Page 3, J.1.), and no one should expect the frequency or magnitude of the great miracles and mass healings that were given to the apostles as signs (e.g., Acts 9:36-43; 19:11-12; 20:9-12).
All apostles had gifts of healings. Some other believers are given gifts of healings, as well.
1. Not All Have Gifts of Healings
Each one has received a gift (1 Peter 4:10), and that statement necessarily includes brand new believers, showing that gifts are given at the moment of salvation; and no passage shows that gifts are given to individuals subsequent to that moment. Also no one has all the gifts, nor is any single gift given to everyone (1 Corinthians 12:12-25).
When Paul exhorted, But earnestly desire the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), he was exhorting the local body as a unit, not the individuals in it (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). Paul's statement was in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:28, which speaks of greater and lesser gifts. If the Corinthian church was lacking in the ministry of the greater gifts, they were to draw out such ministry from those so gifted among them, or invite such ministry from elsewhere in the body.
The point is that no one should strive for gifts of healings if he or she does not have it, nor should they be taught that they can acquire it.
Always Operative in the Gift Holder
"The word healings is plural because there are various classes of sicknesses," and "gifts is also plural.... In the Greek, plural often emphasizes repeated action. The statement gifts of healings shows that whereas with the other gifts, once one had them, it stayed with him and could be used at any time, in the case of the gifts of healings.... it is a gift that comes and goes"5. Not even the apostle Paul could always heal, whether it be himself or others (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; 1 Timothy 5:32; 2 Timothy 4:20).
Since the gift comes and goes in those endowed with it, one should expect gaps, perhaps even large gaps, in the healing ability of
those so gifted.
3. Not Necessarily Meant to Operate in Every Congregation
Ephesians 4 states that the spiritual gifts are given to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12), referring to the entire body as a unit from Pentecost to the Rapture. This means that it may not be God's will for every congregation to have all of the gifts, and all other passages on the gifts are consistent with this. It is therefore not necessarily true, as is so often taught in healing circles, that those congregations that do not operate in the power gifts are missing out, or are less spiritual than "we are;" nor is it true, as is also taught, that we should turn away from them because they have a form of godliness, but are denying the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). To teach a turning away from such congregations of true believers is to teach division: God has simply not chosen to embed the power gifts among them. Furthermore, 2 Timothy 3:5 is not even talking about true believers, but counterfeit believers - unbelievers - even as Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses... men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith (verse 8).
In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul lists eight gifts in descending order of importance: And God has appointed in
the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Of the gifts that God may give today, prophecy and teaching are of greater importance than miracles and healings. True prophecy is a rarity at best, and teaching and study of the Word are greatly emphasized in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Timothy 1:3, 5; 4:11; 6:2, 17). Good, solid teaching is to be sought out more than healings.
Some of the following may be applied in combination or in sequence.
In Isaiah 38:1-5, Hezekiah became mortally ill; but he prayed, and the LORD added fifteen years to his life.
Even those without gifts of healings may pray successfully for healings, either for themselves or for others, and they need not even be in the presence of the sick person.
1 John 5:14: This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we
ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
Note the condition: if we ask anything according to His will. (In the next segment of this series we'll examine reasons why the Lord may withhold a healing.)
According to Matthew 17:21 (NASB), Jesus said of the demon that caused epilepsy in the boy, But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Mark 9:29 (NASB) reads, This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.
Various translations, including the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible and Young's Literal Translation contain and fasting at the end of Mark 9:29. However, various commentators say that and fasting is not found in the two best manuscripts. Furthermore, many commentators say that Matthew 17:21 is not found in the two best manuscripts, and at least one says that it was added because of Mark 9:29.
What are we to make of this? Though and fasting is, at best, questionable, no one doubts that the best manuscripts contain, This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer. So, according to our Lord, prayer is required for the casting out of at least the demon that causes epilepsy. In addition, although and fasting may not have been spoken by the Lord in this instance, fasting may still be employed for effective prayer for healing as fasting focuses the mind on praying. Psalm 35:13: But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.
If an illness is caused by a sin, such as an ulcer caused by unforgiveness, then repentance may bring healing. In some cases, it won't, as when a daredevil activity (prompted by pride or abandon) causes a paraplegic condition.
If a sin brings about the indwelling of a demon and the demon causes an illness, then the demon must be expelled in order for healing to take place. Whether repentance alone will suffice for the expulsion or whether exorcism is necessitated, repentance must precede the expulsion.
The nature of the prayer offered in faith is often misunderstood. Before examining the passage, let us remember that believers may become sick even unto death by taking the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:30-32), and that Paul committed the sinning and impenitent Corinthian man and Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan for the destruction of their bodies (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20).
15. Is anyone among you sick?
Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the
Lord; 16. and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 17. Therefore,
confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
The passage says that when the prayer of faith for healing is prayed over a person his sins will be forgiven. Forgiveness of sin on the basis of coming for prayer for healing? Good deal! What syphilitic adulterer wouldn't come for healing and forgiveness so he can commit adultery again all fresh as a daisy? No, the passage is not teaching forgiveness on the basis of coming for prayer for healing. Scripture plainly teaches that the condition for forgiveness is always and only true repentance, which is necessarily preceded by confession (agreeing with God in contrition of heart), whether inward or oral: 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now, verse 17 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed, indicating that confession of sin must precede the prayer of faith. Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes, "The word sins is used to show repeated action."6 The prayer of faith, then, is prayer by the elders for the healing of an ailment brought about by repeated sin. Albert Barnes writes, "The case supposed all along here (see Jam. 5:15) is, that the sickness referred to had been brought upon the patient for his sins, apparently as a punishment for some particular transgressions"7; and John Gill: "... the sense is, if he has been guilty of any sins, which God in particular has taken notice of, and on account of which he has laid his chastising hand upon him...."8 Without a doubt the prayer of faith includes the healing of one that the eldership had committed to Satan (he must call for the elders of the church, showing humility before the ones who committed him), and may also include the healing of others whose sickness had been brought on by sin.
So the necessary progression in the prayer of faith is this: repeated sins, sickness, confession, forgiveness, prayer of faith, healing. The prayer of faith applied under the right circumstances will always bring healing. Verse 16: the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
It is implied in Job 42:10,12 that God healed Job of his boils (2:7) apart from prayers for healing from anyone, including Job himself. Also, Matthew 27:52-53.