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1 Corinthians 12 (ESV):

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

James 5 (ESV):

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

What is the difference between gifts of healing (1 Cor 12) and praying for the sick to get healed (James 5)?

Note: this question is inspired by my previous question Are there any Christian groups or denominations that make a distinction between the gift of healing and just praying for the sick to get healed?

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  • I do not see any difference - anyone with the gift of healing must still pray for a sick to be healed. God is always the One who does the healing. So, what distinction are you seeking?
    – Dottard
    Mar 20 at 21:07
  • @Dottard The OP is probably referring to "gift of healing" as the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches' public healing where they publicly rebuke the cancer, heart disease "in Jesus Christ's Name & By The Power & Grace Of The Holy Spirit" like (Mark 1:40-45) when Jesus Christ heals the leper. Also in (Acts 3:6) But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”. As opposed to prayer which might be broad enough to include "gift of healing" , but includes praying for someone's healing by just asking God to heal him. Mar 20 at 21:25
  • @crazyTech - I think that is the point of the question - the gift of healing is granted by the will of God to heal; the prayer for healing is granted by the will of God; whether this is done in private or publicly is beside the point - it is a divine request and a divine granting.
    – Dottard
    Mar 20 at 21:28
  • @Dottard However, specifically in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches, you will hear some people say that they have been given the authority in Jesus Christ's Name to do something like rebuking a sickness or blessing someone else which is different from the usual prayer request. Mar 20 at 21:30
  • @crazyTech - perhaps the only difference is whether this is an on-going healing or a one-off healing; but again, even a person with the gift of healing cannot heal anyone, except by divine power and the one with the gift of healing cannot heal anyone that God does not want to heal.
    – Dottard
    Mar 20 at 21:31

1 Answer 1

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The New Testament appears to describe at least 3 different avenues through which healing occurs. They are not mutually exclusive, and as noted by Dottard, in all cases the power comes from God.

Call for the elders

James encourages calling for specific individuals ordained to a specific office; he recommends an ordinance (anointing with oil). This squares with statements made by the Gospels, for example:

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Matthew 10:1)

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me (Luke 10:16)

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23)

Jesus is giving people authority to act in His name. These authorized representatives go on to baptize, confer the Holy Ghost, heal the sick, and so on. In doing so they are acting not under their own power, but by authority delegated to them.

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The prayer of a righteous man availeth much

We are taught to ask God for the things we need & desire. One need not be ordained to a specific office in order to do this.

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21)

In this story the father asks Deity for a miracle (he has the opportunity to do so in person; many others lacking this opportunity have asked in prayer). Jesus has the power & authority and personally heals the boy.

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The gift of healing

The passage from Matthew 17 cited above is instructive for this category as well. Jesus had given the aforementioned disciples power to act in His name, but in this case, either their faith or preparation or something else was inadequate to heal the boy.

This did not mean that the disciples could never expect to perform such a healing--but it does appear that some greater preparation & effort was expected of them in seeking "earnestly the best gifts" (see 1 Cor. 12:31).

Jesus had authority and He is the ultimate manifestation of One who has the gift to heal.

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Conclusion

  • The faithful are taught to seek/ask from God blessings they could not obtain on their own.
  • Individuals are given divine gifts to enable them to fill different functions in God's work--one of these gifts is the gift of being able to heal.
  • Some individuals are explicitly granted power to act as personal representatives of Christ, and have power--from Him--to perform healings (and other miracles) using His delegated power.

Paul speaks of one avenue for seeking miracles through God's power; James speaks of another.

Though a given individual may not have personal access to all 3 of these avenues for seeking God's power, there is no reason why a single person cannot have all 3. All 3 make an appearance in the passage cited in Matthew 17.

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