Wesleyan Theology: Healing as a Means of Grace

By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

The Means of Grace in Divine healing is a wonderful gift, but it is a gift that is often overlooked in the midst of our modern-day scientific world. For some reason we are prone to think "oh, God can't do that!" or "miracles and healings were for Bible times, but not for today." In our frequent rejection of God's gift of healing, what we are actually doing is putting God into a neat little box of our own creation; we are assuming that God can't or won't do something today, or we are assuming that God can only use one kind of healing and is not, in fact, involved in all kinds of healing. The Means of Grace in Divine healing are not so limited as our human point of view may demand.

The Church participates in the Means of Grace by proclaiming Divine healing in the name of Jesus in many different forms. We believe that God can and does heal in ways that go beyond our human intellectual ability to comprehend or explain. We also believe that God heals in ways that we think we can understand through scientific means, and we proclaim that God often heals in this way because we do not deny that God can and does use the very structure of Creation to work Divine Will. In other words, just because someone is healed by the intelligence and skill of a doctor, or the application of medicines and medical procedures, does not mean that God hasn't healed them. The Means of God's Grace in Divine healing are multitudinous and are inclusive of both miraculous healing as well as healing that conform to the laws of nature.

The Body of Christ, and individual believers within the Body, are granted the wonderful privilege of being part of God's Means of Grace in healing. The Church is authorized to proclaim healing, in the Name of Jesus:

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16 NRSV)

The gift of healing is seated in the Grace of God, active in the community of the faith and functioning through prayer. All Christians who, with faith, offer their prayers to God, are granted the wonderful privilege of participating in the healing actions of God Grace. The gift of healing is, fundamentally, part of the ministry of the Body of Christ, carried forward by all believers and by the leaders of the Community. Due to the clear link between healing and forgiveness found in Scripture, we also believe that healing is an extension of the wonderful gift of our Lord's death on the cross. Indeed, our healing comes from the cross ... for "by his stripes, we are healed."

Healing may not always be visible, nor in the form that we expect, but healing is promised and is true and present even when circumstances of life and health would deny the presence of healing. In some cases it comes in a form of forgiveness that ends our separation from God or from others. In other cases, it's a tangible, physical healing, that brings new physical life and new physical vitality. Regardless of the form of healing, however, in all cases healing is a gift of God's Grace ... and, indeed, is the functioning presence of God's grace in our lives.

I am often asked: "Why am I not healed?" "Why am I still sick if God promises to heal me?" "Why do I feel guilty, even though I've begged and begged for forgiveness from God?" These are good questions, and questions that I often find myself asking.

When it comes to healing in forgiveness, sometimes we just have a real problem accepting that God has really given himself for us, and accepts us regardless of what we do. We want to rip the sins off of our Lord and put them back on our own backs. We deny that gift of forgiveness, and the healing power that the gift brings, and try to assume the sins that Christ has already died for, long ago. This is a form of sinning, in and of itself, and is a direct denial of God's love and God's desire to give us His powerful Grace. We must not deny the healing power of God that comes in forgiveness! Jesus offers us so much in his powerful Grace, and it begins with the healing that comes in forgiveness! The only thing I can offer, as a minister of the Gospel, is to proclaim: "In the Name of Jesus Christ, your Sins are forgiven!"

When it comes to the healing of physical and mental and emotional illness, I really wish I knew why the gift isn't always manifested in life, here, today. When I'm sick, I want to be healed ... now. But I do know that healing does come, in God's way and by God's grace. Sometimes we are healed in ways that we don't see on the surface ... our spirits, our wills, our fears, our anxieties can and are healed by God's Grace. Sometimes healing comes in glory, when we cross over into life eternal with Jesus Christ, where there is no sickness and no pain. And, sometimes — Praise God! — physical, emotional, and mental healing comes today, when we can see and feel it! Thank God for the Means of Grace that comes in healing!

© 1998 Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from Amazon.com.