Shouldn’t Faith Always Result in Healing?

(Including a list of some books on a theology of suffering)

This post is a response to a comment from “pastormatte” regarding an earlier post about declaring things over your life. It also answers a question someone asked for my series, “Questions People ask About the Holy Spirit.”

Some people argue that “the New Testament always shows healing and never shows someone asking for healing and leaving still sick.”

faith healing suffering

The Bible includes examples of people who were not healed.

Paul himself was not always healed. Paul reminds the Galatians that “it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you” (Galatians 4:13).

Furthermore, Paul had sick friends that he had no doubt prayed for. He writes that he left “Trophimus sick in Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20). And Paul’s friend Epaphroditus was so sick that he “almost died” (Philippians 2:27).

Paul nowhere suggests that these people were sick because he or they didn’t have enough faith. And he doesn’t tell Timothy that Timothy needed to exercise more faith because of his “frequent illness” (1 Timothy 5:23). Instead, he suggests a medicinal remedy.

Why are some people not healed?

Hmmm…that question requires a book. There are many possible reasons a person might not be healed when they pray.

Many people aren’t comfortable with this, but in some cases it is possible that God has inflicted the suffering (Deuteronomy 7:15). Again, some cases.

More generally though, one important reason people aren’t healed is that the kingdom of God hasn’t fully come yet. I’ve written about this in my previous post, “Why Are Some People not Healed?”

Do you know of any Pentecostal / Charismatic resources that address a theology of suffering?

Yes! Here are some books by Pentecostals that address a theology of suffering (in alphabetical order)…

  • Courey, David J. What has Wittenberg to do with Azusa? Luther’s Theology of the Cross and Pentecostal Triumphalism. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2015.
  • Menzies, William W., and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.
    • You may have this book on your shelf, as many PAOC clergy received this book for free a number of years back. Chapter 12 deals with divine providence and a theology of suffering.
  • Torr, Stephen C. A Dramatic Pentecostal/Charismatic Anti-Theodicy: Improvising on a Divine Performance of Lament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013.
  • Warrington, Keith. 2005. Healing and Suffering: Biblical and Pastoral Reflections. Milton Keynes: Paternoster.

I have also addressed this question to some extent in my article (see the section on ministry) “The Holy Spirit and Eschatology—with Implications for Ministry and the Doctrine of Spirit Baptism,” in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology 25.2 (2016): 203-221.

Question: Do you know of any other Pentecostal-Charismatic scholars who have addressed a theology of suffering? Leave a comment below by clicking here.

Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D., is the author of Touched by God: Experiencing the Holy Spirit (forthcoming) as well as three academic books, including The Lord is the Spirit. He is a theology professor at Horizon College and Seminary and serves on the Theological Study Commission for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter.

If you enter an email address, it will not be published. Please keep your comments kind and relevant to the post.

Leave a Reply

5 thoughts on “Shouldn’t Faith Always Result in Healing?

  1. Great thoughts. I’m always a bit surprised when I hear of people who still subscribe to this belief. I mean, are they healthy 100% of the time? If they get sick or get a disease, is their faith completely dismantled? I had friends who dropped out of church because they were told that if they were sick, they didn’t have enough faith. Growing up in a Pentecostal church, if I had a dime for every time I heard someone use Isaiah 53:5 (By His Stripes You are Healed) to suggest that through Jesus’ death we are guaranteed physical healing, I would be a rich man today. A simple word study reveals that “healed” COULD mean physical healing, to be mended, or to become whole, but in context, it seems to be referring to salvation and spiritual wholeness. If someone takes this passage to mean physical healing, and they don’t get physically healed, it basically refutes the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    • Good observations. In addition, even if we read Isaiah 53:5 as “healed,” it could just mean “are healed” whenever it happens. Similarly, “You are washed with water” doesn’t mean we are always clean, but affirms water as a means of washing.