The most important thing for Christians to understand is that the gift of healing is for unbelievers. It is mainly for evangelism and not for Christians. Jesus ministry was mostly evangelistic. He came to save the lost, so when healing the sick, he was often ministering to people who had not yet received the benefits of the cross. Therefore, much of his healing ministry belongs in this first stream. Similarly, many of the healings in the Acts of the Apostles were for unbelievers.

The healing of an unbeliever in an evangelistic situation is based on the mercy of God. The person healed is not entitled to the benefits of the cross, because they have not yet surrendered to Jesus. The Father lets them have the benefits of the cross because he is merciful.

Jesus had a unique method of evangelism. He would preach the gospel and then heal the sick and cast out demons to confirm his message. Here are two examples.

The most important thing for Christians to understand is that the gift of healing is for unbelievers. It is mainly for evangelism and not for Christians. Jesus ministry was mostly evangelistic. He came to save the lost, so when healing the sick, he was often ministering to people who had not yet received the benefits of the cross. Therefore, much of his healing ministry belongs in this first stream. Similarly, many of the healings in the Acts of the Apostles were for unbelievers.

The healing of an unbeliever in an evangelistic situation is based on the mercy of God. The person healed is not entitled to the benefits of the cross, because they have not yet surrendered to Jesus. The Father lets them have the benefits of the cross because he is merciful.

Jesus had a unique method of evangelism. He would preach the gospel and then heal the sick and cast out demons to confirm his message. Here are two examples.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people (Matt 4:23).
He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God
(Luke 6:17-20).

Jesus method was to go to a town and pray for someone who was sick. When a crowd gathered to see what had happened, he would preach his message. The healing confirmed Jesus' message by demonstrating the power and compassion of God. When they saw the sick being healed, his listeners could not deny the reality of God or his mercy in Jesus.

Jesus gave the same commission to his disciples.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1,2).

As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Matt 10:7,8).

The pattern is receiving authority, preaching the gospel, healing the sick.

We have the same authority to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Jesus promised that,

These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:17,18,20).

Jesus promised that God would confirm the preaching of the gospel with the signs and wonders. Peter and John experienced this as they went to the temple and God healed a lame man. An amazed crowd gathered so Peter preached to them. Several thousand came to faith in Jesus, because God gave authority to Peter's words before he had even spoken. The same was true for Paul and Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 14:3).

The Holy Spirit loves to confirm bold preaching of the gospel with gifts of healing and deliverance. This changes the nature of evangelism.

Normal New Testament evangelism is based around the healing of the sick. This is confirmed in Acts 8:5,6:

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.

The passage says that the Samaritans were amazed at the miracles, but only records that Philip preached the gospel. Luke just assumed that proclaiming the gospel includes healing and miracles.

Modern Evangelism

Most modern evangelistic campaigns are very different. The evangelistic meeting is often held in a church building, so a powerful publicity campaign is required to get people to attend. The evangelistic method is preaching a sermon, having an altar call and getting decisions. This method has had some success, but it is not the New Testament way.

New Testament evangelism is healing the sick/casting out demons and preaching to the crowd that gathers. This method was very successful for the early church, so we are unwise to do something different. Sickness is the key vulnerability of the modern world. Our affluent lifestyle has given people almost everything they need, but modern medicine has not been able to conquer sickness. A gospel confirmed by the healing of the sick will be well received.

Jesus said,

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).

If we do not have the power that we need for New Testament style evangelism the answer is simple: we should wait until the power from on high comes to us (see also Acts 1:4,5). I suspect that God would prefer that we do some serious waiting, so that we can do evangelism his way, rather than rush into doing evangelism our way.

Healing should be a normal part of evangelism. The good news is that God is merciful, but a cynical world does not believe our claims. Healing demonstrates God's mercy and proves that Jesus is the Saviour. The best visual aid for the gospel is for someone who is visibly sick being healed (the other is baptism).

Strategy for Evangelism

Healing Evangelism should use the following strategy.

  1. Evangelists must understand their authority over sickness. Jesus destroyed the power of sickness and sin and gave his followers authority over them. There are no limits to his authority and power. He healed:

    • all diseases (Matt 4:23),
    • all people who came to him (Matt 12:15), in
    • all places (Luke 9:6).
    Jesus authority has not changed (Heb 13:8) and he has given the same authority to us.

  2. As they go to share the gospel, evangelists should be led by the Spirit. They should go to a place where God has prepared people and wants to do things. This will usually be a public place where a crowd is likely to gather. Jesus was always in the right place at the right time (John 5:19). He exercised his ministry in public, but always where the Holy Spirit was moving.

    One day as he was teaching... And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick (Luke 5:17).

    and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all (Luke 6:19).

    Evangelists should learn to recognise the power of the Lord. They should be led to the place where the Holy Spirit wants to gather a crowd to hear the gospel.

  3. Once in the right place, the evangelists should then identify the person that the Father wants to heal. When he went to the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus chose the paralysed man out of the great number of sick people waiting by the pool, because he was the one that the Father wanted to touch (John 5:3).

    The Holy Spirit will often point out the person to be healed, but sometimes the person will come to the evangelist. The lame man at the gate of the temple, came to Peter and John asking for money, but the Holy Spirit wanted him healed (Acts 3:3). When Paul was at Lystra, he saw a lame man whom the Holy Spirit had given faith to be healed (Acts 14:8,9). The evangelist will listen carefully to the Holy Spirit to identify the person God wants to heal.

  4. The evangelists should lay hands on the person and command them to be healed in the name of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit has indicated that he wants the person to be healed, he will do what he said he would do and make the person whole.

  5. When a person is dramatically healed, a crowd will generally gather. One of the evangelistic team will take the opportunity to preach to the crowd. They will explain that the healing is a demonstration of the grace of God and the power of the gospel.

  6. The process will often involve drama and noise. In fact, more drama is better, because a bigger crowd will come. When Peter and John raised the lame man, a great tumult filled the temple area, the temple authorities were stirred up, but thousands came to the Lord.

  7. The evangelist should be prepared to pray for anyone who comes seeking healing. When they see what the Holy Spirit can do, many will come wanting a touch from God. They will be looking for God's mercy, so he will not disappoint them. In the evening after Jesus had healed Peter's mother-in-law, the whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many who had various diseases (Mark 1:30-34). The same thing happened when Paul prayed for a sick man on the island of Malta.

    His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured (Acts 28:8,9).

  8. An evangelist should always follow the leading of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38, Luke 6:19). He is the one who heals, so we must let him operate how he wants. The order that he works will often be different. For the man by the pool of Bethesda healing came before repentance, whereas the paralytic lowered through the roof repented before he was healed. The order can be:


    The Holy Spirit will know the order required.

    We should be careful not to get locked in one way of operating. The human tendency is to find something that works and then flog it to death. "Pray and Slay" is the current fashion. In contrast, Jesus always did things in ways that were different and unique.

    Jesus healed blind people in five different ways.

    touching the eyes                             Matt 9:29
    spitting on the eyes                          Mark 8:27
    declaring they could see                     Mark 10:52
    commanding the eyes to open             Luke 18:42
    rubbing clay and saliva on their eyes    John 9:6,7

    He touched one leper, but told the ten to go and show themselves to the priests. If evangelists listen to the Spirit, a similar variety of methods will be present in their ministry.

  9. Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. When preaching the gospel and healing the sick, Christians should work in a group or two or three or more.

    There is power in agreement. Jesus promised that when two or three people work together, he would be with them (Matt 18:19,20, Acts 3:4,5) Working in a group strengthens the body by releasing the gifts of the Spirit and faith.


Praying for the sick is a very risky business, due to the fear that nothing might happen. We are not perfect like Jesus, so we will have some failures. Some people that we pray for will not be healed. We must be prepared to be humble and accountable. If the person is not healed, we must deal with it.

We should never blame the sick person. We must be really careful not to blame sick people for lack of faith, because it does not make sense to expect unbelievers to have faith. We must not blame God, as that would insult the gospel and deny his mercy. It is better to say that "our faith is too small" than to let the person blame God or themselves.

We should use the experience of failure to learn. It is okay to go to Jesus and ask (privately) why someone was not healed

Why couldn't we (Matt 17:19).

Jesus will answer and teach us how we can do better next time.

Reasons why people are not healed

There are a number of reasons why unbelievers may not be healed in the context of evangelism. (They are not explanations for Christians being sick).

1. Failure to Command

Jesus always commanded sickness to leave. He would address the person and command the sickness. Here are some examples of his words.

Leper                      Be clean
Little girl                 Get up
Paralytic                 Take up your bed and walk
Deaf                       Be opened

He sometimes made a declaration: "You are healed" (Mark 5:34,39). He sometimes told the sick person to do something and they would be healed. He sometimes declared that the person already was healed.

Jesus never asked God to heal a sick person, but always confronted the sickness himself.  Likewise, the apostles never prayed for the sick, but always commanded sickness to leave. We must understand the authority we have in Christ. We cannot ask Jesus to heal people, because he has given us authority to heal them (Matt 10:1).

2. Not Enough Faith

Lack of faith is probably the main reason for people not being healed. Faith is essential for healing (Acts 3:16), but it can have different sources.

Faith is inescapable. Nothing will happen without it. The more miracles they see, the more their faith will increase (John 2:23).

3. Persistence Needed

Mark 8:22-26 records that Jesus had to touch the eyes of a blind man twice to get full healing.  After the first touching, the man could see, but not properly. Jesus had to act a second time to heal his mind so he could understand what he was seeing.  If Jesus had to deal with the blind eyes twice to get victory, we should not be ashamed to resist sickness more than once.  Some serious sickness may need continuous confrontation over a period of time (2 Kings 4:32-35).

4. Lack of Discernment

Mark 7:33-35 and Matt 9:32,33 describe the healing of two different people who could not speak. They had the same symptoms, but the diagnosis and the solution were both different. The reason was that one had a physical impediment and could be healed by command, whereas the other had a demon that needed to be cast out. The symptoms were the same, so discernment was needed to know what to do. If a sick person is not healed, a demon may need to be cast out.

5. Sin

Unconfessed sin in the group may render their prayer ineffective. Before praying, the group should make sure they are at peace with the Lord and with each other. The group must be in unity. Pride is particularly dangerous when praying for the sick. Once we have seen a couple of people healed, we can start to think we are experts. That sort of pride usually comes before a fall. We can only heal the sick under the anointing of the Spirit (Luke 5:17), so grieving him will make us powerless.

The sin of the sick person is not relevant, because they are dead in the stuff. The purpose of healing is to dig them out of sin. Jesus did not worry about the sin of the man by the pool, until after he was healed. He then told him to "Go and sin no more" (John 5:14). Once saved, sin does become an issue.

6. Compassion

Healing must never become a technique to win people for Jesus.

When Jesus saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matt 14:14).

The gift of healing must flow out of compassion. Healing without compassion does not reflect the love of Jesus.

7. Wrong Place

We all want to see the Holy Spirit healing the sick, but we forget where it happens. Here are two passages that provide a key to successful evangelism

And wherever he went into villages, towns or countryside, they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed (Mark 6:56).

As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by (Acts 5:15).

Large numbers of people were healed in the streets and the market place. This is where the Holy Spirit prefers to work. I suspect that he sometimes gets bored with our meetings and longs to get out into the public places and heal the sick. If we want to see him doing this, we should follow him.

Local Localities

The Holy Spirit works locally, not globally. He is not interested in large audiences or getting onto television. He prefers to work in a particular locality with local people. When Peter's mother-in-law was healed, the entire neighbourhood came with their sick. They realised something special was going on, because they knew Peter and his mother-in-law. Some that had seen her with the fever saw her again healed. They did not need further proof.

As soon as healing goes onto the public stage, questions get asked. Was the person really healed? Were they pretending to be sick to get close to the great preacher? Were they as sick as they claimed? Did the sickness come back next week? Has the healing been authenticated by their doctor? God does not need this junk.

The Holy Spirit prefers to work locally. The people living close will know the person that is healed. They can quickly work out for themselves if the healing is real. When Jesus healed the man who was blind from birth, "his neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging" could see that he was healed (Jn 9:8).

One reason that we do not see as many healings as we would like is that we look in the wrong places. We expect people to be healed on the stage at the front of a church or on television. The Holy Spirit loves to work locally. If we went and prayed for our sick neighbours, we would see greater healings.

Key 2: The Gift of Healing is for the Lost

Going to the lost with the gift of healing is very important. Over the last few decades, God has been restoring the gift of healing to the church. This is great, but we have tended to keep it in the church and only prayed for Christians. This is a mistake.

Praying for Christians is a good way to learn about healing, but we need to go on to praying for the lost. If we do not, we will often lose the gift. The Holy Spirit loves the world and is always moving out towards it to draw people to the Father (John 7:37,38). If we don't go with him, he will go on without us.

Jesus blessed us so we could bless others. If we are just seeking our own healing, we are missing the point. We should be seeking healing for the lost who are in pain. When sending out the disciples to heal the sick, Jesus said,

Go the lost sheep (Matt 10:6).

We should do the same.

Obey Jesus

Jesus instructed the church how to do evangelism in Mark 16:15-19. He said we should go into the world (not stay in the church) and preach the gospel. We should expect God to confirm our gospel message, by healing the sick and other signs. This method has always been successful. It worked for the twelve and the seventy-two when Jesus sent them out. When the latter returned, Jesus saw Satan falling from heaven (Luke 10:18). Jesus method worked for Peter and John when 5000 men came to the Lord, as a consequence of one lame man being healed (Act 3,4). The same method worked for Paul in Malta, even though he was a prisoner (Acts 28:1-10).

Yet strangely, the church has ignored this method of evangelism through most of history. We dream up other methods of evangelism, like inviting an evangelist to the church and getting people to bring their friends (they rarely do) or putting on a concert or user-friendly worship to bring people to the church. Yet we stubbornly refuse to use the method of evangelism that Jesus specifically commanded, so we should not be surprised that we do not have revival.

The evangelists with the anointing to heal the sick must be shooed out of the churches and into the world to demonstrate the love of God to the world, by healing the sick and preaching the gospel. This would bring revival.

This material has now been updated in a book called
Healing: Insights for Christian Elders.

Return to Healing.