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Healing and Salvation in the Cross of Christ

What are some of the practical implications of a theology of the cross and the Spirit in the realm of healing and ministry? This excerpt comes from the final chapter of Cletus Hull’s book, The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church.

Christology and the Cross The Cross Divides the Saved and Lost by God’s Power

As a pastor for thirty years, I preach and teach about the power of God to heal. Because salvation and healing are in the cross (Matt. 8:17), I believe prayer for healing is appropriate for pastoral ministry. Charismatic episcopal priest Dennis Bennett wrote that healing “is the most widely accepted of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit in Christendom today.”[1] However, the results of healing prayer must be tempered by a reasonable theology of the cross and suffering. Charles Farah expressed concern between the balance of Christian healing and modern-day emphases on faith. Because of disregard within some Pentecostal/Charismatic circles with their teaching on healing, he believed a correction with classic theology was necessary. In his perceptive book, From the Pinnacle of the Temple, he presented a common scenario in renewal healing:

Major premise: Healing is on the Atonement.
Minor premise: Faith is the key to healing.
Conclusion: Therefore, those who are prayed for in faith will be healed.

Right? Not always. It just is not that simple. There is always an X factor in healing, an unknown quantity that God does not chose to reveal. Healing is a divine mystery and humility is our best approach to unraveling the answers.[2]

Yet, most of the healings of Christ appeared instantly, thus, we have believed that healing should occur sooner than later. The issue in renewal healing has lacked acknowledgment that suffering was a component of the faith journey. An acceptance of the suffering of Christ on the cross can relieve the proposition that “everything will always be fine.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this type of faith “cheap grace.” “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.”[3] Thus, as Farah aptly writes:

theology always lives within the realm of mystery. No theologian can escape the mysterious ways of God, the capricious ways of the Spirit. Theology is a peculiar science because, when it is most true to itself, it prostrates itself in humility, prayer and adoration. True theology is a theology of prayer, and in the presence of a living God one adores; he never wholly understands.[4]

Thus, sound theology is necessary for practical faith and healing.

At times, comments such as “not having enough faith” or “pray harder” causes damage in a situation of healing prayer. We read that Paul left Trophimus sick (2 Tim. 4:20) and Epaphroditus almost died (Philippians 2:26-27). Did the apostle lack faith with his thorn in the flesh? (2 Cor. 12:7-9). D.R. McConnell, in his controversial book, A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement, asks this piercing question: “One cannot help but wonder how Paul’s bodily illness would have been received today among charismatics. Would charismatics ‘despise’ and ‘loathe’ his illness as an indication of his immature faith?”[5]  A balanced theology of the cross with divine healing would revive trust in solving many problems in these specific situations.

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2019

About the Author: Cletus L. Hull, III, M.Div. (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), D.Min. (Fuller Theological Seminary), Ph.D. (Regent University), has served as a pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 32 years and psychiatric chaplain for 30 years. He teaches courses in New Testament at Biblical Life Institute in Freeport, Pennsylvania. He has researched the growing Disciples of Christ churches in Puerto Rico and has an interest in the significance of the Stone-Campbell churches in American Christianity. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church: Grounding Pneumatic Experiences and Renewal Studies in the Cross of Christ (Pickwick, 2018). Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook, www.CletusHull.com

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