Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Spirit, Healing and Mission: An Overview of the Biblical Canon *

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

The Spirit, Healing and Mission: An Overview of the Biblical Canon *

Article excerpt


This article examines the relationship in the biblical canon between healing, the Spirit, and the mission of the church. The piece begins with a section devoted to the author's Pentecostal context, and his theological and ministerial interest in this topic. Relying primarily upon a literary reading of the relevant texts, this study seeks to hear the distinctive voices in the biblical canon, from the torah to the book of Revelation, before assembling the biblical choir in order to hear its rich, textured and dissonant sound on this topic. This careful reading of the biblical texts suggests that the healing ministry of Jesus and the church does not simply "confirm" the proclamation of the gospel, but is itself gospel proclamation. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that there is an intricate and significant connection between the ministry of healing and the mission of the church.


It is an extraordinary honour for me to be invited to offer this article on the Spirit, healing and mission for the International Review of Mission. It was easy for me to accept this invitation (1) due in part to the fact that I am extremely interested in the topic of healing. As anyone familiar with Pentecostalism knows, the doctrine and practice of divine healing is a particularly important part of the Pentecostal movement's life and beliefs. As has been documented by various students of the movement, the theological heart of Pentecostalism is the five-fold gospel: the conviction that Jesus is our Saviour, our Sanctifier, our Holy Ghost Baptizer, our Healer, and our Soon Coming King. (2) Thus, for Pentecostals divine healing does not function as a peripheral element or a theological addendum to the proclamation of the gospel, but is part and parcel of such gospel proclamation.

The issue of healing intersects with my life at many points. As a student of the New Testament (NT), I have sought to explore certain dimensions of the subject in an academic monograph on the topic (3), and I teach graduate level seminars devoted to healing on a yearly basis. As a member of a vibrant Pentecostal worshipping community, I participate in prayer for the sick several times a week. Therefore, when asked to offer this study on the Spirit, healing and mission, I responded enthusiastically, for this particular invitation offered me the opportunity to think intentionally about the relationship between the Spirit, healing and the mission of the church in an ecumenical context.

Having said something about my contextual identity, I should like to offer a very brief orientation to the article that follows. First, as with most Pentecostals, I am convinced of the Spirit's activity both in the inspiration (4) and interpretation (5) of scripture. This means, in part, that one should not shrink from what is found within scripture, but that the unity and diversity present must be allowed to stand and-not be hammered into an artificial unity. I would like to suggest that scripture be likened to a choir; not just any choir--but a black gospel choir. (6) Those familiar with this musical style and tradition will immediately recognize why I have chosen this metaphor. If you have ever been to a black gospel choir practice and heard the individual notes which are rehearsed, you come away with the firm belief that there is simply too much dissonance for all these notes to be sung together. The end result, one is certain, will be a horribly offensive noise. But when the music starts, unbelievably the dissonance is extraordinarily beautiful. The temptations in the choir practice to make the notes sound more similar, or change the music to suppress artificially the dissonance are based on a misunderstanding of the music's intent and function. One of the many other aspects of this metaphor worthy of comment is the moment in a black gospel song when the choir goes silent and the person, seemingly with the smallest, softest voice takes the lead for a stanza or chorus. …

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