Healing Line

Healing Line

Life in the Springtime of the Church

by Francis MacNutt
Spring 1998

How wonderful it must have been to live in the "Springtime," or the early days, of the Church — before the Emperor Constantine was converted (312 A.D.) and won his battle on the Milvian Bridge (324 A.D.) and before the Church acquired basilicas and entered the political arena. Even with the threats of persecution and death, what enthusiasm the early Christians must have had!

Before his death and resurrection, Jesus instructed his disciples to heal the sick, cast out evil spirits and proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mt. 10:1; Luke 9:1, 10:1 ). History indicates the early Church took that approach to heart and continued in the same basic method of evangelism, a "signs and wonders ministry," for several hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ.

Last fall, 1 heard a stirring sermon by our friend Rev. Don Williams at the Fall '97 Fishnet Conference in Stamford, Conn. He talked about an extraordinary book called Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100–400 by Dr. Ramsay MacMullen. 1 could hardly wait to read it myself and was not disappointed, as it revealed to me an amazing fact: the great growth of the Church in those first three centuries was due mainly to the ministry of healing and exorcism (casting out evil spirits).

Dr. MacMullen is professor of classics at Yale University. He writes not as a Christian scholar but simply from a secular viewpoint, saying that all the evidence points to a very simple Gospel, which emphasized two basic points:

1. There is a battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of evil.

2. Jesus Christ was sent by God to enable us to enter the Kingdom of God and overcome evil by healing the sick, casting out evil spirits and blessing people with a new life.

The Gospel in those early days was presented as a simple choice: accept the one true God and his son Jesus or remain oppressed by evil. Evangelism in those first centuries was not like ours where vast crowds flock to a famous evangelist. In the early Church, Christians were looked down upon and persecuted, so they rarely had the opportunity to preach to large crowds. They mostly evangelized one–on–one to their friends: "After St. Paul, the church had no mission, it made no organized or official approach to unbelievers; rather it left everything to the individual" (MacMullen, p. 34). A large part of their ministry of evangelism was praying for healing of the sick. People were attracted to Christianity for a simple motive: it offered healing and deliverance.

The basic Gospel message was: Worship the one true God. The gods you worship are not gods at all. Christ has come to free you, heal you and bring you new life. By asking God to heal you or deliver you from spiritual oppression, you can experience this new life.

Conversion, then, depended more upon the power of the Holy Spirit than upon the presentation of doctrine. This simple Gospel of "signs and wonders" was the way Christianity spread for 300 years! How does this compare to what we Christians do today?

Dispensationalism, the belief that miracles ceased after the death of the last apostle, is a common belief held by many Christians today. Unfortunately, it is an issue that often divides believers. For those of us in the healing ministry who see God making miracles happen on a daily basis, it is often discouraging that many Christians are not open to allowing the Lord to show them the full power of His Holy Spirit.

The history of the early Church indicates that, in fact, miracles did not cease after the death of the last Apostle, as dispensationalists today believe. The dispensationalist view simply cannot stand up to the scrutiny of history.

The happy news this Easter is that the church today is re–learning some of the simplicity and power of that Springtime of early Christianity. New leaves are showing on our bare branches. Once again, the Holy Spirit is moving across our churches, our nations and our world to spread the good news of God's healing power.

As Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians 2:4–5, "My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God."

May our faith rest not on ourselves or our own interpretations, but on God Himself, in whom all things are possible.

Happy Easter.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Spring 1998 Issue