Some people ask, “Did not Jesus himself say to some people, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee’? And does not Paul teach that Christians are ‘justified by faith’?” (compare Luke 7:50; Romans 3:28; 5:1).
Yes, indeed! But this simply does not mean that a person’s faith itself—their own mental (or, spiritual) effort and activity of believing1 in Christ—is what saved them.
When the Lord Jesus declared to someone whom he had healed, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (e.g. Matthew 9:22; Mark 10:52; Luke 17:19; 18:42), he did not mean that their faith itself had worked their miracle of healing. But Christ, in whom they believed, was their Healer.
So that we can be sure we understand what Christ meant by the phrase, “thy faith hath healed thee,” let us consider another occasion, where Jesus healed two blind men (see Matthew 9:27-31). He asked them, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” And when they had replied, “Yea, Lord,” he healed them, while he declared “According to your faith be it unto you.” It was not their faith that healed them, but Christ himself.
Similarly, when Jesus told a woman whom he (being God) had forgiven, that “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke 7:36-50), that he did not mean that her own belief in him is what saved her. He meant that he himself, in whom she believed, had saved her. Jesus Christ was her Saviour, not her faith.
Likewise, when Paul taught that a person is “justified by faith,” he did not mean that through believing in Christ they justified themselves (or, made themselves right) in the sight of God. Paul meant that a person is justified by Christ, in whom they believe.
So, do not think of “putting your faith in Christ” as though this were a kind of mental (or spiritual) religious work. Salvation is wrought by Christ alone, and is not earned or merited or contributed to by any kind of work that we do, whether physical, mental or spiritual.
Faith-healing, faith-prosperity and faith-salvation
Many Pentecostal and Charismatic2 preachers today go further than historic Arminianism did. They have added “faith-healing” and “faith-prosperity” as analogous doctrines to their “faith-salvation” doctrine. Or, to put it another way: they claim that physical health and wealth are included in the (Arminian) faith-salvation doctrine3.
They describe God as willing—even longing—to make all mankind healthy, wealthy, and saved. In their churches and “ministries”, and on their television and radio stations, YouTube channels, websites, etc. it is often asserted that a person’s faith-decision is what enables (or, allows) God to give them salvation, prosperity, and healing.
In other words, you can be your own healer, wealth-magnet, and saviour, pulling all these blessings down from God—if only you have (enough) faith! They teach that faith is a mysterious power or force (or an invisible substance—misinterpreting Hebrews 1:1), by which we can reach up to heaven, as it were, and pull down blessings from God.
In short: they say that because of Christ’s stripes and shed blood on the cross, your faith (in and of itself) can get you put of poverty, out of your wheelchair, and out of the road to Hell.
That is what they misinterpret all these passages to mean:
“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matthew 9:22).
“And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).
“And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke 18:42).
“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked” (Acts 14:8-10).
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24; see also Isaiah 53:5).
- “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham4 might come on the might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
The Arminian says that what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary was potential salvation for the entire fallen human race—and the reason why any person is unsaved is because they do not have faith in Christ. Similarly, Faith-healing and faith-prosperity preachers and their followers can give you many more reasons for why you may fail to possess health, wealth or salvation. These are some examples—and they are all your fault:
You don’t have faith.
You don’t have enough faith.
You have doubts that have neutralised your “word of faith”.
Your faith is becoming weaker and you are drifting out of the blessing.
You have a secret (unconfessed and unforgiven) sin that’s neutralising your faith.
You had an occultist ancestor who placed a generational curse on your bloodline or your DNA.
You have an enemy somewhere who has placed a curse on you (or they have paid a witch or witchdoctor to place a curse on you), and you haven’t got spiritual protection.
You haven’t “prayed in tongues” for long enough to stir up your faith.
You haven’t exercised and strengthened your faith by giving enough money to your faith-church or your favourite faith-ministry.
You haven’t promised to give even more money if God does make you healthy and/or wealthy.
This is none other than the false gospel of modern paganism5, dressed up in wrongly interpreted Bible quotes and Christian jargon. It is essentially the same as the teachings of the “law of attraction” groups and similar motivational coaches. Indeed, the faith-healing/ faith-prosperity teachings on “faith” are the same as the teachings on “positive thinking”, except for the terminology being changed in order to make it more acceptable to be taught from a church pulpit or on Christian television. Much of this goes back to Phinehas Quimby in the 19th Century, and to Franz Anton Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” a century earlier, and to various old polytheistic, mystical and animistic religions.
- In English we have two words from different ancestral sources (Latin and Saxon) that essentially mean the same thing: faith and belief. Both these words are used to translate one Greek word, πίστις, (pistis) (Strong’s Concordance).↩
- The name Pentecostal comes from their claim that their ecstatic babblings (which are not any kind of language) are the very same “gifts of tongues” that God the Holy Spirit gave the apostles and other early Christians (see Acts chapter 2, for the prime example). However, their oral equivalent of scribble is clearly not any kind of language—therefore it is not the God-given gift of a tongue (another word for a language). “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language…[W]e do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:4, 6, 11). Therefore, these modern babblers are not truly “Pentecostals” and are wrongly so-called. Several Pentecostal church denominations were formed in the early 20th Century. Some decades later, when Pentecostal teachings became established in older denominations (such as Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian, Roman Catholic), those who held to them called themselves Charismatics for their claim that they too possessed the same spiritual gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy etc. as the 1st Century churches.↩
- I have head it expressed this way: “Jesus just didn’t die to give you ‘pie in the sky when you die’—but also ‘cake on your plate while you wait’”!↩
- They say this “blessing of Abraham” includes a lot of wealth, such as his vast amount of gold, servants and camels. But Paul was talking about righteousness—i.e. justification by faith (see the context: Galatians 3:11-14).↩
- Several decades ago, this was called the “New Age” movement. But I haven’t heard that term used much recently. Anyway, even in the 1960s it was not really modern or new.↩