A Controversial Sermon on Healing

I mentioned in a previous post about the French National Convention that a German pastor was our keynote speaker for the two days of pastoral meetings. I never did say much about his sermons, but they certainly caused quite a stir among the French pastors.

The first morning, Pastor Ingoll Ellson preached on the healing of God. He said that he has been Pentecostal all of his adult life, always believing in the supernatural healing of God, However, as much as he preached and prayed, he never really saw results. One Sunday night, he asked those who had been supernaturally healed during the five years of his ministry to stand up. Only five stood. He told us that he was so disappointed that he actually became angry with God. He thought, “God, I have done everything exactly as You command. We preach healing, we anoint with oil, we pray in faith. What more do You want? If people aren’t being healed, the problem must lie with You.” And in his anger, he resolved not to preach on healing anymore.

However, God convicted him (and rightly so). He went out and bought a brand new inexpensive Bible, never underlined or marked in any way. He started in Genesis and read through to Revelation with an open mind, searching out verses on healing, until God had revealed Himself on that subject. Pastor Ellson’s message to us was the result of God’s revelation, as well as his pastoral experiences in the twenty years following that crisis of faith.

He asked us to imagine a temple, with twelve pillars supporting the magnificent structure, and across the top of this temple, inscribed in the stone, the words “I am the God that heals you.” Then he told us what the twelve pillars stood for: ways (or moments) that people experience healing. The first four weren’t even supernatural.

1. Rest
2. Eating the right food
3. Medicinal value of plants, herbs (natural medicine)
4. Doctors

At number two, he caused the first ripples of discontent in the audience a bit. The French are notorious gastronomes, gourmands, people who like to eat and drink well. They have made both a science and an art of food, and when he suggested that there were health reasons why God forbid pork in the Jewish laws, most of the pastors laughed outright. They began to murmur and whisper and giggle to each other like junior-highers. They didn’t seen ready to change their diet that much, especially if it means foregoing ham.

But he continued, and the next four were more spiritual:

5. during the preaching/proclaiming of the Word of God (even during messages of the Spirit)
6. by the forgiveness of sins
7. by prayers of intercession (a sick person praying for others can be healed himself)
8. through Communion

Point number 6 was edging toward controversy. While he rightly pointed out that not all sickness is a result of sin, sometimes it is as a result of poor choices (if not direct sin) that people have made. In receiving forgiveness, they often receive healing, as well.

But, I was personally most struck by his thoughts on communion. He told us a story of a woman who had severe back pains for years, and continually prayed for healing. She also sought doctors and medication, and nothing ever worked for long. Then one day she came to see the pastor to ask for prayer again, and he felt something within his spirit. He asked her, “Do you take communion, even though you have resentment against someone?” She said, “No, I have nothing against anyone in the church.” But he felt checked again, so he rephrased the question, “Do you have resentment against anyone at all?” She finally answered yes. She was married to an unsaved man, and had stopped loving him years before. She harbored bitterness against him, but figured since he wasn’t saved (and therefore a “brother” in the Lord), she could continue taking communion. The pastor rebuked her for her bitterness in her marriage and her wrong attitude at the table of the Lord. When she confessed her sin and began to try to love her husband again, she experienced a gradual healing. According to Pastor Ellson, she was eating and drinking condemnation on herself because she failed to follow the words of Christ regarding communion. He also said that the celebration of the blood that Christ shed for us is an ideal moment to remember that His blood also provides for our healing.

9. by the anointing of oil and laying on of hands
10. by someone with the Gift of Healing
11. By the prayers of faith (by others for us)
12. By a direct miracle (including handkerchiefs, etc.)

The last four had much more to do with the “Pentecostal” experience of healing. His words made their greatest stir, on point number 10, when he said that God gives certain Christians a “gift” of healing. They have the ability to lay hands on people and see them healed instantly. He went one step further, saying that the recipient of the healing, the sick person, doesn’t even have to believe in Christ to receive the healing. It is enough that the “healer” has faith in Christ and prays for the healing in His name. I thought the elderly pastor in front of me was going to yell “heresy” at the top of his voice. Instead he muttered it loudly enough for three rows to hear. I admit I was a little shocked by the thought at first, as well. He told us that he had prayed over people in a Latin American country and they were healed, but afterward, when he said, “Now do you want to hear more about Jesus Christ?” They said no and walked away. He was sure that faith in Christ was not a pre-requisite for receiving His healing touch.

The French pastors weren’t too fond of the idea of handkerchiefs, either; that’s just a little too radical for their staid, traditional Christianity. He told a story of a suffering pastor, sick and dying, who received a package from an American pastor, containing a handkerchief, anointed and prayed over. The dying man’s wife read the accompanying letter, which explained that the handkerchief was anointed and prayed over for the healing of her husband. As she read the letter aloud, her husband said, “Bah, these ridiculous Americans! They run after every turn in the wind!” And he refused to have the handkerchief near him. A few weeks went by, and he continued to steadily decline, until one day his wife begged him to let her put the American handkerchief on his body. Finally, he relented, and once she placed the handkerchief on his chest, he was healed instantaneously. (This made me want to yell out “Vivent les Americains!” but I restrained myself).

For each of these points, he had examples of people whose healing he had personally witnessed. He had scripture that matched each point, as well. Without reproducing his entire sermon, I have tried to give just the basics here. Feel free to comment, as the French pastors certainly did. (I should mention that he was also accused of having grossly mis-exigeted a passage of Daniel, where the angels are delayed in their coming, but since I was so busy taking notes in French and English, I must have missed his error, so I cannot comment on that). At lunch afterward and even that night at dinner with missionary friends, we all discussed how his message shocked us at certain points. One pastor said, “I like to hear messages like that, ones that make me think and search my Bible afterward."

Ariel Rainey