HEALING COMES THROUGH MANY MEANS OF GRACE Part III
by John Penn
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There are many means of healing grace. God uses all of them and more to bring healing and wholeness to people. All of us stand in need of some kind of healing, whether it is physical, mental (or emotional), spiritual, or relational. God wants us to be a whole person. I believe the apostle Paul was aware of the limitlessness of God grace, because he lists several of the spiritual gifts in the plural form, the working of miracles and gifts of healing.
In Part III of this Healing Moment, we will consider these three ways people may experience God's healing grace: reconciliation, sacraments, and exorcism. Due of the length of the discussion of reconciliation and the sacraments as a means of healing grace, I will treat "exorcism" in a separate Healing Moment--Part IV.
Reconciliation is a means of healing grace, by which all people are welcomed as sons and daughters into the kingdom of God. Our reconciliation with God, canceled God's wrath toward us, making us God's friends. Jesus Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension are critical to our understanding of healing, wholeness, and salvation. Through the work of the cross, Christ took our sins--the sins of the flesh, in his own body, and by his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus's death made possible our reconciliation with God. Jesus' sacrificial death made atonement for human sins, a debt we could not pay. Jesus's death atones for humankind's sins, which makes possible forgiveness, so we can be made righteous in the sight of God. This brings us into relationship with God.
Forgiveness makes reconciliation possible. Reconciliation is love and mercy rolled up into one act of grace. Although God offers us salvation through Jesus Christ, it must be received by faith--through grace. Reconciliation is wholeness in relationship with God--the greatest healing we will ever experience. Being reconciled with God is the spiritual path that makes all forms of healing possible.
Reconciliation makes healing apart of our spiritual DNA. Our ultimate healing, salvation, will be fully realized in the resurrection. Without salvation, true spiritual wholeness is not possible.
All of the sacraments are a means of grace. A sacrament points to something beyond itself. Those who participate in the sacraments, receive God's grace through it. In this Healing Moment, I will focus only on the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. I have already talked about the sacramental nature of the laying-on-hands and anointing with oil.
Baptism is God's idea. I believe that baptism is the believer's first introduction of healing grace. Cyprian who wrote in the third century stated that baptism itself was sometimes the means by which a serious illness was cured. Scholars have said that baptism is an outward sign of inward grace. It is important to remember that we don't have to deserve or understand grace to receive it.
Jesus used the back drop of Passover to share his last meal on earth with his disciples and to institute the Lord's Supper or Communion. He connects many of the images of the Passover to teach his disciples the meaning and purpose of his immanent death. Jesus used the Passover ritual to connect the sacrificial lamb motif, which foreshadowed his own sacrificial death. Just as the blood of the sacrificial lamb would atone for the sins of the Hebrew people, his shed blood would atone for the sins of the world.
Jesus gave a sacramental and spiritual emphasis to the bread and wine, in the institution of the Lord's Supper. He taught that the bread that he broke at the Passover meal represented his body that would be given for us. The broken bread symbolizes his broken body that would make our bodies whole. The wine represented his shed blood that would cleanse us from our sins--restoring a right relationship between God and people.
The Lord's Supper is also known as Communion or the Eucharist (the symbolic or consecrated bread and wine which is eaten and drunk, during the ceremony of Communion); as a way for the church to teach and to remember the meaning and purpose of Jesus's life, death, resurrection and ascension.
Jesus said that he is the spiritual food that sustains spiritual life--wholeness or well being (John 6:26-27; 32-33). The participation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, describes the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
Paul may have provided the most complete and earliest teaching, concerning the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist than any other writers of the New Testament. He made it clear that he had received his interpretation concerning the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23).
After hearing the way that the Corinthian Church practiced the Lord's Supper, Paul had no praise for them, concerning those abuses; and warned them of the dire consequences of their actions. Paul handed down several important correctives concerning the way the Lord's Supper was being practiced.
First, Paul pointed out that their church meetings do more harm than good because of the division among them. Second, their love feast or fellowship meal was not the Lord's Supper that they ate, because of a lack of community, love and genuine hospitality. Many of them would eat before others got there, some would get drunk on wine, and some who had less food than others, would go hungry at their gatherings. Third, the purpose of the observance of the Lord's Supper was a symbolic way to remember, looking back to Christ's death, and a way of looking forward to his second coming. Fourth, Paul reminded them not to eat Christ's body and drink his blood in an unworthy manner. He admonished them for not properly discerning the body and blood of Christ. And because of this, some of them were weak, sick, and some had died ahead of time (1 Corinthians 11:17-30).
Finally, Paul stressed that they are always to examine themselves before participating in the Lord's Supper. They are to examine the attitudes, motives, and actions of their hearts. By doing so, they are showing their love, reverence, and thanksgiving to God, for sending them salvation through Jesus Christ. For this reason, the early church began to use the word Eucharist (which means thanksgiving) for the Lord's Supper, as a means of expressing their thanksgiving for what Christ did for them by giving his life as an atonement for human sins.
As I close this discussion about the sacraments, let me leave you with this important insight of Avery Brooke, concerning the Eucharist, from her book, Healing in the Landscape of Prayer:
The Eucharist is a healing and redemptive liturgy
in a large sense, but was also viewed at that time
as a specific agent of healing. Oil, later reserved
for anointing the sick, is offered up with the bread
and wine in the Eucharist. The oil could then be used
in the church, brought by a priest when visiting the
sick, or taken home by a lay Christian for the
anointing sick members.
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