Divine healing has always been a central component of Pentecostalism. The revelation of Christ as Healer was strongly realized in earlier ministries, many associated with the Holiness Movement. A.B. Simpson, founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, was healed of heart disease and began preaching divine healing as a core component of the Gospel (Simpson 158). John Alexander Dowie’s Zion, Illinois disallowed doctors and drugs, and his influential publication Leaves of Healing was filled with teaching and testimony about God’s healing power. Mariah Woodworth-Etter’s crusades focused on the healing power of the Name of Jesus and drew thousands of believers nationwide. Even before the students at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible School articulated the “initial evidence” theology that marked the rebirth of New Testament Pentecostalism, they were involved in Parham’s “healing home”, a faith-healing endeavor connected to the school that offered short-term residence to those seeking a divine cure for their ailments. A banner reading “Health” is carried by one of Parham’s workers in an early photo taken at Bryan Hall in Houston, Texas. It is not surprising, then, that divine healing was a core belief and practice in the earliest iterations of Pentecostal revival.
Divine healing was practiced at the Azusa Street Mission and promoted in The Apostolic Faith. In the first issue of the periodical, William Joseph Seymour, who led the mission and edited the paper, published a lengthy and passionate theology of healing as a byproduct of Christ’s atonement:
Sickness and disease are destroyed through the precious atonement of Jesus. O how we ought to honor the stripes of Jesus, for “with his stripes we are healed.” . . . He [Jesus Christ] was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Every sickness is of the devil. (“The Precious Atonment” 2).
Seymour recognizes human disease a curse of the Fall and calls healing a component of “full salvation” (The Precious Atonement 2).
Reports of healing in The Apostolic Faith were nearly as common as reports of Holy Ghost baptism. God’s healing power operated at Azusa Street, and healings were front-page news in the first issue: “Many have laid aside their glasses and had their eye sight [sic] restored. The deaf have had their hearing restored. A man was healed of asthma of twenty years standing. Many have been healed of heart trouble and lung trouble” (“The Old-Time Pentecost” 1).
Testimonies of healing at Azusa and around the globe filled column after column as God confirmed the Gospel miraculously delivering the diseased and afflicted. Even a century later, the accounts of miracles build faith:
–“A sister was healed of consumption when she had but part of a lung left” (Sept 1906)
–“Sister Lemon of Whittier [California], who had been a sufferer for eighteen years and could receive no help from physicians and had been bed-ridden for fourteen years of that time has been marvelously healed by the Lord through the laying on of hands and the prayer of faith. She has been walking to meetings.” (Nov 1906)
–“A young man saved from the morphine habit has no more desire for the stuff and gave up his instruments.” (Nov 1906)
–“In Denver, Colorado, in Bro. Fink’s home, a woman was brought in that was hurt in falling from a wagon. She had been a cripple for thirty-two years and unable to walk. Her toes were drawn up under her feet and could not be straightened. She was unsaved. The next morning, as she was sitting in the front room alone, a little six year old girl, who has received the baptism and speaks with tongues, walked in and put her hand on the woman and said, “Jesus wants to heal you, the Spirit has sent me to put my hands on you.” Instantly, those toes on the woman’s feet straightened and she arose and walked.” (Dec 1906)
–“A baby that accidentally took poison that it found in a bottle in a closet was healed in answer to prayer. The mother held to God in agonizing prayer, ‘Lord, save my baby.’ The little thing was cold, but the Lord healed it completely” (Jan 1907)
–“Miss Eula Wilson, a girl of fifteen in Wichita, Kans., had been given up to die by the doctors. She seemed to die and was laid out for burial. Hours afterward she suddenly raised up and said, ‘O Mamma I have been in heaven and Jesus has healed me and told me to eat, drink, and walk.’ She was completely healed and has not been sick at all since.” (Sept 1907)
–[Khassia Hills, India] “. . . Then follows account of the healing of a poor heathen woman of a most loathsome skin disease, because of which the heathen had thrust her form the village to die in the jungle. While on the roadside she stood listening to the preaching of the gospel and suddenly exclaimed, ‘God has given me medicine. He will heal me with this medicine,’ and began rubbing her body with her hands when she exclaimed, ‘I am well!’ It was so. The heathen around saw and were filled with awe.” (May 1908)
It is difficult in today’s world of advanced medical technology and simple surgical solutions to recapture the unwavering faith in Jesus Christ that produced miracles of this magnitude! Modern miracles are often unrealized because we turn first to doctors and drugs for relief from sickness and suffering rather than relying on Christ the Healer. The stripes of Jesus still heal and, like our Pentecostal predecessors, we must only believe in order to receive health and wholeness from Heaven!
“The Old-Time Pentecost.” The Apostolic Faith 1:1 (September 1906), p. 1.
“The Precious Atonement.” The Apostolic Faith 1:1 (September 1906), p. 2.
Simpson, A.B. “Divine Healing” Word, Work, and the World 7 (September 1886), p. 158.