“What have I done? This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!”1
– Bill Johnson, 2009
Let me state from the outset that I’m not a cessationist. God still does perform the miraculous in this day and age. Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can take an honest look at 1st Corinthians 12-14 and deduce that somehow these gifts of the Spirit are not for today. However, having stated this, I must admit in having difficulty with continuationism given all the excesses I’ve seen/read about. I am in a sort of mediated position believing it’s the Spirit who gives to each one “just as He determines” [12:11; NIV 1984] on an individual and case by case basis.
God can heal through elders of a local church praying over and anointing with oil the afflicted individual [James 5:14-15]. He can heal through the fervent prayers of the saints. He can heal through praise. He can heal through the hand of the skilled (and, even the not-so-skilled) physician or surgeon.
But, does the enemy heal? There are purported accounts of healing in the Eastern religions. There are also claimed healings in Santeria and other religious traditions. There have long been accounts of healing in Christian Science, New Thought and Unity.2
Bill Johnson on Healing: The Long and the Short of It
Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, in his 2009 book Release the Power of Jesus recounts a few instances of healing regarding legs that were purportedly either too long or too short compared to the other. The first account involves a contractor who had broken his left leg 25 years prior resulting in the injured leg ‘healing’ and somehow remaining 1.5 inches longer than the other. The gentleman asked Johnson if he’d ever seen a leg shrink.3
Recalling a purported prior healing of a pastor who was injured in a snowmobile accident in which the clergyman had a similar problem, Johnson responded to the contractor in the affirmative (it’s not specified whether it was the formerly broken or the presumably uninjured leg of the pastor that was shrunk).4
Johnson explains his resultant thought process at the time just prior to the attempted healing of the contractor:
…Then I paused for a moment and a thought occurred to me, “Should I shrink the long leg or lengthen the shorter leg? Most people wouldn’t mind being a little bit taller.” I caught him (and myself) completely off guard when I said, “Right leg, grow in Jesus’ name.”
The right leg began to grow out slowly. Then all of a sudden it shot out past the other leg three or four inches and the guy screamed in pain! It was as though years of growing pains were hitting him all at once. On the outside I’m sure I looked very calm, but on the inside I was wondering, “What have I done! This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!” 5
Recall that the ‘now-healed’, but formerly injured leg was already 1.5” too long (not sure how this could be understood as “healed”). This means that Johnson’s initial attempt at healing resulted in a normal-sized leg increased to 4.5” to 5.5” beyond its normal length.
Notice all the “I” phrases: “Should I shrink the long leg,” “when I said,” “What have I done!” Is Bill Johnson claiming this botched healing for himself? Perhaps Johnson really meant it was he himself being used as a vehicle through which God worked? Of course, Johnson did say “in Jesus’ name” – if that’s any indication.
There are a number of options I can think of regarding this ‘healing’:
1) It truly was the Holy Spirit working through Johnson
2) It was Johnson himself
3) It was the enemy working through Johnson
4) It was Johnson’s imagination
5) Johnson was stretching the truth, as it were
Personally, I have a hard time with #1 as I find it very difficult to believe that God would inflict pain, especially to the point an individual would scream out as such, in the process of divine healing. As to numbers 2 through 5, I’ll let the reader decide.
Continuing this account:
I began to search my heart to figure how to pray when I remembered studying the word shalom. It means “peace.”…soundness of mind, health, prosperity…I thought, “This situation has to be covered in that word.” So I prayed, “And now Lord, just let the shalom of Heaven, your peace, rest upon this man.” His right leg then shrank back to perfectly match the other one…6
So, after the contractor screams in pain because of the previously non-broken right leg’s sudden burst in length in response to Johnson’s initial attempt at healing, the leg subsequently responds to Johnson’s “shalom” prayer and shrinks back to match the man’s left leg. This would indicate that the normal-sized leg was now 1.5″ longer, resulting in the man now 1.5″ taller. Was this second healing a true divine healing while the first attempt was not? But, note this ‘healing’ didn’t involve doing anything to the ‘now-healed’ but formerly injured 1.5″ too long leg. Also, the man purportedly specifically asked if Johnson had ever shrunk a leg.
Bill Johnson recounts another leg length disparity healing which purportedly occurred six months after the contractor’s. In this case, a 27 year old woman with back problems told of how she had a metal rod put in the place of a cancerous bone which was removed when she was 15. The account does not specify whether it was the femur or the tibia/fibula. The rod was made such that the leg would be one inch longer than the other one on the assumption that the unaffected leg would grow to the size of the one with the metal rod. Unfortunately, the woman did not grow any taller.7 Johnson relates his methodology on this particular healing:
Because of my recent experience, for which God covered me, I took her leg and commanded the one with the metal rod to shrink. It yielded to the command…8
Note his words, “for which God covered me.” Is Johnson admitting that the initial botched healing of the contractor was done by himself rather than God? It would appear that way. Given that it apparently was not God involved in the initial attempt at healing the contractor, which of the remaining options – numbers 2 through 5 above – do you think applies? Or, is there yet another option I’ve just not considered?
[Note: some verbiage has been added for clarity on 07/13/13.]
1 Johnson, Bill. Release the Power of Jesus. 2009, Destiny Image “Speaking the Purposes of God for this Generation and the Generations to Come,” Shippensburg, PA; p 107. Ellipse in original, emphasis added.
2 McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel. 1988 (4th printing, 1991), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 30, 44-48
3 Johnson, pp 106-07
4 Johnson, pp 106-07
5 Johnson, p 107. Ellipse in original; bolding added.
6 Johnson, p 107. Bolding from italicized original.
7 Johnson, p 108
8 Johnson, p 108. Bolding from italicized original.