The Threefold Ministry of Jesus

by Kim Harrington

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.

Matthew 4:23-24

It’s nearly impossible not to notice the threefold aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Everywhere He went he did three things: He preached the Gospel, He healed the sick, and He cast out demons. On occasion He multiplied food, walked on water or did various other miracles, but nearly every ministry day included the three mainstays of what Jesus Christ considered the Gospel: preaching, healing, and delivering people from the bonds of Satan.

Today, most of the supernatural aspects of the ministry of the Gospel have been discounted. Some who call themselves Christians actually believe that Jesus did no miraculous works; perhaps a few psychosomatic healings, but by and large the healings and such were invented by the apostles and later writers. Some more serious believers hold that the miraculous did indeed take place in biblical days, and even expect to see a miraculous return of Christ on a horse in the clouds, but that no supernatural ministry takes should be looked for today. Miraculous healing mysteriously ceased after the First Century, and modern claims from preachers and teachers on the lunatic fringe of Christianity are suspect at best, and possibly even demon-inspired.

The underlying thought is: "If I don’t see these manifestations in my ministry or the ministry of my associates, then I must find a rationale for its absence." Hence elaborate theories of cessationism, dispensationalism and the like are developed, and the church loses not only the power that Jesus’ ministry had, but the compassion as well. A better response might be: "If I don’t see miraculous healing in my ministry and it seems to be the norm in the Bible—I better find out what’s missing and correct it!"

Why are people so afraid of deception when it comes to something that is put forth so straightforwardly and commonly in the Word of God? Healing, deliverance and other miraculous manifestations were the norm in biblical days. In the Old Testament, prophets and other leaders experienced angelic visitations, parted seas and rivers, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons with their musical instruments and much more. In the New testament it was not simply a chosen few that were gifted in the miraculous; God opened the playing field wide open. Jesus and the apostles preached, healed and cast out demons. The seventy of Luke 10 did likewise. In Mark chapter sixteen, supernatural signs and wonders are promised to all who believe the Gospel. In the Bible miracles aren’t the exception, but the norm!

Furthermore, miracles and healings in no way ceased after the apostolic age, but continued through the entire church age. To be sure, large portions of the church lost the original vision and began to operate in a more political than spiritual manner, but various individuals and groups can be found at almost any period of time healing the sick, casting out demons, prophesying and working miracles. Since the Pentecostal revival of the early Twentieth Century such phenomena have become much more widespread. In fact, the largest second largest group of Christians in the world (after the Roman Catholic) are those who believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit and accompanying signs and wonders.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,

Romans 1:16

The Greek word for "salvation" that the Apostle Paul uses in this verse is soteria. The verb form of the same word is sozos, "to save." We think of salvation as believing in Jesus Christ for the saving of our soul, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. That’s part of the picture—the Bible calls that part "justification"—but it by no means exhausts the biblical definition of the term. The Bible uses the same word to describe being saved from a shipwreck, delivered from demons, having your sins forgiven, and even being made free from corrupt totalitarian governments. The word means deliverance, preservation, to be rescued, saved from every conceivable affliction that is common to man since sin entered the world and Satan began to consolidate his gains. (see our e-book "The Power of Salvation.")

Christians have argued for years whether or not healing is provided for in the atonement. Of course it is! Healing is as much a part of the atonement as having your sins forgiven or being born of the Spirit. Salvation is intended to set the believer free from all of the repercussions of sin—including sickness, disease, and demonic affliction—not merely impart the hope of "pie in the sky by and by."

We conclude, therefore, that we’re supposed to bring people a Gospel message that ministers salvation to the entire person: spirit, soul, and body. This is the example that Jesus set, and it’s the command He gave to His disciples went he sent them forth, be it the twelve, the seventy, or the general commission He issued after the Resurrection. He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, healed the sick, and cast out demons. If we are to be obedient in our presentation of His message we must strive to do no less!


The Gospel of the Kingdom

Many years ago, in the early Eighties at the first church my wife and I pioneered and pastored, I noticed the phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom" and began to teach on the Kingdom of God, obedience and submission to the King, and pushing the borders of His kingdom to the ends of the earth. Later I discovered the work of George Ladd and John Wimber on the subject, and more recently have been blessed by the insights of Bill Johnson of Redding California. How is it that we’re only now rediscovering the meaning of the original title for the Gospel?

Kingdom means the King’s domain or dominion. Jesus said that when the Gospel comes forth in power the kingdom of God is in the midst of us (Matt 12:28, Luke 11:20). That power may be a healing or the expulsion of a demon, or simply a powerful anointing on the spoken word that brings people to repentance (what Charles Finney called being "savingly impressed"). Wherever God’s people go forth in His power the Kingdom of God is present.

When you receive the Gospel of the Kingdom you join the ranks of the King, become His subject. Your sins are frankly forgiven and you are given the full rights of citizenship, including the ability to operate in the powers of the world to come—the Kingdom (Hebr 6:4-5).

Through his faithful citizens and co-laborers King Jesus is slowly but surely, irresistibly taking the earth back from the dominion of darkness, pushing back the forces of hell, and extending the borders of the Kingdom of God. When God’s Kingdom comes, His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. People are no longer in rebellion to their Creator but in harmony with Him. Furthermore they are to be walking in health and victory. If there is no sin in Heaven, there should be no sin on earth; if there is no sickness in Heaven, wherever His kingdom comes on earth there should be no sickness, etc. etc.

Healing of the Sick

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 10:38

Be not mistaken, sickness is a work of the devil. This doesn’t mean that everyone who is sick is cooperating with the devil, or even that all sickness is a direct result of demonic oppression, merely that since sin entered the world Satan began perverting the pristine creation of God by crafting sickness and disease, among other things. Sickness is a result of sin, and is an oppression of the devil, according to the above statement about the ministry of Jesus Christ.

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:8

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Isn’t this elementary? We look up a Scripture passage and then restate it—hardly imaginative, but it makes the point. Sickness is a work of the devil and Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Hence, Jesus came to destroy sickness, to deliver people from its—and Satan’s—power.

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

Matthew 10:1

This is where it starts getting fun for us! He gave His disciples power to heal all kinds of sicknesses and all kinds of diseases, as well as power over unclean spirits. Not only did Jesus have a threefold ministry, He wants us to have one as well. As previously stated, this power—and this command—was not given to the Twelve alone, but also to the Seventy in Luke chapter ten, and then in the Great Commission to all those who believe...

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Mark 16:15-18

Healing the sick is not only scriptural and possible—it is commanded by Jesus Himself. To disregard this command is to disobey the explicit instruction of the Lord.


Casting Out Demons

People that need salvation of their souls and forgiveness of sins find that need met in the Gospel of the Kingdom. People whose bodies are diseased or broken find healing in the Gospel of the kingdom. People who are bound by demons—generally in the realm of the mind and emotions, and often physically as well—find salvation in the Gospel to the Kingdom, too.

You’ll find several articles and many references on our web site to what is commonly called the deliverance ministry, or casting out demons. It’s not a very popular pastime, to many it smacks of the occult even though it is aimed at destroying the works of darkness. Many Christians in the West can barley find in themselves to believe in demons, much less spend time trying to discern their presence and get rid of them. Our worldview doesn’t allow for such things. To suggest casting out demons when someone comes for counsel is like offering them a ride in Jonah’s fish—it’s biblical but so far out there that we’d prefer not to speak of it.

Nevertheless a full third of Jesus ministry was devoted to the so-called deliverance ministry. And if modern experience is any indicator, He probably spent more time doing this than He did preaching the Gospel, simply because, as a rule, it takes time to cast out a demon. If Jesus believed in demons and spent valuable ministry time casting them out, how can I second-guess His wisdom and choose not to? If Jesus found thousands of demons in First Century Israel, a culture centered around the God of the Bible and the Law, how many more might we expect to find in our own lawless, idolatrous land?

The Gospel of the Kingdom makes provision for overcoming and removing the oppression of the enemy because in many ways people open doors to demonic oppression and need God’s help to get free. A twelve-step program may lend a certain amount of insight, but only the power of God can save a person from alcoholism or drug addiction. Sex offenders are tracked these days because they almost always offend again, and again. Regardless of all the psychology, medications, and stiff prison sentences, they are bound by demonic powers far beyond their ability to control with any regularity—only the Gospel of the Kingdom can set them free.

It’s high time that God’s servants started preaching the whole Gospel, a full salvation of spirit, soul, and body.




Copyright © 2006,  Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved

Scripture quotations from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted


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