Bible Question:

Lately I am being convicted about the healing doctrine expressed by some of my friends. I believe that Isaiah 53:4 and 1 Peter 2:24 talk very clearly about the glorious healing of our reconciliation to God and the forgiveness of sins through the atonement. My friends also quote Matthew 8:16, 17 which clearly confirms to me that Jesus' healings are a fulfillment of prophecy and say nothing about the atonement. I believe that the power of God expressed to me and others is not because it is in the atonement, but because of His grace expressed to us and the need for us to recognize that God is alive and sovereign. However, how do I answer the statement that “we are included in the Abrahamic covenant that promised health and prosperity to body, soul and spirit?” I belong to THE Seed of Abraham. Should we still expect for ourselves the blessing to Abraham in all these areas? Our bodies are still dying which is God's will. Nowhere can I find that the body I live in should be perpetually whole. On the contrary, we are promised a new body. I am really stirred up and am convicted that I have so keenly accepted the healing teachings over so many years. H E L P !?

Bible Answer:

We will look at three verses to answer whether or not the believer is promised physical healing and health.  Together they will help us understand the primary passage which is Isaiah 53:3-6.

What Does It Say – Part 1

This prophecy is not just about Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world. It covers His life here on this earth. It is very easy to allow someone’s explanation of a passage to influence how we read it.

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, or appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:2-3 (NASB)

Verse 2 starts with His childhood and tells us that he grew up. Since many new plants are started as a “tender shoot,” the Holy Spirit is telling us that Jesus grew up from a young child into adulthood. We are next told that people were not attracted to His physical appearance. Then verse 3 says that Jesus was despised and ignored by people. He experienced sorrow and grief, and people did not honor Him. These two verses speak of His childhood and young adult life. That is all.

When we come to the first part of verse 4, we are told that He ministered to the needs of people. He was the Great Shepherd of the sheep – men and women – and His ministry included the healing of others.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried . . . Isaiah 53:4a (NASB)

The Hebrew word for “grief” actually means “disease” or “sickness,” and the Hebrew word for “sorrows” has the idea of “pains” or “sorrows.” They both refer to something we have all experienced – sickness and the suffering that comes with it. The Hebrew word for “bore” actually means “take up” or “to lift.” The final key word is “carried.” The Hebrew word means “to carry away” and has the idea of one who serves another. What did Jesus do? Jesus healed people when He healed their bodies and removed their sorrow.

Matthew 8:17. When we come to Matthew 8:16-17, we are told Jesus had been healing many people and it then quotes Isaiah 53:4a in reverse order.

When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” Matthew 8:16-17 (NASB)

The Greek word for “infirmities” in Matthew 8:17 means “weakness, infirmity, want of strength, or feebleness.” The meaning of the Greek word for ‘diseases” means just that – diseases. So the Matthew passage refers to the Isaiah 53:4a passage exactly. Isaiah 53:2-4a predicted that He would grow up, that he would not be attractive as an individual, he would be rejected by others, and yet He would heal many as a servant. Matthew 8:17 reminds us that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

What Does It Say – Part 2

The last part of Isaiah 53:4 says that the Jews thought God wanted Him put to death, and they were correct according to Acts 2:22-24.

. . . yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. Isaiah 53:4b-6 (NASB)

Next the prophecy says that Jesus would be pierced, and He was – with a Roman sword. It happened because of our sins or transgressions. Jesus was beaten, whipped, spit on, abused, and crucified for our sins. Then the Holy Spirit says that by His “wounds, stripes, or marks” we have been “healed.” The Holy Spirit is not talking about physical healing. The passage has been talking about forgiveness or healing from our sins. This part of the passage is about Jesus’ death and the forgiveness of our sins – not healing from physical disease. The entire Isaiah 53:2-6 passage has been a prophecy about His life and ministry.

1 Peter 2:24. When we come to 1 Peter 2:24, the Holy Spirit uses the phrase “by His scourging we are healed” in the same way.

. . . He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)

The entire passage of 1 Peter 2:20-25 is about Jesus’ death and His ability to forgive our sins. The passage is not about physical healing. In the Greek language there are multiple words which can be used for healing. Three of them refer to healing from disease. The English form of the Greek word for “healed” in 1 Peter 2:24 is IOMAI and it means more than to be healed.The Greek word has the idea of “to heal, and to make well.” It can also apply to healing from sin. The context alone makes it clear that physical healing has not been the topic.

Does it seem strange to talk about the forgiveness of sin as healing? If so, listen to King David’s words when he was in agony over his sin.

As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4 (NASB)

He asked God to heal his soul – not his body. We must remember that Hebrew expressions are not the same as English. Every culture and language has its unique expressions. King David asked for healing of his soul or forgiveness of his sin. After Jesus’ return to heaven, 1 John was written to Christians for one reason. It was written to help Christians know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Some Christians were afraid or in agony that they were not going to heaven. I still remember that as a little boy I was afraid that I would go to hell. I remember crying on my bed at night because I did not know that I was going to heaven – that I would be with God. I was in grief and anguish.

On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter had this to say,

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs . . . this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  Acts 2:22-24 (NASB)

When Peter said the “agony of death,” he was not saying that people would not die. Otherwise, the Apostles should be alive today. No, he was referring to the fear of not knowing where one will spend eternity when one dies. That is the agony of death. Jesus’ death allows our sins to be forgiven and for us to escape eternal punishment.

Conclusion:

The current concept that is taught by some that we should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement has missed the fact every apostle is dead. Now that is a problem because death is eventually caused by sickness and disease – even heart failure is a disease. Eventually some day we will live in heaven, and no one will ever get sick! We have also missed Exodus 4:11 which tells us that God makes the mute, deaf, and blind. There is not permanent physical healing in the atonement in this life – but in heaven.

James 5:14-15 tells us that we can be healed by the prayer of our elders (church leaders) when sickness is due to sin. God heals through prayer. This has always been true. Healing is not something new since the cross. This is God’s love and mercy for His children. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus is an awesome shepherd to us? He not only forgives, but He also heals. Thank you Jesus!

Suggested Links:

Why are we not able to secure His promises for healing?
Spiritual Gift of the Holy Spirit