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.

Bible Answer:

We will look at three scripture passages to answer the question, “Are we promised health and physical healing in the Atonement?”  The first passage we will examine is about the Messiah in Isaiah 53. Then we will examine Matthew 8:17 and 1 Peter 2:24.

Isaiah 53:2-3 — Messiah’s Childhood and Adult Life

Isaiah 53:2-6 is not just about Jesus’ death on the cross so that our sins can be forgiven. It also gives us a summary of His life on this earth. We must carefully read Isaiah 53:3-6 in order to understand the message. Note that it describes his physical growth from His youth.

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 how 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 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 adult life. That is all.

Isaiah 53:4a — Messiah Would Heal

The first part of verse 4 tells us that He ministered to the needs of people. He was the Great Shepherd of the sheep who experienced the pains, illnesses, and sorrows of life.

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

The Hebrew word for “grief,” holi, has the primary meaning of “disease” or “sickness,” and the Hebrew word for “sorrows,” makob, has the idea of “pains” or “sorrows.” Together they refer to something we have all experienced – sickness and the suffering. The Hebrew word for “bore,”nasa, means “take up” or “to lift.” The final key word is “carried.” The Hebrew word, sabal, means “to carry away a heavy load.” Together these words reveal the Messiah would comfort us and heal our sicknesses.

Matthew 8:16-17 tells us that Jesus healed many people. The passage also 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 Matthew 8:16-17 refers to the Isaiah 53:4a passage exactly. Isaiah 53:2-4a prophesied that the Messiah would grow up, that he would not be especially attractive as an individual. He would be rejected by others, and yet He would serve others by healing many of them of their diseases. Matthew 8:17 reminds us that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.

Isaiah 53:4b — Messiah Would Forgive Sins

The last part of Isaiah 53:4 says that the Jews thought God wanted Him to be put to death.  They were correct according to Acts 2:22-24, but not they did not know or understand why.

. . . 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)

The prophecy says that Jesus would be pierced, and He was – by 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. He refers to the forgiveness of our sins. This last 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. But we must also realize the reason we become sick and suffer sorrow is due to sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, the creation was also affected (Romans 8:19-22). It was corrupted and fell due to slavery to sin. Consequently, the only real solution to sickness and sorrow is to remove the consequences of sin.

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 the forgiveness of 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 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.” But it can also apply to healing from sin. The context alone makes it clear that physical healing is not 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 for the forgiveness of his sin. 1 John was written to help us know that believers in Christ have eternal life (1 John 5:13). I still remember as a little boy that I was afraid I would go to hell. I remember crying on my bed at night because I did not know if I was going to heaven – or that I would be with God one day for all eternity. I was in grief and anguish.

On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter preached a sermon and referred to the “agony of death” (Acts 2:22-24). 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. The forgiveness of our sins is the ultimate solution to sickness and sorrow.


The current concept that is taught by some is that we should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement. They have missed the fact that all of the apostles are dead. Now that is a problem because death is eventually caused by sickness and disease – even heart failure is a disease. Even automobile accidents are due to sin. Someday all believers will live in heaven, and never be sick or die again!

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.

Suggested Links:

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