I recently read the testimony of someone who just started believing that healing is in Christ’s Atonement. I am thrilled and will always praise God when someone receives healing, whether it be through the God given talents of the medical community, naturally built in healing properties of the human body, and of course through prayer!
The question before us is whether or not physical healing is promised in the Atonement of Christ. It is my contention that it is not. I will set forth my reasoning from an identical portion of scripture used to say that it is. Turn first to Isaiah 53:5 in which we read:
“And by his stripes we are healed.”
That portion of scripture seems to be the lynch pin of the ‘there’s healing in the atonement argument. Some go so far as to claim that since Christ received 39 stripes and since there are 39 main groups of sickness/disease, that proves it! But does it?
Let’s look at ALL of verse 5:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:4-5)
Notice that in the very same verse, immediately preceding the portion taken out of context we find out exactly why Christ was wounded, as well as from what we are ‘healed’:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
Simple rules of grammar tell us that it was because of our transgressions and iniquities that he suffered. To assert that physical healing was also provided for is to add to the text what is not there. That’s called eisegesis.
If physical healing / divine health is in the atonement and can be experienced by having enough faith,
- Why did the Apostle Paul tell young Timothy to have an occasional drink of wine for his (Timothy’s) stomach troubles?
- Why did Paul pray three times for the ‘thorn in the flesh’ to be removed, yet God told him “my grace is sufficient for you” but did not heal him.
- Why did James encourage the sick to be prayed for by the elders of the church and not just counsel the sick to exercise their own faith?
Having said all that, which should be sufficient, let’s assume that healing IS part of the atonement. We are presented with a couple of issues we must think through.
1. Since salvation from sin is received by grace through faith, it’s quite logical to assert that physical healing is appropriated in the same manner – by grace through faith. In fact, those that teach healing as part of the atonement often make that very claim – that faith in the ‘healing promise’ is all you need. And that leads to a second issue.
2. If a believer has sufficient faith for salvation, but still suffers from sickness once in a while, or still has a disease, he/she is lacking strong enough faith to shed the physical illness. And that brings up the subject of the source of believing faith. Does it come from God, or is it something inherent to all of us from the day we are born? But that’s another subject, deserving of its own discussion. Back to our assumption that healing is part of the atonement and the matter of ‘levels’ of faith.
3. When the assumption is accepted there are two groups affected by it. First there are those who who sit in the pews (or auditorium seats). They sit there, subject to the ‘stuff’ of life, including sickness and disease, from which they want relief. Let’s call them the ‘sheep’. Then we have the preachers and teachers who tell the sheep that with enough faith they can be completely healed, and even walk in a state of ‘divine’ health the rest of their lives. It’s all up to the sheep and the strength of their faith. Let’s call this second group ‘wolves in sheep suits’.
The wolves know they have a steady stream of finances from those who are trying to build up enough faith to be healed, who are holding on to hope. Promise the sheep hope and they’ll keep coming back, for healing as well as a lot of other things that are part of their ‘best life now’. Some of the wolves even tie the promised healing to a mandatory tithe being given to their establishments. No tithe, no blessing.
I must confess that some years ago we believed that physical healing was indeed part of the atonement. That’s what we were being taught in the Charismatic church we attended. And to this day, I don’t consider the Pastor of that church to be the sort of ‘wolf’ described above. Deceived sheep become pastors. They did then and they do now.
Some genuine believers will die of sickness and disease still believing they just didn’t have enough faith to be healed. Shame on the wolves. They will be judged.
Does God still heal, even miraculously? YES! God heals whenever, however, and whomever he wants. It’s just not part and parcel of Christ’s Atonement. That was about human sin.
I rest my case.