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Don Stewart :: What about Verses That Seem to Promise Healing?

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What about Verses That Seem to Promise Healing? (Healing in the Atonement)

Divine Healing – Question 15

In the New Testament, there are several instances in which Scripture seems to promise healing to all those who believe in Jesus Christ. This has caused some people to assume that there is supernatural healing for believers as a result of the atoning death of Jesus upon the cross. Such a belief is often called “healing in the atonement.” Is this what the Scripture teaches?

Understanding the Doctrine of Healing in the Atonement

The theory of “healing in the atonement” can be summarized as follows. When Jesus Christ died on the cross at Calvary, He suffered, or “made atonement,” for our diseases as well as for our sins. Since Jesus took away our sicknesses at Calvary, no genuine believer should ever be sick. Indeed, He died so that Christians can always be in good health.

What Happens When Believers Get Sick

However Christians do get sick. How does that fit with the doctrine of “healing in the atonement?” This is explained in a couple of different ways.

First, it is said that the believer has either failed to claim his or her healing, which they rightly deserve because of the death of Jesus Christ, or they have some sin their life for which they are sick. In this case, the sickness would be a result of a divine judgment from God.

Whatever the case may be, the illness is entirely the responsibility of the person who is sick. Indeed, it is the supposedly the fault of no one else. This is because the theory assumes that it is always the will of God for Christians to be healthy.

Thus, sickness for the believer is a result of either lack of faith on their part, or some sin in their life. If someone who claims to be a believer in Christ Jesus remains sick, then that person’s Christian faith become suspect. This is because it is assumed that no true Christian can remain sick.

Response

This theory, while popular, has no biblical basis whatsoever. In fact, the Bible never says that Jesus Christ died for our diseases – He died for our sins. A number of points need to be made.

Sickness Is Wrongly Equated with Sin

For one thing, this theory confuses sin with its results – sickness. They are not the same thing. No one in Scripture was ever punished for being sick. Indeed, they were punished for being sinful. Sickness is not sin. Indeed, it is the result of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Therefore, at its very core, this theory confuses sickness with sin.

Jesus Forgave Sin and Healed Diseases: He Never Forgave Disease

We are told that Jesus Christ forgave sin and healed disease. There is no biblical example of Him forgiving someone because they had a disease. While disease can be brought about by sin, the Bible never confuses the two. Neither should we.

The Theory of Healing in the Atonement

However there are a number of passages in Scripture that are appealed to that supposedly prove the doctrine of “healing in the atonement.” They are as follows.

Argument 1: We Are Healed by Jesus’ Wounds

One verse which is often cited for “healing in the atonement” is found in First Peter. It reads as follows.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24 NRSV).

Peter says that by His wounds believers have been healed. This is a citation from the prophet Isaiah. He wrote the following.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed (Isaiah 53:5 NRSV).

From this verse, many claim physical healing from God is based upon the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Christ died on the cross, He took upon Himself the physical suffering we experience in this life. Consequently, according to this theory, no believer needs to be physically ill because Jesus Christ has taken our sicknesses when He died on Calvary. He has died so that we do not have to be infirmed.

Response: The Healing Is from Sin Not Illness

In context, however, this verse refers to healing from sin, not sicknesses, diseases and physical infirmities. In point of fact, it does not promise immediate healing from disease. Indeed, Peter makes it clear that the healing is from our sins. He said that the death of Christ makes us “free from sin.” Jesus Christ took upon Himself the penalty for our sins on the cross. Nothing is said about physical ailments that trouble us in this life.

Therefore, it is wrong to use this verse to claim that Jesus Christ died so that we can be healthy in this life. This is not what the passage is saying and it is not what Scripture teaches on the subject of the meaning of Jesus’ death.

Argument 2: Jesus Healed Everyone He Came in Contact With

A second argument comes from the life of Jesus Christ. As we read the New Testament we find that the Lord healed everyone that He came in contact with. These healings of Jesus are used as examples to illustrate that God wishes everyone to be healed who comes into contact with Him. There are no exceptions to this. If Jesus healed everyone then why shouldn’t He heal everyone now since He is still here upon the earth through the Person of the Holy Spirit? Therefore, it follows that every Christian should be healed.

Response to the Claim Jesus Healed Everyone

Does not the fact that Jesus healed all who were sick and had compassion upon the multitudes show us that God wants everyone well? Not at all. While Jesus healed out of compassion for the people His healings were also a sign that He was the promised Messiah. In fact, this was their main purpose.

Indeed, when John the Baptist sent two messengers to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, the answer given was as follows.

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Matthew 11:4-6 NRSV).

His healings demonstrated that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Indeed, it was not that He wanted everyone in good health. Jesus never taught that it was God’s desire for everyone to be made healthy.

Jesus Did Not Heal Everyone in Which He Came into Contact

In addition, Jesus did not heal every sick person whom He came into contact with. The Gospel of John gives us the following account about Jesus healing a lame man in Jerusalem.

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed (John 5:1-3 NRSV).

This account goes on to say how Jesus healed one lame man at the pool of Bethesda. However this man was the only one that He healed – all others Jesus left there with their ailments.

Therefore, it is not true that Jesus healed everyone that He came into contact with. He did not. In fact, the Lord left many people in their sickly and infirmed state.

An Instance of Jesus Withdrawing from Healing People

We also find an instance recorded in Mark’s gospel where Jesus withdrew from healing those who were sick and infirmed. The Bible says the following.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons (Mark 1:32-39 NIV).

In this episode we discover Jesus healing those who came to Him at the city of Capernaum. The healings lasted into the evening. The next day, when more people were waiting to be healed, Jesus was nowhere to be found. He had withdrawn from the crowds.

Simon Peter wanted to know why He had left the area. Jesus told Simon that the reason for His withdrawal is that His purpose was to preach elsewhere. The inference is that He was not there mainly to heal. When He went to the neighboring towns, the Scripture emphasizes Jesus’ preaching – not His healing ministry. Indeed, this was the reason as to why God the Son came into our world.

Jesus Often Withdrew from Sick People

We find a similar event in Luke’s gospel. It is recorded as follows.

But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray (Luke 5:15, 16 NRSV).

In these verses Luke summarizes Jesus’ behavior toward the multitudes. Instead of remaining and healing everyone who was sick, Jesus often withdrew from them and prayed. The fact that it says that He often did this indicates that this behavior was repeated more than once. Jesus often left the crowds, with their illnesses, and went away to pray. This is certainly inconsistent with the idea that He wanted to heal everyone.

All Healing Are Temporary by Nature

Finally, it must be remembered that even Jesus’ healings were only temporary and on the surface. All of the people living at His time eventually died. No one is ever permanently healed in this life. Indeed, those who are in good health are temporarily in good health. There will come a time when all of us will experience ill health.

However, those who have believed the promises of God with respect to the message of Jesus have received everlasting life. Everlasting life includes a new body that will never perish. This is our hope. It is not complete health in this life.

Argument 3: Jesus Took Our Diseases upon Himself

Scripture teaches that Jesus Christ took all of the diseases and illnesses of humanity upon Himself. We read about this in Matthew’s gospel. It says.

That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:16, 17 ESV).

This is a quotation from Isaiah the prophet where it reads as follows.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4 NRSV).

This, it is argued showed that Christ died for our sicknesses as well as our sins. Indeed, it says that He took “all of our diseases.”

What do the words infirmities and sicknesses refer to? While some have thought it to be emotional illnesses, it is argued that the context makes it very clear that physical illnesses are in mind. The parallel passage in Mark makes this beyond all doubt. It reads as follows.

And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:34 NRSV).

Therefore, the Scripture teaches that Jesus took the illnesses of certain people upon Himself.

When Did Jesus Bear Our Sicknesses?

The question now arises as to how and when Jesus bore our sicknesses and sorrows. There are two basic views: during His public ministry or on the cross at Calvary.

Response: Jesus Did Not Take Away Our Sicknesses by His Death on the Cross

It is a popular view is that Jesus took the sicknesses of every human being when He died on the cross. His death, it is argued, was not only for the sin of the world, it also was for the sicknesses of humanity. Because He died upon the cross, people do not have to live in sin, and people do not have to live in sickness. While this view is popular, it has no basis whatsoever in Holy Scripture.

The Bible Does Not Say That Jesus’ Death Took Our Sicknesses

As we look at the teaching of the Scripture we find that the death of Jesus Christ is always mentioned in context with sin – never with sickness. This is true in the context of Matthew’s statement of Jesus’ fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.

Indeed, it was during His public ministry that Jesus took the sicknesses of people away when He healed them. The Bible says that Jesus immediately took the illnesses away. This is what the passage is teaching.

Thus, Jesus took on the sicknesses of these people while He was still living. There is no mention of Jesus’ death in this context. The taking away of the sicknesses is what Jesus did during His public ministry. Consequently, it was what Jesus did while He was living that fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy – it was not His death that took away sickness.

In addition, the passage does not say Jesus suffered for our sickness; rather it says He “took” them. The Greek word used in this verse means, “to take away.” It is never used in the New Testament with respect to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. When He was here upon the earth, Jesus gave people relief by taking away their sickness. Thus, this passage says nothing about those living after the time of Jesus.

Argument 4: Divine Healing Is a Sign That the Kingdom of God Has Come

It is also argued that divine healing is the sign that God’s kingdom has come to the earth. In fact, one of the signs of the arrival of God’s kingdom was the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the arrival of the kingdom He gave them commands concerning what they were to do. Luke records Jesus giving His disciples the following command.

Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you’ (Luke 10:9 HCSB).

In this context, healing the sick is equated with the message of the kingdom of God. The reign of God has arrived on this earth through the Person of the Messiah. Sickness, demons, and even death are under the control of Jesus as well as those whom He has sent. Therefore, we should expect to see these same healing miracles continuing to this very day.

Response

No Bible-believing Christian denies the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. There is, however, a difference of opinion as to why He healed. The Bible says that the healing signs were to demonstrate His identity. Jesus said.

But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.(John 10:38 NLT).

Jesus claimed that the works which He did testified to His identity as Messiah. They were mainly for that purpose.

He also told the people of His day that they should believe in Him because of the miraculous works which He did. John also records Him saying the following.

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves (John 14:11 NKJV).

The healing signs were to demonstrate His unique identity. This is how Jesus explained the signs which He performed. Indeed, it was not primarily to make sick and infirmed people temporarily healthy.

We also find that Jesus rebuked faith that was based solely on signs. John records Jesus saying the following to the people.

Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48 NRSV).

Jesus made it clear that we should not be merely looking for signs and wonders. Indeed, they merely point to a greater truth; Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to our planet.

The Kingdom Was Rejected

Healing was indeed part of the message that the kingdom of God had come to earth. Yet the people rejected the King and His kingdom. The kingdom will only appear when Jesus Christ comes again. Everyone agrees the kingdom of God has not arrived in the fullness that the Bible promises. Until then, there is no promise that those who inherit the kingdom will be free from sickness, pain, and troubles.

To the contrary, the Bible says that those who followed Jesus would experience all these types of suffering. Paul the apostle wrote.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18 HCSB).

We will suffer in this world. This is something which Scripture assures us will happen. Indeed, Christians are not immune from physical and mental suffering. Each of us can certainly testify that this is true. Yet we also find that suffering can have positive benefits. Paul wrote to the Romans about what suffering can bring about..

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3 NRSV).

Therefore, we should not assume that with the First Coming of Jesus Christ all sickness and disease has been done away with for those who believe in Him. Indeed, they have not been done away with yet.

Argument 5: We Will Do Greater Works than Jesus

Another argument we find for healing in the atonement is that Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would actually do greater works that He did. John records Him saying the following.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father (John 14:12 NASB).

Why then, should we assume we cannot do at least what Jesus did – heal the sick? Jesus healed the sick and He then said we would do greater works than Him. Does this not mean that we too will be able to heal all the sick?

Response

Again, we point out that Jesus did not attempt to heal everyone that was sick. Furthermore believers have done greater works than Jesus. There is no record in the gospels of mass conversion as there was on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 people believed in Jesus Christ.

There have been numerous times in the history of the church where, on a single occasion, massive numbers have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. These are greater works than Jesus did. The greater, therefore, must refer to greater in scope, rather than greater in quality. In fact, who can claim to do works greater in quality than Jesus? None of us! We cannot die for the sins of the world or raise ourselves from the dead. Only Jesus could do this. Therefore, the “greater” must refer to the scope of our works rather than the quality.

Consequently, this argument about believers doing “greater works” does not mean that there is healing in the atonement.

Argument 6: Everyone Is to Be in Good Health

There is also a verse in Third John that is often cited by those who believe God wants every believer in good health. It reads as follows.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul (3 John 2 NRSV).

John said that he prayed that “all” of the believers would be found in good health. He would not have written this unless it was a possibility. Thus, it is God’s desire that believers remain healthy at all times. Christians are to be in good health as well as prospering in this life.

Response

Good health for every believer in Jesus Christ is not what this verse is teaching. For one thing, this is a greeting from John, not a promise. In fact, it was a normal greeting in that day for people who wrote letters to one another. It reflects the desire of the writer that he finds the recipient of his letter in a healthy and prosperous state. It is not a promise that every believer will always be physically well and financially prosperous. Indeed, there is no promise involved in this verse. None whatsoever. Therefore, this verse should not be “claimed” as a promise of good health for all believers in Jesus Christ.

Argument 7: Jesus Does Not Change: Therefore His Healing Ministry Continues

There is also the argument for healing in the atonement due to the changeless nature of God. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus does not change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).

We know that Jesus healed people. If Jesus does not change, and that He healed people when He was here on earth, He must be still healing today. This is simple logic.

In addition, the Book of Acts says it records the continuation of what Jesus began to do. We read the following words.

In my first book, Theophilus, I wrote about what Jesus began to do and teach. This included everything from the beginning {of his life} until the day he was taken to heaven. Before he was taken to heaven, he gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles, whom he had chosen (Acts 1:1, 2 God’s Word).

Since the early church continued the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, as is recorded in the Book of Acts, we should still expect it today.

Response

Jesus Christ certainly does not change in His character. However it is possible that some of the ways in which He works with humanity will change. He may give some gifts such as healing, for a short time and only for specific reasons.

However, those who reject healing in the atonement say that His ways have not changed. Indeed, He has never wanted everyone to be in perfect health since the Fall of humanity. Therefore, in this respect, the Lord has not changed at all.

In fact, as we examine the totality of Scripture we will find that all the great saints of God became ill and eventually died. Their illnesses were not attributed to some sin in their lives. To the contrary, it was the normal course of aging. Never do we find someone condemned for getting sick, growing old and dying.

Argument 8: The Messenger of Satan – Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

The thorn in the flesh that the Apostle Paul experienced was explicitly called a “messenger of Satan.” He wrote the following words to the Corinthians about this problem which he was suffering from.

Especially because of the excessive number of revelations that I’ve had. Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7 God’s Word).

This, it is argued means that Satan is behind every illness. Indeed, why would Paul call his ailment a messenger of Satan if the devil was not behind this, as well as every other illness and infirmity?

Response

Although Satan may have been the one behind Paul’s thorn in the flesh, it does not mean that he should be delivered from this ailment. In fact, Paul never assumed that he should or would be healed from this problem which he constantly faced. Instead, Scripture says that Paul “asked” the Lord for healing. The Lord refused to heal Paul. Paul accepted this answer.

Furthermore, Paul specifically said that this problem was for a distinct purpose; to keep him from being too conceited. While Satan may have sent him the ailment, it was God’s way of keeping Paul humble.

There is something else we must stress. The fact that this particular ailment had its origin in Satan does it mean that he is behind every illness. At times, it is the Lord Himself who sent sicknesses to believers.

We read in Exodus that the Lord said to Moses.

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11 ESV).

Thus the Scripture says that the Lord Himself can send sickness as well as physical infirmities.

God is ultimately the One who controls our health situation. Indeed, if He wants us to be healthy, we will be healthy. Nothing can stop this from happening.

Argument 9: None of These Diseases Will Come upon You

It is also contended that the Bible promises that those who obey the Lord will not have the sicknesses, diseases, and infirmities as do the unbelievers. We read of this in the Book of Exodus. It says.

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26 NRSV).

Instead of seeing healing as a sign that accompanies salvation, it should be seen as part of the makeup of the entire person. God wants each believer in Jesus Christ to be physically well, as well as spiritually well. While the unbelieving world may be experiencing sickness and disease it is claimed that the believer need not suffer in this manner.

Response: This Has Nothing to Do with the Issue of God’s Healing Believers

However this promise, in context, was directed at the nation Israel as they were on their way to the Promised Land. The diseases that were brought upon the Egyptians were the various plagues that God had just placed upon them. Israel was promised that these plagues would not come upon them if they were obedient to the Lord. What this infers is that if Israel were disobedient, then many of these plagues would come upon them.

These words have nothing to do with the New Testament church. They are given in an entirely different context and it would be wrong to apply them to present-day believers.

Argument 10: The Bible Sometimes Equates Sickness with Sin

Another argument is the equation of sickness with sin. Indeed, the Bible sometimes equates sickness with sin. For those who celebrated the Lord’s Supper unworthily, the Apostle Paul said the following.

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Corinthians 11:30 NRSV).

Sin can result in sickness. There is no doubt about this.

Response: Sin and Sickness Are Not Always Equated

While sin can result in sickness we also find that sickness is not always equated with sin. In the Gospel of John the following episode is recorded.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3 ESV).

Jesus said that the sickness of this individual was for the glory of God. He did not blame the person or anyone else for this man’s sickness.

For His Own Reasons God Allows People to Be Sick

We again emphasize that God has said that He is the One who allows people to be sick. In fact, the Lord has specifically said that it is He who wounds and He which heals.

See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand (Deuteronomy 32:39 TNIV).

Therefore, the Lord may be the One who sends sickness and infirmities to people.

The Old Testament records the Lord saying to Moses that He makes people deaf, mute and blind. We read.

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11 NIV).

Therefore, it is possible that sickness can come from the Lord Himself.

Indeed, the psalmist understood that he could learn from his times of suffering. We read his words as follows.

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes (Psalm 119:71 RSV).

Notice that he said that it was “good” that he was afflicted. In fact, he said it would help him learn God’s truth.

In the same context in this psalm, we read.

Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I keep thy word (Psalm 119:67 RSV).

The psalmist learned a lesson from his affliction. We can also. Thus, for His own purposes, God allows people to be sick.

Jesus’ Ability Is Emphasized Not His Willingness

We also discover that Scripture does not place the emphasis in the willingness of Jesus to heal but rather His ability to heal. Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am able to heal you?” He did not ask, “Do you believe that I am willing to heal you?” The question was never asked about His willingness, only His ability.

A person lacks faith when they assume God is unable to heal them because it doubts His power. However, a person does not lack faith when questioning the willingness of God to heal. For reasons known only to God, there are times that God’s will is that a person remain ill or even die.

There Are No Verses Which Promise Healing to Everyone

We conclude that there are no Scripture verses that specifically promise healing for those who have a disease. God may have a purpose, beyond our comprehension, in allowing someone’s sickness. Hence, we pray for His will to be done.

Jesus Christ forgave sin and healed diseases. He never forgave someone for having a disease. God punishes people because of the sins they commit, not because of the numbers of diseases they may have.

Death is the penalty for sin, not disease. Jesus Christ died for our sins, not our diseases. Diseases are a result of sin – they are not the cause of it.

Sickness Will Eventually Be Done Away With

While Jesus Christ did not specifically dies for our sicknesses, sickness will eventually be done away with. This is because the death of Christ, in taking away sin, will also eventually take away all of the results of sin. This includes all sicknesses and infirmities. When sin entered the world it brought about many devastating things. This included sickness and death. It is in this sense that Jesus’ death takes away sickness. However, the actual taking away of sickness will not happen until He returns and sets up His everlasting kingdom.

This is why Paul tells us that the ultimate healing of the body waits for a future time. He explained it this way to the Romans.

However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly. We groan as we eagerly wait for our adoption, the freeing of our bodies from sin (Romans 8:23 God’s Word).

Our bodies groan or long for the days when we will be freed from the results of sin. This includes all forms of sickness.

Scripture also says that our new body will be given to us when Jesus Christ returns. Paul explained this to the Philippians.

He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere. (Philippians 3:21 NLT).

Note that the Lord will change these weak bodies of ours into something glorious. Indeed, it will be a body like His. The Apostle John wrote about a day when all pain and suffering will be gone. He put it this way in the Book of Revelation.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4 NKJV).

What a wonderful day that will be! However, until that time, sickness will be a reality for believer and unbeliever.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul acknowledged this as he wrote the following words to the Philippians.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Philippians 1:29 ESV).

This does not mean that God never heals today. He does heal when it is His will to heal someone.

In sum, the arguments which are given for “healing in the atonement” are not convincing. Thus, we should not assume that it is God’s will that everyone be healed from their illness or physical infirmity. Indeed, if the Lord does want someone to be healed, they will be healed.

Summary – Question 15
What about Verses That Seem to Promise Healing? (Healing in the Atonement)

The doctrine of healing in the atonement assumes that Jesus Christ died for our sickness as well as our sins. This means that every one who trusts Him as Savior should be free from all ailments as well as sin.

In addition, there are certain passages that are used to teach that God wants each and every believer in good health all of the time. Is this what the Bible says on the subject? Should every Christian expect to be in good health at all times?

Although there are certain verses that are cited that seem to promise complete physical healing for believers a closer inspection shows that this is not the case. The evidence is as follows.

While some appeal to the passage which says “by the wounds of Christ we are healed” to claim physical healing for their sicknesses this passage is actually teaching about healing from sin, not sickness. Therefore, this verse cannot be used to prove that God always wants us well. Indeed, the context will not allow it.

The argument that Jesus healed everyone with whom He came into contact is also without merit. In fact, Jesus did not heal everyone with whom He mingled with. Thus, Jesus’ behavior toward the sick cannot be used for claiming “healing in the atonement.” In fact, it shows that it was not His mission to heal everyone.

The Bible does say that Jesus Christ took away the sicknesses of the people. However, He did this during His public ministry when He healed the sick and infirmed that were brought to Him. The healing of the sick would be signs to the people of Israel that the Messiah had arrived. The fact that Jesus healed these multitudes before His death on the cross demonstrated that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Thus, when it says He “took our diseases” it is not speaking about the results His death would bring.

Divine healing of the sick was indeed a sign that God’s kingdom had come to earth as those who believe healing in the atonement have claimed. However, that kingdom which Jesus offered was rejected by the people. Therefore, we should not necessarily expect the supernatural healings to continue. The kingdom has not yet arrived because the King is not present.

Though Jesus said that believers will do greater deeds than He performed, these works are greater in scope, not quality. Indeed, who could do anything qualitative greater than Jesus Christ? Today believers do greater works than Christ because millions upon millions of Christians are doing the work of the Lord in all parts of the globe.

Often a verse found in Third John is used to claim believers are promised complete health. John tells his readers that he wants them to be in good health and prospering. Yet this verse is not a promise at all but rather a greeting from John. It was John’s desire that the believers would be found in good health and prospering but this was not God’s promise nor was it His guarantee. Indeed, God never promises constant health and prosperity for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

The argument that Jesus Christ is the same today as He was when He was here upon the earth does not prove healing in the atonement. In fact, it proves the opposite. It has never been God’s desire that everyone remain well. A search of the Scripture will clearly demonstrate this fact. Indeed, all of the great saints of God aged and eventually died. We do not find that this was attributed to sin in their lives. Instead, it was merely the normal course of aging which all of us must face.

Furthermore, while the character of God does not change, at times, His methods in which He deals with humanity may change. We must allow the Lord to do what He wants to do when He wants to do it.

The thorn in the flesh which the Apostle Paul received was indeed a messenger from Satan but this does not mean that all sickness comes from the devil. In fact, the Lord Himself has stated that He sends diseases and infirmities upon people. Thus, all sickness cannot be blamed upon the devil.

Scripture does say that none of the diseases will come upon God’s people. Yet this passage was specifically directed at the people of Israel who had left Egypt. It was referring to the plagues the Egyptians suffered. None of the diseases they suffered would come upon God’s people, Israel. However, there is no promise given for modern-day believers that they will always be in good health.

The Bible does, at times, equate sickness with sin. Yet it does not always do this. There are other factors. Furthermore, we are never told to pray for forgiveness from sickness. While sin can result in sickness this is not always the case.

We conclude that there is no promise for believers today that they will always be healed from their sicknesses or that they will never get sick. Neither Scripture nor personal experience teaches us that every Christians will be free from illness or infirmity in this life. The promise of the complete healing of the body will only occur when Jesus Christ comes again for those who have believed in Him. It will not take place before this time.

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CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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