|By His Stripes Are We Healed?
There is a popular teaching today, especially amongst Pentecostals and Charismatics, that Christ on the cross took upon Himself all our diseases and, subsequently, all physically afflicted believers, through the exercise of personal faith in this "truth," may realize a divine healing. However, what must be honestly and seriously considered is if this teaching is Biblically based or not.
Does Scripture support the doctrine that at the cross Christ took upon Himself our diseases to the effect that if a Christian conjures up enough faith or the right faith-formula the reality of Christ's work on the cross will be invoked and he will be healed of physical afflictions? Let's take a look:
The Scriptural basis for this doctrine is the well known Isaiah chapter 53, verse four:
An Apostolic Teaching?
Interestingly, only Matthew references Isa. 53:4 and it is important to recognize that he applies it not to Christ's suffering and atoning death on the cross, but only to His healing ministry to national Israel (see Matt. 8:17).
Isaiah 53 starts out by describing One who was to grow up before God like a tender shoot, not stately or attractive, despised and forsaken, a man of sorrows (pains) and acquainted with grief (sickness). Still describing this One he goes on to say in verse four, "surely our griefs (sicknesses, with which this One was acquainted) He Himself bore."
Matthew, when referencing verse four, employs the Greek word "bastazo" for "bore." It means to carry as a burden, such as to bear one another's burdens. And so Matthew is saying that Jesus, according to His mercy and the power of God, being acquainted with Israel's sicknesses, and as their Messiah (see Lk. 7:18-23), healed their sick and demon-possessed (Matt. 8:16-17). No mention of this being a work of atonement on Christ's cross.
Isaiah's Suffering Servant
Isaiah does not address the DEATH of the suffering Servant until verse five:
Here Isaiah states that He was pierced through "for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities."
This is atonement language. It is dealing with transgressions and iniquities. Disease is not the issue nor is it mentioned.
A Guilt Offering
A "guilt offering" has to do with sins, not disease. Unlike sin, disease is not a moral issue between man and God requiring the death of His Son.
The sacrificial death of Christ dealt with man's sins. "For the wages of sin is death." Some may acquire disease because of a sinful lifestyle, however, it is sin that separates man from God, not disease:
Scripture reveals it was reconciliation with God that was provided for the sinner through Christ's work on the cross:
It is sin that made Adam's posterity "ungodly" - not disease. His shed blood justifies the ungodly through faith and guarantees our safekeeping from the future wrath of God.
The Consequence...Not The Cause
Disease is a consequence of man's fall in the Garden, however, nowhere is it Biblically taught that man's diseases were atoned for through the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ. His death and shed blood were to adjudicate the moral issue centered around man's sinful state acquired through Adam and the individual's personal sins.
Notice Peter references "by His stripes we are healed" to "sin" and the believer subsequently living to righteousness. According to Scripture, physical healings are not based on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but on the power/will of God according to His grace/mercy. That is why when sinners believe in Christ they are, at that time, pardoned forever of sins but are not instantly healed of all diseases.
Miraculous healings and other miracles attested to the veracity of the Apostolic message after the ascension of Christ, but the Apostolic message never taught Christ bore our diseases on the cross.
Muddy the Waters
A popular talk radio host, Hank Hanegraaff, often repeats an adage that "healing was in the atonement but not guaranteed." Two immediate problems that arise from his cliche are (1) by that statement, though Mr. Hanegraaff does not teach that Christ bore or diseases on the cross, nevertheless, he agrees with the erroneous notion that disease is a moral obstacle between God and man requiring the blood sacrifice of Christ which, as shown above, has absolutely no Biblical support; and (2) if one may suggest that healing is "in the atonement" but "not guaranteed," then why couldn't one just as easily claim forgiveness of sins is in the atonement but not guaranteed?
Probably Mr. Hanegraaff is suggesting that because of the atonement of Christ God will eventually bring in the eternal state of righteousness where sickness and disease will not exist. This is true. However the absence of physical infirmities in the eternal state is not because "healing was in the atonement," but because those reconciled to God and redeemed from sin through faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross on their behalf will then be existing in their glorified bodies. A gracious, creative act of God, not a "healing" act of God based on Christ's atoning blood sacrifice for diseases.
Lastly it should be pointed out that all of Christ's healings were accomplished before He went to the cross. It is never taught or even suggested in Scripture that Christ was morally righteous to heal Israel's physical afflictions because the cross was anticipated. He never said to those whom He healed, "your disease has been atoned for." Nor should we!
Written by: Gary Nystrom