Biblical Christianity: God At Times Temporarily Heals According to His Will; But Final, Full Healing will Come at the Resurrection.
Biblical Christianity affirms the fact that God indeed heals people of their physical ailments from time to time. Thousands, perhaps millions of Christians could share their testimonies of what God has done for them in the area of physical healing. The Bible itself even encourages us to come to God for healing when we are sick (James 5:14-15). What must be taken into account, however, is the fact that the Bible says that our prayers (and desires) are answered according to the will of God (James 4:13-15, 1 John 5:14-15). We also must remember that even when the person is healed, such healing is of only temporal value; that is, every one who has ever been healed eventually grew old, got sick (again), and died (or died accidentally or through violence).
Many New Thought Movement teachers quote Isaiah 53:5, "and by His stripes we are healed," as a proof text to demonstrate that believers' physical health is guaranteed in Christ. The argument proceeds as follows:
a. The "stripes" of Isaiah 53:5 refer to the scars of Jesus' wounds received during his suffering and crucifixion.
b. The phrase, "we ARE healed" is in the perfect tense, which means that it is a condition that is already true.
c. Therefore, we have guaranteed physical healing NOW, as a result of the suffering of Christ if we "claim" it.
What then does this mean? First of all, consider the immediate context of Isaiah 53: (red face added for emphasis)
- (Vs. 5a) "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities."
- (Vs. 6) "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."
- (Vs. 8b) "Who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?"
- (Vs. 10a) "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering."
- (Vs. 11a, c) "As a result of the anguish of His soul, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities."
- (Vs. 12c) "Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors."
First of all, the immediate context of Isaiah 53:5 suggests that the phrase, "by His stripes we are healed," speaks of the healing of our relationship with God as a result of the then future (with relation to Isaiah) work of the Messiah. That is, He healed our "sin sickness" in order to bring us to God.
Secondly, we must consider the fact that most of those healed in the Bible, from the Old Testament (e.g. Naaman the Syrian) up to and including the Garden of Gethsemane (e.g. the soldier's ear) was healed BEFORE Jesus received even one stripe! In other words, "His stripes" were not even necessary to bring physical healing to most of the people healed in the Bible!
Thirdly, we must consider the only other, divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant information on this particular passage:
- 1 Peter 2:24 - "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds (KJV, 'stripes') you were healed" (parenthesis added).
Peter, under direct inspiration of God (he really had "revelation" knowledge) used Isaiah 53:5 as a proof text to show that Christ "bore our sins" to make us right with God, which is completely consistent with the immediate context of Isaiah 53, as we have already seen. So then, Isaiah's phrase, "by His stripes" isn't talking about physical healing at all. It speaks of something more permanent, the healing of our relationship with God. Permanent physical healing (Romans 8:23, "the redemption of our body") comes at the resurrection; when according to 1 Corinthians 15:52-55 (KJV):
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Finally, using the Law of Non-Contradiction again; it can be illustrated vividly that God does say NO at times, even to faithful followers. Consider this account:
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (emphasis mine)
These are the words of the Apostle Paul, as recorded in II Corinthians 12:7-9a. The same Paul, who was chosen as an Apostle by Jesus Christ himself. The same Paul who was chosen to write nearly half of the New Testament. The same Paul who is recorded to have "fought the good fight, and kept the faith." This Paul was denied a request for a healing. Why? Because God, again, was making a point: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." And what was Paul's response to this denial? Did he redirect his "faith filled words" and try again? Did he remind God that he was giving him permission? No! He simply believed God.
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecu-tions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (emphasis mine)
Followers of Positive Confession theology would do well to seek to emulate the attitude of tried and true men of biblical faith like the Apostle Paul, rather than that of men who would lapse into detailed denial, and take themselves and others through endless loops about having something as simple as a headache.