Thursday, October 6, 2005

Healing in the Atonement

Surely He has borne our griefs
  And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
  Smitten by God, and afflicted.

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.
(Isaiah 53:4-5)
Heard a bit of silliness on the radio tonight, as I rode down to Subway for dinner. Hank Hanegraaff was finishing up his broadcast (“The Bible Answer Man”) and, apparently, someone phoned in with a question about healing and the atonement (the work of Jesus on the cross).

Mr. Hanegraaff’s opinion is that healing is not guaranteed for us in this life. Though Isaiah 53:5 states, “By His stripes we are healed,” he maintains that this is not at all about physical, bodily healing, but solely about spiritual healing.

Isaiah 53 is a messianic passage. It foretells of the Messiah and the role He plays in God’s eternal plan. We understand this to be about Jesus. In verse five we see that “He was wounded for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities.” In verse six, we learn that He was not simply wounded because of them, but that He actually bore them in our place: “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Now, let’s turn our attention to verse 4 for a moment. It says that Messiah “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” The Hebrew words behind “griefs” and “sorrows” literally mean “sicknesses” and “pains.” Clearly, this is a reference to bodily afflictions and illnesses.

Hanegraaff does acknowledge that this is so, and is wise to do so. It is hard to deny, especially when Matthew’s Gospel, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, attributes this verse to the healing ministry of Jesus:

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast the spirits with a word, and healed al who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
(Matthew 8:16-17)
Isaiah 53:4 is undoubtedly about healing, including healing of the body. Christians who believe and teach that healing is included in the atonement often use this verse to show that. But more often than not, the reference to healing is made using verse 5, where it clearly states, “And by His stripes we are healed.” It is a good summary statement, and it is plain in the English text.

Hanegraaff finds that ironic. That is because he has convinced himself that verse 5 has absolutely nothing to do with bodily healing but is solely about spiritual healing. To his thinking, those of us who teach healing in the atonement might have reason to find bodily healing in verse 4, but since verse 5 is only about spiritual healing (to his way of thinking), it is totally off-base to use it to teach bodily healing.

That Hanegraaff would find that to be ironic struck me as silly and obtuse. What is truly ironic is that he would acknowledge bodily healing in verse 4 but totally deny it in verse 5.

He has somehow developed a disconnect between verses 4 and 5. He argues well how the healing in verse 5 is spiritual healing. But who denies that? No doubt, spiritual healing is included. But that does not mean that physical healing is thereby left out. To limit this verse to bodily healing would certainly be incorrect. But then, so is limiting it to spiritual healing.

Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between them — they are both present in the atonement. We don’t have to read bodily healing into that verse (which would be eisegesis). Rather, by exegesis, we discover that bodily healing is already present in that verse by its immediate context. Isaiah was not suddenly changing his topic to something completely different. No, he was simply expanding his topic.

It is perfectly within context to understand verse 5 as including bodily healing because it is specifically declared (in the Hebrew) in verse 4.

On the other hand, to deny that verse 5 includes bodily healing is to rip the verse from its context. You have to disconnect it from verse 4 to suppose that it has only to do with spiritual healing.

Bodily healing is just as much in the atonement as spiritual healing, and they both belong to all those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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