Healing, Isaiah 53, and a Conversation about It All
This blog post just may be important to someone (or not), but I want to bring awareness to the fact* that every day, one in four** Christians will experience the following conversation in one form or another, as demonstrated by Well-Intentioned Christian (WIC) and Sufferer (S):
WIC: Hi, how are you? Are you healed yet?
S: No, I’m not, but I’m good. Thanks for asking.
WIC: You only have to have faith. God cured my friend/friend’s grandmother/friend’s grandmother’s milkman, from two towns over, of diabetes/gout/lactose intolerance; He can heal you too!
S: I agree. God can do whatever He wants. But He chose not to heal the apostle Paul, and if He chooses not to heal me, then I’m in good company.
WIC: You know, in Isaiah it is written, ‘By His stripes we are healed’. You are healed already, because Jesus gave you the victory! You just have to believe and claim the healing for yourself. Jesus doesn’t want you to suffer.
The conversation then ends by claiming more promises and rebuking the devil, or hopefully, with some gentle correction and prayer.
(end of dialogue)
Dear reader, due to afflictions, I am one of the one in four Christians who will have that conversation today, and if I don’t have it today, I will have it twice tomorrow. Having this conversation is always tough on me because I realize Well-Intentioned Christian means well (hence her name); consequently, correcting a caring, well-meaning friend on this topic is difficult.
Even so, we need to interpret that particular passage of Isaiah correctly. As it is, the number of people who have been affected and misled by the Word of Faith movement’s twisting of this passage is shocking and worrying; here is one example:
You have been set free from the curse of sickness by Jesus’ finished work at the cross (see Isa 53:4–5). Believe & proclaim this truth!
— Joseph Prince (@JosephPrince) October 17, 2015
Friends, until we receive our glorified bodies, we are not “free from the curse of sickness”; otherwise Christians would never die.
Let’s look at the passage, Isaiah 53:4-5:
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
Jesus was pierced and crushed for our iniquities–our sin. The context clearly implies spiritual healing–Christ’s substitutionary atonement; peace with God through Jesus–not physical healing.
This exegesis from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:
In these verses is an account of the sufferings of Christ; also of the design of his sufferings. It was for our sins, and in our stead, that our Lord Jesus suffered. We have all sinned, and have come short of the glory of God. Sinners have their beloved sin, their own evil way, of which they are fond. Our sins deserve all griefs and sorrows, even the most severe. We are saved from the ruin, to which by sin we become liable, by laying our sins on Christ. This atonement was to be made for our sins. And this is the only way of salvation. Our sins were the thorns in Christ’s head, the nails in his hands and feet, the spear in his side. He was delivered to death for our offences. By his sufferings he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls. We may well endure our lighter sufferings, if He has taught us to esteem all things but loss for him, and to love him who has first loved us.”
We will receive (or be transformed into, if we are alive at the time) our healed, renewed, glorified bodies, in the future…when Jesus Christ returns. Christ himself will change our bodies (Phillipians 3:21), and thereafter there will be no more pain (Revelation 21:1-4).
I believe God still heals and we are to pray for healing (James 5:14) but healing is not guaranteed as Word of Faith preachers want you to believe. There is a low view of suffering when comfort and pleasure are focused on. In one breath, praise and thanks are given to our Savior who suffered on our behalf, then in the next breath, curses and rebukes are hurled at suffering. We are called to be patient in our trials and follow in the suffering footsteps of Christ (1 Peter 2:21).
The Treasures of the Thorn
The thorn that was given to the apostle Paul kept him from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Oh, but not only did Paul benefit from this affliction, but God–because He is so much greater than anyone else–also used the thorn to further His gospel, His work, His purposes. Obviously, there are benefits and riches in suffering that the Word of Faith movement misses because of its focus on earthly comfort. Here are some of those riches:
- Suffering reveals the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10)
- Suffering produces endurance, character, hope (Romans 5:3-5) and steadfastness (James 1:2-4)
- Suffering prepares us for eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)
- Suffering tests the genuineness of faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- Suffering allows us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Naturally, I would be thankful and overjoyed should God choose to heal me of my afflictions; however, what I desire most is not to miss the opportunity for growing in righteousness that the unexpected gift of suffering offers. I want to be equipped to comfort others. I desire endurance, character, and steadfastness. I want to be prepared for eternal glory. I want God to be glorified in my trials. I don’t want to waste my suffering.
Do I forget these things? Every day.
Do my words and attitude always reflect the character of a mature Christian? Not a chance.
It seems I need the suffering.
Soli Deo Gloria,
* Not a fact
** It could be higher or lower; I don’t know, because I made up the statistic