God heals. The Scriptures contain and reveal some of the significant occasions when God healed people who were sick, diseased, or injured. It is easy to see why many people regard sickness as the result of sin and therefore divine judgment. From this perspective it is apparent why people would regard sickness as the opponent of God’s will and conclude that God never wills for anyone to be sick. This kind of view of God and the Scriptures can lead people to feel condemned when they are sick, or even worse, to regard others who are sick as being especially punished by God. Some people regard prayer and in particular healing in answer to prayer, as a powerful apologetic aid.
When Christ of Nazareth ministered, He regularly healed the sick and demonstrated God’s compassion for the hurting by healing them. As Christ commissioned His disciples, He empowered them to heal the sick and thus continue to minister the healing ministry of Christ. When Christ graced the Church beyond the original apostolic band, He chose to gift the Church with “gifts of healings” which indicates that the ministry of healing was never meant to be limited to the original 12 disciples.
DEVELOPING A THEOLOGY OF HEALING
¶ And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10:46-47, 51-52
There is great theological insight about Divine Healing from the story of “Blind Bartimaeus”. Consider the following-
- Bartimaeus somehow knew that Jesus was able to heal. Faith is not blind.
- Secondly, he called out to Christ for ‘mercy’. Mercy is intrinsically linked to grace. Bartimaeus did not consider that he had a ‘right’ to healing. He was looking for mercy, or, grace.
- He was then opposed and somewhat mocked. Those who believe that God is the Healer and act upon that belief by prayer should not be surprised if they are opposed or mocked by others.
- Christ invites him to make his request. God invites His children to know Him as their Healer.
- Christ saw Bartimaeus’s faith and granted him his healing. It wasn’t because Bartimaeus had a certain level or kind of faith, rather, the fact that he regarded Christ as the Healer and approached Him on that basis demonstrated that he indeed had sincere faith.
- When Christ healed him, Bartimaeus was healed – there was no need for him to “confess it”, “renounce his sickness” or even pretend that he was healed when He clearly was not!
Sickness, pain, injury, and disease can be used by God for His glory. We may not always appreciate how this is possible (especially when it is us who is sick – or even worse: when it is our loved ones). It’s too easy to be too simplistic about sickness by claiming that it is “of the devil” or “because of sin” or “an ancestral curse”. The story of Christ healing the blind man in John 9:1-34 is very telling about some of the reasons why some people get sick, and also why God might chose to heal some.
HEALING IN THE ATONEMENT?
“Healing in the Atonement” refers to the idea that when Jesus died on the Cross, He died to save people from sin and to take upon Himself the effects of sin (namely: sicknesses). Proponents of this idea cite Isaiah 53:5 and First Peter 2:24 to support this view. “Healing In The Atonement” is also referred to by saying- Jesus died for your sins and sicknesses.
Some teach that the Cross (or, “The Atonement”) of Christ was, and is, the basis for God to be able to heal today.
“Sermons, pictures, lectures, education, hospitals, and institutions have never, nor will ever bring the masses of heathen to the feet of Christ, but the simple demonstration of God’s miracle power will, and is turning them to the true Christ by millions. I have personally seen more souls saved in a single night, preaching the gospel of healing for soul and body than during the entire seven years I preached only forgiveness to the sinners…Sin and sickness need be borne only once. And since it is written that Jesus Christ has already borne them, then you need not bear them. If you bear them, then Jesus’ bearing of them was entirely in vain, seeing that you have not been benefited. But I declare, that since Jesus bore them, you and I need never bear them and so by His stripes we are healed’ and through His blood we have ‘remission of sins.’”
T.L. Osborne, “Healing The Sick and Casting out Devils”
However, before the Cross, God healed people but could not yet regenerate people since the Holy Spirit had not yet been given as He was subsequent to the Cross. In Exodus 15:26 God declared Himself to the Healer of diseases. There is no Biblical basis for arguing that the Cross was the means by which God could physically heal.
Thankfully, God has designed human bodies to ‘auto-heal’ to a limited extent. That is, under normal circumstances, our bodies have the amazing ability to repair themselves when we tear our skin, break a bone, get infected, or catch certain viruses. Sometimes God speeds up this recovery, sometimes He heals instantly.
Even under the Old Covenant the Psalmist could sing-
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
God healed people miraculously even during the Old Covenant era. In fact, the Bible records God healing every malady except blindness under the Old Covenant! And while God forgave sins and redeemed people in Old Covenant times, He did not regenerate people’s spirits (causing them to be “born again“). Spiritual regeneration was only possible because the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh which was only possible because Christ died, rose again, and ascended, triumphant. But this is not the case with physical healing.
Some will protest at this thought by citing Isaiah 53 where it predicted that Christ would heal by bearing people’s sicknesses and being beaten for people’s healing- by his stripes we are healed.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
But there two striking New Testament allusions to this reference. The first one is found in Matthew 8 –
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 understood Isaiah’s prophecy to have been fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Christ – well before the Cross!
The second major reference to Isaiah’s prophecy is found in First Peter 2. But upon closer examination of First Peter 2:24 it becomes apparent that the “healing” Peter is referring to is ‘spiritual’ healing, that is, it is salvation from sin. This becomes even more apparent when we read the next verse (First Peter 2:25).
 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
First Peter 2:24-25
But if we accept that healing is in the Atonement, then we have to ask why then some sick people are not healed. Two proponents of this view state that their reasons why people are not healed-
“Healing does not fail because of the will of God, but because of the unbelief of his children.”
Richard Vineyard, Assemblies of God In America
“The only thing in existence that can limit the power of the Lord Jesus Christ is our unbelief.”
Thus, many sick Christians have been condemned for their lack of faith when they are not healed because of this poor understanding of what the Bible says about healing. Some very charismatic Bible teachers argue that if a believer has faith and is filled with the Holy Spirit, they can not get sick.
My greatest discovery about health, prosperity and spiritual blessing was the text 3 John 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” … What’s the first word? ‘Beloved.’ Say it, say, I’m beloved of God.’ Look up and tell Him, ‘God, I’m Your beloved. I’m going to quit hating myself. And, God, You want me to prosper and be in health, even as my soul prospers.’ Now, don’t you feel better? That’s got healing in it, friend! Healing for you, the person, your total self. And the whole of God’s power is back of His wish for you to be well and have your needs met.”
Oral Roberts, “A Daily Guide To Miracles And Successful Living Through Seed-Faith”
By understanding that healing is an act of God’s grace, such condemnation can be avoided. This is reinforced by First Corinthians 12:9 which lists healing as a grace-gift from God.
Our ultimate healing is not merely physical. It is spiritual in the sense of our broken relationship with God being healed through Christ’s Atonement. This is not to undermine physical (temporal) healing, but it is to understand its importance from an eternal perspective. When we pray for people to be healed and God responds in His grace by healing them, God is glorified – thus, He has supplied a “sign” and a “wonder” to point people to the ultimate healing of our souls. There is no “law” of, or “right” to, healing. It is the result of God’s grace which is activated in the recipient through God-given faith (Gal. 3:5).
Because we worship a God who heals we should pray for the sick to be healed, ask God to heal us when we are sick, and invite others to pray for us when we are sick.
© Dr. Andrew Corbett,
25th February 2011, Legana Tasmania
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