Is Physical Healing Provided in the Atonement?

by Charles F. Baker

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Every true Christian believes that spiritual healing, salvation of the soul from sin, is to be found only in the death of Christ, but there is disagreement as to whether His death is supposed to provide physical health also for the believer. Some teach that Christ bore our sicknesses upon the Cross as well as our sins, and that it is therefore as much the will of God that we be healed of sickness as to be saved from sin. Since salvation is received through faith, healing must come in the same manner, and if one is not healed it proves he doesn’t have faith. If the premise of this argument is true, i. e. that Christ died for our sickness and that God is not willing that any should be sick, then the above conclusion logically follows; but we ask: Is the premise true?

This teaching is based upon Matthew 8:17: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses,” a quotation from Isaiah 53:4. But the all important thing to see is that Jesus fulfilled this scripture three years before His death. He was bearing their sicknesses all during His earthly ministry, but He never bore any one’s sins until He died upon the tree. Since the Bible declares that He fulfilled the work of bearing sicknesses before Has death, any teaching is proved false which claims He fulfilled that work in His death.

The second important fact is found in the word “bare”. Peter tells us that Christ “bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” This word is “anaphero” in the Greek, and means to bring to the altar or to offer a sacrifice. It is used in Hebrews 9:28: “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many”; and most significantly the translators of the Septuagint chose this word in Isaiah 53:12: “and he bare the sins of many.” But there is an entirely different word used regarding the bearing of sickness in Matthew 8:17. It is “bastazo” and means to lift or to carry or to endure. It is never used of bearing sins. This is the same word John the Baptist used in Matthew 3:11: “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” Paul used it in Galatians 6:2: “bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Paul asked Christians to do in Romans 15:1 exactly what Christ did: “bear the infirmities (or sicknesses) of the weak,” but he never told any Christian to bear the sins of another. And again, most significantly the Septuagint uses this same word in Isaiah 53:4: “surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Thus Christ bore sicknesses in an altogether different sense from which He bore sins.

The third fact is based upon logic. If healing is in the atonement to the same extent as salvation, then one possesses salvation to the extent he enjoys physical health. But since all Christians in the past have died, and mostly from disease, this would prove that all had lost salvation; for all surely lost health.

Fourthly, Paul, the model Christian, gloried in his infirmities (II Corinthians 11:30; II Corinthians 12:9 and 10—this word means sickness, the same word as used in Matthew 8:17). If sickness is contrary to the will of God, then Paul gloried in being out of the will of God, and it was the grace of God which taught him to do it.

Fifthly, this teaching denies such scriptures as Romans 8:23: “but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Yes, praise God, our salvation includes a body as perfect as Christ’s own glorious body, but none will receive it until the resurrection for which we wait.

Lastly, let it be noticed that God promised health to Israel along with other temporal blessings. He revealed Himself as Jehovah-Ropheca, the Lord that healeth thee (Exodus 15:26). See also Deuteronomy 28:1 to 14. But not one of these promises can be found directed to the Body of Christ, but often just the opposite. God not only promised to heal but to make rich (Deuteronomy 28:11 and 12). Therefore if you are not rich it is just as much a sign of unfaithfulness as if you are sick.

Surely we believe that God hears and answers prayer for the sick, but plain scripture forbids us to believe that healing is in the atonement or that sickness brands one as unfaithful or disobedient.