Healing and the Atonement
By Jeff Paton
"by whose stripes ye were healed."
As one flips through the channels of their televisions, and as they stroll the isles of their favorite Christian bookstore, it would be uncommon to find a Christian that has not heard that God wants His people to be whole in spirit and in the flesh. Healing, it has been said, is available by faith for everyone that believes. This surely sounds like good news indeed! It only makes one wonder as to why so few Christians actually find physical wellness in light of Scriptural promises.
I have come to the opinion that most Christians believe that healing is in the atonement. I base this upon the observation that when it is asserted in the pulpit, or on an internet discussion forum, few if any seem to question it. Those that present the doctrine do it with a dogmatic surety. It just trips off the tips of their tongues as if they were saying "amen" or "halleluiah!" The strange silence of those who seem to disbelieve these claims is to be accounted for in two ways: First, they do not know how to answer the Scriptural claims that are made for the doctrine; Secondly, they are usually shamed into silence when they are chided for questioning the very work of Christ on the cross - the very essence of the Gospel itself!
This Gospel connection is a most profound argument. I myself, just as anyone else that loves God and truth, would never want to diminish the work of Christ in any way. To take away from the work of Christ would be to take away from His authority which was purchased on the cross. If our physical healing, as well as our spiritual healing was provided for us by the suffering of Jesus on the cross, then our physical healing can be obtained by faith as surely as the forgiveness of our sins are by the work of Christ!
I want to briefly cover three important areas that every Christian should consider when examining healing in the atonement:
1. The Biblical Basis for the doctrine
2. The Historical Basis for the doctrine
3. The Experiential Basis for the doctrine
When we examine any doctrine, it must be first and foremost be Biblical. This will encompass the first division of the discussion. We will then examine the usage of these passages by those within the earliest days of the church. In this we will see how they connected the surety of healing by faith and its connection to the atonement. Then we will examine the experiential basis for this teaching by looking at the evidence of the multitudes of confessed healings and examples that we see of healing services on television. After this I will summarize what we have learned from our examination, and then I will finally conclude.
The Biblical Basis
Healing in the atonement has been appealed to from direct statements in Scripture, and from deductive reasoning from passages that do not speak of the atonement, but speak of healing by faith. Isaiah 53:5, is clearly the most direct passage on the subject. No Christian theologian or expositor would deny that it is a prophecy that portrays the idea of death, atonement and healing. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Many have seen that physical healing is inevitably connected to the atonement. Now, if it is connected to the work of Christ in atonement, it would only make sense that the benefits would be received by the same means - through faith. James 5:14-15, seems to vindicate this as it says, "Is there any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." Another connection they have is in 1 Peter 2:24 where it is reaffirmed that, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
There is no doubt that Jesus performed great miracles and healings, and that He sent out disciples to preach the good news in which healings and demonic deliverances followed that work. In apostolic times we also saw the gift of healing through Peter, and the ability to heal mentioned as a gift of the Spirit. The idea of healing is certainly not imaginary, but a Biblical one.
Isaiah 53:5, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." This is without a doubt the clearest verse on the matter. If physical healing in the atonement was ever explicitly taught in the Scriptures, it is here. Observe the pattern here: wounded - transgressions, bruised - iniquities, chastisement - our peace, stripes - healed. The coming Messiah was to endure the pain of the cross for a reason. It is asserted that the wounding and bruising atoned for sins. Chastisement atoned for our peace, and stripes were for healing. Some have argued that "and" in this passage directs us to something different than that which has gone before. We know that to have peace, we must be able to have our sins forgiven. This is the first half of the verse. The stripes that Jesus would suffer are looked at as "in addition to" forgiveness and peace, thus different. They argue that this must be physical healing.
Those that question this interpretation view the statement, "and with his stripes we are healed," as a summary of the preceding three clauses. This seems plausible due to the fact that the passage never connects the stripes to physical healing. Also, it should be observed that in all of the passages that deal with the atonement, only two mention anything about healing. R.W. Dale, author of the book, The Atonement, has noted 150 verses from the New Testament that directly concern the doctrine of the atonement. Out of this massive compilation of Biblical verses, there is only one that even gives any hope of a reference to a possible healing in the atonement. This would seem to make sense since the focus of atonement in the Old Testament was for sins, iniquities and transgressions, and every single verse in the New Testament refers to sins, forgiveness, and reconciliation that is brought about by the work of Christ. Now, if physical healing were part of God's work in atonement, why would there be so little in the Bible about it? Must something so dogmatically asserted by people today such as healing being part of the atonement be questioned in light of all this Biblical evidence? If physical healing was the object of the atonement, then how can we explain that the Biblical writer's were so derelict in mentioning it? It may be argued, "how many times does something in Scripture have to be said to be true?" Of course the answer is one, but if anything so important, such as the nature of the atonement is in question, you would expect a minimum of at least two or three witnesses. We could only find two, which makes us wonder about the validity of the interpretation that some append to Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24.
Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24, are the bedrock verses for physical healing in the atonement. Peter's epistle is in direct reference to Isaiah 53, and thus an indicator of the Holy Spirits thoughts about the application of these words. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." Notice in this passage, the same as we saw in Isaiah 53, that there is mention of healing, but absolutely nothing is said about physical healing in this verse or the immediate passage! It says that when Jesus died on the cross, he died for our sins, and not our sicknesses. His atonement is to make us righteous - not healthy! Peter makes it clear that the Holy Spirit's intention in Isaiah 53 was that the atonement of Jesus was to bear our sins (spiritual sickness) on the cross and not our physical sicknesses. 1 Peter 2:24 directs us to the fact that this healing should cause us to "live righteous." This is connected to His bearing of sins, and to "by whose stripes ye were healed."
Some may argue, "this is about healing, not sins!" This is a valid question that can be answered with Scripture. The Bible speaks of sin as a "sickness." Isaiah, who was the author of, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed," also wrote chapter 1. In this chapter he shows that he is familiar with the problem of sin-sickness, the very thing in which we need to be healed. Chapter 1:4-6, shows his description of Israel as a sinful nation, a "people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward. Why would you be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." It is clear that the writer thought of sin as something that was a sickness of Israel (and mankind), and sickness does not need forgiveness, it needs healing. Atonement has everywhere been presented as dealing with sins, whether stated as covering sin, forgiving sins, putting sins out of the way, or being healed from its sickness. Jeremiah speaks of sins as illness in chapter 30:12-15. "For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers have forgotten the; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with a wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thy iniquity; because thy sins were increased. Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins are increased, I have done these things unto thee." And he says in a more familiar verse: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick." 17:9, (NASB). Sinning is Scripturally identified as sickness, so why would we distort Isaiah's and Peter's words about healing to fit an otherwise indefensible theory?
What about the promise in James concerning healing? Does this not validate that healing is in the atonement? James 5:14-15, "Is there any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." There is a lot of debate as to whether the statement "prayer of faith shall save the sick," refers to salvation from sins, (see context) or physical healing. Even if this is speaking of physical healing, which I believe it does, it does not say anything about the atonement. So, if it does not refer to the atonement, then it would be dishonest to force that meaning upon it. Nor does the statement "shall save the sick," mean that a prayer of faith is infallible in this matter. The question also comes up, whose prayer are they speaking about? The one sick, those that pray, or both? Prayer is important in this matter as is faith. Jesus forgave sins and healed many, and when He did, He usually made a remark about their faith. In light of this, James wants his readers to have absolute confidence in God's ability to answer prayer. He also says that a valid prayer is always in the will of God. "Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." James 4:15. It is presumption to think that life or death is in your power. Notice, he says, "If the Lord wills, we shall live." It is in the hands of God and not our will. It is also true that "the prayer of faith shall save the sick;" if that is the will of God. The prayer of faith is not a magic charm that manipulates God into answering. 1 John 5:14-15, confirms this teaching, "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." The prayer of faith is in desiring the will of God. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with an unlimited expectation. (Mark 11:22-24, John 16:23.) James is reinforcing the same confidence in those who pray for the sick.
We come down to the last passage of any real significance, Matthew 8:16-17. Not that this verse explicitly says that physical healing is in the atonement, but that it directly links the physical healings that Jesus performed while on earth as relating to the Isaiah 53 passage. Many look at this as proof that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins and our sicknesses. "they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." A few things to note about Matthew's use of the verse. First, while he makes a connection to Isaiah 53:4, he makes no mention of the atonement or Christ's death. There is no direct connection to the atonement in this verse. Secondly, Matthew saw the healing ministry of Jesus as being a fulfillment of the later part of the prophecy of Isaiah. Healings were to authenticate and prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Nothing within the verse says that this healing was to go beyond His earthly ministry, and there is nothing there that says that it cannot. He "fulfilled" the Scripture, nothing more. We cannot force the verse beyond what Matthew intended it to reveal; which was that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies required to be the true Messiah. In this verse there is no atonement, no reference outside of the immediate context of present healing done by Jesus, and no promise that all future sickness will be healed by faith.
The Historical Basis
John Wesley stated, "Whatever is true is not new, and whatever is new is not true." For anything such as an assertion that," it is God's will that all believers be in perfect health," or " healing is in the atonement," is something that we must be able to find, not only in the Scriptures, but throughout history. It has already been shown that the theory of healing in the atonement is not something that can be proved from the Scriptures, we can look to other sources to see if we can come up with the same conclusions.
The early church leaders were tutored by the apostles. Many of these people became pastors and bishops at the passing of the apostles. Some of them were even direct students of the apostles just as Timothy was a student of Paul. Many people do not realize it, but many of their letters about the operation and teaching of the Church of the first centuries still survive today. These have been transcribed into English in a work called The Apostolic Fathers. If this teaching of healing in the atonement is the teaching of the apostles, we should be able to see where they looked at these verses (Isaiah 53, Matthew 8:16-17, and 1 Peter 2:24) and observe the connection to healing in the atonement. Unfortunately for the teachers of this doctrine, the first century Church saw exactly what the Bible teaches about the atonement; that it is in relationship to sins and forgiveness, and knows nothing of a physical healing in the atonement! In fact, how come such a "truth" could be missed by the apostles, the early church, and suddenly "rediscovered" in the past few centuries? While some truths have been revived in later centuries, (salvation by faith, holiness, grace not works,) they had a clear line of history and can be validated by the Scriptures and the early church. This is a problem that the new "healing in the atonement" teachers cannot resolve. They have no history, they have no clear Scripture, and they have no proof. All of history stands against them!
If we are to accept what the modern healing movement has to say about the subject I must ask, "how did the early church miss it?" How does a newly found doctrine of physical healing in the atonement negate nearly 2000 years of Church doctrine and history? This is something that must be asked, and cannot be answered in light of the evidence.
We conclude this section on the historical basis with the fact that there is "zero" basis in history to validate this teaching!
The Experiential Basis
This is the category in which monumental claims are made. "Experience" is hard to disprove. I cannot claim that your experience is not true, but what I can do is weigh it against Scripture, history, and reason. I do not discount experience as being valid to the discussion, but any truth must be evaluated and vindicated by all four principles to some degree. When this issue is brought up and people try to prove it, the issue of experience always seems to work its way in. They ask, " What about all the evidence?" "Have you ever been to a healing service?" "I have, and I've seen......." Once again, I cannot argue with the fact that they had an experience, but the question is, is that experience a Scriptural experience? We must also consider the fact that while "whatever is true works; not everything that works, is true." Just because something appears to work, does not necessarily guarantee that it is Biblical or seated in truth. It is equally true that because I have not witnessed something, it does not make it untrue. The question arises; do our "experiences" validate truth? or does "truth" validate experiences? While experience plays an important part in our walk with God, it cannot circumvent Scripture, history, and reason. Some seem to have gone to the extent of saying, "I don't care what the Bible says, I've had an experience!" When experiences between people come into conflict, we need something more adequate than a personal experience to determine what is true. At times, extraordinary claims have been made; but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof! We cannot passively accept every claim because it is wrapped in the name of Jesus! Just because many people believe, it does not make it true.
What about those healings we see at services and on television? I will readily admit that many people get healed today, but it has little to do with a certain person laying hands on them, or the amount of their faith, but everything to do with the will of God. God is still working in the lives of believers. I do not believe that healing has any part in the atonement, and I also do not see that it is always God's will to heal. I base this not on feeling, but upon Scripture fact. Salvation from sin and the consequences of eternal separation from God is the emphasis of the atonement throughout the entire Bible. In addition to this fact, we also find clear examples in Scripture of people of faith whom God did not heal.
I doubt that much of what I see on television has much to do with reality. My doubts come from personal observation, and that is why I doubt what I see. First, it is a sideshow. Money, not more of Christ is at the center of it. If greed is an indicator, I would have more faith in healing in the name of Mary at Lourdes than I would have in Benny Hinn. Secondly, how many of these people in wheelchairs do you know? Are they genuinely medically disabled and cannot leave the chair? Are they missing both legs? After they receive healing, are they back in the chair and ready for the next "healing" service? This is the norm of what I have seen. Most of what takes place in these services is the "healing" of inorganic and not organic diseases. What I mean by inorganic is, headaches, deafness in one ear, assorted pain. Something that a non-medical professional cannot observe or prove. I have known people with organic (real, observable and documented maladies) that go forward in these services and get "healed." They have called me with the testimony that they are completely healed! But upon in-depth questioning , I always find that they have not really been healed at all. All they are doing is "claiming" healing. They trudge on in this sick fantasy because some crackpot has convinced them that the power to wellness is in this mental trickery. They have been convinced that the power to get healed is within themselves, and not God. "Healers" who want your money will say that this "claiming" to already be healed is faith. Other's who see someone confessing a non-existent healing rightfully call it what it is - psychotic behavior!
I have always seen more sick people in churches that teach that healing is in the atonement than I see in traditional churches. I have seen more children with coke-bottle lenses and dual hearing aids in the masses. I have never seen one healed. If there is this possession of "truth" or connection power for healing, why do few, if any with organic illness ever get truly healed? No one has ever been able to answer why these "healing" churches that are filled with the infirm, seem to remain filled with the infirm. The best most of them ever receive is some "claim" of supernatural healing which is non-existent in reality. Sadly, they have exchanged Scripture truth for self-deception and psychobabble. Many people have walked away from Christ because they failed to see this promised healing. This teaching that healing is guaranteed in the atonement, cannot be demonstrated according to the logic it implies. It has been the wrecking-ball of faith for many who have believed and trusted God fully for their healing, and found the reality that it was not in the will of God. In their minds, the atonement of Jesus failed them in this life, so what would make them think that He could come through for them in the next? Any doctrine that drives people away from faith in Christ for salvation because of the false promises of man, shows evidence that this cannot be the doctrine of God.
Many of these circus performers in crusades make a big deal of knocking people down over and over, as if that were something spiritual, or even Biblical! There are few if any real successes in these healing services. The vast majority leave in worse shape than they had come in, their hopes dashed that God did not honor their faith and take them out of that wheelchair. Those that would promote that these great healings are taking place are theological wrecking balls, witnesses not to Christ, but to the insanity of being a "Christian." How many avoid Christ because this is what they know of Christianity? With all of the hype, begging for dollars, and heretical teaching that I see, it only makes me wonder as to how much of the healings that are taking place are nothing more than "plants" in the audience, or nothing more than "claims" of healing, or mere momentary psychological suggestion or auto-suggestion. If there is any healing taking place, it is in spite of what is going on, and it is truly the grace of God reaching out to a hurting and desperate believer.
Some may retort with the accusation that the reason why I do not see these "healings" and "miracles" is that my walk with God is incomplete. To this I answer, "What does the Bible say about healing?" I raise the question once again; do our "experiences" validate truth, or does truth validate experiences?
We have the example of Jesus. When He healed, He did so immediately and completely. He did not heal those that were not medically confirmed as sick, but those that had a long record known by all. The apostles were able to heal everybody, completely and immediately, without progression. (Acts 5:12-16, 9:34.) This is the gift of healing, anything less than the Biblical account is a counterfeit. As far as I can tell, no man has the gift of healing today. In Scripture we see that all were healed without exception, which is certainly not something we see today. If anyone believes that they have the gift of healing, let them start in the terminal ward with cancer patients, in front of medical doctors and the media. Start there and work down until all are cleared out of the building. Then they can go to the morgue and raise the dead. Do this, and I cannot help but concede that they have the Biblical gift of healing. If they fall short, they are a self-deluded farce. If healing were all so common in these services as is claimed, there should be no problem proving it! But, they will not be tested because they know it is an act. God may heal some in spite of the sideshow, but it is not because of the preacher, it is because of God's will and His honoring of the seeker's faith. No one does Biblical healing today because no one has the gift today. The gift was used in the early Church to authenticate the apostles ministry. This can be proved to have ceased by Biblical example.
How dangerous is it when someone "claims" healing and then neglects to seek medical help? It is very probable that things will go beyond recovery before they seek a physician, and then it is too late. Do we then castigate them for not having faith? You see, if healing is in the atonement, then it must be received on the same condition as salvation - which is faith. The Scriptures endorse the necessity of faith for the reception of healing. So if they are not healed, whose fault is it? If they do not have enough faith for healing (which we can see), then how can we believe that they have enough faith for salvation, (which we cannot see?) It makes me wonder how many people are really saved at all if this theory is true! My point is that if healing is in the atonement then it is apprehended the same way we are saved, by grace through faith. The Bible says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him" Heb. 11:6. This implies that if one does not get healed they do not have sufficient faith. If they do not have this faith for healing and salvation, then they stand opposed to God, and have no hope of being saved, because without faith it is impossible to please Him. It is not hard to see the painful end that this doctrine and logic will lead us!
Let's look at what this does to "experiences" in the Bible. To say that healing is guaranteed by the atonement, is to say that it is available by faith just as truly as the forgiveness of sins are. This condemns and disqualifies Paul and Timothy as adequate representatives of the Gospel. James' epistle, considered by most as being one of the earliest, would have been likely known to be in existence by Paul and others. With this being so, and if this was taken as a promise of healing, (the prayer of faith shall save the sick,) then why didn't Paul use his power to heal Timothy, (like he did in Acts 28:9), and why didn't he go to the elder with a "prayer of faith" and get himself infallibly healed? Why didn't the other apostles rebuke Paul for his insufficient faith? Why wasn't he rightfully mocked, "Physician, heal thyself!" Why didn't Paul rebuke Timothy to get his act together and have faith, when he instead gave the advice to "take a little wine for thy stomach's sake?" With such poor examples of healing faith, why would we even accept the writings of Paul? We need a real apostle! Not some self appointed, faithless imposter! Oh why was Benny Hinn born two thousand years too late? Oh why must the faith healers be so right, and the rest of Christian history be so wrong?
Paul had his "thorn in the flesh," which was a physical ailment. He was not healed. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first." (Galatians 4:13) Now, if healing is in the atonement, it is part of the gospel. How could Paul be believed if healing is provided by faith as part of the atonement while he remained yet unhealed? Paul did not tell Timothy to have faith, he told him to take wine for his stomach. (1 Timothy 5:23.) It seems that God is more interested in our spiritual well-being than He is our physical well-being.
There are amazing claims made by those who propagate this doctrine. They claim, "You do not have to pray for this healing, it is already yours. All you have to do is claim it and you will always have perfect health." "I have seen multitudes of people healed; I have seen people raised from the dead!" You have? ...... Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof! You cannot prove these claims! "But" you say, "you do not have faith... I have seen it and I know God's word is true!" People, you can "claim" these things all day long, but you can never prove that that person was really dead, and really raised! You can "claim" they "saw" something. I can claim that I saw these things too, but I saw a street magician do these tricks! My friend, ...........Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof!
Every one of these "teachers" have or will die like the rest of us! They will one day see their body succumb to disease, injury, or bodily frailty. This very fact proves that their teaching is a lie since that all die. The fact that sickness and death effects even the most ardent and faithful of these teachers, should be enough for anyone to wake up and see the obvious truth that healing in the atonement is a wishful fallacy. Either it proves that this doctrine is a farce, or it is proof that all people, including these "teachers" do not have adequate faith to receive this healing. If this is so, we must discard this wishful thinking, or we are reduced to questioning whether anyone has ever had adequate faith for healing or salvation!
The Biblical basis. We covered the main Scriptures that are
asserted to prove that healing is in the atonement. Concerning Scripture, we
found the verses that were appealed to were saying something other than what was
claimed. We found that "healing" was in reference to sin-sickness and
not physical sickness. We also found that there was not a singular direct
reference that asserts that healing is in the atonement.
History has also proven fatal to their theory. The early church did not associate the atonement with physical healing, and they knew the teaching of the apostles and early bishops. They knew the language and the events of their day, but they did not see this as essential to the Gospel. Everywhere you look, the Gospel has everything to do with the forgiveness of sins, and not the healing of all by faith. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the theme of the Gospel. Physical healing, while a blessing from God, is not the Gospel in the truest sense.
Experience appeals to the "plain evidence" of healing at crusades. It is supposed to prove their case, but upon an examination of this "plain evidence," all it does is raise doubts and seems to prove that no one has this gift of healing today. If it were so, then we would see people healed without discrimination, just as the Bible account shows this gift to be so. Anything less than the Biblical example is a counterfeit. This refusal to accept much of what is displayed as genuine is not based upon ignorance, but upon scientific fact. If someone had the gift, or everybody that believed and had faith for healing were flawlessly healed, then we could present irrefutable scientific proof, but this is not so. If one had the gift, or an infallible formula, this could be proved. Why hasn't anyone stepped up to the plate to settle the issue? To me, it is for one obvious reason.... when put under objective scrutiny, they cannot heal anybody. The fact that it cannot be demonstrated, or the fact that there is not a single soul that can pass the challenge, proves one thing; it shows me that this doctrine will remain a battle of the words and wishful interpretation.
No one from this camp has adequately attempted to answer
why Paul and Timothy were "ignorant" about this "gospel." If
the early preachers and apostles did not associate healing by faith as being
part of the Gospel, why should we? This
dogmatic claim that healing in the atonement should be easily demonstrated, if
it were true.
What options are we reduced to if someone is not healed?
1. The person has less that sufficient faith. (Faith is a personal power)
2. The people laying on hands and praying did not have faith. (Pass the deficiency here)
3. That healing in the atonement is not a promise. If anyone is healed, it is because of God's grace; it is the result of a prayer that is answered according to the will of God.
Paul was correct in accepting that God does not always will to heal. This asserts that healing is not in the atonement.
Finally, have you considered how contrary the gift of healing is if healing were already provided in the atonement? If we already have sure healing by faith, the gift of healing would be utterly redundant. The one receiving healing through a faith healer would still have to have the same amount of "adequate faith" as they would if they were to be healed by faith through the atonement alone. So why do we need a faith healer? It does not make good sense to have both in the Bible. If one is "healed" by a person, then what cause are we to give the credit to; the gift, or the atonement? Those in the modern healing movement can't seem to make up their minds! Why is it that we do not need a man as a mediator to administer the benefit of salvation through the atonement, and we somehow think that we need elders, apostles, and those with the gift of healing to administer a benefit that is already ours by faith through the atonement?
If God does not always will to heal, then why does God
allow us to suffer?
I don't know if we can adequately understand the reasoning for suffering beyond the fact that mans suffering has been brought upon itself as a race, and that God is all love, but yet allows man to suffer.
I see disease, infirmity, and death, and God's willingness not to heal all, as placing the emphasis on our existence where it should be; eternity. Everyone who was healed in the Bible still died. God may show His hand at times to confirm His presence, but where we spend eternity is what really matters. Physical life is probationary and a preparation for the next. Long physical life may have its blessings, but it cannot compare to heaven and eternity. If I die tomorrow it does not matter as long as I am to be with the Lord. If God chooses to allow me to be inflicted with an infirmity, it should cause me to rely on Him even more, especially in light of His love and eternity.
Healings build my faith, but so does the courage and faithfulness I see in those who cling to God with full hope of heaven within their suffering.
May God grant you peace of mind that He is in control. He is our Healer.
From Christian Theology, By Russell R. Byrum
Jesus healed the multitudes because "He was moved with compassion" for them. He is still as compassionate as at that time, and doubtless this is an important reason for his healing men's suffering bodies. God saves men because he loves them. (John 3:16), and heals them for a similar reason. Yet there are evidently various limitations on the manifestation of this divine compassion, for many sufferers are not cured. Why are not some healed? Evidently some are not healed because it is appointed unto man to die and the time has come when God wills that they depart from life. Others are not healed because that fail to meet the proper conditions of faith and obedience. It is more important to the glory of God and the well-being of men that healing be not dispensed unconditionally and indiscriminately. It is provided only on appropriate conditions as is salvation.
Though it is generally God's will to heal the sick, yet he is more concerned about men's spiritual and moral excellence than about their physical health; therefore God may try men through allowing them to remain afflicted for a period. In this particular, healing is not parallel with salvation. God's will is always to save the soul, but, though generally, not always to heal the body. Such a view does not ignore those promises of healing which in themselves offer healing to all. The promises of God are often limited or conditioned, not by any statement in immediate connection, but by statements elsewhere in the Bible. If this be not so, in view of James 5:15, then, when a good man dies for whose healing prayer has been offered we are obliged to attribute the lack of healing to unbelief. But unbelief is unpleasing to God; therefore one must either displease God to get to heaven or else certainly know God's will so he will not believe on the ground that the Scriptures that it is ordinarily God's will to heal us and may pray for it unless it becomes manifest in some way that it is not his will. Healing may be withheld for a time as a test of faith or for some other wise reason. God may as properly try people by physical suffering as by other methods.
......... Divine healing may be either instantaneous or gradual. It seems probable the healings recorded in the Bible were nearly all, if not all, instantaneous. Of all the healings described in the New Testament it can not be positively shown that any were accomplished gradually.
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