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by Jacob Ninan
Most Christians will admit that God does heal miraculously now and then even in the present times. God has the ability to heal supernaturally without any medical intervention and He does that sometimes in answer to prayer. He holds the sovereign prerogative to intervene miraculously any time He wants to (Ps.115:3). The question we are trying to address here briefly is whether physical healing is an integral part of the salvation which Jesus purchased for us on the cross, and if so, whether we ought to claim that just as we claim forgiveness of our sins.
What many 'healers' teach
There are many teachers who teach that when the Bible says in Is.53:5, "by His stripes we are healed," the question is settled clearly and entirely. This chapter of Isaiah depicts the death of Jesus on the cross by which He procured salvation for us. This salvation is essentially spiritual, in terms of forgiveness of our sins and granting a relationship with God. These teachers say that physical healing is an integral part of what Jesus procured for us on Calvary, pointing to this verse. If so, it becomes open for every believer in Christ to rightfully claim healing whenever he is sick. In other words, sickness is not to be accepted as an unavoidable evil on earth, and it is also unnecessary to seek medical help for healing.
These teachers differ among themselves in the way they deal with cases where people are not getting healed in spite of a prayer of faith. Some simply point out that the people did not have faith and therefore they could not be healed because "It shall be done to you according to your faith" (Mt.9:29). Some others insist that there might be some unconfessed sin in the sick person's life (Ps.66:18).
Some teachers elaborate their teaching by explaining that the moment faith is exercised, healing takes place in the 'spiritual realm' even if it is not seen immediately in the physical realm. Some insist that since it says in 1Pe.2:24 that "By His wounds you were healed," it is a 'done thing' and we don't even have to ask God to heal us as if we are yet to be healed. As a result, one can claim, "I am healed" if he believes this to be so even if he cannot notice any change in the physical realm or medical tests indicate otherwise. Then sooner or later, it will also be seen physically.They say that not everyone is able to believe this, especially when they cannot see it according to their physical senses, and that this is the reason some people are not healed.
Errors in this teaching
1. It is not right to take one verse, Is.53:5, out of the context of the whole chapter where the focus is clearly on the suffering of Christ in order to save us from our sins, and then claim that this refers to physical healing. Just because the word 'healing' is commonly used for physical healing, we should not conclude that it is what is referred to here. To understand what it refers to, we must see the context of the verse within the chapter, and then conclude that healing here is about the restoration of the relationship between man and God which got disrupted earlier through man's sin.
2. We cannot base a doctrine such as this merely on one verse in the Bible, without corroborating it with the rest of the Bible, especially the New Testament. When Peter quotes Is.53:5 in 1Pe.2:24, we should note that he was not talking about physical healing but about Christ bearing our sins so that we could be set free from a life of sin and live in righteousness. Mt.8:17 says,"This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.'" Matthew's intention was to show that Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, and not so much to teach a doctrine of physical healing. We can note also that Matthew used an alternative meaning of the Hebrew words from Isaiah just to make this point, and so in view of the overall context of Isaiah 53 we must not take this to mean that Isaiah was talking about physical healing in 53:5.
3. If physical healing is really being taught in Isaiah 53 as a part of our blessing in salvation, it would be a major part of Christian doctrine, and we would have expected it to be expounded much in the New Testament epistles. But this is not at all the case! The only teaching on healing is in the letter of James where patients are told to ask the elders in the church to pray for healing, and it is not taught as a right to be claimed from (Jas.5:14,15). On the other hand, salvation from sin is the main focus in all the letters.
4. The apostle Paul refers to several cases of sickness in his letters. He tells Timothy who had a stomach problem to take some wine for healing instead of asking him to claim his healing as a matter of right (1Ti.5:23). When we know Paul to be very radical when it came to doctrine, it is unbelievable that he would take this approach if he believed that we were healed because of the stripes Jesus bore! He mentions about Epaphroditus who nearly died of sickness but on whom God was merciful in that he was healed (Php.2:25-27). Why would he think of healing as an act of mercy if he believed that it was a part of the salvation package? Another mention is about Trophimus whom Paul left sick in Miletus (2Ti.4:20). Can you imagine Paul doing that if he believed that healing was a believer's right? No. It is apparent that he did not believe that.
5. When we observe what is going on among Christians, even among those whose doctrine is that healing is a part of salvation, the actual cases of healing show that they are rare, rather an exception than the rule. How can this be if God automatically gives healing as a norm to all people when they come to Jesus? If we think that it is because most people are unbelieving, how do we explain it among the groups of believers for whom healing is a major part of their doctrine? We may conclude that even though God does heal people miraculously, it is comparatively rare, and this does not support the doctrine of healing as a part of salvation.
How then do we explain miraculous healings?
We have to understand cases of miraculous healing as acts of God's mercy which He bestows on some. We have to admit that God has not revealed and therefore we do not know why He heals some and not others. That is a part of the mystery of God's wisdom. (We don't understand why He allowed the apostle James to be killed by Herod while He sent an angel to save Peter in the same prison!) We believe He can heal, that He understands what we go through when we are sick, that many times He heals through medical means, and when healing is delayed or it does not happen we can still trust in His wisdom and love. If we are sick it is perfectly fine that we ask the Lord for healing, knowing that we have no basis to 'demand' it from Him or to expect that a miraculous healing will definitely take place. If God tells us specifically in answer to our prayer that He will heal us supernaturally, then we can have an assurance that it will happen (Ro.10:17;He.11:1). But it might well be that God's guidance is that we should get medical help.
It is possible that some people who experience a miraculous healing in answer to prayer assume that it would be the same for everyone. It is seen many times that this is one way false doctrines develop, based on experience and not from the written word. Then people try to fit the word to fall in line with their experience rather than the other way around.
Faith and healing
Many people have a wrong idea that in order to get something from God they must muster up enough 'faith' from their side. This is wrong because what God gives us is out of the goodness of His heart and not anything we earn from our efforts. True faith is to have trust and confidence in God as a Person (Jn.14:1;He.11:6), and when we have that confidence we can go to Him and request for whatever we want (Php.4:6). But then that same confidence must tell us that He knows what is best for us and leave the decision to Him.
On the other hand, at times God may grant us a supernatural answer to our prayers. In many of such cases He gives us an assurance of things we hope for or a conviction of things not yet seen (He.11:1). This is a gift of faith from God. This is not something we can claim or expect all the time.
It is not correct to assume that supernatural healing is a part of salvation. Many people who believe it may be sincere, but still mistaken. I have written this not to discourage people from looking to God for healing, but mainly to avoid the disappointment, discouragement, disillusionment and falling away that many people experience when their prayers for healing are not answered.
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