The following is an answer to an article by John Higginson in September 2009. He claims that Christians should not remain unwell; we should be healed because of Christ’s work.
When studying Scripture we learn to look at the context – the setting. In both Isaiah 53:5, and 1 Peter 2:24 the subject is atonement from sins, not healing of the body. It is the subject of Christ suffering for our sakes; Christ bearing God’s wrath upon sin and sins, the judgment that was due to me. It is in that sense that we have been “made whole” or healed. Why take the clause out of its setting?
When Jesus was here, physical healing was effected by power, not by the shedding of His blood.
J.Higginson says: “Now, if we are not healed something is wrong… so we must be wrong.”
Of course all suffering and distress is the consequence of sin, looking broadly and at large. “The whole creation groans together and travails in pain together”, and we also wait for “the redemption of our body” [i.e. the resurrection, the rapture] - see Romans 8:18-23. It is unfounded to say that something must be wrong with a person who is sick.
Scripture gives examples of this one-sided thinking. In John 9:1-3 the disciples, seeing the blind man, asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind”. Answer: neither. Please read that section.
Job’s friends – “miserable comforters are ye all” – told Job that since he was very sick, he must have done something very bad. Angered, Job maintained his righteousness. God had vouched for the fact that Job was a “perfect” man. God allowed Job’s distress to teach him more about God and about himself. Finally he could say (Job 42:6), “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. God saw what was going on in Job’s heart, and that he was becoming his own centre.
God also uses bodily distress for prevention. The apostle Paul was actually given something that caused distress: “And that I might not be exalted by the exceeding greatness of the revelation, there was given to me a thorn for the flesh”, (2 Cor. 12:7). We are not told what it was. It may have been a speech impediment, or poor eyesight, because he had both. At Corinth they said that his speech was contemptible. Whatever it was, it was for the rest of his life. It was given to keep him humble.
G.V. Wigram (1805-1879) was a devoted servant of the Lord. He was sickly from childhood; he commented late in life that he could not remember a day without pain.
Christ is not recorded as ever healing those whom He called into service; nor were those He healed ever told to follow Him. Neither did the apostles heal one another. This has all been expanded in a previous article in STGW.
Yet sickness and even death can be the result of the Father acting in discipline – see 1 Cor. 11 and Heb. 12 as examples.
“Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers”, 3 John 2. This verse quoted by JH shows clearly that good health and prosperity are the subject of desire rather than promise in Christianity. Brotherly love would desire that for others; but we are not Israel, and we are not promised such. We pray for healing, and God can - and does – heal. Praise Him for it. But it is not my place to say that something must be wrong because a person is often sick.
Let us beware of one-sided theology!
MM September 2009