Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Does God heal all our sicknesses? Part 1

Our attitude towards illness and healing

I recently read an article in a Christian magazine that said, “God heals all our sicknesses,” and it referenced Exodus 15:26 and 1 Peter 2:24. Because people have different ideas about the topic of healing, let’s look at what else the Bible says about it.

GOD’S PROMISES
There are differences between God’s promises in the Old Testament and those in the New Testament. Abraham was promised a great reputation and the land of Canaan for his many descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:8). Obedient Jews were promised a long life, prosperity, and victory over their enemies (Dt. 6:1-2; Ps. 128:1-2; Isa. 38:1-8). Most of the promises given to the Jews in the Old Testament were for physical or material blessings.

On the other hand, in the New Testament, God’s promises to believers in the early Church were eternal life, the Holy Spirit, peace, and the return of Christ (Eph. 1:13; Phil. 4:7; Heb. 10:36-37; 1 Jn. 2:25). All are spiritual blessings, not physical ones (Eph. 1:3). We should be careful not to apply to New Testament Christians promises of physical blessings given to the Old Testament Jews.

HEALING IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
The Bible teaches that all genuine healing comes from God (Ps. 103:2-3; 107:17-20; Hos. 11:1-3). The Hebrew word rapa means “to heal” or “to restore to normal.” But because bodily processes diminish due to aging, there is no such thing as perfect health, especially as we get older.

In the Old Testament God gave conditional promises to the Jews that He would protect them from disease and heal them. The condition was that they had to keep God’s commands, do what was right in His eyes and not follow pagan gods. He also promised that there would be no miscarriages, no couples unable to have children, no animals unable to bear young, and their enemies would be inflicted with the diseases that they were protected from (Ex. 15:25-26; 23:25-26; Dt. 7:14-15). We find no such promises in the New Testament.

Exodus 15:26 – which says, “I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you” – was quoted out of context in the magazine article I read. This verse applies specifically to the children of Israel traveling from Egypt to Canaan, but not to us today. Otherwise, we could still claim God’s promise to collect manna for daily food!

There are many instances of miraculous healing in the Old Testament. For example, when King Hezekiah was sick and about to die, he prayed and God allowed him to live for an additional 15 years (2 Ki. 20:5-6).

JESUS, THE HEALER
When He was on earth, the Lord healed all who were brought to Him (Mt. 8:16-17). Jesus said that this had been prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 53:4). These miracles displayed His divine power (Mt. 11:2-5; Jn. 20:30-31). The Lord still heals all kinds of illnesses, and therefore we should acknowledge God in every case of healing. In the future when He returns to rule over the earth during the Millennium, the Bible tells us that the Lord will heal all diseases (Isa. 33:24; Jer. 30:17). But that is for a future time, not today.

With reference to the Lord, Peter quoted from Isaiah in his first letter: “By His wounds you have been healed” (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). This type of healing – described in the next verse as, “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25) – is spiritual, between sinful people and God. Also, it is in the past tense, not the present tense. This verse means that Christ suffered on the cross and died as our substitute so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have a restored relationship with God. It has nothing to do with physical healing; it would be wrong to tell a seriously ill Christian that by Christ’s wounds he has been physically healed. First Peter 2:24 was also quoted out of context in the magazine article mentioned earlier. This verse is about spiritual, not physical healing.

SELF-HEALING BODIES
Our bodies have been amazingly designed to heal themselves of most injuries and illnesses. Living cells are being replaced continuously. If we cut a finger the wound heals itself. Broken bones grow back together. Doctors know that many complaints are better by morning. Our immune system can automatically fix mild colds and throat infections. One prominent physician wrote, “Most coughs are self-curative usually within 1-3 weeks with or without treatment.” David wrote, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).

THE BIG PICTURE
In Genesis 1-2 God created a perfect world where there was no sickness, pain or death. It was utopia, but it didn’t last long. When sin came into the world (Gen. 3), our world changed completely. Not only are we spiritually separated from God because of sin, we now live in a decaying world of disease, suffering, injustice and death.

Fortunately that’s not the end of the story. God had a rescue plan for mankind that involved sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to restore our relationship with God. The outcome of this plan will not be finalized until the end of time. Christians are already redeemed or healed spiritually, but not yet physically. Today we live in a world whose suffering Paul described this way: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:18-23).

Paul’s “present sufferings” are contrasted to “the glory that will be revealed in us.” Like Paul, we suffer from sicknesses and these will not be totally healed until our bodies are resurrected, which is the final phase of our salvation – our deliverance from suffering. We look forward to God’s promised deliverance from sin and its effects.

Paul persevered in suffering because he had the hope of the resurrection: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Although the process of physical decay was going on continuously in Paul’s life, his suffering was not the most important thing in his life. Instead he focused on the unseen things like the resurrection body, the splendor of heaven and the triumph of the Lord at the Second Coming. The pattern for Christ was suffering at His first coming, and glory, honor and praise at His second coming. Likewise, the pattern for believers is present suffering and future glory.

LESSONS FOR US
Let’s always be careful when interpreting the Bible, especially in matters of health. It is not a collection of verses to be selected by topic and understood in isolation. Instead, start with what the Bible says and then consider the context by asking who the passage was written to, and what the surrounding verses say. When we do this we find that most of the promises given to the Jews in the Old Testament were physical or material blessings, while those given to Christians in the New Testament were spiritual blessings.

Although believers have been redeemed spiritually, they will experience sickness until death or the redemption of their bodies at the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:35-58). God’s emphasis now in the New Testament is on saving people by healing them spiritually, not physically. And isn’t this what is most important?

Let’s be like Paul and acknowledge that believers will suffer due to illnesses and injuries, and let’s accept these as being insignificant when compared to being liberated from sin and its effects.

Published April 2010

Also see: Does God heal all our sicknesses? Part 2
What does “by his wounds you have been healed” mean?

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6 responses

  1. Comment by Michael Aumuller:
    It truely breaks my heart to hear you condemn Christians to sickness. Sickness by definintion is weakness. Some infirmity drains your strength and makes you weak. People that can’t handle stress get sick. Stress is a known cause of many illnesses. Your health is in jeopardy from worrying. You lack the Hebrew mindset that relates spiritual and physical. The Greek mindset separates the two. The weak don’t need a pill or advice from the world. They need a boost of strength (James 5:15). As you said correctly, the body heals itself but the strength wears down.
    Christians with strong faith can go through a cold without getting weak. If the works of the spirit are so foreign to you, then I urge you to repent from your dead works being that you are alive but dead (Rev. 3:1-2).
    As for the Scripture in 1 Peter 2:24, spiritual healing is the root of physical healing. Scripture does not separate the two. The New Covenant is a superior covenant. The symbol in the wilderness that healed was only a picture of the real thing. Please stop discouraging God’s children. Go out and examine healings that are becoming more common where God’s spirit is relied on.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

  2. I hope you see Part 2 of this series because it deals with some of the issues you raise such as: links between our physical and spiritual health, and the relationship between illness and the strength of one’s faith.
    My article was based on what the Bible says on this topic and I think that this has been confirmed by history.
    You say that you are sad because my article “condemns Christians to sickness”. As all of our bodies experience degeneration and eventually wear out, we will all experience sickness and weakness at some time. You say to “examine healings that are becoming more common where God’s Spirit is relied on”. But we will not all be healed – any healing is a mercy, not a promise. For example, until the resurrection, no one is healed from death!
    I think that “spiritual healing is the root of physical healing” only when the illness if due to sin, as was the case described in James 5:14-16.
    You say “the symbol in the wilderness that healed was only a picture of the real thing”. In Numbers 21:6-9, when the people confessed their sin God provided a cure for those who had been bitten by the venomous snakes. The bitten Israelite who looked to the snake on the pole was miraculously healed. Jesus used this incident to illustrate how the new birth takes place (John 3:14-15). So the physical healing in the time of Moses was an illustration of spiritual healing. It has nothing to say about illness today.

    January 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  3. Elizabeth

    You are quite right that healing in the Old Testament was seen in the light of obedience, strength, fertility etc and the verse I am the lord who healeth thee is better translated as I am the Lord your physican. There is certainly not a disconnect between the Old and New Testament.
    The Holiness Code of leviticus touches all aspects of life:physical(like eating habits), social, spirtual and moral. it is a code of overall well being. Well being involves the whole of life-it is holistic. The hebrew word shalom expresses the quality, fullness and well-being of life. Although it is translated “peace”, it is the closest Old Testament word for health.Its root meaning is of totality and wholeness and conveys the concept of good life.it can be translated as soundness in life and limb, and wholeness of heart. God’s peace is not a kind of therapy. It is the objective declaration of God’s loving provision for us.
    Shalom denotes the presence of wholeness, completeness and well-being in all spheres of life. Peace and healing are frequently set alongside each other. Implicit in shalom is the covenant relationship with God who alone can make such health possible.
    The Hebrew concept of shalom invites us to reconsider the horizons of healing which we hold today. If we do not always see the physical healing that we desire, that does not mean we are not being healing.
    I believe the God does not change, I believe that he cares for us all but we have a responsability too.
    Jesus is the ultimate source of our healing,accepting Him as Lord and Saviour. The greek soteria, usually translated “salvation”, is more correctly translated as health.. Almost in every book of the Old Testament healing and salvation is seen in evidence.
    The names of God show us that his nature never changes.
    Jehovah-Jireh The Lord will provide Genesis 22:14
    NT: Philippians 4:19
    Jehovah-Nissi The Lord our banner Exodus 17:8-15
    NT: John 15:13
    Jehovah-Shalom The Lord our peace Judges 6:24
    NT: Ephesians 2:14
    Jehovah-Raah The Lord our shepherd Psalms 23NT: John 10:11
    Jehovah-Tsidkenu The Lord our righteousness Jeremiah 23:6
    NT: I Corinthians 1:30
    Jehovah-Shammah The Lord is present Ezekiel 48:35
    NT: Hebrews 13:5
    Jehovah-Rapha The Lord thy Physician Exodus 15:26
    NT: James 5:15
    I know with confidence that The Lord heals both physically, spirtually and emotionally.the scripture is living and relative to our needs today both Old and New.

    March 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    • Thanks Elizabeth. Yes, God doesn’t change but people’s understanding of Him and His purposes has developed throughout Biblical history. Because Biblical truth was revealed progressively over time, it’s important to interpret the Old Testament in view of the additional revelation in the New Testament. Have you read the sequel to this post? That’s why we should be careful not to apply to New Testament Christians promises of physical blessings given to the Old Testament Jews.
      Today healing is a mercy, not a promise. Christians are already redeemed or healed spiritually, but not yet physically. God’s emphasis now is on saving people by healing them spiritually. He is more concerned about our spiritual health than our physical health.
      With regard to the Greek word soteria:
      – It denotes “deliverance, preservation, salvation” (Vine). Vine also describes 8 different types of situation where this word is used in the New Testament.
      – It means “rescue or safety (physical or moral)” (Strong)
      – In the KJV Bible it is translated as “deliver, health, salvation, save, saving” (Strong)

      March 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  4. Solomon

    Wonderful study. God bless you. My wife was a schizophrenic. I prayed for her healing but she committed suicide 4 months back. When I saw her body, I praised God for taking her. I came to know that God’s will was not healing her but calling her to be with Him where there is no pain. God’s will is done.

    I am sure she was healed of her soul. Physical healing is temporary but healing in the soul is eternal. God can heal every sickness but He never heals everyone. My wife was saved and very close to the Lord. I thank God for healing her soul through His Son Jesus.

    Weakest Christians look at physical healing and blame God sometimes, but grown up Christians look at spiritual healing and praise the Lord.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:57 am

  5. Deanna Knapp

    Thank you for your article … I have had arguments with fellow Christians who claim that God heals all. Even using the “by His stripes you are healed” as proof. I have told them several times that every time I asked God to heal my arm God led me to Paul’s thorn. They told me that I could not have heard from God because it is in His word to heal everyone. They even went on to use the “as it is in Heaven” to mean No sickness, pain or suffering on Earth.
    Your article is what I have believed all along. God bless you.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm

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