As a Christian do I believe I have the right to be healed from any disease? Can I claim the right by praying in faith and faithfully believing I will be healed in order to receive what God intends for me to have in the first place? There are many strong voices telling us this is true, and we have viewed on television the proponents of faith healing as they appeared to have healed some of the illnesses of people coming to them.
Who among us has not suffered from an illness or had a loved one with a problem, and we earnestly desired to have that burden removed by healing? When weakened by an illness we will seek God’s hand, but when healing does not occur, we are susceptible to hearing voices other than His. We are told things like, “it is not God’s will you are sick” or “you don’t have to put up with something which has already been secured for you by His stripes.” This dilemma regarding healing has caused many devout Christians to doubt their own salvation in addition to adding guilt to their grief.
Atonement healing, a doctrine which is believed and taught by many, states that Christians can be healed from all their diseases, and the healing was secured when Christ died on the cross. In other words Christ died for our sicknesses as well as our sins. The Scriptures often quoted for this doctrine include Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:16-17, and I Peter 2:24. The passages in Matthew’s gospel and Peter’s epistle refer to the Isaiah prophecy which states the coming Messiah would be “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastised for our peace and with his stripes we are healed.” The Matthew account records Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee, in which He healed all who were sick who were brought to Him in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This was 3 years before the cross and therefore, cannot be used to substantiate any atoning work of Christ on the cross. When Peter wrote, “Christ bore our sins in His own body, that having died to sins, we might live to righteousness- for by whose stripes we are healed,” he is describing spiritual healing and not physical healing.
If physical healing, like sins were atoned at the cross, then one should be able to be healed on the same basis as forgiveness of sins. When one comes to Christ for salvation, repents, and is born again we believe he receives forgiveness and salvation at that moment. Our experiences with sickness, however are very different. We are frequently left unhealed when we have prayed earnestly for healing. Forgiveness is immediate, but even the advocates for atonement healing tell us healing, in some cases is gradual and progressive. The reason usually given for failures in healing is, “you simply didn’t have enough faith.” My objection to this reasoning is; how much faith does it take to be healed? I prayed once at an altar and believe I was saved, but I have prayed without ceasing and am still sick. Does it take more faith to receive something which is temporal as opposed to something which is eternal? This doctrine can lead to self-condemnation at the least, and disbelief in scriptures at worst.
While it is true Christ’s atoning death paid the full price for sin and its consequences, Christians have not and will not receive in this life all His death has secured for us. Men will continue to have to work; women will travail in childbirth; marital relationships will suffer; and both men and women will die. One day; however at the final trumpet of God Christians will all be changed and will receive everything which was paid in full at Calvary. Unfortunately for some, we will have to wait until the time for our physical healing to be complete. There will then be no more suffering or sorrow; there will be no more diseases or death, and all tears will be wiped away.
Our understanding of scriptures and our personal experiences lead us to conclude there is healing in the atonement, but the healing we received immediately at salvation is spiritual in nature and not physical. We may have to wait on the physical healing we are presently praying for, but have not yet received. We must not be discouraged nor led to believe God does not love us, or He has left us without hope. His promises in Romans 8:28 assure us He will work everything out in His time, for our good and His glory. He is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be unkind. When we can’t trace His hand, we can trust His heart.