|by Walter Martin
First Peter 2:24 says of Christ, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
One of the primary rules of biblical interpretation which must never be violated is context. What is the context in 1 Peter 2? Answer: salvation. There is no way to interpret it in any other sense. The verse is talking about Jesus on the cross dying for us, enduring punishment and bearing our sins, thereby providing salvation for us.
When certain people get hold of this passage, however, they change the context from salvation to physical healing. Every time such people see the word "heal" in the Bible they assume it refers to the miracle of divine healing for the physical body, regardless of whether the context indicates otherwise.
A number of times in Scripture the word healing has specific reference to spiritual healing. There are diseases of the soul that have to be healed -- and the primary disease of the soul is man's unregenerate state, which is rooted in sin. The good news is that God has provided healing for this disease of the soul. And that is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 2:24. He is not saying that physical healing of the body is guaranteed to every believer.
Certainly, healing for the body is a benefit of Christ's death on the cross, a benefit for the church as a result of His atoning sacrifice. However, it is not -- it has never been in the history of the church -- a guarantee that God has to heal your body; He doesn't have to!
God does say He will graciously entertain our prayers. He says that if we exercise faith, and if our request is in accordance with His will, He will hear us. But He never said that the mark of true spirituality is that you would never sneeze.
Some within the church will try to tell you, "God's perfect will is that you are never going to be sick." Well, I'll tell you something: there are certain lessons -- if you are honest -- that you'll admit you never would have learned unless the Lord flattened you out long enough to get your attention. Sometimes God teaches us things through our suffering.
Moreover, I must say that sometimes a person, after praying for a healing, may receive a no from God -- a benevolent no, a kindly no, a protective no maybe, but no nevertheless. Tragically, however, there are teachers -- in the Faith movement, for example -- who have the colossal gall to tell people that if they were more spiritual, if they had more faith, if they believed like they believed, they would be well. Such faulty teaching can crush whatever faith these poor people have.
Now, I believe you should go to the Lord and believe Him for healing, and trust Him for healing, and pursue Him for healing. And I believe you should search your soul to make certain there is nothing in your life standing in the way of healing. But you must come to Him and lay yourself out on His conditions. The Scripture says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). If perhaps God intends to teach you something through an illness, He might not heal you immediately.
So don't think you are being neglected by the Holy Spirit if you don't get healed. Don't assume that the Lord is against you. Don't conclude that you necessarily have an absence of faith or secret sin.
Take a good look at 1 Peter 2:21: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." Circle the word example in this verse. Here we are told that Jesus suffered. And He left us an example. We are to follow in His steps.
And what is the meaning of Philippians 3:10, which refers to "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings"? Let us be clear on this: suffering is an integral part of the fact of life, and is often used by God in the development and maturation of the Christian.
The apostle Paul had a greater standing with the Lord in terms of his ministry than I have or anybody else has ever had. According to 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul requested healing from the Lord three times. And three times he got an answer back: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Translation: God said no to Paul's request for healing. And God had a purpose in saying no.
Did Paul have lack of faith? Rubbish! Was Paul suffering from some secret sin that he was carrying around? Do you see how utterly absurd this is? Do you see how it plays on people's emotions and lives? Do you see how it undermines faith in the absolute authority of Scripture and transfers it to a human being whose experience becomes the criteria?
This type of teaching eats like a cancer in the body of Christ and it must be resisted and opposed at every opportunity so that Christians will not have a cloud hanging over their heads all the time. Instead, they will realize that Jesus really does love them (despite their illness) and that any healing that may come is in His sovereign hands, not ours.
These words were excerpted and adapted from the tape, "Does God Always Heal?" (C-95). It can be ordered from CRI for $6.00.
an article from the From the Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 6: Number 3, 1993.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
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