Healing and Christian Atonement
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1992
Transcribed and Edited by David Sielaff, September 2005
Read the accompanying Newsletter for September 2005
This subject of healing is one that all of us need to understand, but it is woefully misunderstood today even by some of the top religious authorities in the world. This is especially true of many Pentecostal groups who do not comprehend what the Christian Atonement entails nor how it is to be properly applied today. We will look at the question of sickness, healing, medicine, physicians, and in the light of biblical teachings concerning Christ’s Atonement for us.
Your Atonement is absolutely secure and all-embracing. It is wonderful. The word “Atonement” means a covering, a covering of our sins, a covering of our imperfections so we can experience righteousness and perfection in the future through Christ. All that is wrapped up in the great covering of Christ’s blood for every one of us, but “Atonement” is so woefully misunderstood because people today want to apply the Atonement of Christ to every single aspect of life. In no way is that what the biblical teaching shows to us.
Sickness is a widespread phenomenon. It is rare to find a person who has never experienced illness. Yet, even those uncommon few encounter death and that could be called a malady in itself. In the final analysis all humans succumb to afflictions. They seem to be a part of our living, and dying. Are sicknesses natural? Some admit that they seem to be. Others feel that all illness is unnatural and that if everyone lived as the Creator intended we would never experience a day of sickness. People have debated this issue from the dawn of history. Philosophers have wondered about it, physicians have attempted to understand it and improve on it, and theologians have tried to explain it.
The question of sickness and healing concerns all who are Christians. We should know what the Bible teaches about the matter as it reflects upon the Atonement, the great covering of our sins that Christ has done by His blood. After all, God created us and He should give us information in His revelation to help us better understand this important subject.
We need to realize one thing as far as sin is concerned: only God can forgive sin. He is the only one who can cleanse us of our spiritual misdeeds. Looking at sin, does it bear any relationship to sickness? Is sickness the result of sin, either physical or spiritual sin?
If sickness is always the result of sin, then God is the only one who can legitimately deal with it. Medicine in fact could become an idol, something a person uses in place of God to “forgive sins.” Physicians also could come under the banner of censure because some think them to be human substitutes for God in His treatment of sin. Since it is believed that only God can deal with transgressions, physicians are shunned by some Christians as inherently evil, an idolatrous replacement for God.
Healing on the other hand is understood in some circles as the forgiveness of sins. Since only God can forgive sins, only He can be trusted to heal all our afflictions. These matters have caused serious concern to all those who love God and His Bible. All want to know what God desires in order to inherit everlasting life in His kingdom and to be a part of His divine family. What does God say about this important subject? For one thing, we are shown by Christ that sickness can be (and is indeed on occasion) a result of sin. Later we will discuss whether it is always a question of sin.
“And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins be forgiven you.’ And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemes.’ And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Wherefore think you evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, Your sins be forgiven you; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins,’ (then says he to the sick of the palsy,) ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go unto your house.’”
This illustration clearly shows that sicknesses can be the result of sins and that the healing of the palsied man was the resultant forgiveness of sins. There is a further example of this fact in John 5:1–16. An impotent man had been healed by Christ and was then told: “Behold, you are made whole: sin no more lest a worse thing come unto you” (verse 14). There is no arguing these two references. Both the palsied man and the impotent man were diseased because of sins — their transgressions of physical or spiritual laws.
This should surprise no one really. The breaking of physical laws can clearly result in diseased bodies. If the diet of a child consists of an overabundance of carbohydrates — especially refined sugars — with great deficiencies in proteins and fats, that little frame could hardly develop properly. Even an adult who overeats or overdrinks greatly would hardly expect to be in the peak of health continually.
From a psychological point of view, one could be filled with hate, envy, bitterness, or a host of other emotional disturbances, and suffer permanent mental problems as a result. Bad mental habits, according to the Bible, are sins — spiritual sins. Breaking those spiritual laws can produce physical as well as mental illness. A hundredfold more examples could be given to show that sickness can be the outcome of broken laws — and really, one would be daft to argue the issue.
Since the consequence of sin can be sickness, some Christians feel that only God can deal with it. They believe that medicine or physicians should never be used to treat the matter, for that would be trying to put them in the place of God.
There are theological and natural problems with this concept. It is well recognized that correcting the diet or mental attitude can often result in a complete recovery of the afflicted. This can happen to people who do not invoke God at all. Is the simple correction of a diet or an attitude to be equated with the forgiveness of sins? Are there not natural recuperative powers resident within everybody? Many, if not most, recoveries are made without the slightest forgiveness of sins in the Biblical sense of the word. As a matter of fact, Christ corrected the common general belief of His time of the 1st century C.E. that misfortunes and sicknesses were altogether a result of sins. Note what Luke wrote:
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them ‘Suppose you that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
Of those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.’”
Christ was stating that accidents can and do occur that have nothing to do with spiritual sins. Most Jews thought all misfortunes were a direct result of God’s punishment of transgressions. Christ said they were not. This erroneous belief of Jews was also generally shared by the Gentiles.
Remember when the apostle Paul was traveling to Rome in the vessel that capsized in a great storm. Paul, the crew, and passengers landed on an island some feel was the island of Malta.
“The barbarous people [those who did not speak Greek] showed us no little kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received every one of us, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom though he has escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffers not to live.’ And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.”
This was an accident so far as Paul was concerned. The snake bit the apostle Paul but not one thing happened to him. However, the Gentile folk thought something was wrong with Paul, or that God surely would never have allowed that snake to bite him.
How many of us have felt the same thing? If something happens to one of our friends, neighbors, or relatives, such as a beast hurting them in some way, the natural conclusion of many people is that God is punishing that individual. That certainly is not the case with the apostle Paul. The belief that all sicknesses or misfortunes are the consequence of evildoing was commonplace. People reasoned that God was always good and only punished people because they were evil. This, however, was not the belief of Christ.
Sickness was not always the result of sins. Christ gave a clear illustration of this in the incident of the man born blind:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’”
Notice that they did not say, “Was it because he sinned?” They assumed automatically it was because he had sinned. But they did not know whether it was the man himself who sinned (and been born that way, and how can a baby sin?) or whether it was his parents who sinned? Even in the 10 Commandments it says the sins of the parents will be carried on down to the children of the 3rd and 4th generation (Exodus 20:5, 34:7; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9).
“Jesus answered, ‘Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay. And said unto him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,’ (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”
This man was not born blind because of any sin of his own or the sin of his parents. God made that man born blind so that Jesus could heal him. Some could say that was a cruel thing for God to do. Take that up with God (I will do so also), but this is the teaching of the Scripture. God sometimes allows people to have such sufferings to be able to do something in them later for good. 1
All these things are in the Bible for a reason, and God knows what He is doing. Just because a person is sick, even violently sick, does not necessarily mean at all that the person has sinned, nor that his parents sinned. We need to let go this crazy belief that every case of sickness, whether a sniffle of a cold, or leprosy, is necessarily because of sin.
This example shows that Christ’s disciples shared the prevailing viewpoint that sicknesses were caused by sins. They assumed without question that sins caused his blindness. Even the pharisaical religious leaders told the man: “You were altogether born in sins” (John 9:34), and thought his congenital blindness was a consequence of sins. But Christ corrected the common opinion: “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents.” Clearly, his blindness was not caused by any sin. There are other illustrations to show that people have been ill without any sins whatsoever causing the afflictions. People can suffer calamitous and troublesome times from God without them having committed any sins whatsoever.
Job is the prime Old Testament illustration that sins do not necessarily bring calamity upon people. Job was a wise man from Uz. He lived east of Palestine in the area of modern Jordan and Syria. He is pictured as a very rich man with great influence and a very happy man. The author of the book describes him as being “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). The Revised Standard Version gives the Hebrew as “blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.” How many of us could have an inspired writer talk of us in the manner written of Job? We all fall far short.
But with Job it was different. Even Satan could find nothing about Job with which to accuse him. Satan had just traveled over the whole earth. He had observed all. But God informed Satan that in all the earth Job was unique, a “perfect and upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil” (Job 1:8). This was God’s appraisal of Job.
If Satan could not find one thing wrong with Job (which he could not) and God said he was “perfect,” what right have men to say he was self-righteous and an egotist who needed to learn the evil of his self-righteousness? Many Scriptures show that self-righteousness is a cardinal sin (Isaiah 64:6; Luke 18:9–14; Revelation 3:17–18). But Satan could not find one taint on Job’s character. 2 To test the righteous character of Job, God allowed Satan to take away all his possessions and to destroy his children. This was a terrible tragedy for this man to endure, but the inspired writer said, “Job sinned not nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). In his first trial Job maintained his perfect status and fidelity before God.
A second time Satan came into the presence of God, and again he came from a complete survey of the earth (Job 2:2). If anyone could have the power to observe sins in people, it would be “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). But even after all the things Satan had done to him, God still said of Job:
“There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you [God speaking to Satan] moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
God had no cause whatever to afflict Job because of anything he had done. However, Job was an example and God tested him, giving him evil experiences. But the things that befell Job were not because of his sins. They were allowed to happen by God who permitted Satan to do the tricks. Job held fast his integrity for, as God said, his afflictions were put on him “without cause.” Job was certainly not self-righteous.
Satan was not content. He felt that Job surely had one weakness to which he would succumb — the ruination of his own health. So God permitted Satan to smite Job with anything he pleased, but he could not take his life. 3 So God permitted Satan to smite Job with sore boils, from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. And even though Job became gravely ill, the divine author said that Job still did not, even then, “sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).
For the next twenty-six chapters Job was counseled by three older philosophers concerning the reasons why all his misfortunes occurred and why he had become sick. They all told him in various ways that he was surely a sinner and that his sins had caught up with him. They believed what most people commonly believed, that sickness and misfortune were caused by the sins of an individual. Job knew that he (as well as all humans) had basic sin (Job 7:20– 21; 14:4, 16–17; 31:33) and that he was not perfect like God was. But compared to all other humans he had done nothing wrong to cause Satan to do what he did to him, nor for God to allow Satan to do it. 4
Some of you may be sick and you cannot figure out what you did that caused you to be sick. We wonder why God allows things to happen, such as misfortunes and sicknesses. God said Job was afflicted “without cause” (2:3). No wonder that Job steadfastly defended his position that he had not sinned. He was not self-righteous, he was telling the truth.
To understand Job’s defense of himself, look at a situation which might happen to anyone. Suppose you became sick. Three friends come and accuse you of being sick because you ran a red light the day before. However, in your affliction you protest that you had not even driven a car that day. You knew you had not violated the law in that regard. But the three counselors continue to insist that you ran the red light. Would you defend yourself and say that you had not run the red light? Is that self-righteousness? In fact, had you admitted to an offense you knew you did not commit, you would be lying, and that would be sin.
Job told his counselors that he had done nothing wrong to bring on his misfortunes and sickness. He continued steadfastly to maintain his innocence. And Job was absolutely right. Even God admitted that Job had been afflicted “without cause.”
Job later came to repent in sackcloth and ashes. Was this because he had sinned after all? No. Nowhere in the book does God ever call Job a sinner. But Job did repent. Why? He repented because he compared himself in character with God, not understanding how powerful, holy, and august God really was. Read Job 42:1–6. That was the reason Job had to repent. He compared himself with God. He said, I am as perfect as God. He was not. But Job did nothing specifically wrong to bring on the illness or the misfortunes that occurred to him. In fact, he began to think he was like God in character. This was wrong, he repented of it.
While He never called Job a sinner, God did whittle him down to size by showing Job His powers of creation, of which Job had none. Job chapters 38–41 show God demonstrating how insignificant Job was in comparison to God. Job never realized this (42:5), and repented of his erroneous evaluation of himself.
The lesson of Job has excellent information for us in regard to the overall subject of healing. He had misfortunes. He was sick, deathly so. But note carefully: he did not sin to bring on those afflictions. This is clear in God’s revelation. This is why the lesson of Job is good to bear in mind regarding sickness — his sickness was not a result of sin!
And just as Job’s three friends thought he must have sinned, these wise men could not figure out why Job would be afflicted in such a way if he had not sinned. They absolutely believed it. Christ’s disciples, as well as the Pharisees, thought the man born blind had sinned (John 9:34). But all were wrong! Neither the blind man nor his parents had sinned (John 9:2–3). Sickness is not always the result of sin!
Indeed, even verses of Scripture which tell us to anoint the sick and pray the prayer of faith for recovery, we are told “If he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14–15). This scripture says “if he has committed sins” because in some cases sicknesses are not the result of sins.
There are other ways to show that sickness and disease do not always occur because of sin. Animals are incapable of sin, yet they get sick. Plants cannot break moral or spiritual laws, but many of them become diseased. Human infants fall prey to childhood diseases, but could it be said that they broke the Ten Commandments or other laws? Indeed, a righteous person who is completely healthy may walk into the forest, be bitten by a rabid animal, and unless he is given proper treatment he likely will die because the rabies virus can kill if it enters the bloodstream. Should this person be called a sinner? Pneumonia, measles, and the common cold can be caused by viruses, and even healthy people can “catch” them. Are all these victims sinners?
While Israel dwelt in the wilderness, away from disease-ridden Egypt, even though they ate food from heaven (manna, the food of angels, Psalm 78:24–25), they were nevertheless subject to sickness. This is clear because quarantine laws were placed in the Bible to keep others from “catching” diseases among the Israelites (Numbers 5:2–3). This does not mean that someone could “catch” another’s sins, but rather that viruses, bacteria, or other causative agents of infectious disease can be “caught” to make one sick. This is why quarantine was necessary among the ancient Israelites and still is for us today.
But even quarantine regulations cannot stem the tide of sickness if they are at epidemic proportions. Throughout history plagues have swept through one country after another. Perfectly healthy people — along with the sickly — have fallen victim to pestilence and died. Did they all catch the plague because they had sinned?
King David sinned on one occasion against God and He caused 70,000 of David’s subjects to perish by plague (2 Samuel 24:15). It was caused by sin, but not their sin. It was David’s sin. And though David recognized his own sin as a cause of God’s judgment, he said to God, “But these sheep, what have they done?” (verse 17). Even David understood that they had not done anything wrong. In fact the 70,000 had done nothing but obey the dictates of King David. They were blameless, but they all died of the plague. This example again shows that it is possible for people to become sick and die without committing sins.
However, it must again be admitted that if one eats too much cake, drinks too much alcohol, lives an intemperate life, he can become sick. Even those who are not intemperate still get sick. Actually, what is proper to eat at all times? 5 Does anyone of us have enough mind-power to eat and drink the right quantity and quality of foods on each and every occasion? One day the outside temperature is cold, the next day it is warm. Should a person change his diet to compensate for these diurnal changes? If so, how would he change it? And could he be assured he had everything in correct proportions?
The truth is, no human being can really put into the body exactly what it needs in order to function perfectly at all times. We are not mentally capable of such precise dieting. God does not want us to be fanatics over food and drink (Romans 14:17). Christ is not as much interested in what we put into our bodies as He is in what comes out of our hearts. This is clearly shown in the following Scriptures:
“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, ‘Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.’
And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he says unto them, ‘Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him; because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats [foods]?’ And he said, ‘That which comes out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
It is not biblically demonstrable that all sicknesses are the result of sin — though some are because all of us can defile our bodies with improper foods, drinks, lack of exercise, and so forth. Even the most faithful of God’s saints have become sick, and there is no reference of stigma associated with their sicknesses which would suggest they were to be considered sinners. Consider New Testament examples of sickness:
“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, … you had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. … Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”
Philippians 2:25–27, 30
Paul says that Epaphroditus became sick “for the work of Christ.” This does not show him to be a sinner. He had probably worked himself “to the bone” for Christ’s sake. No doubt there was physical overexertion on Epaphroditus’ part, but should we call him a sinner and say that he should have repented of his sins?
Paul makes it abundantly clear that he was subject to frequent, if not permanent, sicknesses:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he [God] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7–10
Many have disputed what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. Paul makes it plain that his flesh was affected in some way. In verse 5 he said he gloried “in mine infirmities.” 6 He had infirmities (in the plural) and they were given to him, not because he was a sinner, but he says they were to keep him humble, “lest I should be exalted above measure” (verse 7). This shows that sicknesses can be given by God for profitable purposes. Paul’s sicknesses were apparently of long duration. In his Galatian epistle he talks about “an infirmity of the flesh” (Galatians 4:13), a sickness he had when he first preached the Gospel to them. This was to Paul a temptation or a “trial in my flesh” (verse 14). Nevertheless, he preached to them while infirm.
He blessed the Galatians because they “despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:14). The sickness was a great trial to Paul. Normally, people would have despised or rejected one with such an infirmity, but the Galatians did not. 7 He later gloried in his infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:5). He says they were given to keep him humble, not because he had sinned.
Paul’s infirmities may have been the reason that Luke accompanied Paul on many of his journeys (Acts 20 and 2 Timothy 4:11). Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14), a person who probably had the gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9). Throughout his Gospel and Acts, Luke used special medical language which characterized him as a professional Greek physician who was very familiar with his art. 8 It is only logical that Luke helped Paul with advice concerning his infirmities.
The Bible is certainly not against the use of physicians. And even though one woman suffered twelve years from many physicians (Mark 5:25–26), some of us have suffered even longer from certain historians and theologians. This does not mean that all historians or theologians have caused us to suffer. Nor can all physicians be bad. Indeed, physicians are only human and cannot be expected to be infallible. Mark was hardly censuring physicians. He was showing the power of Christ above that of the professional physicians. Actually, Christ Himself taught that the sick need physicians to treat them (Matthew 9:12).
The long association of Luke the physician with Paul has already been mentioned, it appears that several ministers in the early New Testament ekklesia were sick quite often and needed advice on medical matters. Paul himself gave Timothy medical advice to help him in “your often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). This word “infirmities” as applied to Timothy is the same Greek word that describes Paul’s sicknesses as well as those of the sick in the Gospels. Timothy must have been ill quite often. Was he sick because of sins? Paul nowhere says he was. In fact Timothy was identified as a man of “unfeigned faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Some might accuse Timothy of not having faith because he was often sick. What nonsense! Though he had infirmities, Timothy was full of the Holy Spirit and a good minister of God (Philippians 2:19–22).
Not only were Timothy, Paul, and some of the others sick, what about Christ Himself while He was on earth? He was perfect in every way, with not one sin on His body, on His Spirit, or on His soul that He Himself committed. It was true that He was, in Greek, “bearing the sins of the world” while He was alive on earth for His some 30-odd years. Jesus was subject to sickness throughout His entire life, but He had no sin on Him. 9 The Old and New Testament evidence indicates that Christ Himself experienced sicknesses often, if not almost continually. In other words, let us ask the question, did Christ know what it was like to become ill?
How could one who never experienced any sickness of any kind empathize with us who experience sickness often, and some all the time? How could this happen? There are some who believe that Christ could not have been sick a day in His life because He never sinned. One thing is certain: Christ underwent the emotional experiences that all humans go through:
“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
The word “tempted” in this usage does not mean “enticed,” enticed to do something without actually giving in to the impulse. No! The word really means “tried” or “tested.” He experienced what we humans experience so He could have empathy with us. This is why He is able to have a feeling for us in our infirmities, our sicknesses.
The Old Testament prophecy which best describes the life and death of Christ starts in the last part of Isaiah chapter 52 all through chapter 53. It is called the “Suffering Servant” prophecy. It is remarkable and it tells us what Christ would experience while He was on earth. It says in the clearest of language, just as Hebrews 4:15 stated about His infirmities, that He was to be sickly, yet He would have no sin on Him of His own doing. He would have the sins of us upon Him. Isaiah prophesied about Christ:
“Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground [like a desiccated plant, a struggling plant]: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
The first point to notice is the description of the birth and the growing-up period of Christ’s life. He was not a rugged, he-man and full-of-health individual, a unique specimen of human perfection, a virtual Adonis. Some think this to be so because Christ did not sin once! But was He an example of physical perfection? This prophecy says just the opposite.
In the Isaiah prophecy he was called “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). The Revised Standard Version shows the Hebrew word for “sorrows” means “pains.” He experienced pains long before He went to the tree of crucifixion. Also, He was to be “acquainted with grief.” The word “grief” actually means “sickness.” It does not mean acquainted with other people as sick, it means that He Himself experienced sickness. 10
In my book Secrets of Golgotha I have comments from several Jewish, Christian, and non-Christian scholars who show that the language being used to describe Christ while He was on earth is the same language used to describe someone with leprosy. Continuing with the prophecy of Isaiah 53:
“Surely he has borne our griefs [Hebrew: sicknesses] and carried our sorrows [Hebrew: pains]: yet we did esteem him stricken [Hebrew: plagued, as in Psalm 73:14], smitten and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [welfare, prosperity] was upon him; and with his stripes [bruises] we are healed.”
Many believe the prophecy about “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” found its fulfillment only in Christ’s crucifixion itself. But this is not totally correct. The Gospel states emphatically that this prophecy was being fulfilled long before Jesus’ crucifixion.
“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.’”
This reference occurred almost a year before Christ’s crucifixion. It shows He was bearing our sicknesses and our infirmities long before He went to be crucified. As Paul said, “He was in all points tempted [tested] like as we are, yet without sin,” which is why He has a “feeling of our infirmities [sicknesses]” (Hebrews 4:15). He has a feeling of our infirmities or our sicknesses because He experienced these things Himself while on earth as a human, though He did not sin His entire life.
This is no doubt the reason why those in His hometown of Nazareth were tempting him. They saw Jesus grow up, as a boy, as a teenager, and as a young man. They knew His parents, brothers, and sisters. In spite of His capability to heal others and to perform great miracles for others, Christ said to them, “You will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself’” (Luke 4:23). They knew Him from childhood. They knew His frame. They knew He was a “root out of dry ground.” He was before them as “a tender plant.” They knew Him to be “a man involved in pain and humiliated by sickness.” (See Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary, p. 363, above.)
Since Paul said that Christ was “tested in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” He is a supreme example of how infirmities can be associated with a person without being caused by sin. Christ knew no sin but He must have experienced illness. He probably had the common childhood diseases that most humans have. And, with His body not being robust, He could have been subjected to other afflictions — “yet without sin.” This allowed Him to be our totally empathetic High Priest to us. He suffered as we suffer.
Did not Christ in His life atone for us, as well as by His death on the tree of crucifixion? The word “Atonement” means covering. Does not His blood cover us from all of our sins so we can be sin free? If he paid the penalty for our sins, if He atoned for our sins, what about healing? Why can we not have healing right here and now?
Is healing of our physical or psychological problems that we presently have in the Atonement that Christ worked out for us when He was there on earth for some 30+ odd years and dying on the tree of crucifixion for us? Has He not paid the penalty for all of our sins? Why are we continually being sick? Are the Pentecostals correct when they say that because Christ died and paid for our sins, and by His stripes we are healed, why cannot we be healed now? Is it not true that we can apply the Atonement of Christ at the present time?
Many when praying for the healing of the sick often refer to this Atonement of Christ. “Atonement” is a theological term which signifies the process through which we are saved from our sins by the life and death of Christ. It specifically means a covering of our sins through the works and blood of Christ for us. The words of 1 Peter 2:24: “By whose stripes you are healed,” are looked upon as authority to place any sickness upon the back of Christ and let His Atonement cleanse the person of sins which caused the sickness in the first place. That is how many people look at it.
However, is healing for the present age within the Atonement that Christ worked out for us some 1900 years ago? Certainly, in an ultimate sense healing is a part of the Atonement, without doubt. Through His life and through His dying for us on the tree of crucifixion, Christ cleansed us from all sin so that when we are resurrected from the dead and we come before God the Father and Christ Himself to be judged. Then because we are in Christ, all of our sins have already been judged in Christ.
When we come by the resurrection of the dead before that judgment throne of God the Father and Christ, the books will be opened to look at all of your records (and mine). On one side are the debits while the other is the credit side. The debit side contains all those demerits, all the sins that we have committed. The credit side will have all the good things you have done. You will be judged based on those things that the books contain. We find this in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and also in Revelation chapter 20. We will all undergo this judgment.
If you are under Christ’s Atonement (the covering of your sins by Christ’s blood has been effective completely) and you are in Christ, then when God and Christ look at the debit side of the ledger, they will not find one single sin on the debit side. Why? Because Christ has covered them, He has atoned for them.
When you look on the credit side you will find all the good things that you have done that make you worthy of going into not only the Kingdom of God, but into a salvation state into the very family of God, just like Christ Jesus is at this present moment, to have a spiritual body, a spiritual character, a spiritual composition. Everything about you will be like Christ. You will be able to go into that experience because the credit side will say that all the things Christ did that were pleasing to the Father are now accounted to your credit. Some of the things in there that Christ did you did not even do! But Christ did them and He did them perfectly.
Everything Christ did will be given to you. It will be accounted to your credit side. Your sins have not only been covered or atoned for, but all of the good things that Christ Jesus did will be on your side as well as the few good things that you and I have done on this earth. However, the good things that will count will be all those that Christ did.
That is when the fullness of the covering of the Atonement will take place. Because perfection will be found in you due to your attachment to Christ, at that moment the Atonement will be put into full force.
Do we see the Atonement in full force now when we are still in this flesh, before our glorification, before we come to the judgment seat of Christ and see our perfection there demonstrated? The answer is no. This is because God can show us mercy now (and He does), but we are still in this flesh.
When you look at the Scripture very carefully, being in this flesh means we will be subject to all types of difficulties. Paul said:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
That glory will be revealed when the resurrection of the dead comes, when your body is resurrected, when you stand before that judgment seat of God with Christ on His judgment throne. On the debit side not one sin will be appropriated to you. On the credit side you will have all the goodness that Christ ever did.
When that is noticed by God the Father He will say, son or daughter, come right over here and sit on My right hand just like your elder brother Christ. That is when the glory will come. That is when you will have no more sicknesses whatsoever. You will have no more infirmities. That is when the full Atonement will be applied.
Before that great time of glory comes, we are at the present time (and will be until our death), subject to sufferings. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, …”
There is hope coming, even for the creation, but it is not here now. We look around us here and we do not see that the Atonement of Christ in a complete sense is fully in operation. That comes after the resurrection when we come to the place of glory.
“For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Romans 8:20–21 11
We are waiting for a time in the future when the manifestation of the children of God will be made full and complete. At this time now the manifestation of the children of God has not yet occurred. We only see one child of God that has gone through that. His name is Christ Jesus. He is the only one up to now. Beginning at His Second Advent and completing later at the dispensation of the fullness of times, all the universe will come into a harmonious relationship with God. Both humans and angelic creatures, all will come into a oneness with God, and especially we who are His children.
When that occurs, the full Atonement of Christ, His covering not only of our sins, but also for the granting to us the supreme righteousness and goodness through our attachment to Him, all will be put into proper focus. That is why it says
“because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation [creation] groans and travails in pain together until now.And not only they [the creation, animate or inanimate], but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
When the body is redeemed by the resurrection from the dead, and we stand before the judgment seat of God and the books are opened, that is when we become a real, a pure, and a true (in a pragmatic sense) child of the living God, a member of the very family of God. At the end the whole creation, all men and women, will one day stand in that position and they will find out what Christ has done for them to get them saved.
Salvation is not something you have to do, it is given by grace. It is something done by Christ. There are works in salvation, but the works are not something you do. The works are done by Christ and by God the Father through you. The teaching of the Gospel is not about what you have to do to get saved. No, the teaching of the Gospel is really about what Christ did through the Father that got you saved. There is the difference. Salvation comes entirely and completely through grace.
Whether or not you come up in the first resurrection at the second advent of Christ is dependent on works. But even there the works that God can do in you and through you are really of His initiation and origination (Philippians 2:13). The Atonement that Christ worked out for us some 1900 years ago will only be put into effect when we come to the redemption of the body, when we come to the resurrection from the dead. Up until that time the whole creation will continue to groan. It will continue to
“… pain together until now. And not only they [the creation, animate or inanimate], but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
These ministers who erroneously say that you can apply the Atonement of Christ here and now so you can have a perfect body now, completely sin free, free of sickness, difficulties, and problems — they are not telling you the truth. The apostle Paul never said such a thing. In fact Paul is explaining when the Atonement will be into effect, when the stripes that Christ underwent will be applied so you can be healed completely of everything, and you will be living like God the Father and Christ for the rest of eternity. That will be affected by the redemption of the body and not before. 12
It is time these preachers (who should know better) quit telling people that the Atonement of Christ can be affected in its fullness at this present time. It is not intended to be the case. By them saying that the Atonement applies fully now and some people are not healed (because God is not obligated to heal everyone now), they say that the problem is “your faith.” You do not have enough faith. The person goes around like Job saying, what do you mean I do not have enough faith? I have been trying to have faith all the time. They are telling me that I can have complete healing now if I have faith, that apparently I do not have it. It means then that I am in a demerit. Maybe you do not have enough faith, but some people say it is because you are still in your sins that you are not healed.
The creation is suffering at this time. Who put it that way? God did, absolutely, but He will redeem it by the resurrection from the dead which you will experience in Christ. It will be a wonderful time.
At this time now we are all subject to infirmities, to difficulties. We will finally die as it says in Hebrews 9:27–29: “It is given to man once to die, and then comes the judgment.” Death is in this world, in the animal world, the plant world, and amongst us. But there is hope. The hope is the redemption of the body. The Atonement of Christ has already been accomplished for Himself, and it will be accomplished thoroughly for you and for me when our bodies are redeemed.
Until that time we can ask God if we are sick, like Job was, or like Paul, for release from the sickness. Sometimes He does it. Ask for mercy; ask for Him to intervene in your life. He may heal you or he may not. Whether you have a lot of faith or a lack of faith, or if you have many sins or hardly any sins, these have no bearing on whether you are healed or not healed. If you look at the scriptures carefully, if you are healed in this life (and you can be by a miracle from God Almighty), it is because He is showing mercy on you.
You will be healed not because of some major righteousness you have done, or not healed because of some major sin you committed (or are still committing), or because you do not have faith. Those things are contrary to what Paul is saying in Romans chapter 8. In fact all of the whole creation is waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of your body, my body, and the bodies of the saints. Paul went on to say:
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?
If we get everything right now, if the Atonement is effective for us at this present time, not only would we never be sick anymore, we would never die. That is not the case. Hope is what we need. Paul goes on to say:
“But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it [healing our sicknesses]:”
It does not say the Spirit will get rid of our sicknesses, it says:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities [helps us to endure them, to understand them, to gain experience from them], for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he [Jesus Christ] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
That includes your infirmities. That includes your problems. That includes the difficulties you have while this earth is groaning and travailing in pain, while this society, the animal world, vegetable world, and we also ourselves seem to be groaning and travailing. It is being subjected to this “bad” by God Himself for a purpose. The purpose is to finally show through Christ and His Atonement what each of us will be able to have in the future when our bodies will be redeemed.
When they are redeemed the full Atonement of Christ, the covering of our sins, and the gift of the extreme righteousness of Christ will be put together in each one of us, and then God the Father will say to each of us, come and sit next to me on my right hand (Ephesians 2:6). That is what we are all destined to have.
In this article “Healing and the Christian Atonement” we must realize that not all sickness is caused by sin. Many righteous people have been sick and they have not sinned to bring on the sickness. Yes, some sicknesses are caused by sins. Those will be dealt with when the body is redeemed, and when Christ Jesus applies the Atonement that He has affected to each one of us, and we will be in a state of righteousness. It will be a wonderful thing when all that occurs.
The Christian Atonement can only be applied at that time of judgment, after the resurrection, when the body is redeemed. It is important that we understand that. That is why many of the healing ministries today need to completely revamp their teaching of the Gospel, which they are perverting. Such teaching is dangerous. They should say that God may show mercy on you, but He is not obligated in any way to heal anyone at this present time. You can go to any tent meeting you want to, or any convention center, or have people come to your home. It is perfectly all right to have them to anoint you. It is proper for people to anoint you with oil. If you have committed sins that caused you to have the sickness, they can be forgiven.
In a sense they are already forgiven, but the point is that God can show you mercy. He will show you mercy from time to time, but He is not obligated to do so until the Atonement is put into its ultimate effect. That comes as the Scripture plainly teaches, at the redemption of our bodies, when the judgment comes and we are given our spiritual bodies, and we are also given a character to go along with it that is equal to that of Christ Jesus Himself, and of God the father — when we become members of the very family of God.
This will be when the Christian Atonement takes place in all its glory. This will be when all healing will take place in every way. This will also be the time when death will cease to be our enemy, when we can then, in Christ and God the Father, live for all time to come, in a glorious, wonderful, and a practical relationship with them in the very family of God.
Ernest L Martin, 1992
Edited by David Sielaff, September 2005
1 Not one of us has perfection in body. I do not know of one person that does. I am looking for that perfect body, however, and after the resurrection from the dead takes place, and I (and you!) will be given a brand new spiritual body which shall be perfect. All of the ills and ails of this body that we have had here will be good experiences for us. We will then appreciate what God gives to us when we attain to the resurrection from the dead. ELM
2 That does not mean that Job was different from all other humans and like Christ in absolute perfection, but within the environment of being a human being, these were the appraisals given by God the Father, by Satan, and by Job himself. ELM
3 Notice that in the dialog between God and Satan in chapters 1 and 2 of Job, God is in complete control. Satan cannot do one thing to Job — nor can he do anything to you, or to your loved ones, or to anyone — unless God Himself gives permission. Who is in charge? God is always in charge. That understanding will give us the comfort to realize that our heavenly Father and our elder Brother Christ Jesus are very concerned about us. We may go through trials and troubles, some like Job suffer, but God knows what He is doing and we will triumph in the end. That is exactly what we find in the Scripture, and why the example of Job is given to us. ELM
4 He was not even willing to call himself perfect (that is, blameless, Job 9:20–22) though God appraised him as such (1:1, 8; 2:3). God said Job was blameless in the sense that he had done nothing wrong to warrant all his misfortunes or sicknesses. ELM
5 While the body should be well cared for — it is the temple of God, if one is too careful in watching the body, all attention could be drawn inward to the physical self. Such a person could become overly self-centered and concerned with physical things. This is the antithesis of a Christian’s outward concern for others and having his mind directed toward spiritual things. ELM
6 The Greek word “infirmities” is the same one used to describe the impotent man of thirty-eight years who lay at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:5). It also applied to the woman who was bowed over for eighteen years (Luke 13:11–12). Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was also sick (John 11:1–6). All of these sicknesses were described with the same Greek word (translated “diseases” in Acts 28:9) that Paul used to describe his own condition. The Greek root word asthesneia is variously translated as infirmity (17x), weakness (5x), disease (1x), and sickness (1x) in the King James Version. ELM/DWS
7 No one knows what his affliction was, but Paul did say, in his commendations of the Galatians, that “if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Galatians 4:15p). He may have had an eye disease that was obvious to all, or his statement could have been a figure of speech meaning they would have given up their chief organs of sense to relieve him of his affliction in a vicarious way. Whatever the answer, Paul was a sick man when he preached to the Galatians, and he must have continued to be sick for some time. ELM
8 Article “Physician,” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 1938. ELM
9 Read the chapter 23 “The Real Jesus of the Bible” in my book Secrets of Golgotha (Portland: ASK, 1996), pp. 328–344.
10 His contemporaries in and around His hometown of Nazareth would have said to him, “Physician, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23). In his appearance He was not healthy and vigorous. He was carrying our sins in his person. Look at what The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, edited by Charles M. Laymon (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1971), p. 363, gives the comment and translation of the man that Christ was to be:
“‘A man involved in pain and humiliated by sickness, hiding his face from us; we despised him and did not esteem him.’ … To some extent the same kind of language is used of Job. In neither case should the metaphor be taken as prosaic description — neither the servant of God [as described in Isaiah 53] nor Job was a leper — but it is difficult to imagine a more apt way to suggest the isolation, the sense of outcast, than the language applied to such a disease [as leprosy would be considered].”
The language is similar to that describing someone with leprosy, though we know Christ did not have leprosy because he was allowed to go into the Temple of God, which no leper could enter. ELM
11 Look at creation around us today. In the animate world do we see perfection in every way? Do all animals experience a perfection of life and happiness with no fear, no difficulties, and no sicknesses? No. Look at the flora, the plants. Do we find that God has allowed diseases to exist? There are pests and other types of plagues that exist even in the plant world. Look at the universe itself. Do we not find asteroids going through the various orbits so some can collide with the moon or the earth and cause devastation? Yes. Even the inanimate creation that God has made at present is suffering in bondage. That is what the apostle Paul said. You cannot apply the Atonement of Christ here and now when Paul under divine inspiration said that creation is not ready for it yet! Everyone and everything is waiting in expectation. ELM
12 These healing campaigns that you see that claim “you can be healed,” well, some people are healed at some of those meetings, if God shows mercy. That is true. ELM
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