I once asked a group of preachers if they thought that healing was in the atonement. The main leader matter-of-factly said, “Of course it is.” Nobody else even seemed to think twice about it. Sadly, the minister who was so sure about it lost his wife to cancer about two years later. The man himself died just a couple of years after that to an unexpected heart attack. He was in his mid-fifties.
The couple who died held the belief that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. And they both died what most would consider premature deaths. I am not suggesting that we base our doctrines on anyone’s personal experiences. We must go to the Scriptures to establish our beliefs. That said, experience plays an important role in helping us work out our theology.
Consider the following implications of the “healing is in the atonement” doctrine. If the doctrine, as commonly held by many Pentecostals and charismatics, is true, then:
It is every believer’s new covenant right, to not only be free from the guilt and dominion of sin, but to also be free from all sickness and disease in this life. This means that just as Jesus died to secure the forgiveness of your sins, so also He died to secure perfect health for you in this life.
Are there texts in the Bible that tie healing with the atonement? Yes, there are many, actually. Probably the most prominent are Isaiah 53:4-6, and the related New Testament references to this text found in Matthew 8:16-17 and 1 Peter 2:24. Most modern translations translate Isaiah’s words as, “surely he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows…and by his stripes were are healed.” But the word “grief” is a translation of a Hebrew word that 20 out of 24 times is translated as “disease” or “sickness”.
When Matthew quotes this verse he clearly associates it with Jesus carrying away our sicknesses – unmistakably tying the text to the healing and deliverance ministry of Jesus Christ. Peter’s reference to Isaiah’s text seems to point to Jesus carrying our sins in His body at the cross. There are several other Biblical texts that seem to connect forgiveness of sins with healing. Sickness, after all, can be shown to be one of the sad results of sin entering the world through Adam. If sin brought sickness into the world, and Jesus came to save His people from sin, then it is logical to think that the atonement could have implications regarding sickness as well. We should all be honest enough to see that this is at least a logical position.
If healing is in the atonement like deliverance from sin is in the atonement, then it is a sin to be sick. If Christ purchased your total healing in this life at the Cross, then continuing to live in sickness is a “falling short” of the salvation Christ has purchased. Some people teach that it is a sin to be sick. As extreme as this may sound, it is a logical conclusion if healing is in the atonement in the same way that forgiveness of sins is.
A “middle” position in this matter could be that healing is in the atonement, but not in the same way that forgiveness of sins is in the atonement. This is the position that I hold. But that will require another post!