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  • Pastor Jim French

Healing in the Atonement

Healing 103

Before we delve to deeply into today's subject, we need to define atonement. Exactly what it is and why is it important.

Simply put, the atonement is right-standing with God. It's every Christian's ability to stand before God free of sin, guilt and shame. Derek Prince describes it as "at one-ment." In other words, the separation caused by our sin is no more through Jesus' work on the cross. Through his perfect life and sacrifice for us we can come boldly to the throne of grace as a son or daughter of God (Hebrews 4:16).

Prince says, "By the perfect all-sufficient sacrifice, Jesus canceled forever the effects of sin and provided complete well being for every believer. It’s God and the sinner being brought to a relationship in which they are at one. It’s a very, very vivid word."

There is a significant difference between atonement in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament the sins of the people were only covered. You've probably heard of the Jewish Festival of Yom Kippur which in Hebrew means "Day of Covering". The sacrifices of Yom Kippur did not deal with the sin issue, they simply covered sin. That's why the "covering" needed to be repeated yearly. It never completely removed sins, only covered them. There is a big difference.

In the New Testament, Jesus' once-for-all perfect sacrifice removed sins forever for those who choose to receive his free gift of salvation.

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26b ESV)

But the atonement means more than just forgiveness of sins. It includes "all the benefits" (Psalm 103:1-5) of Jesus' work on the cross. It includes the restoration of everything lost in the Garden of Eden: health, prosperity (provision for our needs and enough to bless others), and good relationships, etc.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)

Isaiah 53:1 (and following) is perhaps the strongest "atonement" verse in the Bible. This passage is a clear prophesy of Jesus' work on the cross for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV)

At first glance these verses we can see that Jesus carried "griefs" and "sorrows". Most translations translate from the original Hebrew in the same way. This would seem to indicate that Jesus took away our emotional troubles. But when we take a closer look at the Hebrew word translated as "griefs" (choliy) we see that it also means "malady, anxiety, calamity: - disease, grief, (is) sick (-ness). And the word translated as "sorrows" can be translated as "anguish or (figuratively) affliction: - grief, pain, sorrow."

The Hebrew word "choliy" occurs 24 times in the Old Testament. Out of the 24 times this word is used 20 times it is translated as something to do with sickness or disease (King James Concordance). Why was it translated as griefs in this passage? My supposition is that it was probably due to the theology of the translators. Everyone approaches the Bible with their own preconceived notions and it is so important that when we read the Bible we read it as if we are reading it for the first time - without any bias. But there are a couple of more very important Biblical passages that indicate that these verses should have been translated as if Isaiah were speaking of physical maladies.

Of course, the Bible is the best commentary on itself, so we look to other passages that might refer to our passage from Isaiah - and we have not just one passage, but two. Let's take a look at Matthew 8:16-17.

That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17 ESV)

Clearly, Matthew is referring to Isaiah 53:4. There can be no doubt! "He healed all who were sick" and "He took our illnesses and bore our diseases." In addition to this verse we have 1 Peter 2:24 which reads:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

Notice that this verse says that Jesus physically took our sins in his body on the cross. It was not just symbolic, it not only occurred in the spiritual realm (which it did), but it was a real, physical transaction. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul tells us that Jesus became our sin. When Jesus became sin he literally took it in/on his physical body.

The sin that Adam and Eve committed is manifested physically in our bodies because we live in a sin-fallen world. Therefore, our sin; all the sin of the world became a physical manifestation in Jesus' body. On the cross Jesus became physically sick with our diseases. Can you see how his act of physically taking our sin relates to the physical act of healing? He took our sins in his body on the tree so we could be forgiven and healed! If Jesus bore our sicknesses we no longer have to!

Clearly, both Matthew and Peter are referring to Jesus fulfilling the prophesy in Isaiah 53 and to physical sickness. I believe that the New English Translation and the Amplified Bible translate these verses from Isaiah 53 correctly, particularly when we look at 1 Peter 2:24 and Matthew 8:16-17. Jesus bore our sickness and disease in the same manner that he bore our sins. That is a crucial point to understand if we are to receive our healing.

But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 NET)

And the Amplified Bible translates this as follows:

Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. (Isaiah 53:4-5 AMP)

In Isaiah 53:5 the word translated as "peace" is a Hebrew word which we have probably all heard before, "Shalom". But this word means much more than just an absence of unrest or strife. According to Brown-Driver-Briggs it means, "completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace" Sandra Kennedy defines it as, "Nothing broken, missing or lacking."

We can see here that Jesus' work on the cross was more than just forgiveness of sins (which, as the Jewish people say, "Would be more than enough.") It also includes wholeness in every area of our lives. Jesus' atoning work on the cross was for our entire being!

The atonement, Jesus' complete work on the cross is a restoration, a reconciliation, and a recovery of everything lost in the Garden of Eden. It is a "at one-ment" with God in every way, including healing. There was no sickness in the Garden of Eden before the fall and neither is it God's will for us to live in sickness.

When we look at these three passages together we get a complete picture of Jesus' work for us on the cross. In Isaiah 53 we read that by his stripes we are healed. Isaiah writes this verse in the present tense. Yet when we look at the verse before it, we see that he is writing in the past tense, as if it had already happened. In context with the rest of the passage, we see that although he is writing of the suffering servant taking our sins in the past tense, he is also pointing to a future event, since at that time Jesus had not yet borne the sins of Israel or the world.

In our Gospel passage (Matthew 8:16-17) we read that he took (past tense) our illnesses and bore (past tense) our diseases. Matthew writes in the past tense. Although Jesus' atoning work had yet to be accomplished, Jesus was healing all who came to him. Notice that Matthew does not mention the atonement, only that Jesus was healing all.

Am I Sick Because of Sin?

Ultimately all sickness is a result of sin, in that Adam’s fall introduced corruption and death into the human race. Had Adam not sinned, there would be no sickness. However, if we are sick it is not necessarily because we have sinned. We have fallen bodies in a fallen world and because of that we sometimes get attacked with germs or viruses or sometimes we have accidents. Can repeated, intentional sin cause sickness? Yes.

In John chapter 5 we read of Jesus healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda. This man had been crippled for 38 years! Jesus heals the man and then in verse 14 we read,

Later on, Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, See, you have become well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. (John 5:14 ISV*)

In John Chapter Nine the disciples ask Jesus whose fault it was that the man before them was born blind. First century Jews were taught that sickness and misfortune of any kind were a result of sin in the lives of the individuals or their ancestors. The thought was that if you were sick, poor or suffering in any way it was because God was punishing you for sin. However, Jesus corrects this faulty teaching:

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:2-5 ESV)

I covered the problems with this translation in my earlier post, (you can read it here) so I won't repeat it here, but suffice it to say if you move the punctuation (the original Greek has no punctuation), it reads much differently and is more in line with the character of God.

Jesus answered, "Neither this man sinned nor his parents sinned. But that the works of God might be revealed in him, we must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:3-4 CENT)

God did not make the man to be born blind so that he could heal him. Jesus never explains why the man was born blind, only that he was there to heal him and "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). The man's blindness was not a work of God, it was a work of the devil. If his blindness had been the work of God then Jesus healing him would have gone against the work of God. Remember, Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

The healing ministry was central to Jesus' ministry. 1/10 of all the verses in the Gospels have something to do with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. If we look at the very nature of God we can see why this would be true. We know that God is love:

So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16 CENT).

Everything God does is driven by his love including healing. Love equates to action and God's action was to send Jesus into the world to save not only our spirits, but our souls and bodies also.

In the Gospels Jesus is described as "having compassion" several times (I counted 8) and then acting on that compassion. That, love and compassion, is the driving force behind Jesus' healing ministry. He wants you and me (everyone) to be healed, whole and healthy, mind, body, and spirit; simply because he loves us.




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