Occasionally I meet someone who claims that there is also physical healing in the atonement. They use the following passage to back up their claim, and say if Christians would only believe this, we would never get sick.
(Jesus) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)From my own study on this, I’ve asked the following questions. First, if Jesus also bore our sickness, why was He not sick? Why didn’t He die of heart disease or cancer or something that shows this is what He was doing?
Second, if this is what this verse means, why is the entire context around it talking about sin? Also, why are there no other verses that say Christians should never experience sickness? Rather, it seems that God can use sickness. Granted, sometimes it is for chastening His wayward children, but sometimes He uses it to show His sustaining power and even His healing power.
I also wondered how God would take many of us home to heaven if we never became ill. Would we have to experience violence or accidents to get from this life to the next? Depending on how illness is defined, even dying in one’s sleep involves some sort of bodily failure.
As I think about dying and the next life, I know in heaven I will experience perfection. I will not sin ever again, nor will I ever be sick. This is God’s promise. With that, I have come to this conclusion; yes, there is healing in the atonement — I am healed from the penalty of sin because the great work of Christ on the cross secured that for me.
He also gave me the power to overcome sin in this life. I will not succeed totally, but one day I will be sinless as He is. That is the power of His sacrifice for me.
As for sickness, I believe there is a similar thing happening. One day I will be totally free of all ailments, including the aches and pains of aging, but in this life that will not happen. I can take good care of myself and ask for healing when I am sick, but these bodies are not made to last forever. For that, I need a new body and I will not get it until I die, perhaps from sickness.
I’ve wondered why those who claim there is healing in the atonement are often sick. I also wonder why, if is true that complete healing is for this life, why not claim it for sin also? Sickness has the potential to draw me closer to God, but sin always pushes me away. For that reason, being free from sin seems even more desirable than being free from coughs and colds or worse.
The marvel of these verses from 1 Peter is that Jesus bore my sins so that I can die to sin and live for righteousness. I’ve seen amazing miracles in the realm of physical healing, but they do not compare with God healing someone from a life of sin. Physical healing is temporary; everyone eventually dies physically because our bodies are deteriorating, but spiritual healing lasts forever.
This is why death to sin is so fantastic. When someone trusts Jesus Christ and dies to sin, God produces spiritual healing and new life, a new life that is being transformed into the likeness of Christ, a new life that will never die.
In this life, we have trouble. The world is filled with challenges, and because of sin, it is also full of sickness and death. Jesus overcomes the world and offers me perfection someday in a new one. Until then, I must tackle, in faith, whatever comes along. When I pray about my challenges, He might take them away (including sickness), or He might give me grace to face and experience tough times, including sickness. Either way, my goal is to not sin and totally trust Him.