by Rayola Kelley
Q: When Isaiah 53:5 talks about being healed by Jesus’ stripes, does it point to physical healing?
A: There are those who believe that the healing mentioned in Isaiah 53:5 strictly points to physical healing for believers. Therefore, these individuals have a tendency to maintain that if a Christian is not healed, it means he or she is in sin or void of sufficient faith. These individuals can sometimes prove to be self-righteous, indifferent, and judgmental towards those who dare to be sick.
In order to put this subject in perspective we must reason together in light of the full counsel of God. To take one or a few Scriptures out of context and develop a whole doctrine on them is dangerous. The fact is if something is truth, it will remain standing when challenged. If it is not truth, it will collapse in light of the full counsel of God. If the above belief is part of the Christian foundation, it will be confirmed by the examples found in the Word of God.
We must keep in mind that both physical and spiritual death came by way of a curse pronounced on Adam in the garden. Death points to separation. Physical death points to the spirit and soul separating from the body, and spiritual death is separation from God. In the case of the flesh or body being put off, physical death will come to almost every individual except for the exception of Enoch, Elijah, and some individuals who will be changed in the “twinkling of an eye” at Christ’s coming. If physical death does not occur via an accident or a massive stroke or heart attack, it will come by way of some type of illness that can prove to be prolonged due to such diseases as cancer. This is a fact of life. As Scripture states, the sun shines on both the saved and unsaved, as well as the rain of challenges that fall on both.
As we consider the examples we have, the Apostle Paul stated that he had a thorn in his flesh. He went on to state that, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9c). “Infirmity” is another word for illnesses. In the case of Trophimus, one of the Apostle Paul’s companions, it is said that the apostle left him in Miletum due to him being sick (2 Timothy 4:20). Epaphroditus, another Christian brother and companion of Paul was, “sick nigh unto death.” However God showed mercy on Epaphroditus and raised him up, sparing Paul of the sorrow that would come with losing him (Philippians 2:25-27). We also have the words of James, that instructed elders to anoint and pray for the sick. Clearly, there were sick among the early Christians. There is no mention that such illnesses were associated with sin that needed to be rebuked or unbelief that needed to be addressed.
When you study the lives of committed servants of God, you see a diverse picture. Consider George Muller and Hudson Taylor. Muller outlived two wives and four children. He had great health all of his life. Although Hudson Taylor outlived his first wife who died at a young age, he was in frail health and had to take to his bed at various times which made it difficult for him on the mission field.
There are many stories of saints suffering with prolonged illnesses and pain caused by injuries. Although suffering can take in a broad arena of subjects including persecution and ill-health, the Bible is clear that if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him in glory (Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12). For me, God has used the fine instrument of prolonged illness to enlarge my faith. I discovered what it means that when I am weak, He proves Himself strong. We all have a cross to bear and a course to walk that has been designed to test our faith while establishing our lives in Christ. It is true that God can physically heal and deliver us, but sometimes He allows us to go through trying times such as prolonged health issues to establish us with a greater testimony of His abiding faithfulness. Consider the case of Joni Eareckson Tada. She was paralyzed by a diving accident as a young woman which left her a quadriplegic. She battled through depression and doubt, but has emerged victorious. In 2010 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a successful surgery and is hopeful of a positive prognosis. There is no doubt that her testimony has brought hope and consolation to countless disabled people around the world.
When you consider what it means for Jesus’ stripes to be a healing antidote, you must consider that the reference was in relationship to the effects of sin upon the spirit and soul. Sin can wound the spirit. As Proverb 18:14 declares, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Jesus talked about how sin affects the soul in Luke 4:18. Sin causes us to be spiritually poor, breaks the heart, puts us in an unseen prison, blinds us to spiritual truths, and bruises our very person.
This brings us to how Jesus’ sacrifice can bring healing to our inner being. Granted, upon salvation we are delivered from the death sentence of the Law. Forgiven and endued with a new life certainty can set our spirit free. However, complete wholeness and restoration of the soul often proves to be a prolonged process. When Jesus was quoting the prophet Isaiah about those who had dull hearing and closed eyes, He stated that the only way they could be healed was by being converted (Matthew 13:14-16). We must be converted to the ways of righteousness for our closed minds to be completely transformed and the eyes of our heart fully opened to the ways of God.
In closing, we must learn that faith is about trusting God in every situation no matter what challenges or obstacles face us. The problem with people who limit God with doctrines that require Him to perform in certain ways to keep them from experiencing different aspects of life (because that is the “benefit” of being a Christian) will often find their faith shipwrecked as the lofty waves of their doctrines hit the shorelines of reality (1 Timothy 1:19). Whether God uses the fine instruments of prolonged illness or uses other challenges to fine tune the faith of His people, He is still the One who is in control of the type of spiritual weather patterns that come across the bows of our lives.