Divine Healing: Is It Physical Healing Or Just The Spirit
by Troy J. Edwards
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. -Isaiah 53:4-5
Many of the opponents of healing in the atonement teach that the above Scripture does not refer to healing of our physical bodies. They believe that this is the healing of our souls or our spirits. Although I agree with this application, I do not believe that this passage is limited to that. I am convinced that this passage teaches us that the atonement Christ made on our behalf makes provision for the physical body as well as the spirit.
The limitations that many “healing in the atonement” opponents believe is derived from the fact that two words in the Hebrew language, griefs and sorrows were translated differently in Isaiah 53:4 of the King James Version than they have been in any other part of this precious and beautiful Bible translation.
According to Stong’s Concordance, the word “griefs” in these passages of Scripture comes from the Hebrew word “kholee” (Strong’s number 2483). It is translated as “grief” or “griefs” in only three places in the KJV Bible (Isa. 53:3-4; Jer. 6:7; 10:19). On the other hand, it is translated as “sickness” or “sicknesses” in nine other places in the KJV (Deut. 7:15; 28:59, 61, 1 Kings 17:17, 2 Kings 13:14, 2 Chron. 21:15, 19; Ps 41:3; Isa. 38:9; Hos. 5:13). It is well to note that in almost every Scripture listed it is speaking of physical sickness.
Also according to Strong’s, the Hebrew word word “kholee” is derived from another Hebrew word, chalah (Strong’s #2470) which is translated as sick in numerous places in the Old Testament, to numerous to list here. The American Standard Version translates the word kholee in Jer. 6:7 as sickness. The Everyday Bible (New Century Version) translates the word kholee in Jer. 10:19 as sickness. These are just the translations I decided to reference. I am sure that there are more that translate the two passages in Jeremiah sickness vice grief.
Strong’s also tells us that the word “sorrows” in the Hebrew is “makob”. actually means pain and is translated this way in Job 33:19 and Jer. 51:8. So actually Isaiah 53:4 should have been translated, “He hath borne our sicknesses and carried our pains.”
Alternative Bible Translations of Isaiah 53:4-5
Robert Young in his Young’s Literal Translation translates Isaiah 53:3-5 this way:
“He is despised, and left of men, A man of pains, and acquainted with sickness, And as one hiding the face from us, He is despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely our sicknesses he hath borne, And our pains — he hath carried them, And we — we have esteemed him plagued, Smitten of God, and afflicted. And he is pierced for our transgressions, Bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace [is] on him, And by his bruise there is healing to us.” -Isaiah 53:3-5; Young’s Literal Translation
The Amplified Bible also gives us an interesting translation of these passages:
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]. [Matt. 8:17] 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; The Amplified Bible
The New International Version has an interesting translation of this verse:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pieced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. -Isaiah 53:4-5; NIV
I really love the way the way the Contemporary English Version translates verse 5:
He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.
If the CEV has translated Isaiah 53:5 correctly, then “completely well” would cover all aspects of our being: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). Regardless, we have seen from the testimony of the well known Strong’s concordance and dictionary how the words “griefs” and “sorrows” are to be translated literally. We have seen it translated this way in at least three Bible translations.
A.R. Faussette: Some Scholarly Proof
However, there is more scholarly proof that an alternative translation of the words in Isaiah 53:4-5 are sickness and pains vice griefs and sorrows. A.R. Faussette says the following:
Surely . . . our griefs–literally, “But yet He hath taken (or borne) our sicknesses,” that is, they who despised Him because of His human infirmitiesought rather to have esteemed Him on account of them; for thereby “Himself took OUR infirmities” (bodily diseases). So Mat 8:17 quotes it. In the Hebrew for “borne,” or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isa 53:5, 6, 8, 12 ), and so He took away; His perfect humanity whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions ( Isa 63:9; Hbr 4:15 ) was the ground on which He cured the sick; so that Matthew’s quotation is not a mere accommodation. See Note 42 of ARCHBISHOP MAGEE, Atonement. The Hebrew there may mean to overwhelm with darkness; Messiah’s time of darkness was temporary ( Mat 27:45 ), answering to the bruising of His heel; Satan’s is to be eternal, answering to the bruising of his head (compare Isa 50:10 ).
carried . . . sorrows–The notion of substitution strictly. “Carried,” namely, as a burden. “Sorrows,” that is, pains of the mind; as “griefs” refer to pains of the body ( Psa 32:10 38:17 ). Mat 8:17 might seem to oppose this: “And bare our sicknesses.” But he uses “sicknesses” figuratively for sins, the cause of them. Christ took on Himself all man’s “infirmities;” so as to remove them; the bodily by direct miracle, grounded on His participation in human infirmities; those of the soul by His vicarious suffering, which did away with the source of both. Sin and sickness are ethically connected as cause and effect (Isa 33:24 Psa 103:3 Mat 9:2 Jhn 5:14 Jam 5:15 ).
Dr. Faussette tells us that griefs and sorrows should actually be sicknesses and pains. You would think that this discovery would be a reason to rejoice. Nevertheless, so many people do just the opposite. They attempt to use scholarship to refute this very presentation we have given.
New Testament Proof
Matthew 8:17 New Testament proof that Isaiah 53:4-5 was teaching physical bodily healing in the atonement:
And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them. 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 Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. -Matthew 8:14-17
This should have been enough to end all disputes against physical healing in the atonement. Nevertheless, those who oppose healing in the atonement have come up with an answer for this. They tell us that this passage does not refer to the work on the cross, but to Jesus earthly ministry. They tell us that this cannot apply to us and does not teach that healing is in the atonement.
I believe that they are completely wrong. No one will dispute that Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 53:4. No one will dispute the fact that Isaiah 53:3-10 is prophesying Christ’s death on the cross. Yet, they will take one portion of this that is quoted in Matthew and tell us that it was already fulfilled at that time and therefore it does not apply to the cross.
If we are to interpret Matthew 8:17 then we would have to interpret John 12:38-41 this way:
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with [their] eyes, nor understand with [their] heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
This Scripture is telling us that the prophecy from Isaiah 53:1 was fulfilled on the during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. If we were to interpret this passage as we do Matthew 8:17 then we might be justified. Nevertheless, we cannot say that this passage cannot apply to today’s believer due to the fact that Paul quotes it again in the epistle to the Romans:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? -Romans 10:13-15
If Isaiah 53:1 is said to have been fulfilled in Jesus earthly ministry, yet Paul tells us that it is still applicable, and if Peter tells us that Isa. 53:5 is still applicable to the believer (1 Peter 2:24), then why wouldn’t Isa. 53:4 still be applicable to today’s believer? It appears to men that men had to go out of their way to “invent” teachings that would dispute the teaching of physical healing in Christ’s atonement due to their unbelief.
If we were to say that the healing portion of Matthew 8:14-17 then this would also negate the part that says, “they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word…” That would mean that those who say that this passage was fulfilled on earth rather than the cross would teach us that it is not necessarily God’s will that people are delivered from demonic oppression. Such a shame when the Bible makes it absolutely clear that our deliverance from Satan’s kingdom was purchased on the cross (Col. 1:12-13; 2:15; Heb. 2:14; James 4:7; 1 John 3:8).
Mark 16:15-18 shows us that both provisions (healing and deliverance) are still vital parts of the gospel message of Jesus Christ:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Notice that these signs are not to follow the apostles and prophets only. These signs were to follow those who believe. These miraculous demonstrations that Christ promised to the church are still available to the believer. All one needs to do is believe them. These are the very things that are covered in Matthew 8:14-17. Yet, Jesus promised the same occurrances after His death and ressurrection.
I’m quite familiar that some claim that Mark 16:15-20 are not in the original manuscripts, but there is plenty of proof that they are. Click here to read an outstanding article on this very subject.
John Gill: Proof from a Baptist
However, I am quite thankful to know that though many scholars might disagree that Matthew 8:17 applies to the believer today, there are enough who would agree with me. John Gill, the late Calvinist Baptist minister saw Matthew 8:17 as applying to the to the believer today:
himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses: very agreeable to the Hebrew text, (awh) , “he himself”, not another; (avn) , “took up”, upon himself voluntarily, freely, as a man lifts up a burden, and takes it on his shoulders; (wnylx) , “our infirmities”, diseases, sicknesses, whether of body or soul, (Mlbo wnybakmw) , “and bare”, or carried, as a man does a burden upon his back, “our sicknesses”, or diseases, which occasion pain and sorrow. And that these words are spoken of the Messiah, the Jews themselves own; for among the names they give to the Messiah, “a leper” is one; which they prove from this passage.
Hence it is manifest, that according to the mind of the ancient Jews, this passage belongs to the Messiah, and is rightly applied to him by the evangelist. But the difficulty is, how it had its accomplishment in Christ’s healing the bodily diseases of men; since Isaiah speaks not of his actions and miracles, but of his sufferings and death; and not of bearing the diseases of the body, as it should seem, but of the diseases of the mind, of sins, as the Apostle Peter interprets it, (1 Peter 2:24) . To remove which, let it be observed, that though the prophet chiefly designs to point out Christ taking upon him, and bearing the sins of his people, in order to make satisfaction for them, and to save them from them; yet so likewise, as to include his bearing, by way of sympathy, and taking away by his power, the bodily diseases of men, which arise from sin; and which was not only an emblem of his bearing and taking away sin, but a proof of his power and ability to do it: for since he could do the one, it was plain he could do the other.
Here is proof from a man that was gone centuries before this present day debate over Matthew 8:17.
Keith Bailey, in his ecellent book, Divine Healing: The Children’s Bread, shows us several several great leaders from the past believed that Matthew 8:17 is still applicable to today’s believer. Among them are A.B. Simpson, R. Kelso Carter, A.J. Gordon, R.A. Torrey, W.E. Boardman.
Surprising for me were some of the well known theologians that Bailey quoted such as A.A. Hodge, Joseph A. Alexander, and Melancthon Jacobus. Even the man who made cessationism popular, Benjamin B. Warfield could not dispute that Matthew 8:17 taught God’s provision for our bodies. The most interesting quote in Bailey’s excellent book comes from Franz Delitzch who is famous for his critical commentaries on the Old Testament:
Even here, where it is not the sins, but “our sicknesses”-and “our pains” that form the object, the meaning is that the Servant of God took upon himself the sufferings which we had to bear, and deserved to bear, and endured them in his own person, in order to deliver us from them.
If these men can see that Matthew 8:17 is applicable today, why do today’s Christians have such a problem with it? It is obvious to me that Isaiah 53:4-5 and Matthew 8:17 teaches us that physical bodily healing is provided for us through the atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Other Scriptures Affirm That God Provides Physical Healing
For to long some in the church have discourage God’s people from receiving healing. They have either taught that God no longer heals today because He has doctors to do this or they teach that it is not always God’s will to heal. To further support their cessationist doctrine, they interpret clear healing promises as applying only to spiritual healing.
It is best to read some of the promises concerning divine healing and health so that we can be sure that what God is promising is a healing provison for our bodies as well as for our spirits and souls:
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5
Psalms is clear that one of the benefits that we receive from God is the healing of ALL our diseases. Man may attempt to limit God’s healing provison to one or no area of our lives, yet God does not set these limitations. He has specificall told us that we are not to forget His benefits. One of those benefits is the healing of ALL, not some, diseases. I happen to take the Bible literally. If it says “all” then I don’t doubt it.
Proverbs makes it clear that the healing that God provides is a healing in the body, or rather, the flesh:
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they [are] life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. -Proverbs 4:20-22
Unless there be any doubt in the mind of the believer, let’s read Proverbs 4:20-22 from two other translations:
My son, pay attention to my words. Open your ears to what I say. Do not lose sight of these things. Keep them deep within your heart because they are life to those who find them and they heal the whole body. Proverbs 4:20-22; God’s Word To The Nations Translation
My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. 21 Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. Proverbs 4:20-22; The Everyday Bible
Now this should be sufficient that God makes provision for the body. Nevertheless, I have engaged in enough discussions concerning these matters to know that these passage are not enough to do away with sceptical arguments. I am often asked to provide examples from the New Testament.
It often bothers me that many Christians no longer accept the Old Testaments promises as valid for today’s believer. Paul told us that ALL the promises of God were yea and amen (2 Cor. 1:20). Nevertheless, we will show the reader from the New Testament that Christ’s healing provision is indeed for the body as well as any other area of our being.
In Romans 8:11 we read:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The quickening or life giving power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer is sufficient to give life to our mortal bodies. We should remember that the Bible teaches us that life is synonymous with health while death is synonymous with sickness (Deut. 30:15-19; Prov. 4:22). Therefore, the life giving power that comes through the Holy Spirit in our mortal bodies is a healing power.
Let’s read Phillips translation of Romans 8:11:
Once the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives within you he will, by that same Spirit, bring to your whole being, yes, even your mortal bodies, new strength and vitality. For he now lives in you. -Romans 8:11; The New Testament In Modern English by J.B. Phillips
It is God’s desire that we appropriate this strength and vitality in our mortal bodies. If we would just trust God and His promises instead of listening to men and their unbelief, we would see more of this bodily provision in our lives.
John, speaking by the inspiration of God (all Scripture is God-breathed – 2 Tim. 3:16), shows us God’s will desire for all of His children:
This letter is from John the Elder. F1 It is written to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth. 2 Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is. -3 John2; New Living Translation
Some will say that this only a greeting to Gaius and this was meant only for him. It is such a shame that we interpret away the parts of the Bible that does not fit our theological system. If we do away with this “greeting” to Gaius then we must do away with the whole epistle because the whole thing was addressed to him only. We would have to then do away with Ephesians, Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc. since Paul was specifically addressing only those particular churches in His epistles.
I believe that all of the Epistles are addressed to today’s believer and that they are God’s Word. I have no doubts that what God inspired John to say to Gaius was meant for us as well. God wants our bodies to be in health commensurate with our souls. God makes provision for the body.
The Bible is very clear as to what is spiritual and what is physical (Rom. 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1 Cor. 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3, 4; 12:1, 14:1, 12, 37, 15:44, 46; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 1:3; 5:19; Col. 1:9; 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:5). Jesus Himself made that distinction when He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6).
If the Bible does not insert the word spiritual in the passages of Scripture that deal with the promises of divine healing then neither should we. If we do that then we are guilty to adding to the Word of God, and God does not take too kindly to that (Rev. 22:18-19).
Strong, James The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984)
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871) Available at Crosswalk.com
Gill, John John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer), The New John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario. Available at Crosswalk.com
Bailey, Keith M. Divine Healing: The Children’s Bread (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1977), p. 53