FAQ ON HEALING
Premise: God has promised physical healing to every believer. That is to say, healing has been provided, or has already happened to the believer.
(See end of FAQ for a more exhaustive list of Scriptures with commentary. italics added for emphasis. )
ISAIAH 53:4-5 NRSV
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. (also, see 1 Pet 2:24)
JAMES 5:14-16 NIV
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Question/Objection: “Good luck telling the early Church and persecuted Christians around the world that God promises them healing while they’re burning at the stake and getting their heads chopped off!”
Answer: When I talk about God promising us healing, I’m mainly referring to situations of sickness, disease, or calamity. The reason I don’t include persecution in that category is because the Bible specifically says that all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12).
To make this distinction even clearer, when we look at Acts, we see believers suffering persecution, yes, but when it comes to other types of suffering (things we would normally categorize as just a result of living in a fallen world) there was a kind of divine protection, or recovery. Dorcas being raised from the dead after being sick, for example. The boy who fell out the window while Paul was preaching, raised up. Paul surviving shipwreck or not feeling harm when he was bitten by a serpent.
Question/Objection: “If God promises healing, why do Christians experience sickness and disease?”
Answer: Our experiences often do not reflect God’s will for our lives. For example, Romans 6 says the believer is dead to sin, and should no longer yield their members to it. In 1 John 3, we are told that he who is born of God does not sin, and cannot sin. But we don’t always see these facts play out, do we? We could point to this same idea when it comes to our marriages, reaching the lost, giving to charity, producing the fruit of the Spirit etc. There is a very long list of matters related to Christian living and sanctification that we often do not experience even though they are in accordance with God’s will.
When you study the Scriptures, you usually find two sides to God’s will for us, or promises to us. Our side, and His side. Just because He wills it, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for us to do in order to see it come to pass in a tangible way.
Question/Objection: “What about Paul’s thorn in the flesh?”
Answer: None of us are reincarnations of Paul. None of us have had the same abundance of revelations that Paul had in writing the Holy Scriptures which led to his receiving of the thorn. And short of God supernaturally revealing it, none of us can even say for sure what the thorn was.
People are welcome to take this event and using guesswork and conjecture, attempt to extrapolate out some kind of doctrine about God’s willingness to heal believers today—-but the passages, themselves, do not say anything about it.
Question/Objection: “Why did Timothy have infirmities? And why didn’t Paul pray for him to be healed or tell him to believe for healing?”
Answer: For starters, our premise is that has God promised, or, provided healing for every believer. Not that they will never experience symptoms of any kind. We addressed this in the previous question. So the fact that Timothy experienced infirmity poses no contradiction.
That being said, the Bible never claims to be a record of all the interactions Paul ever had with Timothy. So we can’t say for sure that he never prayed for him to be healed. Nor can we say that he never told him to believe for healing. Maybe he did both, and Timothy was indeed, healed, at a later date. Who knows? This, again, is the issue with taking isolated events in Scripture and attempting to arrive at broad conclusions. You have to assume that a myriad of unknown variables are all working in favor of your particular theory in order to land at the predetermined outcome.
All we can say for sure is that at a certain point in time, Paul told Timothy to take wine for his stomach and his infirmities. That’s it. Anything beyond this is speculation.
Question/Objection: “Hebrews 9:27 says it’s appointed to all people once to die. So it cannot always be God’s will to heal.”
Answer: There are two verifiable ways we could address this:
1. Isaiah 53:5 as well as Hebrews 9:27 are both true. One does not cancel out nor modify the other. These are simply two coexisting facts. Whether we understand how they coexist or not, has no bearing on their reality.
Or . . .
2. In Hebrews 9:27, the operative word is, “once.” It is appointed for all of us to die once. That’s it. It does not say it is appointed unto all men to live a life full of inescapable sickness and disease. So if a person would like to point to death as a one time (and very much welcomed) exception to the otherwise, “by His stripes we are healed”—-I would not argue that. But Hebrews 9 says nothing about the 99.99% of the rest of our lives leading up to this event. Some Christians may choose to use this unavoidable appointment as a reason to believe for sickness and disease the remainder of their time here on earth—-that’s their prerogative. But again, such a view isn’t verifiable in Scripture.
Question/Objection: “Trials and tribulations are promised to all of us.”
Answer: This appears to be an attempt to conflate trials and tribulations with things such as sickness and disease. To my knowledge, the Bible never does this. For example, you never see in the Gospels where Jesus healed someone of a, “trial.” Or Acts where hands were laid on someone and the, “tribulation departed from them.”
In his letter, James gives separate instructions for being in a trial, versus being sick. In chapter 1 he tells those who fall into various trials to, “count it all joy” yet those who are sick are to be prayed for with the prayer of faith and to confess their sins so they can be healed.
However, if someone wanted to insist upon conflating these terms, that’s fine. We can work from that angle as well:
I would point out that the degree and length of time of suffering is not part of the promise of tribulations. The Bible doesn’t say, “you must suffer a specific trial for 2 weeks” Or, “A certain tribulation must last at least 20 years and be unbearable.” In other words, just because we have to encounter a trial, does not mean it has to be a long and extremely painful process of which we have no control over. The sick person, for example, was indeed sick, but only up until they were healed by the prayer of faith. Thus, they endured a trial. A person who is being attacked by symptoms the devil has put on him, has indeed suffered tribulation, but only until he resists the devil, and then he must flee.
So I think there are certain assumptions being attached to this idea that may be creating apathy. The result being prolonged, unnecessary suffering.
Question/Objection: “What about Job and the man born blind? That could happen to any one of us.”
Answer: And chariots of fire could come down and lift us away. And God could speak to you in a burning bush with instructions about delivering a nation. Or He could give me superpowers as long as I don’t shave my beard. You may think I’m being facetious, but I’m really not. I don’t know why it’s okay to interpret biblical events of suffering in such an applicable and personal way, but not these others.
The bottom line is, we could be here all day speculating about the likelihood of such accounts happening in our lives . . . Or -----we can take the Scriptures which actually talk about us such as Isaiah 53 and James 5, believe, and embrace them.
Besides all this, Job and the man born blind were both healed. So if we are going to invoke them as our examples . . . Shouldn’t we also expect the same outcome? Or are we simply cherry picking the most miserable parts of these instances to apply to our lives?
Question/Objection: “Exodus 4:11 says that it is God who makes people deaf, mute, and blind.”
Answer: For starters, there’s a book out by Troy J. Edwards entitled, “The Permissive Sense: Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation That Vindicates God’s Character of Love” This book challenges our understanding of verses like these. If you’re into things like historical context and the original languages of the Bible, I recommend checking that out.
But even without that, if we just deal with the passage as is, it’s not the same topic. It’s arguably a red herring fallacy, diverting the attention of the discussion away from the original subject. Because if you recall, the stated premise was that God promises us healing. It made no claims about what or who caused the malady in the first place.
Now, I think sometimes people may cite passages like this in an attempt to just throw a monkey wrench into the conversation and confuse or derail it altogether. Obviously, it sounds somewhat bizarre to believe God promises us healing, if God is the one that instigated the affliction. One’s mind begins to wonder just how all of this can possibly make sense. However, I’m not necessarily attempting to make an argument that, “makes sense.” Truth doesn’t depend upon our ability to understand it and if you think you’re going to be able to stand before God one day and explain to Him why you rejected what He said because it didn’t "make sense"---Good luck. We talk more about this in our video on the appeal to incredulity fallacy.
So to reiterate, the Bible still says that by His stripes, we are healed. It still says that the prayer of faith will make the sick person well. Bringing up the question of who is responsible for making us sick in the first place, is a different topic and doesn’t change Isaiah 53, or James 5.
Question/Objection: “The context of Isaiah 53:5 is not talking about physical healing.”
Answer: Matthew 8:16-17 references Isaiah 53:4 in relation to the healing ministry of Jesus. So, unless someone is arguing that Jesus was not physically healing people in this instance in Matthew, then the idea that the context of Isaiah 53 is not talking about, or doesn’t include physical healing, is simply false.
Question/Objection: “Yes Isaiah 53:4 is talking about physical healing, but verse 5 is not.”
Answer: Not only does this seem like a glaring case of an ad hoc rescue, where basic principles of context and hermeneutics must be suspended in order to protect the narrative---there’s an easy way to show that the claim is incorrect. This is demonstrable by looking at the word, we in the “we are healed” of this verse and simply asking, who are we? The answer is that we’re spiritual beings, yes, but we are also flesh and blood. Physical as well as spiritual. Jesus points to this fact in John 3:6:
What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(italics added for emphasis)
We had a physical birth, right? We have been born of flesh. So according to Jesus, we are flesh. Genesis 6:3 also says that we are flesh.
Knowing that this is who we are, we can now reread Isaiah 53:5 and know what the healing pertains to: spiritual, as well as physical because we are spiritual as well as physical.
Question/Objection: “Okay, Isaiah 53:5 does include physical healing, but the timing of that healing is in the future.”
Answer: The Bible tells us the timing of the healing. Isaiah 53:5 says we are healed (present tense) and 1 Peter 2:24 says we were healed (past tense). We were, and we are. There is no mention of a restrictive future date.
Some may argue that while healing is available to us now, we won’t fully experience it all the time in this life. True. There are multiple hindrances that often keep us from receiving the healing provided by Christ. For more information on how to enjoy and experience divine healing, I would recommend anything by Kenneth E Hagin, or the book “Christ the Healer” by FF Bosworth.
Question/Objection: “Many times a person is not healed, or dies at a young age, and God uses this event as a doorway to preach the Gospel to their loved ones, or witness to the lost.”
Answer: Yes. I know of many such instances. God can and does use all kinds of horrible situations for His glory. The most obvious being the death of His own Son. But that doesn’t change what the Bible says in Isaiah 53, or James 5. We are still healed by the stripes of Jesus and the prayer of faith will still heal the sick.
Question/Objection: “God’s primary concern is eternal things. Not temporary things which contribute to our comfort in the here and now.”
Answer: I’m not sure everything we deem as, “temporary” truly is. For example, will Isaiah 53:5 stop being true or meaningful in eternity? So what temporary things, exactly, are we attempting to discourage people away from?
If the point, however, is simply that it’s more important we are saved from hell than being comfortable in this life ---I totally agree.
That being said, determining the level of importance of something is not the same as determining whether or not it’s true---Which is what this FAQ is mainly dealing with.
Additional Notes on the Topic of Healing
Salvation Means Healing
The Greek word, sozo means, “to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction. To save a suffering one from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health.”
This word is often used to describe physical healing in the New Testament (Matt 9:21, 9:22, Mark 5:23, 6:56, 10:52).
It’s also the same word used to refer to our salvation (Jn 3:17, 10:9, 12:47, Acts 2:21).
Thus, when we say that we are saved, we are also saying that we are healed. It’s the same word with the same definition.
Some have tried to argue that, depending on context, physical healing is only sometimes associated with this word. And I would agree that often, a word’s broader implications do not apply in certain circumstances. So I’m open to hearing an argument as to why a particular context would rule out physical healing when the word is being used concerning our salvation. However, what I’ve found reading the context of Scripture where this word is concerned, is the opposite. For example when Peter is describing the healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate he says . . .
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The term, “made well” in verse 9 is sozo. Then again, he uses the word sozo in verse 12 when he says that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Keep in mind, these statements are only 3 verses apart. Not only are they certainly within the same context, they would have been separated by mere seconds when Peter spoke them in real time. Thus, making the connection between physical healing and our salvation, contextually undeniable.
Sickness and Disease are Evil
Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?
Job referred to what happened to him---the loss of loved ones, the loss of wealth and property, and physical affliction as evil.
This idea is again reinforced at the end of the book where it says that what happened to Job was evil (42:11).
On the other hand, some translations don’t use the word evil in that verse. For example, Amplified says:
Shall we indeed accept [only] good from God and not [also] accept adversity and disaster?
I want you to stop and consider that for a moment. Adversity and disaster are words synonymous with evil. I think we all kind of already knew this, but tend to lose sight of the simplistic when it comes to biblical matters.
When we get over into the Gospels, we see something similar in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was a beggar who suffered from sores (Luke 16:20)
Again, the Bible describes what happened to him during his lifetime as bad, or evil (vs 25).
The idea that these things are bad, or evil, makes sense in the broader scheme of Scripture as well. If you remember, when God originally created the Garden of Eden, while there was still no sickness or disease in the earth, He called it very good (Genesis 1:31). Think about that: He called the absence of sin, suffering, sickness, and disease good.
If you do a word study on evil in the Bible, it isn’t as abstract and one-dimensional as many have made it out to be. One of the commonly used references for it is the Greek word, “poneros.” It contains such concepts as hurtful, hardships, blindness and diseased.
Interestingly enough, the word, “poneros” is also sometimes translated, “the wicked one” or, “the evil one” as a reference to our adversary (Matt 13:19, 38, Eph 6:16, 1 Jn 2:1). Something to keep in mind the next time you want to make fun of your Pentecostal friends for, “blaming” every bad thing that happens on the devil.
Now that we have a better scope of the ramifications of evil, it would be a good time to ask the question: what should be the believer’s attitude and behavior toward it? There are many Scriptures we could look at but here are a couple of examples:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
This shows us what attitude we should have about it. We should hate, or abhor evil. Once again, some may argue that just because a word has a particular semantic range doesn’t mean all those meanings apply in any given context. I would agree. But Paul actually gives us further instruction to let us know we should be seeking to avoid every form of this concept, here:
1 THESSALONIANS 5:22
Abstain from every form of evil.
(This is only a partial list. We may add more)
My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,