All Our Sickness … All our Sorrow

All our sickness, all our sorrows
Jesus carried up the hill.
He has walked this path before us,
He is walking with us still;
Turning tragedy to triumph,
Turning agony to praise,
There is blessing in the battle
So take heart and stand amazed.[1]

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.[2]

One belief, or claim that has been doing the rounds for many years is that because Isaiah 53 says that we are healed by Jesus’ wounds this means that the atonement does two things. First of all, the death of Jesus means that we are spiritually healed, we are forgiven. Secondly that the lashes he received results in our physical healing. Therefore, Christians can expect divine healing. In fact, we should expect divine health. Christians should be free from all disease. If you are not healed  and whole then that is a sign that you lack faith.

Such beliefs are dangerous. They lead to people throwing away medication, ceasing treatment or refusing to go the doctor. They add to grief when the person simply is not prepared to accept that a relative will, or has died. They lead to vulnerable people putting their trust in faith healers and prosperity teachers leading to manipulation for financial gain and sometimes other forms of spiritual, physical and emotional abuse. Most of all, they are dangerous because they are wrong, they are misrepresenting Scripture.

We should be wary of views of the atonement which attempt to compartmentalise and divide it into different aspects. Jesus’ death dealt with the root problem of sin. He didn’t die for our sin and get beaten up for our sickness.

So, what does it mean when Isaiah says “By his wounds we are healed”? Well, first of all I don’t think we can evacuate it of all meaning to do with physical healing. Matthew 8:17, sees a physical promise that Jesus will take our sicknesses and infirmity.  However, we need to come back to the point that the Cross deals with the root problem.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sin. They had been warned that sin would lead to death. God brings judgement. There is a curse, not just upon them but upon the whole creation. In fact, the two ways to live which we see throughout the Bible are under blessing or curse. Israel are asked to choose between life and death, blessing and curse at the end of Deuteronomy. Sadly, they so often choose curse and death leading to war, famine, pestilence and exile.  These are all visible external signs and symbols of the inner problem of sin and rebellion against God.

So, when Jesus died on the Cross, Paul tells us that he became sin for us. He became the one who is cursed, hanging on a tree. He received the punishment we deserve for sin.  Now, if the penalty of sin has been paid, then this means that the curse is lifted.   We who trust in Jesus are no longer under its penalty.  This means that suffering and sickness as consequences of the fall must also end.

But pause…. The Bible also gives an indication of timing. Yes, the death of sin means the death of death. Yes, this means that the problems sin causes must flee away too. However Scripture is clear that these are things that will happen when Jesus returns. In the meantime, Creation still groans. There is suffering. Indeed believers can expect to suffer as much, if not more than non-believers.  We are no longer under the penalty of sin but we still live in this world and experience its consequences.

What about Matthew 8? Well Jesus in his life announces that his mission is to bring good news, freedom and healing. All of that is in fact pointing to the Cross. However, in his ministry, Jesus offers a foretaste of what things will look like in the New Creation when all things are made new.

I believe that we will sometimes get glimpses, foretastes of what that New Creation will be like and so I believe it is a good thing to pray for healing. However, I believe that we should also make use of doctors, medicine and surgery, we should also recognise that many of us will continue to suffer with chronic conditions and we know that one day we will die. Death means that we will be with Christ. It means we are looking forward to physical resurrection and that one day there will be full healing when we are with Christ and see his face.


[1] Stuart Townend and Dustin Kensroe, Rejoice.

[2] Isaiah 53:5

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