Pentecostalism – Miraculous Healing and the Atonement

The modern practice of miraculous divine healing (so-called) is based, in part, on erroneous conclusions from biblical principles. One such unfounded assumption is that along with the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, healing from physical maladies is included. A passage appealed to is Isaiah 53:4-5. “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did not 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.” Since the prophet affirmed that we are healed by His stripes, and since He did cure certain individuals during His personal ministry on earth, some opine healing is part of and coextensive with atonement.

After one carefully considers the prophetic passage above certain conclusions must be drawn. If the healing mentioned is physical healing and is as extensive as the atonement of Christ, then all who receive the benefits of His atonement receive an equal amount of physical healing. Atonement benefits all who receive the forgiveness of sins through faith in the blood of Christ. Paul wrote, “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (atonement, KJV)” (Rom. 5:9-11).

The healing Jesus did during His personal ministry could not have been what the prophet Isaiah meant. Isaiah said that the healing came from “His stripes.” This refers to the death of Christ. Atonement was accomplished at the death of Christ — “Christ died for us” (ROM 5:8). How could His miraculous healing of the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead have been part of the prophecy of Isaiah? All this happened before He received the “stripes.” The stripes refer to His brutal crucifixion on the cross.

If the atonement of Christ includes bodily healing then Jesus died for our diseases. If the Lord died for the diseases of mankind, then every single person who accepts the terms of atonement receives physical healing. But Jesus did not die for the illnesses of mankind. He died for the sins of mankind. Remember again the prophet’s words. “Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10). The New Testament repeats this in passages such as 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 1:18,19 and others. Nothing but human presumption can make the death of Christ include healing of physical disorders in the human body.

If healing of physical afflictions and ailments is part of the atonement anyone who continues to have bodily affliction is obviously lost. One who suffers some physical disorder has not been reconciled to God, forgiven of sins, or saved. This is the obvious conclusion if atonement includes physical healing. If there is a case where someone who has received forgiveness of sins, but retains physical ailments or diseases, then it is obvious that atonement has nothing to do with physical healing. Let’s look at some examples. Paul, formerly Saul, obeyed the Lord and was forgiven of his past sins. He was told by a special messenger of Christ to “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). That is what Paul did. Later he wrote, “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (ROM 6:3). Notice the personal pronoun “we.” That includes Paul. He was baptized into the death of Christ. In the death of Christ man receives the benefits of Christ’s atonement for sin. But Paul suffered physical disorders after conversion. He called his bodily affliction a “thorn in the flesh” and prayed three times to have it removed (2 Cor. 12:8,9). The Lord said no. Then Paul added, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9). If body healing is as extensive as the atonement for sin why was Paul not granted relief from his physical infirmity? The answer is obvious. Bodily healing is not part of the atonement.

If atonement includes physical healing then anyone who gets sick after conversion forfeits the benefits of the blood of Christ in atonement. Paul spoke of Timothy’s “often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). His infirmity was not sin — it was stomach trouble. Paul mentioned Trophimus whom he left in Miletus sick (2 Tim. 4:20). His sickness was not sin. Luke was a physician. If the claim is true that atonement includes physical healing Luke had no work to do for his own brethren in Christ. But, simply put, the claim is false.

No Christian should ever have a headache, cold, sinus infection, allergies, heart problems, or any other physical ailment, if the claim is true. In fact, if atonement includes preservation of the body from disease why would any child of God ever die? As long as a child of God remains faithful he is free from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14). And, if the child of God is faithful to the Lord, he would never become ill or die. Since faithful children of God have died from illness, obviously the claim made by proponents of modern day miraculous divine healing is utterly false.

Those who seek to find biblical proof that miraculous divine healing is still being practiced by God’s people cite James 4:14-15, which reads, “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Certainly James has physical healing in mind in the first part of this verse. The second part, “and if he have committed sins,” refers to another kind of illness — spiritual sickness. The passages affirms there is relief from both maladies.

The elders were to be summoned to pray for the sick and anoint him with oil. James affirms that the prayer of faith shall save the sick. Prayer on behalf of those who suffer physical sicknesses, no matter how severe they be, is the privilege of every Christian. But this verse specifies elders of the church. Elders are those who have been given the responsibility of watching for the souls of Christians under their charge (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). Note in the reference in Peter the expression “charge allotted to you.” These men of maturity, spirituality, and godliness could pray the “prayer of faith” and the sick would be healed.

There are two things to consider. First, during the first century, while the church was in a stage of infancy, miraculous divine healing was practiced. No one can successfully deny this. From this passage one could conclude that the elders who prayed and anointed with oil were among those to whom was granted the miraculous power of healing. “Gifts of healing” are mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:9. Who is to say that these elders were not recipients of this gift? Granting that the elders of the verse were able to pray a prayer of faith and anoint the sick with oil and the sick would be fully recovered does not prove that anyone has such power today. What is there in the passage driving one to the conclusion that the powers to heal miraculously continued beyond the first century?

The second thing to consider is the distinct possibility that no such thing as miraculous healing is even involved. When elders (in any dispensation of time) pray a prayer of faith, they petition the Heavenly Father that He be merciful to one afflicted with disease or illness. The Almighty answers prayer — but not always by some miraculous manifestation of His power. Sometimes through doctors, therapists, medicines, or clinics God answers prayer. If the elders of the verse prayed for the recovery of a sick person, according to God’s will, they rested their case. The anointing of oil was probably no more than a medicinal remedy to comfort and soothe the suffering patient. What is there in the verse to indicate that some miraculous properties were inherent in the oil? Besides, what kind of oil was it? If God intended for elders to continue to anoint the sick with oil, surely He would have give more information as to the kind of oil, how and where to apply it to the sick.

But those who misuse this verse to contend that miraculous divine healing is still the order of our day encounter a problem when they fail to cure someone. Many of you who read this have heard “faith healers” claim that the individual who needs healing must have faith and pray in faith for recovery. When someone is not cured they then claim the individual lacked sufficient faith. But the passage does not say the “prayer of the faithful” it says “the prayer of faith” will raise him up. The prayer of faith is the prayer of the one praying for the sick. So, the “faith healers” evidently lack faith when someone is not cured. If the passage affirms that the prayer of faith will cure the sick, it should work regardless of the faith of the sick person.

So, it is easy to see that James 4:14-15 does not support the claim for continued miraculous divine healing today. Its misuse is just another example of the weakness of the claims made by “faith healers” and their ilk. Little do they apparently realize the danger of “wresting the scriptures to their own damnation” (2 Pet. 3:16).