By His Stripes We Are Healed – A Promise of Divine Physical Healing?
I have heard this saying, which is loosely based on passages like 1 Peter 2:24c, for a while now.
Some preachers implore their congregants to believe and declare it. Some prophets and evangelists come on television and radio, exhorting and even commanding those watching or listening to give a seed-faith offering to enact it.
“Believe, declare, and enact what?” you ask? Our healing; healing from physical sickness, that is. Based on some people’s interpretation of this portion of the verse (and some others), we as believers have a divine right to physical healing (and health). What they mean is if we encounter sickness of any kind, all we have to do is prayerfully and confidently apply our faith, and God WILL (as in obligated to) heal us because that was one of the things that Jesus accomplished for us in his beatings and death on the cross.
As I heard one preacher essentially say, “When Jesus was beaten on his back, that was for your healing from back pain, spinal injuries, herniated disc problems. When He was struck in his face and on the head, that was for your healing from sinus infections, migraine headaches, head colds, and the like.” That may sound facetious to many of us, but unfortunately he was dead serious!
But is 1 Peter 2:24c a promise from God of physical healing for us to claim? The answer is no, and here’s why: context.
One of the general rules of biblical interpretation is that when reading a verse (or a portion of it) of Scripture, we must consider that verse in the context of the whole – the whole passage (the verses surrounding it), chapter, book, testament, and yes, even the entire Bible – to determine its meaning.
In this case, we don’t have to read back far to see what Peter means when he writes, “By his wounds (or stripes) you have been healed” (ESV). Actually, all we have to do is read the entire twenty-fourth verse: “He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
This verse clearly speaks to Jesus healing us of our sin. We were like sheep that stray from their shepherd (vs. 25). Our sinfulness separated us from God, but Jesus brought us back through His suffering and death on the cross for our sins.
Now, if we were to go back further in chapter 2, we would see that Peter was seeking to encourage and exhort Christian servants in particular, who were suffering at the hands of unjust or harsh masters (vs. 18ff), to:
1. Endure unjust suffering for doing good (vs. 19-20),
2. Emulate the example of Jesus in suffering of not sinning or returning evil for evil and of entrusting themselves to God who judges justly (vs. 21-23), and
3. Embrace afresh the fact that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross results in us dying to sin and living the type of life or doing the things that God requires, even in the face of being mistreated (vs. 24).
Am I saying that God doesn’t heal? No (He can, if He chooses to; and He has and will in many cases. Praise God!).
Am I saying that we shouldn’t pray and believe God for personal healing or for that of others? No.
Am I saying that sickness is a part of God’s original design of our human existence and is not an effect of the Fall? No.
Am I saying that we should desire to be sick for the glory of God and to wear it as a badge of spiritual maturity or as a sign of being “anointed” or “oily”? No.
What I am saying is that 1 Peter 2:24c is not a promise from God for physical healing, but is rather a reality of spiritual healing that was achieved by God the Son, Jesus, dying on the cross for our sins (and being raised from the dead) and that is applied to all who turn from sin and trust Him as Savior and Lord.
It is a reality that strengthens you (and I) to righteously endure suffering, so that those who do not know God through Jesus, “may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).