Some of the most encouraging words we find in the pages of Scripture are found in the chapter devoted to the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. The prophet writes:
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.
The context of the chapter is clearly devoted to the suffering of Jesus who paid our sin debt and pleased God as the substitutionary sacrifice. In the New Testament, Peter quotes directly from this passage on numerous occasions in his letter to hurting and persecuted Christians. However, many false teachers have hijacked the words of Isaiah that are quoted by the apostle Peter and employed them for purposes of their perverted health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. For instance, we find the following words from Joyce Meyer in a document titled, “Healing Scriptures” where she states the following confession after quoting Isaiah 53:3-5:
Surely He hath borne my sickness and diseases and carried my pains. He took my sicknesses on Himself and carried my pains. He bore them and carried them away to a distance. I don’t have to bear what He bore for me. I refuse to bear what He bore for me. Satan cannot put on me what Jesus bore for me. By His stripes, I am healed. By His stripes, I got healing. By His bruise, there is healing for me. His punishment has brought me healing. Healing has been granted to me. With the stripes that wounded Him, I am healed and made whole. I am made whole by the blows He received. My diseases went to the Cross with Jesus and died with Him there. Satan, you’re visiting the wrong one. Jesus took my sicknesses; and by His stripes, I am healed! 1Joyce Meyer, “Healing Scriptures” (Fenton, MO: Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc., 2008), 11-12.
We live in a broken world with devils that threaten to undo us. That is abundantly clear as we visualize the world around us. The days of Paradise have long since been removed by the decay and ripple effect of sin (Rom. 5:12). As a result, we face difficulty, persecution, and disease in this life. Such trials are burdensome. Yet, Peter points the Christian to find hope in God in the opening verses as he directs the troubled souls to see the sovereign hand of God in the midst of their pain. It was for their good and God’s glory that they were permitted to endure such seasons of suffering (1 Peter 1:1-9).
Peter goes beyond this to encourage the hurting souls by reminding them of their ultimate healing—the healing of their soul that has been provided through the atoning death of Jesus. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24, he quotes from several places in Isaiah’s grand chapter. He quotes from Isaiah 53:4, 11, and 12. At the end of the verse, he quotes from Isaiah 53:5, where he makes a powerful statement, “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Is Peter pointing to the suffering of Jesus as a means of claiming our healing from cancer or pancreatitis? Is he giving us a formula to claim our healing from the various disease and infirmities that we experience in our fallen flesh? It is at this point that we must employ a key principle in biblical interpretation. We must appeal to the context of the passage. Rather than cherry picking a Bible verse and twisting it to say whatever we want it to say, we are bound to unpack the meaning of the original author to the original audience and therein lies the actual meaning of the passage.
In this case, the context of both Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 point us to the fact that Jesus’ suffering and death is referenced for the purpose of spotlighting the salvation of God’s people. The focus is not the healing of our physical bodies. It’s the salvation of our soul that’s in view. Joel Osteen twists this passage and uses it to peddle his prosperity message. He writes the following:
Isaiah 53:4 says, “Jesus carried our sickness and took our infirmities.” He already paid the price. It’s not faith to pray “if it is Your will.” You have to have the boldness to say, “God, I know it is Your will.” That Scripture goes on to say, “By His stripes you were healed.” Jesus took those stripes before He was crucified. He didn’t leave anything out. “By His stripes you were healed.” Past tense. He’s already done it. 2Joel Osteen, “If It Is Your Will” (Joel Osteen, August 16, 2019).
Like all skillful wolves, Osteen is a slick false teacher who misinterprets the Bible for his own profit. When was the last time you heard one of the popular false teachers preaching from the book of Job? When was the last time you heard one of the health, wealth, and prosperity teachers expound 2 Corinthians 12:7? In this verse, Paul clearly states that “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.”
The idea that it’s God’s will for all of his children to be healthy is simply not sustained by the Scriptures. Sadly, multitudes of people have been led astray by false teachers who have twisted the Scriptures out of context. What we learn from Isaiah 53 and from 1 Peter 2:24 is that Jesus suffered in our place as the Lamb of God in order that holy justice was accomplished and every last one of our sins have been atoned for in Jesus’ blood. As the suffering Servant, Jesus died to purchase our redemption and to make our salvation a reality rather than merely a possibility. This is the assurance and hope that Peter points the scattered and tattered band of Christians toward as they walked the broken road of suffering. Tom Schreiner has written the following:
Was Peter referring to forgiveness of sins here or physical healing? Even though Isa 53:5 is used in Matt 8:17 in reference to Jesus’ healing ministry, we can be quite sure that forgiveness of sins is the subject here. Nothing else in the context points to physical healing. The first part of v. 24, which refers to Jesus’ bearing our sins, clearly points to forgiveness, and the content of v. 25 (see below) also implies forgiveness when it speaks of those who have returned to their shepherd and overseer. 3Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 146.
Every single time we gather at the Lord’s Table, we glance back at the cross and consider the wounds of Christ. We take the bread into our hands and consider the stripes and how the very body of Christ was broken for us. Each year on Good Friday, we have an entire day intentionally set aside to focus on the broken body and shed blood of Christ that was offered up as the perfect and holy sacrifice for our salvation.
It was at the cross that the wrath of God was poured out upon the Son. His wounded body and sacrificial blood pleased God and satisfied holy justice on behalf of every one of his people. The horror of the cross was not to provide us with a formula to help us overcome physical sickness and disease so that we can live our best life now. It was to save us from the penalty of sin and the curse of the second death in eternity. In Christ’s resurrection, we have our eschatological hope that one day we too shall rise from the dead and live with him in ultimate glory. But until then, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we navigate this broken road with assurance that we find our ultimate healing in Jesus Christ, the One who died to save us from the penalty of our sin.
Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing
who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.
|1||Joyce Meyer, “Healing Scriptures” (Fenton, MO: Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc., 2008), 11-12.|
|2||Joel Osteen, “If It Is Your Will” (Joel Osteen, August 16, 2019).|
|3||Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 146.|