“He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
How often have you heard someone declare, “By His stripes we are healed” during an intercessory prayer? This is a catch phrase that is often used by those caught up in the prosperity gospel. Once again, we have to remember CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT.
Now that you have read the verses that come immediately before and after “And by His stripes we are healed”, does it sound like Isaiah is talking about physical healing? OF COURSE NOT!!! This prophetic passage describes the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
While I absolutely LOVE God’s Word, I am not a Bible scholar; therefore, I rely on those whom I consider to be spiritual giants to interpret the sacred text. John MacArthur is one such scholar and a seasoned theologian. Before we share his exegesis of this passage in Isaiah, here is Kirk Cameron interviewing one of his heroes John MacArthur regarding the False Prosperity Gospel. The following link is the first installment of a three-part interview.
John MacArthur’s book Hard to Believe is mentioned during this interview. I am blessed to have a copy of this book, and I highly recommend it!
Now back to the sometimes misapplied phrase “By His stripes we are healed”. I trust John MacArthur’s interpretation of Scripture and want to share with you what he has to say about this topic. What follows is a series of questions asked of John MacArthur and his thorough answers.
The remainder of today’s post is taken word for word from the following link, and I sincerely hope it helps clear up some obvious confusion regarding how to rightly divide the Word of God:
The following “Question” was asked by a member of the congregation at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and “Answered” by their pastor, John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed by Anjela Paje of Spokane, WA, from the tape, GC 70-24, titled “Questions and Answers Part 52.” A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE. ©2003. All Rights Reserved.
In Matthew 8:17, in the context of Jesus’ healing ministry, it says, “In order that what was spoken through Isaiah, the prophet, might be fulfilled, saying, He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” Now, I understand that’s supposed to be a quotation of Isaiah 53, like around 4, 5, and 6, if I’m correct. But, when I read that, it says, “ He was pierced through for our transgressions and He was crushed for our iniquities.” Now, when I read it in the context of His healing ministry, I think, it’s talking about physical sickness and disease. When I read the Isaiah 53 passage, it seems to be spiritual sin. That seems to be the context. And, usually, when I find the Old Testament quoted in the New Testament, it’s usually dead-on. It doesn’t seem to be the case in this situation.
John MacArthur’s Answer
Well, let me just put a little corrective in there. When you do find New Testament writers quoting the Old Testament, there often is a significant variation. Very often, there is a significant variation. For example, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” It says that when Jesus came out of Egypt after having been taken there to avoid death from Herod. The prophecy was, “This is that which was written by the prophet, “Out of Egypt, how I called my son.” Well, there’s no way, in reading the prophecy in the Old Testament you would ever conclude that the comment there, referring to the exodus of Israel out of Egypt, had anything to do with a Messiah coming hundreds of years later who would be taken out of Egypt and brought back to the land of Israel. So, the New Testament writers do exercise inspired authority over the interpretation and application. I think the truth was inherent in the Old Testament text. I think the intention of God was there, but I don’t think there would be any way to understand the fullness of that intention without what the New Testament says. You would never know, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” was a reference to the Messiah, until that’s what happened, and then, you say, “wow, there it was!” But, the Old Testament writer might be looking at that in the terms of 1 Peter searching to see what it was really meaning because he had no way to understand that.
So, when you come to Isaiah 53, and you read, “He took our infirmities, and He bore our sicknesses,” we understand that the context of Isaiah 53 is talking about our sins, our iniquities because the rest of the verses all refer to that. But, when you get to the New Testament, and Jesus begins to do His healing ministry, you have previews of coming attractions in that, because now the text and all the while was intended to mean that, but now the text is expanded in its interpretation to cover not only our sins, but our physical healing.
I hasten to add, you believe that in the atonement you receive physical healing. We all do. It’s not now that we receive that. It’s at our glorification. And, what Jesus was demonstrating in His miracle power was that He not only had power over the souls of men, He had power over the bodies of men. And, that He is the one who can not only give eternal life to the soul, but He can give eternal life to the body, as demonstrated by His power over all that deforms and debilitates and destroys the physical.
So, you would disagree with the claims of some in the faith healing movement that when Jesus died on the cross, it was for our sickness in this life?
John MacArthur’s Answer
That’s obviously not true. That’s obviously not true because all those people who believe that die. All of them. Unless they live to the rapture, they all die. So, if there was physical healing in the atonement, then it was an incomplete atonement. And, they’ve got a problem. If you tell me there was physical healing in the atonement, and that the atonement was designed to heal my diseases, I’m having a hard time with that one because I’m not, I’m not getting the healing. And, I’m getting older. And, I’m going to die. Now, if that’s how it is with the promise of my physical healing, where is my hope for the promise of my spiritual healing? Is that the same thing? Once you start defining the work of the atonement in temporal terms, you have a problem, because, even now, I am saved, I am righteous by virtue of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, but I’m certainly not what I’m going to be. This isn’t it. I am not now what He died to make me. Is that right? Either spiritually or physically. And, we all stumble through life and, as we heard in the testimonies, battling with the flesh, and battling with illness, and disease, and all those kinds of things. And the atonement was designed for our ultimate glory, and our souls’ ultimate glorification as well as a glorified body like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. In that sense, our ultimate, final healing is in the atonement, and Jesus was giving it, you know, widespread demonstration of the fact that He had the power over that realm just as He had power over the spiritual realm and the souls of men.
Right. So one of their favorites is, “By His stripes, you are healed.” That’s ultimately sin.
John MacArthur’s Answer
Yes. You’ll never be healed physically by being given the glorified body of Christ, like Christ unless you’ve been healed of your sin. Right? I mean, you’re not going to enter into the glories of heavenly perfection unless your sins have been dealt with. So, you are, first of all, healed from the disease of sin, but, you also understand, we’ve been healed of sin, but we’re all dying from it. Is that not true? I have been forgiven all my sin and I know that. I have been delivered from the power of sin, from it’s ability, I’ve been delivered from the penalty of sin, its ability to control my life, and, yet, I’m dying from the effect of sin. I could say it the same in the physical. I have been given a healing. Physically, I will, one day, be perfect in a glorified body, and yet my body is still dying, until I get to that other world and realize the full significance of His atoning work.