Terms in the Bible are specialized words of particular significance. In Coming to Terms we explore the significance of these terms to deepen our understanding of biblical truth through a question and answer format.
Unpacking the term
The words used for healing in Scripture refer to both physical and spiritual healing. The very idea of healing presupposes an undesirable condition of ill health or brokenness in mind, body, or soul. Healing is the process of restoration to wholeness and health, and freedom from disease.
Why do we need healing? When God made everything, it was perfect. There was no sickness. When man sinned, creation was broken bringing sickness and death into the world (Genesis 2:17). One day everything will be restored and made new, but until then healing is necessary because bodies and souls are sick and death is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).
When Jesus healed it was a sign to the world that He was the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-5) and the kingdom of God was invading the domain of darkness under Satan’s rule. It was a witness that the reign of death and this age of futility is coming to a final redemptive end (Romans 8:18-23). Jesus also gave the apostles, including Paul, authority to heal thereby authenticating their ministries (Matthew 10:1; Acts 14:8; 16:18).
The real question for the believer is not if God heals but by what means and when.
Spiritual healing occurs when the soul is restored to fellowship with God and injuries caused by sin are repaired. David prayed, “…have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you” (Psalm 41:4). Forgiveness of sin by God is spiritual healing. “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts” (Jeremiah 3:22). Salvation is the greatest healing of all. We were dead in sin but God made us alive with Christ and new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What are the four types of physical healing we see in Scripture? The first is natural healing done by the body continuously. God has designed us with physiological capabilities for healing and by the grace and providence of God this is the way most healing takes place. “After all the males had been circumcised, they rested in the camp until they were healed” (Joshua 5:8).
A second type is healing through medicine and medical technology and skills (Jeremiah 46:11; 1 Timothy 5:23)—remember Luke was a doctor. Today through the grace and providence of God we have excellent medicines, medical technology, and skills to facilitate healing.
A third type of healing is miraculous, instantaneous, and complete. This too is by the power and grace of God and the Bible is full of examples of healing the blind and lame and the dead being raised (Matthew 11:5; 21:14; John 11:44).
Finally, when Christ returns at the end of the age He will heal and restore all things and His people. “…And there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).
Is healing guaranteed in the atonement? “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). The contexts of both these verses make it clear they are referring to spiritual healing, not physical. Through faith in the work of Christ we have spiritual healing—forgiveness and salvation.
Since God can heal everyone why doesn’t He? God has a plan and is working all things toward the fulfilment of that plan. To that end He sometimes uses sickness to bring His children to heaven. Sometimes He uses sickness to glorify Himself through that person. Sometimes He uses sickness to discipline His children due to sinful behaviour (1 Corinthians 11:30).
How should I respond to sickness and healing? When illness strikes, ask for healing. It may be God’s will to heal at that time and your prayer may be part of the means God uses to heal. If He heals share your story with others.
If we pray for personal healing and God doesn’t heal how should we respond? Examine yourself asking God to show you whether the reason for your sickness is sin on your part. If so, confess your sin and ask God to cleanse and heal you and ask the elders to pray for you (James 5:14-15).
If there is no known sin to confess recognize God has a better plan or different timing. In the meantime, use the illness as an opportunity to strengthen your faith, cultivate humility, heighten your joy, and experience his sufficient grace.