By His Stripes ...

This is a short study in which I intend to discuss two verses from the Bible.
So let us begin by reading these verses from the Book of Isaiah. 

Isaiah 53: 4, 5
4   Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5   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.  (NKJV)
It is accepted by all Christian theologians that Isaiah 53 is all about the sufferings and the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Jesus is the servant Messiah in this chapter.
But Jews have a different understanding of this passage.
They prefer to apply the description of this passage to their sufferings in captivity.

But the Gospel writers and Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have quoted this verse in connection to the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus.
That vouchsafe it as a prophecy about the crucifixion of Jesus.

Understanding the passage

Let us try to understand the quoted Bible verse, starting with verse 4

Isaiah 53: 4  Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (NKJV)

The word ‘surely’ means certainly, firmly or truly.
It implies the certainty of the truth stated in the following sentences.

‘Griefs’ which the servant of God is here described as bearing are literally ‘sicknesses,’ and that, similarly, the ‘sorrows’ may be diseases.
The Hebrew thought drew no such sharp line of distinction between diseases of the body and those of the soul.
All sickness was taken to be the consequence of sin.
The treatment of a person affected by leprosy, in the Old Testament, is an example.
Sin is the sickness, as it is also the grief, which most afflicts humanity.

The word ‘borne’ implies not only carrying on the shoulder but bearing of it away.
The word ‘carried’ emphasizes the weight of the load.
Thus the servant Christ referred to in this verse has carried the heavy burden of sin and punishment and He bore it away so that it will not be reckoned against us again.

Bearing away the sin and its consequences brings to our mind the fate of sacrificial goats.
Leviticus chapter 16 describes the solemn rites connected with the great Day of Atonement. 
On this day alone the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. 
The high priest shall take two kids of the goats, one of which is to be determined by lot to be a sacrifice; the other to be a scapegoat. (5-10).
That is one goat is “for the LORD” and the other "for Azazel,"  or ‘for the scapegoat’
The priest shall kill the goat “for the Lord” as a sin-offering for the people.
The scapegoat shall be then brought, on the head of which he shall lay his hands, and confess the iniquities of the children of Israel.
After that He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task.  (20-22).
The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness” (21,22).
Symbolically, the scapegoat took on the sins of the Israelites and removed them (10).

For Christians, this is a foreshadowing of Christ.
Jesus Christ, by His crucifixion, carried away all our sins and sickness, just as the scapegoat carried away all the sins and sickness of the Jews.
And the word, ‘surely’ confirms this truth, telling that, it is certain that it happened so.

With the certainty of the truth described above, let us move to the next verse.

Isaiah 53: 5  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.  (NKJV)

Here, the prophet sees through the centuries to know that the Messiah would be beaten with many stripes.
Jesus was wounded and bruised for our sins.
The prophet also announces that provision for healing is found in the suffering of Jesus.
And so by His stripes we are healed.

Jesus suffered wounds and bruises on His physical body.
The Roman soldiers did not beat his soul and could never wound His soul.
The enemies could only bruise His physical body.

But sin is a spiritual depravity – it is more spiritual than physical.
Throughout the teachings of Jesus, He emphasized on the spiritual part of sin than on physical act.
Jesus defined even adultery as a spiritual sin.
In fact spiritual depravity is more deep and destructive than the physical disobedience.

The sufferings of Jesus on His physical body is described by the prophet as an atonement for our transgressions and iniquities according to the Hebrew concept of sin and sickness.
For them, let me repeat, sickness is a result of sin.
Thus the prophet places both sin and its atonement by physical sufferings side by side.

Spiritual or physical healing
What was in the mind of prophet Isaiah while he prophesied the sufferings and death of Christ?
Had he in mind spiritual healing or physical healing.
As I said in the beginning of this discussion, the assurance that Isaiah 53 is about the servant Christ is that the passage was quoted by the gospel writer and the apostle.

Mathew quotes this passage in chapter 8 verse 17 with the view of physical healing in his mind.
Apostle Peter quotes these same verses in his First epistle chapter 2, verse 24 in view of spiritual healing.
So to understand the true sense of the prophecy, let us read both these passages.

In Matthew 8, we read about Jesus’ visit to Peter’s house.
And Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from fever.
Jesus touched her hand and immediately she was healed.
To impress us with the miracle, Matthew continues to say that she suddenly stood up and prepared and served food for them.
The news of this miraculous healing spread around and by evening many came to Jesus with demon possessed people and people suffering from other diseases.
Jesus drove out the evil spirits with a word and healed the sick.
Suddenly Matthew remembered the prophecy of Isaiah.

Matthew 8: 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (NIV)

The verse does not mean that Jesus healed the sick with an intention to fulfill the prophecy.
It simply means that, Matthew understood the incidents as a fulfillment of the prophecy.

Clearly, without any further explanation, we can understand that Matthew is talking about physical healing as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah as recorded in chapter 53.

Peter in his epistle speaks of spiritual healing.

1 Peter 2: 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed.  (NKJV)

Peter clearly states that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree.
And by his stripes we are healed.
Here peter is connecting our sins and its punishment to the physical sufferings of Jesus.
The spiritual depravity is punished by physical afflictions and so the spiritual healing is reflected in the physical healing.
Thus the spiritual blessing becomes the physical blessing.

So what shall we surmise?
The gospel writer says that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled when Jesus healed the sickness of people and Apostle Peter relates the same prophecy to spiritual healing.
That means in the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross, both physical and spiritual healing is provided.
In fact as we have already said above, the spiritual healing is closely connected to physical healing.

Why we are still sick?

However, some Christian preachers have gone too far and believe that by the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross all those who believed in Him are completely healed.
They argue for perfect health right now, and if there is any lack of health, it is simply because one has not claimed this promise in faith.
They lay great stress upon the past tense of this phrase - by His stripes we are healed.
Since it is in the past tense, perfect health is God's promise and provision for every Christian at this very moment.
This argument accompanies their belief that a believer has the promise to perfect forgiveness and salvation at this moment.

There is no doubt that on the Cross there is healing.
But at the same time, physical healing is not a finished work yet.
Our experience shows that we suffer sickness as we live in this world.
And it is not a matter of claiming by faith or doubting the promise.

Still any believer can enjoy perfect health as a personal promise or gift to him from God, even in these days.

The problem of this view

According to the prophecy of Isaiah as recorded in chapter 53, the suffering servant Christ has borne away sins and punishments.
By hanging on a tree, according to the Law, Jesus became a curse to deliver us from all curses.
Thus punishment of sin include physical sickness, curses and death.
Curses include a long list of poverty, defeat, debt, sickness, and so on.
If sin is gone, both sickness and curses too must be gone.
But the view that by the sufferings of Christ, sin and all its effects are finally gone terribly contradicts the personal experience of saints in the Bible and through history.
So there is a misunderstanding of the ‘verb tense’ of both salvation and healing.

Jesus paid for sins and its punishments by His stripes and the totality of His work is a truth.
Jesus had done everything for the remission of sins, once and for ever.
His sacrificial work is total and never need to repeat in any form.

But we must also say that perfect salvation, healing and deliverance from curses it is not promised to every believer right now.
That is to say the totality of our salvation is not promised to us right now.
Sin is actually not our actions in the physical body, but our nature in the physical body.
That is sin is always spiritual than physical.
Apostle Paul reveals this truth in the following verse:

Romans 7:19, 20
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
 20       Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.      (NKJV)

So, Bible says that perfection of salvation is progressive.
That means, we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8), that we are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18), and that we will be saved (1 Corinthians 3:15).
Let us read three verses from the Bible concerning the progressive fulfilment of salvation.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (NKJV)

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (NKJV)

1 Corinthians 3:15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  (NKJV)

If salvation is progressive that will be fulfilled in future, so healing and deliverance from curses also will be perfected in future.
That means, we have been healed, are being healed, and one day will be healed perfectly.
We are delivered from curses, being delivered and one day will be delivered perfectly.

What we experience now in this world is only “patch-up” healing and deliverance.
We are experiencing only a fore taste of a great feast that is yet to come.
It anticipates the ultimate healing that will come in future.
And God's ultimate healing is called "resurrection," and it is a glorious promise to every believer.

What Christians must do is to pray boldly and trust God's goodness and mercy in granting gifts of healing now, even before the ultimate healing of resurrection.

 Let me conclude by repeating the words of a great man of God, Spurgeon:
The healing of a sinner does not lie in himself.
It is not in himself at all; but there, where the pavement is stained with the blood of the Son of God, and there, at Golgotha, where the place of a skull beholds the agonies of Christ.
It is in his stripes that the healing lies. 'With his stripes we are healed. (Spurgeon)

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