Summary: Living on Mission in a Foreign Land The Nature of Healing Promised in the Atonement
Living on Mission in a Foreign Land
The Nature of Healing Promised in the Atonement
We are in our second of three mini-series in 1 Peter, “Living on Mission in a Foreign Land,” from 1 Peter 2.11-4.11, where Peter connects the way we live our lives to God's mission, making disciples. God has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light to proclaim His excellencies. Today we finish chapter two by looking at vs. 21-25, specifically what Peter means when he quote an Old Testament passage, “by his wounds we are healed.”
Big Idea – The benefits/implications of the atonement include both spiritual and physical healing.
Passage Overview: Peter tells us that in his death on the cross Jesus bore our sin to produce a people who die to sin and live to righteousness. Then he gives two pictures as metaphors of the atonement, God overcoming our sin, reconciling us to himself. The first is 'by his wounds we are healed' and we were 'like straying sheep but have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.'
Christ Bore our Sin to Spiritually Heal Us
Peter tells us that Christ bore our sins so that we would die to sin and live to righteousness. The work of Christ on the cross is effective in creating a people who make a decisive and growing break with sin and whose lives are characterized by righteousness, a growing conformity to the character of Christ. Those who come to faith in Christ will, by necessity, experience a growing conformity to the character of Christ. What I am saying is that obedience is not optional; it is a necessity. That is why obedience is the goal of teaching and discipleship. A disciple is someone who knows and follows Christ and is being changed by Christ. Are you actively engaged in knowing and following Christ? Are you actively engaged in being changed by Christ? Are you actively engaged in the mission of Christ? Are you engaged in discipling others? Are you reaching out to those who do not know Christ or are not as far along as you? Then Peter gives two metaphors or pictures that describes what Christ did when he bore our sins on the cross, 'by his wounds we are healed' and 'we were like straying sheep but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.' I want to focus on the first for the rest of our time today.
I have seen this phrase used in a demanding way as if we can demand God to act. There are those who teach that in the same way God bore our sins he bore our sicknesses and diseases. For instance A.J. Gordon writes,
"The yoke of his cross by which he lifted our iniquities took hold also of our diseases so that it is in some sense true that as God 'made him to be sin for us who knew no sin,' so he made him to be sick for us [emphasis mine] who knew no sickness. He who entered into mysterious sympathy with our pain which is the fruit of sin, also put himself underneath our pain which is the penalty of sin. In other words the passage seems to teach that Christ endured vicariously our diseases as well as our iniquities [emphasis mine]. If now it be true that our Redeemer and substitute bore our sicknesses, it would be natural to reason at once that he bore them that we might not bear them"
Gloria Copeland writes:
"Jesus bore your sicknesses and carried your diseases at the same time and in the same manner [emphasis mine] that He bore your sins. You are just as free from sickness and disease as you are free from sin. You should be as quick to cease sickness and disease in your body as you are to cease sin."
But the bible does not treat sickness in the same way is treats sin. Having diabetes or a head cold is not sinful. The Bible tells us to pray 'forgive us our trespasses' and urges us 'to confess our sins', but it does not say that we should pray 'forgive us our arthritis' or 'Lord, I confess that I have the flu.' Sickness is not sin. The Bible never issues the command, 'Do not commit cancer', or 'Flee the flu'. Yet many in the church insist that Jesus 'bore the penalty for our sins and our sicknesses.' But if sickness is not a sin, how can it incur a penalty like sin? Jesus was not punished for our diseases but was punished for our sin, our disobedience to the truth.
This is supported by looking at the context of both Peter in the New Testament and Isaiah in the Old Testament. Context determines everything, including the meaning of words. Peter tells us that Christ bore our sins in his body so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is clearly a reference to spiritual healing, involving sin and moral change. He also describes us as straying sheep who have now returned to the Shepherd. Again this is a picture of sinful people who have repented and returned to their Shepherd. If we looked at Isaiah 53 we would see there are nine references to sin and none to physical healing. So both Peter and Isaiah are clearly talking about spiritual healing and not physical healing. But are there any other considerations that point to the possibility of physical healing being included as a benefit of the atonement? Yes, I think there is.