By His Stripes

Theologies aren’t merely points on a graph. Every Christian understanding creates a framework on which to hang all the rest. I’ll show you how this works with Arminian Pentecostalism: One of the key scriptures for understanding the basis for supernatural healing has always been Isaiah 53:5, “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.” There have been any number of sermons on healing given based on this text, and I’m sure you could do a lot of in-depth exegesis, but the key point is to see that there appears to be a direct connection between forgiveness of sin and physical healing: both are dispensed to us on the basis of what Jesus suffered on the cross. You can make a similar argument from Mark 2:9, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” Apparently, they are roughly equivalent.

Now watch this: An Arminian comes to these texts and sees that healing comes about by roughly the same process as justification. But the Arminian believes that saving faith is made available to all who will come, and ultimately the choice whether to be saved is up to each one of us. If I am going to be saved, then I must take the initiative and believe. I must reach out by faith and appropriate the salvation that has been made available to me. Apply this to healing, and you’ll hear people saying the same thing: God has made supernatural healing available to all who believe. He already paid the price for both on the Cross. All you must do is reach out by faith and appropriate the healing that has been made available to you.

But “which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” For Jesus, I suppose it was roughly the same. But for us today, it’s much easier to say “your sins are forgiven.” An Arminian is generally comfortable saying to a person that if they’ve “prayed the prayer” and truly believed, then they are truly saved. Who can know the heart of a man? But for healing, the truth is much more apparent: either the body is healed or it isn’t. If they prayer has been prayed, and nothing has happened, what does the Arminian charismatic say? The thing he believes is possible in regards to salvation, but never has the evidence before him: “You didn’t have enough faith.”

The cessationist hears this phrase and all his Calvinist sensibilities are offended. What does it mean to have enough faith? Is it a work to have faith? Are we supposed to take credit before God for how much faith we have? No! Faith is a gift from God, that he dispenses as he wills. And because he has not been shown a Calvinist way of understanding supernatural healing, he stays a cessationist.

To the Calvinist cessationist, I say this: yes, faith is a gift from God that he dispenses as he wills. But do we not also pray that this gift will be given to those who have not received it? Isn’t faith for healing also listed as a gift of God? Then pray for that also.

I think the mistake that the “you-don’t-have-enough-faith” charismatics make is that they want the set of people who have been saved and the set of people who have been healed to be identical. If you have been saved, then you will be healed. But this is backwards. Jesus didn’t forgive the paralytic of his sins to prove that he could heal him. Rather he healed him to prove that he could forgive his sins. From a reformed point of view, just as God saves some and doesn’t save others, so he may heal some, and not heal others, and he may do so for roughly the same reasons: to demonstrate that the healing and the saving was by his grace, a gift from God, and not something that we can claim a simple right to. So some people God may save, but not heal, as a reminder that not everybody gets saved. Others may be healed by God, and yet fail to repent, and this may serve as an even greater proof that nothing can give a man faith – not even supernatural healing – nothing except the grace of God.

Author: KB French

Formerly many things, including theology student, mime, jr. high Latin teacher, and Army logistics officer. Currently in the National Guard, and employed as a civilian... somewhere

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