Seven Questions and Answers
The following are seven questions I feel are necessary to ask and answer in order to eliminate some confusion and misunderstanding about the healing process as it applies to the elect and the unconverted.
- Why is a healing ritual necessary within a congregation with an active eldership?
- Who within the congregations of the Sovereign Father's earthly family has the authority to perform the healing ritual as instructed by the apostle James?
- Is it permissible to apply the apostles James' instructions for healing to unconverted family members?
- Is it permissible for a non-elder to request their heavenly Father to heal themselves or to heal someone else and expect their request to be granted without following the apostle James' instructions to call for an elder and request healing?
- Is the practice of using a cloth anointed with oil in a healing ritual authorized in the biblical record, and does the oil placed on a cloth represent the holy spirit as some believe?
- What was Paul's thorn in the flesh and does it have anything to do with whether or not a person is healed when anointed for healing by an elder?
- Does the biblical record support the belief that the supernatural healing of a person's disability or illness is provided through the beaten, bruised, and lacerated body of Christ at the hands of the Roman soldiers?
1. THE HEALING RITUAL
Q. Why is a healing ritual necessary within a congregation with an active eldership?
A. The answer to this question can only be understood in the context of holiness and the necessity to maintain a state of holiness in order to interact with our heavenly Father and receive the benefits promised in the biblical record.
God is Holy
The Sovereign God and his firstborn son Jesus Christ are holy spirit-beings whose very nature and being requires all things which come into close contact with them to be of the same quality of existence.
The word holy expresses a state of existence, an attitude, and a behavior which is in harmony with God's character. A person who has the indwelling of the holy spirit is holy and derives this quality of existence from their heavenly Father through the power of his holy spirit. It is this holy quality of existence (i.e., holiness) which differentiates God the Father's earthly children from the rest of humanity.
The apostles Peter and Paul wrote the following to the elect about the requirement to be holy:
"But as he which has called you is holy, so you be holy in all your behavior; Because it is written, You be holy; for I am holy" (1.Pet.1:15-16 KJV Para.). See also Lev.11:44-45, 19:1-2.
The instruction to be holy is not a suggestion. Being holy and maintaining holiness is a requirement for anyone who is serious about their salvation. Maintaining a state of holiness requires the diligent practice of what you understand concerning a holy attitude and behavior. Moreover, when you become aware that you have violated the laws, percepts, and principles of holiness, you must request forgiveness of this violation in order to restore and maintain a harmonious relationship with your heavenly Father and your Savior. See Jms.4:17: 1.Jn.3:7.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph.1:1-4 KJV).
The biblical record shows that a peaceful and harmonious relationship between God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Father's chosen ones is established through the power of the Father's holy spirit. Notice that the elect were chosen in Christ before this physical existence to be holy and blameless. To be holy and blameless is to be found in compliance with God's laws, precepts, and principles. The biblical record also shows that holiness must be diligently maintained by a person in order for them to continue to be blameless (i.e., sinless).
Law and Holiness
The Sovereign God is a god of law and there are certain laws that govern the interaction between him, his firstborn son Christ, his heavenly realm, his earthly children, and this physical realm.
Moses was given many instructions, procedures, and rituals to be followed by the Israelites. Some of these had symbolic and prophetic meaning. But, some were necessary in order to purify the tabernacle and its contents, the priesthood, and the nation of Israel in order to obtain and maintain a holy state of existence so that the Creator God, in his spirit presence, could dwell in the tabernacle and the priesthood could perform their duties within the tabernacle.
The Creator God continually warned the Israelites about the sacredness of his earthly holy place and the punishment they would bring on themselves if they did not keep from polluting it. A person who has the indwelling of the holy spirit is a temple of their heavenly Father on earth during this gospel age of salvation; therefore, they must also maintain a holy state of existence. See 1.Cor.3:16-17, 6:19-20.
A Fatal Mistake
As a warning of what happens to people who fail to conform to the laws governing holiness, the Creator inspired Moses to record the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, which was the result of their failure to pay attention to the laws of purity (i.e., holiness).
Nadab and Abihu disregarded the Creator's instructions to keep all physical contamination out of his presence and brought unholy fire within the confines of the tabernacle. This was a serious violation of the law concerning purity and the tabernacle. By placing impure fire in their censers, they defiled themselves, as well as their censers, which made them unholy and unfit to minister before God:
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censor, and put fire in them; and they put incense on it and brought strange fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire went out before the Lord and consumed them; and they died before the Lord" (Lev.10:1-2 Para.). See also Lev.10:8-10.
This blatant violation of the law of purity brought a swift and fatal response from the presence of God. The law was very clear on this subject. All physical things (people or inanimate objects) that came into the presence of God while he was in his spirit-form within the tabernacle had to be kept in a condition of physical and ceremonial purity.
The death of Nadab and Abihu is an example of what happens to those whom God has set apart for a holy purpose who fail to respect his laws concerning holiness and the performance of the procedures and rituals required to remain holy and maintain the purity of his holy place.
The consequences for defiling the tabernacle were clearly detailed in the covenant the Creator God made with national Israel. The consequences for a person with the indwelling of the holy spirit defiling their heavenly Father's earthly temple is also clearly detailed in the biblical record. See 1.Cor.3:16-17, 6:18-20; 2.Cor.6:15-17.
A person with the indwelling of the holy spirit who understands the instructions for healing given by the apostle James and refuses to follow these instructions will not be immediately killed by fire, as were Nadab and Abihu. However, this person may not receive the healing they desire if they do not follow the procedures and rituals as instructed.
Forgiveness of Sin
The following is the apostle John's understanding of a person's proclivity to knowingly or unknowingly violate God's law, which compromises a person's holiness.
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us:" (1.Jn.1:5-10 KJV).
What does the forgiveness of sin and holiness have to do with the apostle James' instructions about healing? Forgiveness of sin is a requirement in order to first become holy and is also a requirement in order to maintain a holy state of existence.
Any violation of God's law adversely impacts a person's holy state. James' comment about sin being forgiven in the context of his instructions for healing, speaks to the possibility that the person requesting healing has violated God's law—knowingly or unknowingly:
"And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise them up; and even if sins are committed, they shall be forgiven. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous avails much" (Jms.5:15-16 KJV Para).
"Elijah was a person subject to like passions as we are and prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (Jms.5:16-18 KJV Para.).
Because maintaining one's holiness should be a primary concern of a person with the indwelling of the holy spirit, the forgiveness of sin and the healing of a disability or illness is included in the apostles James' instructions to the elect. Forgiveness of sin restores a person's spiritual health and physical healing restores a person's physical health.
2. THE AUTHORITY TO HEAL
Q. Who within the congregations of the Sovereign Father's earthly family has the authority to perform the healing ritual as instructed by the apostle James?
A. The short answer is that all men who have been ordained as elders within the Father's earthly family of king-priests have this authority. However, a more complete explanation is needed in order to understand how this authorization applies when following the apostle James' instructions for healing within the congregations of the elect.
The Church Era
While preparing the disciples for the work they were to do after his death and resurrection, Jesus gave clear instructions about how to perform fasting (Matt.6:16-18), the process that must be followed to resolve interpersonal and spiritual problems within the church (Matt. 18:1-20), as well as many other instructions to be followed by believers. Additionally, he gave the apostles authority to set in place certain guidelines, rituals, and procedures to be followed in order to obtain a desired result.
Matthew twice recorded that Jesus gave the apostles discretionary authority to impose sanctions, penalties, rules, and laws within the church during the gospel age of salvation with the understanding that what was to be administered must conform to what was already established in the heavenly realm as a body of law governing the elect:
"And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt.16:17-19 KJV Para.).
"Truly I say to you [the disciples], Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt.18:18-19 KJV Para.).
The Apostle James' Authority
The apostles used the discretionary authority Jesus gave them many times to impose sanctions, penalties, rules, and laws within the church. James who was Jesus' brother (Gal.1:19) and head of the Jerusalem council of elders (Acts 15:1-22) used his authority to institute a ritual to be performed within congregations of the elect in order to effect a healing of the body and the spirit:
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Jms.5:14-15 KJV).
These instructions show that the elders of the early church were to intercede through the authority of Jesus Christ to God the Father on the behalf of the elect. When these instructions were followed, the sick person was healed.
All of the examples of healing in the New Testament reveal that the supernatural healing of individuals happened quickly, were instantaneous after a command was given to heal, or came after a person followed the instructions given to them by the individual performing the healing.
Power, Protection, and Abilities
After his resurrection, Jesus promised the remaining eleven disciples that those who believed his message would have certain supernatural power, protection, and abilities:
"And these signs shall follow those who believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with languages new to them; They shall cast away serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk.16:17-18 KJV Para.).
This statement of facts tells us that supernatural abilities will be evident among believers. Believers will be able to cast out evil spirits, speak languages new to them, be protected against poisonous snakes and liquids, and heal every type of illness, disability, and spiritual or mental disorder through the laying on of their hands.
Although these promises are in the context of proclaiming the gospel message and accepting those who believe into the Sovereign Father's earthly family of believers, Jesus did not restrict the ability to heal to men in the ministry nor did he place restrictions on who can be healed through the laying on of hands.
Therefore, it seems logical that a man endowed with the gift of healing (1.Cor.12:9) can lay hands on the elect and the unconverted in order to perform healing. Additionally, it seems logical for an elder with the indwelling of the holy spirit to practice the laying on of hands, especially when anointing and praying for one of the elect requesting healing.
Gifts of the Spirit
There are at least 21 supernatural gifts of the spirit recorded in the New Testament which are given in order for the elect to carry out various functions and responsibilities during the gospel age of salvation. The following are some of the gifts of the spirit:
"Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are a variety of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. But the manifestation of the spirit is given to every one to profit nevertheless. For to one is given by the spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit; To another faith by the same spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another various languages; to another the interpretation of languages: But all these work in one, which is the same spirit, distributing to everyone individually as purposed" (1.Cor.12:4-11 KJV Para.).
The English word gift in Paul's comments about these abilities given through the holy spirit is translated from the Greek word charisma, which is derived from the Greek word charizomai, which means to grant as a favor. Charisma, in the context of verses 4 through 11, means endowments.
Although some of the supernatural abilities are clearly intended for individuals occupying positions of service within the Father's earthly family, it is important to note that many of these abilities are made available to all family members regardless of position of service or gender.
The authorizations and powers that a member of the body of Christ is blessed with are not for one's personal aggrandizement or entertainment. These spiritual gifts are for the performing of the work of the church and the edification and enrichment of the Father's elect who are being prepared to serve humanity through the Family and Government of God.
It is important to understand that not every member has the same authorizations or supernatural abilities. The Father knows the strengths and weaknesses of each person he calls to salvation and gives gifts of the spirit according to the needs, functions, and responsibilities within his family.
All elders within congregations of the elect do not have the gift of healing, but they have the authority and the responsibility to perform the healing ritual as noted in the apostle James' instructions when requested and within the bounds of reason. Moreover, not all elders have the kind of faith necessary in order to be assured that their prayer will result in the healing of the person being anointed. Therefore, healing is not entirely dependent on an elder's faith, but on the faithful performance of the healing ritual and the promise of healing through its faithful performance.
Some might think a person does not have supernatural gifts of the spirit unless they are able to work great miracles, heal the sick, or foretell the future. However, these are only the more visible and spectacular acts which can be performed through the power of the holy spirit. They only seem more important, because they are more visible and dynamic in presentation; however, they are not the most important. See 1.Cor. chaps. 12-14.
When an elder or any other man within the body of the elect is given the authority and power to heal disabilities, illnesses, and spiritual or mental disorders, that power is absolute and is only limited by that person's decision to heal or not. The authority to perform the ritual of healing in accordance with the instructions of the apostle James is clearly a function of elders within a congregation of the elect.
3. UNCONVERTED FAMILY MEMBERS
Q. Is it permissible to apply the apostles James' instructions for healing to unconverted family members?
A. The answer is no, the following explains why.
While giving instructions and guidelines for marriage, the apostle Paul addresses the situation where only one spouse in the marriage is converted. In these instructions, Paul reveals three basic facts about the sacred status of unconverted individuals within this family situation. These facts concern the unbelieving mate being sanctified and being afforded an opportunity for salvation and the children being made holy:
"And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, let her not leave him. Because the unbelieving husband has been sanctified because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified because of her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, if you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, if you will save your wife?" (1.Cor.7:13-16 Para.).
The first clue to understanding what Paul is saying to a believing spouse is that being sanctified and being holy are two completely different things. The English word sanctified in verse 14 is translated from the Greek word hagiazo, which means purify or consecrate. The English word holy in verse 14 is translated from the Greek word hagios, which means sacred, pure, blameless, holy, or saint.
There is a clear difference between the unconverted mate and the unconverted children. The unconverted mate is sanctified but not holy, and the children are holy but not sanctified. These scriptures show two different degrees of the sacred realm being administered. The unconverted mate is purified or consecrated to a sacred use, but the children are placed in a sacred state of existence. For a more detailed understanding of the spiritual status of the elect's unconverted family members, see chapter 18: The Holy Ones and God's Law.
All unconverted people are sinners, which includes a spouse's unconverted mate and unconverted children. Because these individuals are unconverted, they are outside the covenant relationship between the converted spouse and God the Father. Therefore, the apostle James' instructions for healing within the congregations does not apply to them, because they do not have the indwelling of the holy spirit. The context of the apostles James' instruction for healing is clearly directed toward individuals with the indwelling of the holy spirit.
No instructions or guidelines for anointing unconverted people or the elect's unconverted family members can be found in the biblical record after the establishment of the early church. However, after Jesus gave the command to his disciples to preach the good news message to all people, he gave the following promises to those who would believe their message:
"And these signs shall follow those who believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with languages new to them; They shall cast away serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk.16:17-18 KJV Para.).
These promises of supernatural protection and the power to heal the sick were not limited to the eleven disciples whom Jesus commanded to preach the gospel message (Mk.16:14-16); these promises were also for those who truly believe the message Jesus brought from his heavenly Father.
The gifts of the spirit which are given to the Father's elect include the ability to heal disabilities and illnesses (See 1.Cor.12:1-30). Therefore, it seems appropriate for those who have this power and authority to use it for the benefit of the elect's unconverted family members and others when requested.
4. HEALING WITHOUT AN ELDER
Q. Is it permissible for a non-elder to request their heavenly Father to heal themselves or to ask healing for someone else and expect their request to be granted without following the apostle James' instructions to call for an elder to request the healing?
A. The answer is yes. There are many circumstances which make it impossible to contact an elder in order to follow James' instructions, such as emergencies and situations involving the unconverted where it is logical, merciful, and prudent to beseech our heavenly Father for another person's healing. In these situations, a person can and should go directly to their heavenly Father through the authority of Christ, request healing, and expect a positive answer.
It is abundantly clear from many scriptures that our heavenly Father will hear a righteous person and respond positively to their requests:
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb.4:14-16 KJV).
"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1.Pet.3:12 KJV). See also Psa.34:15.
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1.Jn.5:14-15 KJV). See also Matt.7:7-11; Lk.11:5-13.
Healing by a Non-elder
A brother in Christ who is not an elder, but has the gift of healing in order to perform the work of an evangelist, a teacher of the Faith, a prophet, or some other function or responsibility could be asked to perform a healing for one of the elect when no ordained elder is available to perform the healing ritual. However, this man cannot perform the healing ritual established by the Apostle James, because it must be performed by an ordained elder.
If asked, a brother in Christ with the gift of healing also has the discretion to use his authority to heal the elects' unconverted family members or some other unconverted person.
5. THE ANOINTED CLOTH
During this gospel age of salvation, some congregations practice the sending of a cloth anointed with oil, which has been prayed over, to individuals requesting healing. Those who practice this ritual believe that their authority for this practice is found in the special miracles performed by the apostle Paul and that the oil represents the holy spirit.
Q. Is the practice of using a cloth anointed with oil in a healing ritual authorized in the biblical record and does the oil placed on these cloths represent the holy spirit, as some believe?
A. The short answers to both questions is no. However, more detailed answers are necessary in order to explain why some people are healed and some are not through the use of an anointed cloth.
Paul's Special Miracles
"And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought to the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12 KJV).
The English word handkerchiefs is translated from the Greek word soudarion; a sudarium (of Latin origin), which means a sweat-cloth, i.e., a towel for wiping the perspiration from the face or binding the face of a corpse. The English word aprons is translated from the Greek word simikinthion (of Latin origin), which basically means a narrow covering.
The account of Paul healing the sick and casting out evil spirits through the use of a cloth or apron sent from him does not tell us if this method of healing was to be applied within or outside the congregations. However, if cloths were used within congregations, it seems logical that, whenever the aprons and cloths were sent, there was no elder available to cast out demons or perform the healing ritual as set forth by the apostle James. Otherwise, there would have been no need for these special miracles. Moreover, there is no mention of Paul anointing a cloth or apron with oil. What is clear is that this was a special authorization given to the apostle Paul.
Although not recorded in the biblical record, it is obvious that Paul would have also sent along instructions detailing what to do and say surrounding the use and disposal of the cloth. In the case of the removal of an evil spirit, it seems logical that Paul delegated authority to cast out evil spirits to the one who was to perform this task on his behalf through the use of the cloth or apron.
This account does not reveal whether or not the people who received healing or the removal of evil spirits were of the elect or not. However, we know that the holy spirit and evil spirits are not compatible; therefore, it would seem that the evil spirits were removed from individuals without the indwelling of the holy spirit.
This particular miracle performed by the apostle Paul reveals the following important information relevant to this study:
- No authorization is granted or indicated in Acts 19:11-12 for elders today to use an anointed cloth to effect a healing.
- The biblical record shows that only Paul was authorized to use spirit-power in this way to perform miracles.
- Perhaps these objects were needed to transmit spirit-power or to initiate the flow of spirit-energy needed to perform the miracle. Or perhaps they were symbolic of the miracle which would follow their application.
The Holy Spirit and Oil
Q. Is there proof in the biblical record that oil is symbolic of the holy spirit as some believe?
A. The belief that oil represents the holy spirit cannot be substantiated in the biblical record. This belief is an assumption based on interpretations and comparisons of the sacrificial law, anointing by prophets, and other scriptures containing references to oil, none of which shows oil being symbolic of the holy spirit. However, some biblical references do show that it is necessary for an oil to be used in order to effect a result through the power of the holy spirit. See the section: "The Olive Tree and Olive Oil" for potential meanings of the anointing oil.
Although no authority can be found in the biblical record for the practice of anointing a cloth with oil, praying over it, and then sending it to a person to effect the healing of a disability or illness, the fact is that this practice has been honored by God the Father. People who have received an anointed cloth have been healed of disabilities and illnesses.
My personal knowledge and experience of this practice shows inconsistent results. Sometimes the person requesting the anointed cloth would get an immediate positive result after making the request, even before receiving it. And sometimes the requestor would get a positive result immediately after receiving the cloth. While others would not be healed, would slowly recover, would continue in a chronic condition for an extended time, or would die.
Why are the results of using an anointed cloth inconsistent and why do some people receive healing through this practice while others do not? The following four points are my understanding and opinions as to why there are inconsistent results from the use of an anointed cloth:
- A promise of healing through the application of an anointed cloth cannot be found in the Bible. Therefore, regardless of one's belief in the validity of this method of healing, our heavenly Father is not obligated to heal a person through this method.
- Our heavenly Father and our Savior know what is best for us in every situation. They know whether or not healing through the application of an anointed cloth will serve to strengthen our spiritual character or help us to obtain our goal of salvation.
- Our heavenly Father and our Savior understand we are many centuries removed from the laws given to national Israel and the laws given to the early church and that much knowledge has been lost to us. Therefore, they take our ignorance into consideration when deciding whether or not to heal through the application of an anointed cloth.
- Our heavenly Father and our Savior have a love for us that is beyond our comprehension; they know us better than we know ourselves and show great compassion and mercy to us, even in our ignorance. Therefore, it seems to me that whether or not a person is healed through the application of an anointed cloth is predicated on what is best for the individual.
Although many times our heavenly Father makes an allowance for our ignorance, when we come to understand a certain aspect of his law and the way of life he has prescribed for us to follow, we must then diligently practice what we have come to understand in order to receive a blessing in this area of our life. And so it is with the instructions given by the apostle James concerning the method through which the elect within congregations with an active eldership are to be healed of their disabilities and illnesses.
6. PAUL'S THORN IN THE FLESH
Q. What was Paul's thorn in the flesh and does it have anything to do with whether or not a person is healed when anointed for healing by an elder?
A. The thorn in Paul's side was not an illness or disability as commonly believed, and it has nothing to do with the healing of the sick.
This section provides a detailed explanation of what the thorn in Paul's flesh was, why he was allowed to be continually troubled by it, and why some people are not always healed.
Not Healed or Partially Healed
When asked why a person is not completely healed after being anointed and prayed over by an elder or after receiving an anointed cloth, many will answer that the person has been given a trial which they must endure in order to build spiritual character. To justify this reasoning, a reference is often made to Paul's letter in which he wrote about the thorn in his flesh:
"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2.Cor.12:7-9 KJV Para.).
Some think Paul's thorn in the flesh was poor eyesight; others think it was a disability, a chronic illness, or some sort of temptation put to him in order for him to build spiritual character. When we review the many things that Paul continually experienced and suffered during his ministry, it seems highly unlikely that any of these things were the "thorn" to which Paul referred.
The apostle Paul experienced a tremendous amount of mental and physical suffering as he went about preaching the gospel. He was imprisoned several times, received thirty-nine lashes five times from the Jews, was stoned once, shipwrecked, adrift in the sea a day and a night, constantly harassed by individuals who opposed what he taught, and in constant danger from the Jews, foreigners, and false brethren who sought to harm him. He also suffered sadness, sleepless nights, constant pain from old injuries, suffered hunger and thirst, and even went without clothing. As if this were not enough suffering, Paul had the care of many churches and their many problems to deal with. See 2.Cor.11:16-28.
Paul was subject to the same laws as the rest of the elect. James' instruction for healing within the congregations of the elect is all inclusive; it does NOT say, "Is there any sick among you (except the apostle Paul) let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (Jms.5:14).
Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians while visiting the churches in Macedonia before going on to Corinth. If he were in need of healing, he could have asked the elders who traveled with him or those in Macedonia to pray over him and anoint him. If he had an actual thorn in his flesh he would have pulled it out. So, what was this "thorn" and why wouldn't the Father remove it?
Whatever the problem the apostle Paul described as a thorn in the flesh, we can be sure it was not a sickness or a disability which prevented him from performing his ministry. The biblical record seems to indicate that Paul was not a healthy person and dealt with much physical pain due to the many beatings and other mental and physical abuses he endured during his ministry.
Additionally, Paul writes that the cause of the thorn in his side is a messenger from Satan which God has allowed to bother him. Therefore, we can assume with some degree of confidence that Paul was speaking metaphorically about the thorn in his flesh and that the problem was not physical.
Although Paul did not clearly define what this thorn was in his letter, it does not mean we cannot discover what it was or at least make a logical assumption based on an analysis of the Greek text, along with his other letters and other things recorded about his life.
There is little recorded about Paul's background, but we know that he was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. He was taught by Gamaliel and was well versed in all aspects of God's law. Paul was a Roman citizen and was highly respected and authorized by the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin to persecute the early church before his encounter with Jesus.
From Paul's letters, it is easily understood that he was an extremely intelligent, compassionate, loving, and a pragmatic individual with a strong personality. Paul clearly understood his own strengths and weaknesses and the importance of the task which Jesus gave him to perform.
Without reviewing what Paul wrote in 2.Corinthians, chapters 10 and 11, it is impossible to understand the context in which the "thorn in his flesh" is written. Therefore, I suggest that you carefully review these chapters before proceeding.
In the first 4 verses of 2.Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul writes of a man who is given an exceptional understanding of spiritual things:
"It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (2.Cor.12:1-4 KJV).
Because Paul tells us he was taught by Christ himself, there can be little doubt that Paul is referring to himself in these verses. See Gal.1: 11-18; 1.Cor.11:23.
"Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in my infirmities" (2.Cor.12:5 KJV).
The English word infirmities used throughout the King James version of Paul's letter is translated from the Greek word astheneia, which means weak or weakness. This is the first clue to discovering what the "thorn" in Paul's side was.
Astheneia is seldom used to indicate a disability or illness, but many times it speaks to the whole of a person as being weak in mind or body. The word astheneia is markedly different in meaning from the Greek word arrhostos, which means to be physically weak; it is also different from the Greek word astheneo which is used to indicate a disability or illness.
A more accurate translation of verse 5 would be: "I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses" (2.Cor.12:5 NIV).
In verse 5, Paul says he has weaknesses, but what are the weaknesses to which he refers? Verses 6 and 7 reveal Paul's weaknesses:
"Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say" (2.Cor.12:6 NIV).
In verse 6, Paul essentially says that he will not boast about what has been revealed to him to avoid having people think more highly of him than they should or idolizing him.
In verse 7, Paul explains that the reason a messenger from Satan is allowed to trouble him is to keep him from being conceited.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2.Cor.12:7 KJV).
The English phrase "I should be exalted above measure", which is repeated twice in verse 7, is translated from the Greek word huperairomai, which means to raise oneself over, i.e., (figuratively) to become haughty. Given the meaning of the Greek word huperairomai in verse 7, perhaps a more accurate translation of this verse would be:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, lest I become conceited" (2.Cor. 12:7 NIV).
It is easily understood how a person with superior intellect and knowledge who has discretionary supernatural power and is placed in a position of great authority and responsibility could begin to think more highly of themselves than they should.
In verses 8 and 9, Paul writes that he asked three times to be rid of this problem, but the answer was always no, because the problem existed for his benefit:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2.Cor.12:8-10 NIV).
Verse 10 reveals that the things being allowed to trouble Paul without relief are insults, hardships, persecutions, and other difficulties, not a disability or a sickness.
The meanings of the Greek words used in verse 10 reveal that the things being allowed to trouble Paul without relief were insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, none of which describe a disability or a sickness. Instead, they describe things which can cause a person to be emotionally agitated, distressed, disappointed, and frustrated.
One of the most difficult things for an intelligent, knowledgeable, and talented person to deal with are people who are opinionated, argumentative, and ignorant of the facts about what they are debating. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with people who are opposed to biblical truth, are enemies of our Father and our Savior, and for whatever reason attempt to discredit those who teach truth.
Paul had the authority to heal people, resist evil spirits, cast out demons, and perform other supernatural works, but he could not prevent individuals influenced by an evil spirit (a messenger from Satan) or evil individuals, such as Alexander the coppersmith and those he refers to as dogs, evil workers, and the Jews, from causing him trouble as he preached the gospel. Moreover, he could not stop the chief priests and other religious leaders of the Jews from attempting to kill him. See 2.Tim.4: 13-14; Phil.3:1-2; Acts 23:12-14.
It seems that a problem Paul continually experienced (i.e., the metaphoric thorn in his flesh) consisted of being harassed by individuals who challenged his teaching and were arrogant and opinionated about their religious beliefs, some of whom were being influenced by an evil spirit to interfere with Paul's ministry.
Whatever Paul's thorn in the flesh was has no bearing on whether or not a person is healed after being prayed over and anointed with oil as instructed by the apostle James.
Although it is true that we dare not attempt to dictate to our Father what he should or should not do, when we request healing through the performance of the healing ritual, it is a respectful request for our heavenly Father to honor and fulfill the promise of healing made by the apostle James through the authorization of our Savior.
7. HEALED BY HIS STRIPES
Many assume the references in the New Testament to Christ's beaten, bruised, and lacerated body at the hands of the Roman solders are connected with the promise of healing a person's disability or illness. But, does this assumption fit the reason the Creator God came to earth, became human, and allowed himself to be tortured at the hands of Roman soldiers?
In order to understand what is actually promised through Christ's abused body and his sacrificial blood, an analysis must first be made of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:8-13 and its fulfillment recorded in Matthew 13:11-17, and then an analysis of Isaiah chapter 53, which records the Sovereign God's prophetic promise of a future redemption of mankind.
A Coded Message Sent
The fact that Christ's abused body is connected with the forgiveness of a person's violation of God's law and not with the promise of healing can be shown in the prophecy recorded by Isaiah about a person being sent to earth with a coded message to prevent the majority of people from understanding it and being converted and healed, as well as Christ saying that he was fulfilling this prophecy during his ministry.
Isaiah's Prophetic Vision
After seeing a vision of the Sovereign God sitting on his heavenly throne and the six winged seraphim that serve him, Isaiah hears him say the following, which begins a prophecy about Christ's ministry and events surrounding the end of human rule on earth:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isa.6: 8 KJV).
When verse 8 is understood in the context of what Jesus said when his disciples asked him why he spoke in parables, it reveals that the person who volunteers to go is the Creator God who came to earth as Christ and brought the Sovereign God's message about his kingdom and his offer of salvation.
"And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see you indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Isa.6: 9-10 KJV).
The English word convert in verse 10 is translated from the Hebrew word shuwb; a primitive root, which in this context means to turn back or to return.
Throughout the Book of Isaiah, the Creator continually reprimands his chosen people for turning away from him and rejecting the laws he gave them to follow. The Creator warns that the Israelites will be punished before Israel as a national entity will be given an opportunity to truly understand the purpose for their existence, turn to the Sovereign God, and participate in a new and different covenant relationship. See Jer.31:31-34. It is in the prophetic context of hiding this information that the word shuwb is used.
The English word healed in verse 10 is translated from the Hebrew word rapha; a primary root, which means to mend (by stitching), i.e., (figuratively) to cure:
It was national Israel's failure to obey God and correctly practice his law which forced him to cancel his agreement with them. The mending of the relationship between God and national Israel and the rest of humanity requires the setting aside of the penalty for violating God's law.
The message delivered by Christ from the Sovereign God is about the Kingdom of God and how to enter into it as a spirit-being. This message contains information about Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin and how to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with the Sovereign God. This is the information that Christ delivered during his earthly ministry in a coded message which could not be understood by the majority of the people who heard it.
Isaiah wanted to know how much time would pass before people would be allowed to have the knowledge which would allow them to be cured of the penalty for violating God's law:
"Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord has removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof" (Isa.6: 11-13 KJV).
A comparison of verses11 through 13 with other prophecies reveals that it is only after Christ intervenes in human affairs, rains destruction on the earth, and returns to establish God's government on earth that national Israel and the rest of humanity as a whole will be given an understanding of the gospel message, which explains how to be released from the penalty imposed for the violation of God's law.
Christ Hides Understanding
Matthew records that one day Jesus' disciples asked him why he spoke to people in parables? Jesus' answer reveals that, in order to fulfill the prophecy recorded by the prophet Isaiah, he must speak to the people in parables, thus hiding an understanding of his heavenly Father's message about his kingdom and forgiveness of sin:
"He answered and said to them, Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has. Therefore, I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand'.
"And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matt.13:11-15 KJV Para.).
The English phrase should be converted in verse 15 is translated from the Greek word epistrepho, which means to revert i.e., return to (literally, figuratively, or morally):
The thing that the Jews of Christ's time needed was not physical healing, but a spiritual one. The things to which they needed to return were true obedience to God and his law. However, this could only be accomplished through an understanding of the Sovereign God's coded message delivered by Christ and heartfelt repentance.
The English phrase I should heal in verse 15 is translated from the Greek word iaomai, which is a primary verb meaning to cure (literally or figuratively).
Jesus healed many people of disabilities and illnesses during his ministry. So, the healing of a person's illness or disability is not what is meant in verse 15 by the use of the Greek word iaomai.
It is the penalty for the violation of God's law for which a cure is needed. So, it is an understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, which included Jesus' mission to sacrifice himself as payment for the penalty of sin, that he kept secret from everyone but his disciples during his earthly ministry:
"But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For truly I say to you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them" (Matt.13:16-17 KJV).
Isaiah Chapter 53
Isaiah, chapter 53 is an overview of the arrival of the Creator God on earth as the Messiah, his life experience, his mission on earth, and what he accomplished by coming to earth in human form. This chapter also contains foundational information which helps us understand the connection between what is written in the New Testament about Christ's body and the healing of the spirit.
"Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa.53:1-2 KJV).
Verses 1-2 reveal that the Sovereign God would send the Creator God to earth divested of his immortality to experience life in the flesh, appearing as an ordinary human.
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with suffering: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we did not regard him" (Isa.53:3 KJV Para.).
Verse 3 reveals that Christ would understand people's suffering and experience sorrow, and that people would have contempt for him and reject him as a person. This verse also reveals that people would not believe him and dismiss him as the Sovereign God's messenger.
"Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa.53:4 KJV).
In verse 4, the English word griefs is translated from the Hebrew word choliy, which can mean a malady (i.e., a disease or an ailment). The English word sorrows is translated from the Hebrew word mak'ob, which can mean anguish or affliction.
It is assumed by most who read verse 4 in the King James version of the Bible that the word griefs is referring to a human emotion; however, a more correct translation of verse 4 is as follows:
"Surely he has borne our infirmities and our anguish: He has put them on himself; but we regarded him as one stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa.53:4 Para.).
There is no doubt that, because Jesus was fully human, he would experience the full range of human emotions (Heb.2:14-18; 4:14-16; 5:7-10), which included an understanding of the human suffering and emotional distress that comes with a major disability or illness. This understanding and his heart-felt compassion for people with sicknesses and disabilities is one of the reasons he healed so many people as he went about proclaiming his heavenly Father's good news message. See Matt.4: 23; 10:1.
After Matthew records that Jesus healed Peter's wife's mother of a fever, he writes the following and refers to Jesus' healing of the people brought to him that evening as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:4:
"When the even was come, they brought to him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matt.8:16-17 KJV).
Although many people assume that verse 17 refers to the application of healing for the elect after Jesus' death and resurrection, the Greek language of verse 17 clearly shows that Jesus' ongoing healing of people during his ministry was in fact the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 53:4.
Reading Isaiah 53:5 in the King James version of the Bible, many may assume that the phrase with his stripes we are healed refers to the healing of our physical body; however, this assumption neither conforms to the context of this prophecy nor the fundamental reason for the Creator God being sent to earth as a human:
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa.53:5 KJV).
In order to more clearly understand what is prophesied in Isaiah 53:5, the following three questions must be asked and answered:
1. What does he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities mean?
The English word wounded is translated from the Hebrew word chalal which means to wound (fatally), to bore, i.e., (by implication) to wound, to dissolve. The English word bruised is translated from the Hebrew word daka, which means to crumble or to bruise. Both of these words foretell the physical torture Jesus would endure which would culminate in his death as the sacrifice for our sins.
The English words transgressions and iniquities are translated from the Hebrew words pesha and avon, which respectively mean a revolt and perversity, i.e., moral evil.
The use of the words pesha and avon reveal that the reason Christ suffered scourging at the hands of the Roman soldiers and his being stabbed in the side by a Roman soldier while being crucified was part of his atonement for our violation of God's law (i.e., our sins).
It was the human sickness of sin (i.e., the violation of God's law) for which Christ would receive a torturous beating that tore and bruised his flesh to the point that he was unrecognizable as a man. See Isa.52: 10-15.
2. What does the chastisement of our peace was upon him mean?
The English word chastisement is translated from the Hebrew word muwcar, which is derived from the word yacar, which means to chastise, literally (with blows) or figuratively (with words); hence, to instruct. Although the word muwcar can mean to chastize, it can also figuratively mean reproof, warning, instruction, or restraint.
Clearly the physical abuse Christ suffered was undeserved. However, it was necessary in order for him to totally understand the depths of mental and physical pain that some humans endure. Enduring this abuse was a part of his sacrifice which paid the penalty for our violations of God's law so that peace could be established between God the Father and humans.
This undeserved abuse of Christ's body can also be understood as instruction, because this undeserved abuse of an innocent person clearly reveals the price of our forgiveness from the Father.
The English word peace is translated from the Hebrew word shalom, which is derived from the root word shalam, which means to be safe. Shalom in the context of verse 5 simply means to be at peace.
The scriptures clearly show that, after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, each person came under the death penalty for their violation of God's law. The scriptures also show that permanent harmony and peace between the Sovereign God and mankind could not be established through the rituals and animal sacrifices of the temple system of worship given to national Israel. See Heb.9:1-28; 10:1-6.
Christ's perfect selfless sacrifice, which included allowing his body to be abused and his life to be extinguished, paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind, because his life was worth more than all human life. Moreover, it is through his perfect sacrifice that a peaceful and harmonious relationship can now be established between a person and the Sovereign God.
3. What does with his stripes we are healed mean?
The English word healed in Isaiah 53:5 is translated from the Hebrew word rapha, which means to mend (by stitching), i.e., (figuratively) to cure. The context of verse 5 concerns the forgiveness of sin through Christ's sacrifice and the establishment of peace between the Sovereign God and mankind, not the healing of the physical body. The Living Bible Paraphrased has a more accurate conceptual translation of verse 5:
"But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed and we were healed!" (Isa. 53:5 TLB).
The beating Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers was undeserved, because he had not committed a crime worthy of such punishment.
It is because of the torturous beating Jesus suffered and the pouring out of his life blood that you and I can be spiritually healed (i.e., have our sins removed) and have the peace of mind which comes as a result of knowing that our sins are forgiven through his perfect sacrifice. See Jn.14:27; Rom.8:6; Phil.4:7.
The healing that was to come through Christ's abused body and sacrificial blood is the healing of a person's spirit corrupted by their violation of God's law. The application of Christ's abused body and sacrificial blood removes the barrier of sin and heals the breach between a person and the Sovereign God, which allows for a peaceful and harmonious relationship to exist between a person, the Sovereign God, and Christ.
Behold the Lamb of God
As John the Baptist was proclaiming the soon coming of the Messiah and baptizing those who were repentant, he saw Jesus coming and said:
"Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also Jn.1:36.
As we review the scriptures which speak of Christ's abused body and his sacrificial blood, it is important to remember that the primary reason Christ came to earth was to redeem and save humanity from the death penalty which is the result of violating God's law.
Isaiah 53:6-8 continues to show Christ's sacrifice in the context of the selfless sacrifice of his perfect life as a substitute for all mankind's violation of the Sovereign God's law:
"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. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken" (Isa.53:6-8 KJV).
The English word stricken in verse 8 is translated from the Hebrew word nega, which means a blow and is derived from a root word meaning to touch, i.e., lay the hand upon (for any purpose), by implication, to reach (figuratively, to arrive, acquire); violently, to strike (punish, defeat, destroy).
The use of the word nega in verse 8 clearly reveals the Savior would be beaten as a part of the process of sacrificing himself in order to reconcile mankind to the Sovereign God.
Verses 9-11 give further proof that the context of Isaiah 53 is an overview of the Sovereign God's effort to establish a peaceful and harmonious relationship between himself and mankind through the perfect, selfless and sinless sacrifice of Christ:
"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa.53:9-11 KJV).
The English word iniquities in verse 11 is translated from the Hebrew word avon, which means evil in this context. The context of verses 9-11 clearly reveals that Jesus was being physically abused and sacrificed as an and atonement for our sins.
Verse 12 reveals that Christ would pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. Nowhere in this prophecy is the healing of physical ailments mentioned or implied. This prophecy is about the redemption of mankind through Christ's life and his selfless sacrifice.
"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:12 KJV).
BY WHOSE STRIPES YOU WERE HEALED
After understanding that the context of Isaiah, chapter 53 is prophetic of Christ's life experience and his selfless sacrifice to provide a method through which the Sovereign God can forgive a person's sins and declare them innocent, the next step is to gain a clear understanding of the New Testament scriptures which some people assume have to do with the beating of Jesus in the context of a person being healed of a disability or an illness.
Many assume when the apostle Peter wrote, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed" (1.Pet.2:24), he was not only explaining that it was through Jesus' death our sins are forgiven but also that his abused and disfigured body at the hands of the Roman soldiers symbolized his taking our disabilities and illnesses on himself. Because many assume this is what Peter meant, they assume the healing of their sicknesses and disabilities is also accomplished through the acknowledgment of this symbolism in their prayer for healing.
In order to determine what Peter actually meant when he wrote, "by whose stripes you were healed," we need to examine this statement in the context of 1.Peter, chapter 2 in which he reminds the elect of many things of importance to their awesome calling, which includes being subject to civil authorities and physical masters (as in the case of slaves or indentured servants).
Beginning in verse 18, Peter writes the following about being subject to a master and the attitude a person should have toward suffering wrongfully. It is in this context that Christ's sacrifice for our sins is noted and the words by whose stripes you were healed are used in verse 24.
"Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? but if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (1.Pet.2:18-20 KJV).
In verse 21, Peter explains that Christ's example shows us the elect should patiently endure abuse for behaving righteously:
"For even hereto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps" (1.Pet. 2:21 KJV).
In verses 22-24, Peter explains that, although Christ was righteous, when he was wrongly accused and physically abused, he accepted both without protesting. He instead relied on God to justify his words and deeds and willingly died for our sins:
"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed" (1.Pet.2:22-24 KJV).
It is in the context of Christ being wrongfully accused, physically abused, and suffering death to pay the penalty for our sins that Peter's statement by whose stripes you were healed is made. But, does Christ's beaten, bruised, and lacerated body and his sacrificial blood heal us physically or spiritually?
The English phrase you were healed in verse 24 is translated from the Greek word iaoimai, which means to cure. The use of the Greek word iaomai instead of the Greek word therapeuo, which specifically means to relieve disease, reveals that Peter is not referring to an illnesses which is cured by the abuse of Christ's body; he is referring to the penalty of sin that is cured (i.e., removed).
The context of 1.Peter 2:24 is about Christ sacrificing himself in order for us to be granted forgiveness for our sins, not the healing of our physical bodies. The tortuous beating he received at the hands of the Roman soldiers and his blood which was spilled on the ground as he died atoned for our sin and provided the method through which our heavenly Father removes our sin (i.e., cures our spiritual sickness in order for us to be found innocent of our violation of his righteous law).
NOT DISCERNING THE LORD'S BODY
Many also assume that the apostle Paul's admonition and exhortation to the saints at Corinth about the proper way to observe the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread has to do with Christ's abused body and his life blood being connected with the promise of healing a person's disability or illness.
In order to understand what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about being unworthy and discerning the Lord's body, it is important to understand something about the people whom God the Father called out of the city of Corinth to become members of his earthly family of king-priests.
The congregation at Corinth seems to have been a group of Christians with many problems. Both of Paul's letters to them contain strong correction. His first letter was almost totally devoted to correcting their sinful behavior.
No other congregation was corrected on as many points as the one at Corinth, which should be evidence of the spiritual character and maturity of these people. This is not to say that they were not of the Father's elect; they absolutely were. However, they had major problems in understanding how to conduct themselves; they were truly babes in the faith. See 1.Cor.3:1-2.
Paul reprimanded the Corinthians about envy, strife, division of opinions, jealousies, immorality, incest, lawsuits, drunkenness, conceit, lack of Christian love, carnal mindedness, desecration of the body (i.e., the temple of God), intellectual vanity, misuse of spiritual gifts, and disorderly and shameful conduct in and out of church meetings.
The picture Paul paints of the Corinthian Church is of people who were dying spiritually and allowing evil, instead of good, to rule in their lives. Far from being a perfect example of spiritual maturity, those at Corinth were an example of how not to live a righteous life. Therefore, Paul's overall message to those at Corinth was a call to repentance.
There is not much historical information about the church at Corinth other than Paul's letters. However, what is known gives us an insight into the potential problems of being a Christian in that society.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia in 57 A.D. and was a major export/ import center between Asia and Europe at the crossroads of a major trade route. The city was very wealthy and its inhabitants were notorious for their licentious lifestyle. The city's reputation was so bad that it became a metaphor for immorality in the proverbs of some foreign languages. Moreover, it was immortalized by Latin poets. The term "to Corinthianize" became a part of the Greek vocabulary and meant "to live in drunken immoral debauchery."
The religions of the city's many diverse inhabitants who came to ply their trades in this prosperous area were practiced there. The bulk of the inhabitants were Italian freemen, Greeks, Jews, and people from the cities of Levant. Out of this city of wealth, immorality, and pagan religions, God the Father called a cross section of its citizens to become his children. When one considers their environment and cultural background, it is no small wonder these people had great difficulty growing toward spiritual maturity.
Paul's admonition to the Corinthians about the symbolic bread and wine of the Passover makes little sense without first understanding that these elect had already been taught the meaning and purpose of the bread and wine. We know this because the symbolic and prophetic fulfillment of the Passover is an intrinsic part of the plan of salvation for humanity.
Any ignorance of the meaning of the Passover which these elect had was not due to being ignorant of its importance, but was due to their lack of spiritual maturity.
Because Paul is speaking of the deep, spiritual meaning and purpose of the bread, wine, body, and blood of Christ, what Paul wrote to the Corinthians cannot be understood today unless a person first understands what Paul taught about Jesus as the Passover Lamb, Redeemer, and Savior of humanity.
The explanation that follows is only a general overview of what Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthians, so it should be followed up with study and meditation on the meaning and purpose of the symbols Paul speaks of in his admonition and exhortation.
Perversion of the Passover
Paul writes that the Corinthians are incorrectly calling the Passover the Lord's supper and he condemns their perversion of the observance with a festive meal and shameful, drunken, and disorderly conduct:
"When you come together into one place, it is not to eat the Lord's supper. For each one takes his own supper: first in the eating; and one is hungry, and another is drunk. For do you not have houses to eat, and to drink? or do you despise the Church of God, and shame those who do not have? What do I say to you? shall I praise you for this? I do not Praise" (1.Cor.11:20-22 KJV Para.).
After condemning their behavior and improper practice of the Passover observance, Paul reminds them that the things he had taught them about the Passover observance were from Christ, and then he repeats some of what he had taught:
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1.Cor.11: 23-25 KJV).
From what Paul writes in verses 23-25, we can assume the Corinthians were showing a lack of respect for Christ's sacrifice by improperly practicing the Passover rituals of unleavened bread and wine, which symbolize Christ's abused body and his sacrificial blood.
Jesus became the fulfillment of the symbolic sacrificial Passover lamb which did not have its bones broken, but was roasted whole (Ex.12: 1-10); therefore, it is important to mention that the word broken in verse 24 of the KJV translation is not in the Textus Receptus and is not found in Jesus' description of his body and blood at his last Passover with his disciples (Matt.26:26-28; Mk.14:22-24; Lk.22:19-20). Jesus' body was abused by the Roman soldiers and his side pieced by a spear, but his bones were not broken. See Jn.19:30-37.
Because of the Corinthians' improper observance of the Passover and their lack of respect for the symbolism of the bread and wine, Paul issues the following extremely serious warning:
"Wherefore whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthy, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1.Cor.11:27-29 KJV Para.).
Unworthy and Guilty
Remember, Paul was writing to the Sovereign Father's earthly children who had repented of their sins, been baptized, and transformed into sons of God through the power of the Father's holy spirit. Paul did not say that the Corinthians had no right to observe the Passover, or that they were spiritually unfit to observe it. Therefore, how could they be unworthy to partake of these symbolic rituals and what does it mean to partake of the bread and wine unworthily and be guilty of both?
Paul said that those who do not take the bread and wine correctly are guilty of a violation, which he also said will result in the payment of a very serious penalty by the violator.
The English word unworthy in verse 27 is translated from the Greek word anaxios, which means irreverently and is derived from a similar word meaning unfit. Clearly, the use of the word anaxios does not refer to a person being unfit to observe the Passover, because only a person who has the indwelling of the holy spirit is worthy to observe the Passover. The Greek word anaxios in this context speaks to a person's disrespectful attitude and behavior concerning the symbols of Christ's body and blood.
The English word guilty in verse 27 is translated from the Greek word enochos, which means liable to (a condition, penalty or imputation). Verse 27 shows that a person's disrespect of the symbols of Christ's body and blood bring with it a penalty to be paid.
A Personal Evaluation
In verse 28, Paul writes that a person must perform a personal evaluation before observing the Passover. This evaluation is for the purpose of meditating on the meaning of the Passover in order to reveal one's attitude and level of respect for Christ and the symbols which represent his sacrifice.
Damnation and Discerning
The English word damnation in verse 29 is translated from the Greek word krima, which means a decision (the function or the effect, for or against crime) and is derived from the word krino, which means properly, to distinguish, i.e., decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish.
Paul explained that the result of partaking of the bread and wine while being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of the Passover observance and its symbols places a person in a state of self-imposed condemnation.
Being out of harmony with the meaning and purpose of the body and blood of Christ puts a person in opposition to God's will for their life, and puts them in a position of being condemned for their lack of a righteous attitude and behavior. Therefore, it is extremely important to perform a serious personal evaluation before observing the Passover and to correct one's course, if necessary.
But, what does Paul mean by "not discerning the Lord's body?" What does this have to do with damnation, personal evaluation, and partaking of the bread and wine unworthily? Discerning the Lord's body means to fully consider the importance of what Christ did by coming to earth and living in human form. Jesus was no ordinary human and what he did while in human form was no ordinary act.
Paul's use of the words anaxios, enochos, and krima in verses 27-29 reveals that the context of these verses has to do with a person's disrespect of the symbols of Christ's body and blood and that this disrespect results in a person bringing on themself a penalty which leads to the second death, from which there is no return, if the attitude and behavior is not corrected.
Before becoming a human, Jesus was an immortal spirit-being possessing the highest form of existence: life that springs forth from itself, never dying or decaying. This immortal being who was not subject to death emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man and sacrifice himself as an atonement for the sins of mankind:
"But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulated the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in the highest honor beside the great God of heaven" (Heb.1:2-3 LBP).
Weak, Sickly, and Asleep
Paul told the Corinthians the reason many of them were weak, sickly, and asleep was because of their current attitude, behavior, and practice of observing the Passover.
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1.Cor.11:30 KJV).
Some people believe Paul was describing a condition of physical illness and some believe he was describing a physical illness that caused some to die. But, was Paul speaking of physical sickness or death as many believe or was he speaking of a spiritual condition? In order to determine the condition to which Paul was referring in verse 30, we must review the Greek words from which these three words were translated.
The English words weak, sickly, and sleep in verse 30 are translated from the Greek words astheneis, arrhosto, and, komesis. Astheneis means impotent or sick and is derived from a word which means without strength. Arrhosto means infirm or sick. Komesis means sleeping, i.e., (by implication) repose and is derived from a word meaning to put to sleep, i.e., (passively or reflexively) to slumber.
If only the Greek words astheneis and arrhosto had been used in verse 30 to describe the condition of many of the elect at Corinth, it would be clear that Paul was describing a physical illness; however, the Greek word koimesis is included in his description, which means to be asleep or to repose.
The Greek words associated with death are apollumi, which means to destroy fully or to perish; apogenomenos, which means to be deceased; apothnesko, which means to die off; muwth, which means to die or to kill; nekros, which means to be dead; and sunapothnesko, which means to decease.
The use of the Greek word koimesis, which describes a person being asleep or in a restful state, clearly reveals that Paul did not mean the people he referred to were physically sick, dying, or dead.
When attempting to understand the condition Paul is describing in verse 30, one must keep in mind that what is written in 1.Corinthians 11:17-34 is in the context of Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of a person's sins, and that Paul was reprimanding the elect at Corinth for their wrong attitude, behavior, and practice of the Passover observance.
Many of the elect in Corinth were weak, sick, and asleep spiritually because they had not discerned the importance of Christ allowing his body to be abused and his life blood to be spilled for them. They had forgotten or neglected to contemplate the enormity of what Christ had done when he sacrificed his body and blood for them.
The weakness, sickness, and sleep that many in the Corinthian congregation were experiencing had nothing to do with their physical health or the healing of physical ailments, but had everything to do with spiritual health, which is the reason Paul put so much emphasis on character flaws in his letter to them.
The Creator God who made all that exists for the Sovereign God voluntarily gave up his immortality to come to earth in the person of Jesus to live a sinless life as an example for us to follow.
As a human, Jesus experienced life with a strong, vibrant, and healthy body without any physical imperfection. Jesus lived in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father's law and overcame intense mental and emotional pressure, as well as the physical pain and agony of a torturous beating and crucifixion. He did all this in order to qualify as a perfect physical and spiritual sacrifice to atone for our sins and save us from eternal death. See 1.Cor.6:19-20; 7:23. Jesus was the prophetic Passover lamb without blemish.
Christ came to save us from the penalty of death brought on by our violation of God's law; he did not come to become the method through which we could have our physical disabilities and illnesses healed.
We are healed by the abuse of Christ's body (as recorded by the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Peter), not from physical disabilities or illnesses, but from the sickness and effects of sin which prevent an eternal, peaceful, and harmonious relationship with the Sovereign God.
By B.L. Cocherell b8w16-4