Word of False Teaching

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Friends, I wanted to humbly revisit 1 Peter 2:24 to affirm the proper scriptural understanding of this contentiously debated verse with regards to physical healing.

A short time ago, awakened from a deep sleep, the Spirit led me to a Word of Faith blog that essentially teaches the precept of name-it-and-claim-it healing. The blog author cited Peter’s words as the proof-text of faith healing. Regular followers of this blog know that I have recently posted a number of articles on this subject, and so I felt compelled to leave a comment that the author’s interpretation of Peter was incorrect.

[You can read my comments here.]

The short version is that I was effectively banned from the website until I reviewed hours of videos and articles promoting Word of Faith healing. The author admonished me that I was under a veil of deception, that God sent me to her blog and she would pray for me.

Well, I thought the Holy Spirit sent me to correct her so there we stood at an impasse. I took ill after this exchange, and was sorely afflicted by a chronic condition that has not been healed by years of prayer. Thoughts tormented my sleep — maybe I am deceived … maybe I am lacking in faith or wisdom … maybe God inflamed my affliction to show the error of my thinking.

After many days of fasting, prayer and study I am even more confident of my interpretation, and that my affliction is a message — not from God, but Satan. (See Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7.)

Incidentally, I want to thank the brothers and sisters who sent me words of encouragement.

I studied over 20 commentaries — some dating back to the Reformation — which concur with my understanding of Kephas. We have to put on the whole armor of God including the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to faithfully abide in Him.

[This is the part of my sermon where I serve the daily dose of castor oil. You can’t be fully equipped to defend your faith if you spend a third of your day in front of the television or tethered to a cell phone. As you feed your body, you need to feed your spirit.]

I could post two thousand words of orthodox commentary on Peter, but one of my afflictions is dimming eyes so I will leave you with a summary by Dr. Thomas Constable whose interpretation is consistent with historic Christian teaching.

Jesus’ sufferings reached their climax on the cross. Peter taught that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and laid down His life as payment for those sins. He viewed Jesus’ cross as an altar on which a sacrifice was placed.

We could translate the second part of this verse as follows: “… that, having broken with our sins, we might live for righteousness.” Jesus Christ’s death separated our sins from us. Consequently we can now live unto righteousness rather than unto sin (cf. Romans 6:1-11).

“The idea is that, Christ having died for sins, and to sin, as our proxy or substitute, our consequent standing before God is that of those who have no more connection with our old sins, or with the life of sinning.” [Note: Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter, p. 121.]

Some writers have cited the third part of this verse to support the non-biblical doctrine that Jesus by His death made healing from any physical ailment something that every Christian can claim in this life. This is the belief that there is “healing in the atonement.” The context of Isaiah 53, as well as the past tense “were healed” here, implies spiritual healing from the fatal effects of sin rather than healing from present physical afflictions. Peter used healing as a metaphor for spiritual conversion, as Isaiah did (cf. Mark 2:17; Luke 4:23). 

A false teaching has become entrenched doctrine in the Word of Faith movement that by Jesus’ wounds we have been healed of physical infirmities while by His blood we have been cleansed of our sins. No, my friends. Our precious Lord did not die an agonizing death on the cross to heal your body, but to save your soul.

To facilitate a greater understanding of Scripture it is useful to become learned of Jewish idioms, metaphors and hyperboles — and not rely on your own understanding, or the teachings of a charismatic leader.

Notes:

Dr. Thomas Constable
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Dr. McGee on the Will of God

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One of my don’t miss favorites is the weekly Question and Answer series on the Thru the Bible radio network, hosted by the beloved Dr. J. Vernon McGee. By the way, the “J” stands for John, but because so many men-folk in his family were named “John” he decided to go by his middle name. Here is McGee’s answer to a listener’s question: What is God’s will? You can click on the banner to hear his audio response, the text of which is transcribed with comments following:

Now, may I say this, there is today a belief that God’s will is sort of like a stop-and-go sign, or its like a marker on one of these freeways — a half a mile to a certain turn-off, and you turn off there — and that’s all there is to it. And I’m afraid there are a great many Christians today giving the impression that it’s that simple because I hear people talk about God’s will as if it was a light sort of thing. They had no trouble finding out what it was.

And I’m of the opinion that a great many people today that are talking so glibly about the will of God and how easy they got into it — and they just can’t understand why the rest of us don’t find it so easy — I’m not sure they’re in the will of God. What I think is that they have picked out — and these people who I have noted, particularly that talk like that, generally find a pretty easy way of life — and they accept the easy way of life as being God’s will. I don’t think it is at all.

I think that, frankly, they found an easy way and they call that the will of God because they just can’t imagine that their heavenly Father — and they’re His dear little child, and His little pet, and He just would never put a burden on them or give them any difficult task, and He’d certainly remove all the stones from their pathway — so they take an easy course and they call it the will of God.

Now that disturbs a great many sincere Christians today because they’re not able to find God’s will that easy. May I say to you — if you’re one of those like this dear lady — don’t be disturbed, and I’ll tell you why. God’s will is not a stop-and-go sign where you come to a corner and the green light comes on and you know that that’s the way to go, or you come to the crossroads and the marker’s been put up there for you and you’re able to follow it right on through.

In fact, some of them go so far as to give the impression that there’s an angel standing at their crossroad’s not only pointing, but telling them which way to go. Why, a dear lady tried to tell me that — an angel appeared to her during the night and told her that a certain course was the right course.

It’s quite interesting, that angel sure did fool her because it didn’t work out as she thought it would work out, and you know what it was? It was when I first came to the church of the Open Door. She said she was led to buy a house out here and she was going to take in boarders. She was confident that was God’s will for her — and this house, why she’d even seen it in a vision — and when she went to buy it, well, there it was just like she’d seen it in her dream.

Do you know where that house is today? Well, it’s not there because the freeway goes right over where it was. Isn’t it funny that the angel told her to pick a house right on the freeway? And the poor lady, believe me, she nearly lost her shirt when she — maybe I ought not to say that — but she lost quite a bit when she had to give up all of that because apparently, why, there were other complications.

But it’s interesting today to hear people talk about how easy it is to find God’s will. It’s not easy at all. I remember when I was having a great deal of struggle as a young preacher attempting to find out what God’s will was concerning a matter, I heard the late-Dr. Harry Ironside whom I regard, and did regard very highly, I heard him say this, he said, “In 90% of the decisions that I have had to make in life, at the time I made them I did not know for sure it was God’s will. I only knew that I was doing the best I could and I seem to be led. It was not until later that I found out what God’s will was. In most of the cases, I found out the decision I made was in God’s will, but some of them were obviously not in God’s will and I had to back up.”

May I say, that was the greatest comfort I ever received because I had listened to these super-pious people talk about how easy it was to find God’s will. Now, why is that true? Why doesn’t God put up a sign board, or why doesn’t He have an arrow pointing out ahead showing us which way to go? Well, I’ll tell you why.

God does not give road maps to any individual. And these super-pious folk who seem to have a road map, I don’t think they do. I don’t think anyone does, and if they do then God’s given them the second best. You see, the reason He doesn’t give you a road map and let you know is because if you had a road map you’d have your nose stuck in the road map and take your eyes off of Him.

I think He wants us many times when we made a decision to walk lightly, to walk softly if you please, not knowing whether we’re in God’s will. And you know, at a time like that you’ll stay closer to God than you will at any other time.

Oh, I have found that on several occasions I wasn’t sure I was in the will of God. I remember that when I first came to California — I think the first three months that I was out here were the most precious months I ever had walking with God. You know why? I wasn’t sure I was in His will. Wasn’t sure I was in His will. It wasn’t until about six months after that I was sure I was in the will of God. You see, I believe that you’re not always going to know, and the reason is God’s trying to keep you very close to Him.

So don’t be disturbed when these people pop up, and you’ll always have these super-duper, pious folk popping up today, and believe me they act as if they’ve got a road map for the rest of their lives. If they have I feel sorry for ’em. They’re going to miss a great many blessings. But I just think they’re kidding themselves. And my dear, fearful friend, may I say to you, when you come to the crossroads you do have to make a decision. By prayer — and you know whether your heart’s yielded or not — then you step out. And I’m confident of this, you’re going to know whether you’re in God’s will, and you’ll be drawn very close to Him. And those will be the most precious moments and days of your Christian life. So don’t mind if you’re not quite sure at every step that you’ve made.

McGee doesn’t tickle your ears, but makes them ring. People want to hear the truth, and they want it delivered with conviction. Do we trust our dreams, like the woman who bought the house, or do we simply pray, make a decision and trust in God to see it through? I tend to agree with Dr. Ironside on the latter course of action, though the only right decision I’ve ever made is to follow Jesus Christ. That is the will of God for each of us, but you alone have to decide.

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Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

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We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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