Medicine has universally recognized many physical ailments being related at least in part to mental and emotional health. Effects of stress and anxiety on blood pressure and the function of the heart was recognied long before 1954 when I entered medical school. While a mind-body connection is widely accepted, Western medicine persists in drawing a sharp line concerning spiritual health and disease. There is relatively little understanding of the spiritual roots which have led to sickness ever since the Fall of man in Eden, and even a significant part of the Church itself refuses to address itself to what is extremely biblical.
It certainly doesn’t register with most physicians (or most in the ministry) that none of more than two million Israelites were feeble upon leaving Egypt. The Hebrews were spared God’s wrath and redeemed by the shed blood of the Passover lamb and found themselves healed after eating the meat of the lamb (Exodus 15:2,13). So it is that Paul refers to Christ as our Passover lamb (1 Corintians 5:7, Galatians 3:13).), by whose wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). The number of Israelites leaving Egypt would have been more than sufficient to fill at least a dozen major hospitals today. Yet none were infirm as all of them were under God’s unmerited favor. The relationship between their physical and spiritual health should be remarkably obvious.
Three days after their exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews arrived at Marah only to find the water bitter, a reminder of past bitterness in their lives. God showed Moses a tree which is symbolic of the Cross at Calvary, and when it was cast into the waters, bitterness was gone. The LORD then told the people, “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight…I will put none of these diseases upon you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you [or Jehovah-Rophi]” (Exodus 15:26).
The conditions for prevention and healing of disease described for the people of God are never reversed in the Word of God. The word rophi appears more than sixty times in the OT and always used in a sense of restoring, healing and cure, not only physically but also morally and spiritually. At Marah, God pledged Himself to be a Healer with the condition of obedience to His laws. The fruit of obedience would be health whereas there would be consequences for disobedience, whether under grace or not. Sickness has extracted such a toll on mankind over the ages, plagues threatening existence of nations and demonstrating how blessing of good health has been withdrawn as a consequence of disobedience to the ways of God
We find a call of God to righteous living as a condition for health described for mankind in Deuteronomy 28. Here fourteen verses (28:1-14) deal with blessing of good health when people are obedient to the revealed will of God. The remaining fifty-four verses (28:15-68) concern loss of good health as a consequence of turning from God: “But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD your God to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command you this day: that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you” (28:15). Both the OT and NT emphasize God’s desire that we prosper in health based on obedience. “Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers” (3 Jn 2).
Could it be that most disease has spiritual roots, and that healing let alone prevention of disease is related to spiritual issues? We see the relationship between sin and healing in James 5:14-16: “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 [heal] the sick, and the LORD shall raise him up…. Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another, that you may be healed.” A condition for our healing often depends on dealing with sin. If indeed there are spiritual roots to disease, why would a loving heavenly Father heal physically and leave sin behind what condemns a soul to hell, let alone have disease return because of continued sin?
I recall sitting at the pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem where my wife took a picture of me reading the story of Jesus healing a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years (John 5:1-15). In this case, the man was healed without being required to have any faith, showing God’s compassionate heart. Indeed the man had no idea who it was that healed him. But Jesus found him later at the temple and told him, “Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (5:14). Here a relationship between sin and health is made undeniably clear by the Lord Jesus Himself. His command? Stop sinning or else!
In other passages of scripture, we see a direct relationship between physical disease and the spiritual condition of a person. But relationship between disease and sanctification has been poorly articulated by the Church for generations. So it is we find believers with the same diseases and just as frequently as unbelievers. It is unreasonable in light of scripture to expect gifts of healing when a person is living in willful disobedience to the revealed will of God. On the other hand, God is sovereign and blesses as He chooses, and certainly is seen to miraculously heal unbelievers at times for His own sovereign reasons.
When The Word became flesh in the man Jesus of Nazareth, a compassionate heart of God for healing physical and emotional issues became fully manifested. There’s not an instance where there was refusal to heal one who came to Jesus for healing. Furthermore Jesus said those who believe would continue to do the very things He had been doing, speaking of the miraculous in context of these words (John 14:12). That healing of physical infirmity should be a part of the Church’s ministry today is denied by those whose lack of faith has led them to claim we live in a dispensation where miracles and healing no longer take place after prayer offered in faith. It’s a deceitful way to excuse the fact that sickness is as rampant in the Church which is the body of Christ as it is in unbelievers today.
This dispensational argument is often associated with a doctrine of Balaam called ‘eternal security’ that falsely teaches grace makes allowance for sin without any consequences. It’s teaching false security to claim salvation can’t be lost by rejection of God’s ways and from returning to worldly ways (2 Timothy 4:10) or by abandoning one’s faith (1 Tim 1:19,20). Sickness in a physical realm cannot be separated from sin in the spiritual realm. Rebellion against righteousness is at the root of most diseases experienced by man. But the doctrine of Balaam has become so pervasive that healing by the wounds of Jesus is rarely seen in these present days (1 Peter 2:24) when people refuse to take responsibility for what does not represent the ways of God in their lives.
“For if we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation….Of how much more severe punishment suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:26-29
So it is that many a professing believer in Jesus Christ dies prematurely. It is of no glory to God when a young man dies after coming to a knowledge of Christ, leaving behind a wife and children. At memorial services later, if not at the gravesite, one hears words to the effect that such a person has now received perfect healing. How does that make sense if his diseased body lies in a grave, separated from his departed spirit. As we continue , I pray we’ll see a connection between healing of disease and repentance of sin.
Hopefully we’ll also come to appreciate that the purpose for seeking divine healing should never be to pursue personal ambitions or indulging in pleasures of the world. Where a gift of healing is experienced, the Holy Spirit is manifesting His nature and He is the Spirit of sanctification. Sanctification should always be held in greater esteem than healing of any physical affliction. For without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14). We must not divide the offices of Holy Spirit in the same way the offices of Jesus are so often divided by people claiming Him as Savior independent of submitting to Him as Lord.