Physical sickness came as a result of the fall and the subsequent curse, and leads eventually to physical death. By his atoning death, Christ lifted that curse, Isa 53:4f, and there is consequently both spiritual healing (1 Pet 2:24), and physical healing (Mt 8:16-17) in the atonement. Christ purchased for us complete freedom not only from sin, but also from bodily infirmity; however, the full possession of these benefits will not be ours until he returns, 1 Cor 15:23.
Miraculous healing may be viewed, then, as a foretaste of that which God will grant us fully in the future. This is in line with the other blessings of the new covenant, which are experienced as a guarantee or ‘first instalment’ of what is yet to come.
A key passage here is Isa 53:4f, which is quoted in Mt 8:17, which seems to emphasise physical healing; and 1 Pet 2:24, which seems to emphasise spiritual healing.
Of course, sin and disease are inextricably linked together: without the fall there would have been no sickness or death. Our Lord’s miracles of healing, then, were not only expressions of his deep compassion towards the sick, but were also bound up with his atoning death. In this respect, they are probably best thought of as outward signs of an inner change of heart towards God.
In this present life, any hope of complete freedom from the ravages of disease is a delusion without support from Scripture. God’s word unmistakeably teaches a theology of suffering from which we can derive great instruction, comfort, and strength.
Here, we receive tokens of God’s healing power in the providential arrangement of healing processes which are both internal (such as blood clotting) and external (such as health services). Moreover, Christians are encouraged to pray for healing, Jas 5:16, and answers to such prayer may, in God’s sovereign grace, include both providential and miraculous healing.
Complete freedom from disease belongs, not to the ‘now’, but to the ‘not yet’. There are grave pastoral problems associated with an unrealistic and unbiblical belief in ‘healing for all’. Such a false belief can lead to great disappointment and perhaps guilt on the part of those who are not healed, and can lead to its advocates making exaggerated and even fraudulent claims in respect of physical healings. Ordinary medical treatment has been spurned, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
The testimony of eminent Christians down the ages testifies to the grace of God made perfect in weakness, 2 Cor 12:9.