Was Christ Punished for Our Diseases? -- By: Alva J. McClain

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 06:2 (Spring 1965)
Article: Was Christ Punished for Our Diseases?
Author: Alva J. McClain


Was Christ Punished for Our Diseases?

Alva J. McClain

President Emeritus, Grace Theological Seminary

The question is often stated as follows: “Is bodily healing in the Atonement?” But thus stated it becomes somewhat ambiguous in meaning, and in any important question like this it is essential that we should know exactly what we are talking about. Hence, in order to pin down the exact idea and isolate it from other confusing issues, I have stated the question as indicated in the title of this paper: “Was Christ Punished for our Diseases?”

Many pastors have had to face this problem as it has been raised in their communities, both by false cults and sincere inquirers. The particular theory which has provoked these inquiries is that held by certain religious movements which are characterized by extreme forms of “Pentecostalism.” It is also held, I am sorry to say, by individuals within Protestant churches here and there.

In brief, this particular healing theory may be stated as follows: When Christ died on the Cross, its adherents argue, He made atonement for our diseases as well as for our sins. Therefore, they conclude, no true Christian need be sick or diseased at any time. If a Christian suffers from physical disease (as all of us do sooner or later) these theorists explain the situation by the following alternatives: The sick Christian has either failed to “appropriate” fully the benefits of the atonement, or else he is guilty of some personal sin for which the sickness is sent as a divine judgment. In either case, they say, the whole responsibility rests upon the person. It is always the will of God to heal, according to their theory, if we truly repent of our sins and believe in the fullness of our Lord’s work on the Cross. If we are sick, we are either lost or backslidden. No true Christian, they argue, can be sick if he is in complete fellowship with God.

The Biblical passages upon which this theory has been mainly built are found in the books of Isaiah and Matthew. The first reads as follows: “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4). The second includes a direct quotation of the first: “When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed of 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 the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matt 8:16–17).

What Do These Passages Mean?

Two preliminary questions must be settled. First, do these “griefs,” “sorrows,” “infirmities,” and “sickness...

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