For What Did Christ Atone in Isa 53:4-5? -- By: Richard L. Mayhue
MSJ 6:2 (Fall 95) p. 121
For What Did Christ Atone in Isa 53:4-5?
Senior Vice President and Dean
Professor of Pastoral Ministries
Isaiah 53:4–5 raises the question, “For what did Christ atone?” or more specifically, “Is physical healing in the atonement?” Outside Isaiah 53, Scriptures touching on Christ’s atonement in Leviticus and Hebrews deal only with sin, not sickness. The context and language of Isa 53:3–12 address sin alone. A broad range of Scriptures teach that Christ died to deal with humankind’s sin dilemma. Matthew 8:16–17 uses an illustration of physical healing to demonstrate a spiritual truth about the Christian’s resurrection hope of being sinless and thus in perfect health. First Pet 2:24, studied in both broad context (2:18–25) and narrow (2:24–25), reasons that Christ atoned for sin, not sickness. Therefore, the conclusion is that physical healing is not in the atonement, but rather comes through the atonement after resurrection, because only then does the atonement eliminate the moral cause of physical infirmities, which is sin in one’s personal experience.
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As I browsed through some commentaries at my favorite Christian bookstore in Columbus, Ohio, a dear lady whom I had recently visited in the hospital and prayed for entered and walked toward me. Greeting her, I remarked how well she looked. She responded, “By His stripes I have been healed. Praise God there is healing in Christ’s atonement.”
The bookstore was no place that day for a theology lesson. I did not want to dampen her joy, nor did I want to rob her confidence that
MSJ 6:2 (Fall 95) p. 122
God had somehow been involved in her physical restoration (Deut 32:39). However, her understanding of Isa 53:5 and 1 Pet 2:24 did not relate biblically to what she had experienced.
I wondered where she had learned those proof texts. Perhaps she had read or listened to a faith healer’s explanation of Isaiah 53.1 A friend or neighbor may have told her. Possibly she heard this on Christian TV or radio. For cert...
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