This is the fourth in a series of posts on spiritual healing made possible by the suffering of Christ as the result of His broken body, represented by the broken unleavened bread we take at Passover.
I never planned to make this subject into a long series of posts. But I keep finding more passages in the Bible that support this apparent truth. In reading the Bible for self-examination in preparation for Passover, I found this passage in the New Testament.
"For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth'; Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - By whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:19-25).
Notice these points in the above passage.
1. Christ suffered for us (verse 21). This helps set the context, which is Christ suffering to pay the penalty for our sins.
2. He bore our sins in His body (verse 24). This refers to His suffering, not just His shed blood. It is Passover wine that represents His shed blood, that is, His death. But it is unleavened bread that represents His broken body and His suffering.
3. Why did He suffer the pains of a broken body? Verse 24 continues, "that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness". He suffered a broken body, represented by the broken unleavened bread we eat at Passover, so we can die to sins and live for righteousness, or in other words, stop sinning. Passover unleavened bread represents the suffering Christ endured so we can have the power to stop sinning and overcome our sins. This power comes by the Holy Spirit. But we are able to receive it because Christ suffered for us.
4. This process is called "healing" in verse 24, "by whose stripes you were healed". Is this talking about physical healing (removing diseases and effects of injuries to the physical body), or spiritual healing (healing of our sinful nature and character so we can have the righteous character of God). Up to now, the context has been entirely spiritual - dying to sin and living for righteousness. There has been no mention of physical sickness. This seems to suggest that the healing referred to is spiritual healing - given power to die to sin and live for righteousness. And as I have pointed out, verse 24 specifically states that Christ suffered so we could overcome our sins - die to sin and live for righteousness. As I stated in previous posts, sin - spiritual sin - causes suffering just as surely as physical sin, the violation of the laws of health, causes disease. That is one of the penalties of sin - suffering that comes as a result of sin. Christ suffered to pay that penalty so we can be spiritually healed by the Holy Spirit and made so we no longer sin and so we can begin to live for righteousness.
But has the context here changed in the last part of verse 24? Has it shifted to physical healing?
5. Notice verse 25. This is all because we have gone astray from God. This is not just talking about physical violations of the laws of health. This is a general statement about sin and includes spiritual sin - any sin. This continues the context of the beginning of this passage, which is not talking about physical healing of our diseases.
6. Verse 24 says Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross. This statement that He "bore" our sins seems to refer to His suffering, not just His death. He suffered to bear our sins in His body. But what kind of sins? Just physical sins, violations of health laws like eating pork or not wearing a seat belt? Or spiritual sins also? Notice the rest of the verse which tells us what kind of sins Peter is talking about. We are to die to sins and live for righteousness. Here, sin is contrasted with righteousness. This is not talking about physical sin, but spiritual sin - the violation of the letter or spirit of the two great commandments and the ten commandments - the transgression of God's spiritual law.
This whole passage connects the concept of turning from sin and living for righteousness - developing God's holy righteous character by the power of God's Holy Spirit - with the term "healing". We are healed by Christ's stripes, the beading He endured and the suffering He endured both from the sourging and from hanging on the cross, and that healing includes spiritual healing.
Why is this important?, some might ask.
I might also ask, why is the understanding that Christ's body was broken for our physical healing important? Is that important? Yes, but why?
God wants us to understand that physical sickness comes as a result of broken health laws, what Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God have called physical sin. He wants us to know that Christ suffered so we can be physically healed of our sicknesses. He wants us to know this so we can appreciate Christ's love and the Father's love for us that Christ was willing to suffer so we can be physically healed. He wants us to give thanks for it.
Likewise, I believe God and Christ want us to understand that Christ suffered so we can also be spiritually healed. God wants us to understand that sin - the violation of the spiritual law of God - leads to suffering and to more sin - a sinful nature. That sinful nature leads to more sin and more suffering in an endless cycle of sin and suffering. The suffering that comes from sin is a penalty of sin, just as death is a penalty of sin. Christ shed blood pays the death penalty for our sins so we don't have to die the second death, but the suffering He endured in the scourging and on the cross - His broken body represented by the Passover unleavened bread - pays the penalty of suffering our sins bring so we can be spiritually healed. We can be healed of our sinful nature that leads to suffering and more sin and more suffering. We can overcome our sinful nature by the power of God's Holy Spirit. We can stop sinning and no longer have to suffer because of ongoing sins. We can develop and build God's holy, righteous character which leads to happiness and joy. We can do these things by the power of the Holy Spirit. But the gift of the Holy Spirit is made possible by the suffering of Christ which pays the penalty for our sins. Otherwise, the penalty of sin and suffering would remain upon us and we would have no hope.
I believe God wants us to understand these things and appreciate the gift of God and the suffering Christ endured to make that gift possible.
When we ask God in prayer for His Holy Spirit and for more power to overcome our sins, we should also give Him thanks for the suffering of Christ that makes it possible.
That is why it is important to understand that the suffering of Christ enables our spiritual healing and not just our physical healing.
Friday, March 19, 2021
More Scriptural Support for Spiritual Healing
This is the fourth in a series of posts on spiritual healing made possible by the suffering of Christ as the result of His broken body, represented by the broken unleavened bread we take at Passover.
Monday, March 15, 2021
Can the Concept of Healing Be Connected with Spiritual Growth?
This is the third post in a series, after the last two posts, about the sacrifice of Christ making possible our spiritual healing as well as our physical healing. By spiritual healing I mean overcoming sin and our sinful nature, putting sin out of our lives, and building God's holy, righteous character in our lives with the help and power of God's Holy Spirit.
Here is a passage that connects the suffering Christ endured with our healing: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).
But does the word "healed" refer only to physical healing, or does it include spiritual healing also? I say it includes spiritual healing also. It includes BOTH physical and spiritual healing. By Christ's stripes we are SPIRITUALLY healed as well as physically healed.
Yet, I have heard and read little or nothing in the Church of God's messages about the stripes and beating Christ endured enabling our spiritual healing. Why is this neglected?
I have tried to think about anything I have heard in the Church that connects the concept of healing with spiritual overcoming. I do recall something given in a sermon I think that was given over the Internet. If I recall correctly, the speaker was Mr. Brian Orchard of Church of God the Father's Call (COGFC). I am not 100% sure who the speaker was. This was a few years ago.
I don't think the subject matter was Passover. I don't remember the main subject of the message. But the speaker mentioned about physical healing saying that God will always heal us physically unless by withholding the physical healing He can accomplish a greater healing. I don't remember the exact words.
But what was the "greater healing"? The speaker didn't say, but I understood it, and I think most people would understand it, as some kind of spiritual healing, that is, a kind of character development or learning of a character lesson.
So if I understood it correctly, this was a statement that referred to character development, what I call in this post "spiritual healing", as "healing". So I am not the only one in the Church of God who understands character building - overcoming sin - as a "healing" of our character.
But the concept of the suffering of Christ - the beating He endured - enabling our spiritual healing is one that seems to be sadly neglected in the teaching of the Church of God.
Don't we fully appreciate Christ's sacrifice in this regard? Can't we publicly acknowledge that He suffered so we can be empowered to overcome sin?
I'll bet some of the the Protestants acknowledge this and give God thanks for it. But we in the Church of God don't. Not openly, anyway, though some members may give God thanks for this privately.
This is something the top leaders of Church of God fellowships should consider.
Monday, March 8, 2021
The Connection between Physical Healing and Spiritual Healing
In my last post I pointed out that Christ's sacrifice pays the penalty for our sins so we can be healed physically and spiritually.
Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God have taught, and the Church still teaches, that the beating and physical suffering Christ endured paid the penalty for our physical sins - our breaking of the laws of health - so we can be physically healed in this life of our physical diseases and injuries. This teaching is true.
But I believe it is equally true, and there is evidence in the Bible, that the beating and suffering Christ endured pays the penalty for our spiritual sins also so we can be spiritually healed of our evil nature and character. Yet, I do not recall ever hearing this in the Church of God. Perhaps some ministers have preached about this, but I haven't heard it. What I seem to be hearing is that the healing that Christ's sacrifice makes possible is physical healing only - not spiritual healing, not healing of our sick and sinful character.
Yet, we need to be healed spiritually as well as physically. Our character needs to be healed so we no longer have a sinful nature.
When we sin (and we all have sinned), we bring the death penalty upon ourselves. That death is the second death. Christ died to pay the death penalty for us so we can be forgiven and given eternal life. It is Christ's shed blood - his death - that reconciles us to God, removing the penalty of the second death. That part of Christ's sacrifice is represented by the wine we take at Passover, which represents His shed blood.
The unleavened bread represents Christ's broken body - the suffering he endured by being beaten and scourged. That pays the penalty of suffering for our violations of laws of health that result in sickness and disease, what the Church has labeled "physical sin". Christ paid the penalty of suffering for our violations of the laws of health so we do not have to continue to suffer with our physical diseases.
But we need to be healed spiritually also, and Christ's suffering pays the penalty of suffering for our spiritual sins.
Sin - spiritual sin - sins of hatred, contention, lying, rebellion against authority, selfishness, greed, lust, etc. - results in suffering. And if God spared us from the second death and gave us eternal life in His kingdom, but did nothing to heal and change our character, we would go on sinning for eternity bringing misery upon ourselves and others.
God has to clean up our character - heal us spiritually - before he can give us eternal life. Otherwise, eternal life would be a curse, not a blessing.
There are three penalties for spiritual and physical sins, and the sacrifice of Christ must pay the penalties for all three.
One, there is the spiritual penalty of eternal death, the second death. Christ paid that penalty by dying in our place. His death was the result of His shed blood and is represented by the Passover wine. Because Christ died in our place, we can be forgiven and God can give us eternal life.
Two, there is the spiritual penalty of damaged character, what we call human nature, and the suffering that comes as a result of spiritual sin. When we sin, we damage our character. Sin leads to more sin. We acquire a sinful character, and the more we sin, the more we have a tendency to sin. Sin becomes a habit of mind and spirit. That leads to more sin, and that sin leads to suffering, both for ourselves and those around us.
When Lucifer first sinned, something happened to his mind. It became twisted, evil. He became Satan the Devil, the enemy of God.
God says of Lucifer, now become Satan: "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:15). And then, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17). Notice, Lucifer corrupted his wisdom because of his vanity over his beauty and splendor. His wisdom, his mind, became corrupted, twisted, evil.
Adam's mind also changed because of his sin. His sin of eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had a spiritual effect on him. His sin affected his mind. He began to acquire what we call human nature, which is really Satan's nature. His mind and spiritual condition were affected, and he developed a sinful nature - a mind and nature that had a tendency to sin.
Sin is a habit, and the more we sin the more we have a tendency to sin.
Our minds need to be healed of this damage to our character. This healing occurs through the power of God's Holy Spirit. God, with our cooperation and effort, builds His holy, righteous character in us. That is a spiritual healing, but it can occur only because Christ paid the penalty for us.
Three, there is a physical penalty for the physical sin of the violation of the laws of health - sickness and disease. Christ's suffering pays the penalty for our physical sins so we can be physically healed.
Is there evidence in the Bible for a connection between physical healing and spiritual healing? In other words, is there any evidence that "healing" in the Bible refers to spiritual healing as well as physical healing?
Last post I pointed out a possible connection.
"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).
This is a passage we are familiar with, and it establishes the principle that by Christ's stripes we are healed. This is often used to teach the doctrine of physical healing. But notice the context, because right after that, it says that we all like sheep have gone astray and turned, everyone, to his own way.
How have we gone astray? How have we turned to our own way? Just by eating pork? By not wearing a seat belt? By smoking?
Is this just talking about physical sin, the violations of the laws of health?
Have we not also gone astray by lying, lusting, coveting, breaking the Sabbath, worshipping idols, stealing, etc.? Have we not gone astray by our spiritual sins?
Notice this applies to everyone. Has everyone violated the laws of health? Maybe not, but everyone has sinned spiritually.
The context of going astray in a general sense, including spiritual and not just physical sins, with the statement that by Christ's stripes we are healed, helps to establish a connection between spiritual sins and healing - spiritual healing.
But here is another connection I did not include in my last post. I just noticed it a few hours ago.
"And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, 'Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' When Jesus heard that, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance' " (Matthew 9:11-13).
In this passage, Christ connects the concept of sickness with being a sinner in need of repentance. It is an analogy. He is comparing the state of being a sinner with being physically sick. But it is not just an analogy. In a spiritual sense, those who are sinners in need of repentance are spiritually sick. They need spiritual healing. Christ's broken body represented by the symbol of unleavened bread and the suffering Christ endured pays the penalty of our suffering for our spiritual sins and enables us to be spiritually healed.
Has this been taught in the Church of God in modern times? I hope so. Probably it has, by someone. But not much, I think.
This Passover season many ministers and speakers in the Church will be speaking about the Passover symbols and what they represent. Articles will be written and published (or already have been), sermons and sermonettes will be given, Bible studies will be given, etc. There will be speaking at Passover services itself, either in person or recorded. I wonder how many speakers and writers will mention the aspect of Christ's broken body enabling our physical healing, yet totally ignore and say nothing about our need for spiritual healing. Yet, the spiritual healing is more important than our physical healing. Physical healing is for this life. Spiritual healing is for eternity.
I have heard one speaker, who is an advocate for the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, give a message in which he covers a lot of material about Passover, yet not only said nothing about spiritual healing, but did not even say anything about physical healing, which Mr. Armstrong I believe taught. Maybe he is trying to avoid controversy. Maybe he is not ready to take a stand one way or another.
I think someone should take a stand on this. Study the Bible about this. If I am right, teach it. If I am wrong, show me. But don't ignore the question. Ministers will probably have to deal with this sooner or later. It isn't going to go away.
I don't say that ministers should contradict their leaders and cause division over this. That is a judgment call any minister must make - is it important enough? But at least the top leaders of COG groups, who only answer to Christ, should carefully consider this and teach what they see is right in the Bible, and not just remain silent.
No doubt some members may ask their ministers questions about this. If you are a minister, how will you reply?