By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.”
The Twist: Many leaders in the Word of Faith movement use these verses to support the false teaching of the health and wealth gospel, that when a person gets saved he or she can be healed, and that a believer has a guarantee of healing.
In the Matthew passage, Jesus is citing the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 53:4-5:
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
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.
The reference points out specifically that Christ was bruised for our sins, our iniquities, our “lawlessness.”
Regarding physical healing, we do see that indeed the elders, as taught in James 5, can be called together to anoint a person with oil so as to petition the Lord that the person be healed of sickness or illness. James even says that “the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” So the Lord God Almighty can choose, in His sovereign will, to heal someone. God providentially chooses what to do according to His perfect will. And often, the Lord chooses not to heal, so that in our weakness, He is made strong, so that in our weakness, He is glorified.
There are times, too, when people fall into illness or sickness because of sin; the Scripture is clear on that. In the Bible, we find that some people actually have fallen asleep—meaning that they died—because of their sin and their poor testimony. A lot of times, though, we suffer with illnesses or a cold or the flu simply because we live in a sinful, fallen world. But let’s look more closely at the reasons for sickness.
First Corinthians 11:30 tells us that some people fall sick and die because of their sin and disrespect for the Lord’s table: “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” And 1 Corinthians 5:5 also tells us that God takes the life of some Christians because of their poor testimony. Paul says to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
It is better that the Lord remove the poor witness from earth by taking his or her life because of the damage done by such a one to the testimony of Christ. But many times we endure sickness simply because of the Fall. The Lord can even use extreme situations, where we struggle with health issues repeatedly, as His way of demonstrating our faith and showing forth our willingness to go through whatever He takes us through for His honor and glory.
Bear in mind, of course, that we don’t want to minimize the ability of the Lord—or at times His willingness—to heal people of different maladies. But the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel Movement says you should be guaranteed health and wealth. The purveyors of this idea often cite these passages from Matthew 8 and Isaiah 53 to say, “Since we are healed by His stripes, being healed is now as easy as being saved.” Consider this proclamation by Benny Hinn, for instance:
Now ladies and gentlemen, hear this very clearly please and never forget, it’s as easy to get healed as it is to get forgiven. It’s as easy to receive physical healing as it is to receive forgiveness for sin. It’s just as easy to get healed. Healing is as easy as salvation. Do not complicate what is simple. Say it with me: It’s as easy to get healed as it is to get forgiven. Healing should never be separate from salvation.
That’s staggering, isn’t it? Many people who have come to Jesus Christ through faith are still sick. They’re still in a wheelchair, still struggle with cerebral palsy, still suffer with whatever the issue might be. But is that a sign that they’re not saved? Absolutely not! Shame on Benny Hinn for proclaiming this false, discouraging, and demeaning message!
Benny Hinn also claims that the Gospel is an “empty shell” without signs and wonders. The truth is, though, that the signs and wonders of the apostles were done only by a limited group of people that included Stephen, Barnabas, Philip, and the Seventy commissioned by Jesus. Signs and wonders were performed by these specifically chosen people for a limited purpose in the New Testament—to give credibility to the Gospel message they preached. Signs and wonders have ceased in the present Church age. We don’t need to have men doing these signs and wonders anymore because we have the Holy Spirit, and we also have the completed Word of God.
For Benny Hinn to say that signs and wonders are necessary is blasphemy. It’s heresy, and it fits right in with the Prosperity Gospel movement of people like him.
To understand the true meaning of Matthew 8:16-17, we have to look back at Isaiah 53:4-5: “He was bruised for our iniquities.” Jesus Christ was bruised; He was beaten; He was scourged; He had nails driven into His hands. Why? For our sin, our iniquity.
Isaiah also says, “by His stripes we are healed.” We are healed spiritually from the disease of sin. It’s spiritual here and now, but ultimately, it will also include physical healing. We’re talking spiritual in one context, as we are healed spiritually from the ultimate curse of sin and as we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. But eventually, we will also be healed physically because of what Jesus did on the cross. That physical healing, though, is not for now. It’s for later. See how 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 explains this:
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
What’s being discussed here is the fact that Jesus Christ will ultimately give the kingdom to God the Father. Jesus will set up His millennial kingdom, His earthly rule, and He will reign through the millennial kingdom here on Earth. He will put an end to all that plagues us today, and the last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
It’s true that we will be physically healed by His stripes, but don’t confuse the spiritual healing that comes to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins with the physical healing that will occur in the future when we receive our new bodies. Look at Revelation 21:1-4:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain for the former things have passed away.
Jesus will restore things to once again be as they were in the Garden of Eden, and we will be healed physically. But we must keep this in the proper order regarding when these things occur. Meanwhile, reject the false teachers who say that “you are guaranteed healing,” that “by His stripes we are healed, and therefore, you should be able to get up and walk. Get up out of that wheelchair. Go into the hospital room and command that sickness of your family member or friend to depart.” This is false teaching, and it leaves its hearers scarred and damaged. You will bless many people if you untwist this scripture whenever you hear teachers who present these disheartening falsehoods.