The Atonement as Divine Healing

image The Suffering and Glory of the Servant

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness— so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12)

The Healing view of Atonement roots itself in this passage from Isaiah and the scriptures that orbit around it that see the atoning work of Christ in terms of the restoration of Shalom to the whole of God’s people. God the Healer is not satisfied to only redeem humankind from their sinful separation from His holiness, He also intended the atonement to restore the physical ailments that result from our corruption of the world. Shalom, the well being, wholeness, and peace that were characteristic of the newborn world is what God envisions for His redeemed. Jesus models the Physician through His healing and teaching ministry and initiates our restoration to Shalom through His sacrifice.

The Healing paradigm is a minority view that is often subsumed under other more dominant theological positions. Many are able to accept atonement for sin but demur at the idea of including physical ailments. Proponents say that the other views are too narrow in their scope; God had a much more comprehensive restoration in mind in reconciling humanity to Himself. They embrace a holistic view of the predicament of mankind that describes us as sin-sick and the sickness is comprised of both a spiritual and a physical component and this dual-corruption infects our economic, political, social and environment systems. Restoration is needed: Have you rejected Judah completely? Do you despise Zion? Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? W hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror. O Lord we acknowledge our wickedness and the guilt of our fathers, we have indeed sinned against you. (Jer 14:19-20). Holistic healing of body and soul is in view in light of the biblical affirmation of the connection between sin, sickness, and well-being.

The theology of this view can be examined by a systematic approach to the Scriptures but the outline of this school of thought is most easily understood by outlining the Suffering Servant passage. I won’t approach this line by line but rather, thought by thought.

  • 52:13 The Savior/Healer will be lifted up and exalted. Jesus as the Physician was lifted up on the Cross and exalted in His resurrection.
  • 52:15 He will cleanse the nation and His mission and atoning actions will be seen by all.
  • 53:3 The Savior will be despised of men and will be a man of sorrows. Note that the Hebrew word used for sorrows includes physical and mental pain.
  • 53:4 The Savior took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. In view is the recognition that disease is often a result of sinful living as a consequence of Original Sin.
  • 53:5 The Savior was pierced for our transgressions (sin) and crushed for our iniquities (evil). The punishment visited upon Him resulted in our Shalom and healed our infirmities. Note the impression of holistic redemption inferred from this verse.
  • 53:10 The guilt offering was the Lord himself; substitution is in view here.
  • 53:11 This singular sacrifice of the the Savior brought the satisfaction that so many animal, etc. sacrifices had not in the past.
  • 53:12 The Savior bore the sin on behalf of many and now He stands as the intercessor for transgressors.

We can refer to Malachi for a summary:

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. (Mal 4:2)


The healing view of the atonement attracts adherents on two fronts. First, the believer can be assured of the forgiveness of their sin and that they can reconciled in their relationship with God. Second, with holistic healing in view, humankind can be certain that God desires good for us; He desires Shalom. Though the believer’s life will be fraught with travail and struggle, the notion that ultimately there will be Shalom provides the necessary encouragement to persevere. Though the outline in this article was developed around an outline in Isaiah, the healing ministry of Jesus is found throughout the Gospels (note that fully one third of Mark is devoted to healing). The atonement brought by Christ solves our most fundamental plight as the corrupted children of the Garden. We are reconciled (Rom 5:10-11), our sins are forgiven never to be held against us (2 Cor 5:18-19) and we have an intercessor (Rom 8:34). The additional benefit that must not be overlooked is the satisfaction of our holistic need for physical and mental healing by this same act. Much like the paralytic man in Matthew 9, humanity is forgiven and given a hand up from our ailments. 


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