Like most physically disabled Christians, I’d be quite wealthy if I had a nickel for every time someone quoted the closing phrase of Isaiah 53:5 and/or the last sentence of 1 Peter 2:24 as proof texts that I should get out of my wheelchair and start walking. Usually, the people misquoting these verses implied (whether intentionally or unintentionally) that I failed to appropriate an immediate benefit of Christ’s work on the cross.
Looking back, I can easily see the spiritual abuse I endured because people misapplied the phrase, “By His wounds we are healed.” I doubt anyone actually meant to be abusive toward me, and I hasten to defend their motives. Nevertheless, they most certainly stand guilty of abusing me.
Much more seriously, people who quote these verse fragments abuse the Word of God, ignoring its context in order to turn it into a tool to manipulate the Lord. They isolate this phrase from its context, twisting it to promise a temporal result rather than an eternal blessing.
Isaiah wrote these words as part of his prophecy that Messiah would take our sins upon Himself.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 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 53:4-6 (ESV)
Verses 5 and 6 clearly emphasize Messiah’s suffering in terms of dealing with our transgressions against God. The only physical healing we could possibly infer might be our resurrected bodies when Christ returns, and I question even that inference.
What about for Peter’s quotation of Isaiah 53:5? Peter saw Jesus give physical healing to numerous people, including his own mother-in-law. After Christ’s ascension, Peter healed physically disabled people in Jesus’ name. Obviously he believed in physical healing.
But he didn’t quote Isaiah 53:5 in the context of physical healing. Instead, he followed Isaiah’s context.
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~~1 Peter 2:19-25 (ESV)
While verse 24 refers specifically to Christ’s wounds healing us from sin and enabling us to live in righteousness, the focus of that passage is our proper response to unjust suffering. Physical healing isn’t mentioned once in Peter’s entire epistle! Therefore, reading such an application into that brief sentence while ignoring the rest of his argument does violence to the text.
By His wounds we are healed. We are healed from the sin that cripples our souls. And that glorious healing isn’t limited to those of us with physical disabilities.