Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

God cares about the sick and suffering

By Byron D. Klaus

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of eight monthly articles on the 16 Foundational Truths of the Assemblies of God, written by faculty of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

"Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the Atonement, and is the privilege of all believers."

Early in my ministry I was called by a church member to rush to the hospital. Her 10-year-old was in a coma and near death, diagnosed with Reye’s syndrome. The doctors were saying the little girl had 48 hours to live. Believing that God cared enough to enter this tragic circumstance, we began to pray for healing. The morning this little girl should have died, she awoke from the coma. The doctors were thrilled at what had occurred, but predicted a three-month rehabilitation. Because of God’s healing power the little girl walked out of the hospital, with full use of her limbs, in three days.

This wonderful testimony highlights the ongoing work of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not find it problematic or outdated to believe that when our total well-being is impaired, our God would be actively involved in restoration. Healing is part of the ongoing work of Jesus in His church, while we eagerly wait for His return when the completeness of salvation will be our experience (1 Corinthians 13:10; Revelation 21:4).

Old and New Testament references to healing
The Bible teaches that God did not cause human suffering. Human suffering, including sickness, is the result of the fall of Adam (Romans 5:12,13). This fall, though human in its origin, was not a surprise to God whose desire is to bless His creation (Genesis 12:3; Revelation 14:6). This fallenness is seen in the Old Testament, as sin and physical suffering are regularly associated together. For example, the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s fall (3:16) clearly lets us know that the consequences of human sin include affliction and sickness. Psalms 38:3 and 107:17 clearly emphasize the linkage between sickness and sin.

Healing also occurred in the Old Testament as referenced in the accounts of Naaman (2 Kings 5:3-14) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-21). Jesus’ disciples and New Testament believers had a very solid foundation in the Old Testament Scriptures that they would have had access to. Thus when Jesus says that deliverance and healing are evidence of present Messianic salvation, divine healing can be viewed not only as a part of the gospel message, but an important verification of the truth of the gospel (Matthew 11:4,5).

Jesus’ earthly healing ministry was substantially recorded in the Gospels. For example, more than 30 percent of Mark’s Gospel is given to Jesus’ ministry of healing. John records in his Gospel that if he were to write down all the miraculous acts of Jesus, there would not be pen and paper enough to do so (21:25). John 20:31 clearly says that John wrote his Gospel with the full intent of recording certain of Jesus’ miraculous acts (many of which were healing) for the express purpose of helping people to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

Salvation and healing linked
While complex schemes exist to understand the varying dimensions of a human being, the gospel’s fullest impact is on the whole person. The Bible simply does not offer a view of salvation that excludes any part of human existence (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Isaiah 53:4,5 provides a key Old Testament text referring to healing in the Atonement. The key phrases, "surely he took up our infirmities" and "by his wounds we are healed" (NIV) when evaluated in the original Hebrew language, carry solid connections to physical suffering. God’s desire to restore peace (shalom) is connected to the suffering of the servant Jesus Christ. Matthew 8:17 is a clear connection linking the healing ministry of Jesus to the Isaiah 53 passage. Matthew’s intent is to connect Jesus’ suffering on the Cross to physical healing present in that atoning act. The work of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, on the Cross is about a restoration of spiritual shalom (peace), but because God’s intent is a restoration of the entire existence of a human being, this restoration includes physical dimensions as well (1 Peter 2:22-24).

The Atonement provides all the benefits available to believers. While some of these benefits, like our resurrected bodies, are yet to be experienced, the atoning work of Christ guarantees their fulfillment. Healing should never be thought of as something separate from salvation. To suggest that the atoning work of Christ is limited in its scope or impact does a disservice to God, whose nature is clearly restorative and redemptive to all facets of human existence (Jonah 4:2; Isaiah 9:2-7; Colossians 2:15; Romans 5:6-21). In Romans 8:23, Paul also refers to the fullest impact of Christ’s work on the Cross. Even the simple observance of a present-day healing points us to the future reality that Christ’s atoning work was provided to return people fully to wholeness (physically and spiritually). The ministry of Jesus on earth was a clear indicator that the influence of the victorious reign of God had broken into our present history. Every time a person is healed we are given a visible testimony that our Lord is faithful and will one day return and bring to fruition the wholeness that we now are given a glimpse of in the healing of a physical body.

A biblical promise to build hope
Illness and suffering are part of a fallen world. While healing is provided in the Atonement and testifies to the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, there are situations where people are not healed that are hard to explain. What is clear in the Bible is God’s concern for the well-being of His followers. Early believers regularly and with anticipation brought their need of physical healing to prayer. James 5:14-16 clearly describes the practice of the Early Church. This community of believers wasn’t simply turning to prayer as a last resort. They believed that prayer and healing for their physical needs were linked together and could be regularly and expectantly part of Christian experience. Our Lord is the Creator of life and the re-Creator of life.

The clear expectation of the Early Church community, that healing should be part of normative Christian experience, critiques some contemporary opinions. Some today would affirm healing is possible, but would consider it an exception to God’s usual way of acting. While we wait for our Lord’s return, suffering is surely part of human existence. But because Jesus is the Healer and His atoning work on the Cross has resulted in the power to restore wholeness, we have the privilege to pray for that restoration to meet our physical needs. We can confidently believe that Jesus is our Healer.

Byron D. Klaus is president of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo.

E-mail the author at

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God