But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53:5; KJV)

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Christians declare this: “By his stripes, you are HEALED!” as if this is some ‘magic prayer bullet’ that when spoken with enough faith, one will be healed physically. I am sorry, folks, it just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve been studying theology since 2009 (through Christian Life College and Biola University), and if there is one thing I have learned is that every verse in the Bible needs to be understood in CONTEXT! There. Now you can glean all that I have learned in nearly a decade of study in just one word—context! If you don’t read Scripture in its context (it also helps to know a bit about the ancient culture in which it was written), you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say, and that’s just bad.

To be properly understood, let’s examine this verse in its context. Isaiah 53 has been called the “Suffering Servant” chapter. It’s the prophecy about when the Messiah will be punished for the transgressions (sins) of the people. Isaiah spoke these words approximately 700 years before Jesus was born! (The Dead Sea Scrolls, carbon dated to 140 BC, corroborate this fact.) He described the wounds that Jesus would endure for people’s sins as being crushed (beaten/whipped) and pierced (nailed to a cross).The whole chapter prophesied about how the Lord would be an offering for humanity’s sinful crimes, not the physical aspect of healing. “By His stripes, you are healed” is a spiritual healing that restores people back to a right relationship with God.

Now in Jesus’ ministry on Earth, he regularly healed people, and he taught the disciples to carry on the ministry of healing. So, we are to pray for people’s healing, but not by using this verse. That is not what this verse means. Even the Apostle Peter did not use this verse to mean a physical healing. He said, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds* you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24.) Again, in context, Peter is talking about humanity’s healing from sin… a soul sickness.

When Christ died by crucifixion, it was an act of retributive justice. Retributive justice is a legal term, and it means that a person morally deserves to suffer a proportionate punishment for committing a serious crime. The serious crime we all commit is to reject God’s rule and his right to rule. He is, after all, the Creator, and he deserves our respect because of it. In this case, however, the Judge (God) put the penalty onto someone else (His only Son), leaving the one who committed the crime (you and me) to be declared not guilty (“the punishment that brought us peace”).

That is what Jesus did for everyone! This is why it’s called “The Good News” because we all get a free pass out of hell without having to earn it through our own good works, so no person can boast (Eph.2:9). The only thing God requires of us is to accept Christ’s sacrifice. We need to truly believe in Jesus, and what He did on the cross—took away our sin, and made us white as snow (Is. 1:18). The Resurrection event is verifiable, so you can trust this is true.

Jesus’ stripes, or what he endured during the execution, is what makes us healed spiritually. This is the best healing God has ever done for us—to wipe away our sins, and to give us eternal life in heaven when we die. Until that time, we certainly should pray for physical healings, and sometimes God will grant physical healing. But sometimes He doesn’t. So if our physical bodies are not healed on Earth, we can trust that heaven awaits where we will live with new bodies that never get diseases, decay, or hurt again. The stripes Christ bore for us did that. Thank you, Jesus!

(*some versions replace “stripes” with “wounds” or “scourging.”)