This week, in preparation for finishing out Cornerstone’s larger series on gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 12, and a shorter series on healings and miracles (last week’s teaching here), I took up a study on the two words salvation and peace.
My study was like a cold glass of water on a summer’s day as I realised the larger setting to which these words speak.
You see, we tend to set these words simply within a ‘spiritual’ context. And actually, that is not incorrect, for the word spiritual simply refers to that which is ‘of God’s Spirit’. But we normally think that, when something is spiritual, it is something more ethereal or for something ‘up there’. But to be spiritual is to be of God’s Spirit, which is very directly related to the work of God within the framework of our world.
And so, to speak of salvation being ‘spiritual’ is no grave problem if we keep in mind that this entails the activity of God within all of life, not just a part of life.
You see, the word salvation (yeshuah in Hebrew), which is not too different from Jesus’ name in Hebrew, speaks deeper into our well-being and wholeness, health and healing. The Greek word, soteria, is quite synonymous with the Hebrew understanding as well. And so these words encompass a greater reality than maybe we first thought.
I know that most of us realise that God’s salvation isn’t just for an ‘after-life’, in a sense of helping us get somewhere after we die. We realise salvation, life eternal, the kingdom rule of God, are for now. But, again, it is also not simply for now in a kind of spiritual-etheral sense, only a reality to a particular part of us, or within us. God’s salvation is brought forth for the fulness, or wholeness of people.
Are we catching it? God’s redemption and restoration is holistic. He never meant it any other way.
That is why we see God’s goal being a renewal of all creation, not just getting us to the clouds to enjoy a mega-long sing-along service. God brings His salvation to His creation, not just a kind of ‘spiritual’ atmosphere. Again, spiritual is the correct word. It’s just that we bring in a definition that many times does not give us a full understanding of the word.
This is why God’s salvation was in real time and history, and the people of old would pray for it in regards to real situations in real life (1 Chron 16:23-24; Ps 9:13-14; Ps 14:7; Ps 27:1-3; Ps 37:39; Ps 62:1-8; Isa 12:2; Isa 26:1; etc). It wasn’t a prayer about going somewhere when they died. It wasn’t a prayer only in regards to an inner part. They were praying for God’s saving work, His saving acts in the here and now. To be displayed, in a visible sense.
And so, when it comes to healings, it is quite alright, very much within our right as those in Christ, to pray for such. Because if we are praying for God’s salvation, we are praying for wholeness to come, affecting all of us.
Still having problems accepting this?
Well think of sin. Such a destructive reality in our lives and the world has the ability to affect the whole us.
So how much more God’s salvation?!!
Deep rooted bitterness is not just affecting our hearts or spirits (though it is). It certainly takes grip of our bodies as well. Lust, anger, fear, arrogance, evil mindsets alter us as whole people, the outworking of this looking quite different in different people’s lives.
So, again, how much more the salvation of our God has come to affect the whole of us?!!!
I am very convinced that, in Christ, it is God’s great and ultimate will to help people. I take a look at Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, and I see the will of God, the word of God – a pronouncement of God’s kingdom salvation breaking in to real life here and now, which includes healing.
Yes, I am also very convinced that, in this age, we do not taste the full blessings of God’s salvation all the time. We still find ourselves, with all creation, submitting to the judgment and curse of death. But it is defeated ultimately! Again, not in just a ‘spiritual’ sense that we get eternal life when we die. But that death has been defeated and we have already seen the first fruits in Christ.
Salvation has conquered death. Salvation has conquered sin. Salvation has conquered injustice. Salvation has conquered disease. God’s salvation, ultimately brought forth in the Christ event (incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and seating of the Son of God at the right hand of the Father) has provided for our healing.
Therefore, when we look into the great suffering servant song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we find these words embedded right in the middle:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (53:5)
When most read this wider passage, this poetic song, they see it as simply a reference to our ‘spiritual’ healing. And we do see lots of reference to transgressions and iniquities and offering for sin. Such is true.
But let me point you to an important word also found in the text – peace (or shalom in Hebrew).
This is a word that I believe has much connection with God’s salvation. Just as the word, salvation, is a very holistic word, taking into account our physical well-being, so is true of the word shalom. This word is in reference to wholeness, not just a spiritual feeling in our heart. Yes, it is that. But that which is spiritual is that which is of God’s Spirit, and that is to affect all of life.
So the Isaiah passage is not just about our ‘spiritual’ healing of sins and transgressions. Or it is, but remember how sin affects the whole of us. And so also God’s salvation and peace, and even more! We are talking about a full-package here.
And, to underline the case even more, it is interesting how Matthew utilises Isaiah 53:4. He quotes it within the context of Jesus’ physical healing (Matt 8:16-17).
16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”
Matthew had no bones about applying the suffering servant song (which many probably would have remembered the full context of the song) to Jesus’ healing ministry.
Because Jesus was granting the salvation of Yahweh, the shalom of God!
Just as sin has come in and affected the whole of us, much more has God’s salvation and shalom come to bring wholeness and well-being. God doesn’t spend time dividing us up into parts and then decide which part He will bring His redemption into just for now. He comes in to change and restore the whole of us.
Such is why David would sing:
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases
Forgives and heals! In poetic parallelism, these two are very connected, just as sins and diseases are connected.
Let us be gripped with what God’s salvation concerns. We are not talking about getting people somewhere when they die. We speak of God bringing restorative wholeness to people (and ultimately all of creation). We can pray with confidence for God’s healing. We can, in faith and courage, speak in Jesus’ name that people be healed as led by the Spirit. For we have been given the same ministry as that of the embodied salvation of God, Jesus Christ.