It is a valid question to ask, “Is physical healing in the atonement?” The answer is, without equivocation, “Yes.” But maybe not as is commonly perceived.
All good things come to the believer through Christ’s death for us. “By his stripes you are healed” in every way possible! It is judicially right that mercy is yours forever due to his death in your place.
When merciful actions come to unbelievers, however, (which happens over and over again — God “sends the rain on the just and the unjust”), they are true but only temporary mercies which should result in the unbeliever’s repentance. But most unbelievers will persistently sin against those mercies all the way to their death, storing up wrath for themselves.
The Apostle Paul said to unbelieving moralists: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5
These verses show us that true mercy toward persons who will die while still rejecting Christ will result in greater judgment. Every day that judgment is increased. It wasn’t an eternal mercy they received, bought by Christ for them, but only a temporary one with a purpose. God’s perfect justice must take into account all the acts of mercy in the unbeliever’s life in order to judge justly. Those temporary mercies either lead to repentance or have eternal penal consequences.
For the believer, all good things, all mercies, have no such penal consequences. There may be temporary discipline on earth for our correction, true, which is just another mercy itself, but nothing penal. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). What a difference there is in how the believer and the unbeliever is treated because of Christ’s death!
All that we have that makes mercy free mercy is provided to us through the atonement. Everything. Therefore we can say that any healing we believers may receive, which is true mercy, comes through Christ’s death for us. In fact, one day you will have an entirely new body and no more pain precisely because of that atonement and the powerful resurrection that followed. Don’t think that the atonement has no bodily effects when the resurrection of your body screams otherwise.
The Difficult Part
We should always come to the Father asking for his undeserved gifts. Our main challenge with the use of this valuable truth, as many of you know, is that we can sometimes incorrectly assume that healing or any other mercy is dispensed like a vending machine delivers a candy bar. Since God is our Father, we cannot make this assumption. That has been at times a hard lesson for me to learn.
We should ask for merciful gifts, and we should not doubt that he could heal any physical problem, or any other problem in the way we perceive is best, but he loves us too much to do so without careful design. He has plans that include our sanctification and his honor which demand an administration of mercy of a higher kind. We’re not always wise enough to know which way of dispensing the benefits of the atonement is best. We can only be sure that he does dispense mercy in proportions way beyond our imagination. We will be shocked one day to know how true that statement is.
So, yes, your healing is in the atonement, as are all good things. God can justly give you all things good because of it, with no eternal penal payback plan. But those mercies are sovereignly and wisely dispensed. We should ask for a resolve to our problems and how often he will give it on the spot! But he won’t always do so. And for that wisdom on his part we should learn to be immensely grateful. It may be our most difficult lesson to learn.
One day we will understand it all so much better and will see just how merciful he has been.