Physical vs Spiritual
There are two major difficulties that people encounter when attempting to understand the scriptures. One of them is differentiating between what is to be taken literally, and what is to be taken figuratively. The other is differentiating between the physical and the spiritual meaning of verses. Differentiating between the physical and the spiritual, is what I will deal with in explaining a few bible verses today.
God told Adam, in Genesis 2, verse 17; “..But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.”
God was telling Adam, that in the day that you disobey My words, you shall die spiritually. Death is a separation. Physical death is the separation of our body from our spirit, and spiritual death is the separation of our spirit from God. And in the day that Adam ate from the forbidden tree, he committed sin, and was then separated from the fellowship of God.
Isaiah 59, verse 2 tells us; “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” So then Adam was separated from God, and died spiritually, on the very day that he ate from the tree, because of his sin.
It says in Romans 5, verse 12; “Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin. And so death spread to all men, because all have sinned.” This verse reaffirms that sin causes death. Not physical death, but spiritual death. Obviously we don’t die physically, every time we sin. But we do die spiritually.
James 1, verses 14 & 15 tell us; “But each one is tempted when he is enticed and carried away by his own lust. And when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Again, spiritual death, is brought forth, by sin. Sin is not what causes physical death. As a matter of fact, Hebrews 9:27 tells us; “It is APPOINTED to man once to die, and after that, the judgment.”
It’s already been appointed to us to die physically. We don’t have to sin, to be subject to that death.
1 Corinthians 15, verse 22 says; “For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive.” Christ obviously does not make our physical bodies alive when we’re forgiven of our sins. But He does make our spirits alive once again. “For as in Adam, all die.. spiritually (because all have sinned, as we read in Romans 5:12) So also in Christ, all shall be made alive.. spiritually”
Many people believe that when God said to Adam; “In the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die”, that physical death also ensued, as well as spiritual death. But that verse says nothing about physical death. Adam would have died physically, regardless of sin. It’s appointed unto man once to die!
Listen to Genesis 2, verse 9; “And out of the ground, the Lord God caused to grow, every tree that is pleasing to the sight, and good for food. The tree of LIFE also, in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Then it says in verse 16; “And the Lord God commanded the man saying; From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” That obviously included the tree of life. The only tree that was forbidden, was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And that was forbidden in the next verse, verse 17.
So, simply ask yourself this question. If Adam and Eve had been created immortal, why on earth would there have been any need for a tree of life? Obviously, there wouldn’t BE any need for it. No, Adam and Eve were not created immortal. Immortality was made available to Adam and Eve, that’s why there was a tree of life. But that’s not the tree that they chose to eat from.
Adam and Eve, died spiritually, in the day that they ate from the forbidden tree, just like God said they would. But Adam lived physically, for 930 years. He certainly didn’t die physically, in the day that he ate from that tree.
From all of the related verses of scripture, this one included (Gen 2:17), we see that God was speaking specifically, about spiritual death. So you can see that to assume anything physical is implied there, is to read something into the verse that is simply not there, and that God never intended to be there.
If someone were going to try to prove, that man was originally created immortal, and then became mortal, they would have to go to some other verses to try to prove that, because Genesis 2:17 says nothing about physical death.
Redemption in Christ
We’ve got to separate, the physical, from the spiritual. I want you to consider one more example of this problem. Many people believe that Jesus Christ died, not only to heal us spiritually, but to heal us physically also. They sometimes cite Isaiah 53, verse 5, which says in part; “And by His stripes, we are healed.” And so they claim that the physical stripes, that Jesus suffered, were for the physical healing that we receive.
But, God’s work of redemption through Jesus Christ, is SOLELY for the purpose of our spiritual healing. Man’s physical condition is not addressed in the sacrifice of Jesus. The Jews wanted physical benefits from Jesus. They wanted Him to be a earthly king. But He didn’t fulfill their physical desires. He said; “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36
The scriptures are clear, that the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ, are spiritual benefits.
Jesus said, in Luke 19, verse 10; “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s the purpose of Christ; To save those who are lost spiritually. The bible never says that Jesus came to this earth for any purpose, other, than to provide spiritual blessings. Jesus did provide miraculous physical healing to people while He lived, because of His compassion for His fellow human beings. Just like He provided food miraculously, for the hungry.
But there was a bigger reason, why Jesus fed people miraculously, and healed people miraculously. His purpose, even in doing those humanitarian things, was so that people would believe in Him, and find the spiritual healing that He came to earth to provide.
Jesus said in John 4, verse 48; “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, and said; “For indeed Jews seek for a sign..” 1 Corinthians 1:22
Listen to what Jesus said concerning the works that He did. He said, In John 10, verses 37 & 38; “If I do NOT do the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I DO them, though you do not believe ME, believe the WORKS, that you may know and understand, that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
When Jesus did the “works of His Father”, He fed the people, and He healed the people, and He did those things, miraculously! There was a work of God, that Jesus did, that was not miraculous. And that work was, to preach the gospel of the kingdom. No miracle was needed for Jesus to do that. BUT, in order that the people might BELIEVE, that the words He spoke were from GOD, Jesus performed signs and wonders, that all the people could see.
So Jesus said; If you can’t believe in Me, just for the WORDS I speak, then believe in Me because of the WORKS I do.
We’re told in Mathew 9, verse 36; “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion on them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.”
It was right to feed people that were hungry, wasn’t it? But listen to that verse once again. “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion on them..” WHY does it say He felt compassion on them? Because they were hungry? NO, it says that He felt compassion on them, “because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Can you be distressed, because you’re hungry? I suppose you could be. But, you know how I like words and their meanings, don’t you? Well, do you know what that word translated “distressed” actually means? It means .. “to skin (alive), to flay, to mangle, and to vex”. That sounds like a little more than just being hungry.
And how about the word translated “downcast”, do you know what that means? It means.. “to be cast off, to be thrown down, to be dispersed, and to be dis-spirited”.
Do you remember what God told Moses to say to the nation of Israel? Here’s what He said, in Exodus 19, verses 5 & 6; “Now then, IF you will indeed OBEY My voice, and KEEP My covenant, THEN you shall be My own possession among all the peoples. For all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
But when Jesus looked out, over the multitudes, what did He see? Did He see a people for God’s own possession? Did he see a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation? I don’t think He did. I think what Jesus saw, was a nation of people that were flayed, and vexed, and skinned. And He saw a people that had been cast off, and thrown down, a nation that had been dispersed, and dis-spirited. Jesus saw a people, full of SIN!
And that’s why He healed the sick, and even raised the dead. He did it so they might believe in Him, because of the WORKS that He did. He did it to save their souls!
Sometimes, we get the physical, mixed up with the spiritual. But Jesus always focused on the spiritual. That’s why He came here, “to seek and save, that which was lost.”
The Human Compassion of Jesus
We certainly don’t want to ignore the pure compassion of Jesus though. And so we need to mention the time when Jesus miraculously fed about “4,000 men, besides women and children”, as we’re told in Mathew 15, verse 38. And the reason that Jesus Himself gave, for doing that, on that occasion, is stated in verse 32; “I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now, three days, and have nothing to eat, and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
So then here’s a multitude of people, who already believed enough in Jesus, to remain with Him for three days, without eating, and Jesus rewards their faith, by supplying a necessity of life.
The Gift of Miraculous Healing
Many people believe that miraculous gifts exist today, in particular, the gift of healing. It is a little bit curious, that no one claims to be able to feed approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people, with just seven loaves of bread, and a couple of fish. But people DO focus on healing physical ailments. They believe that a part of the PURPOSE, of the suffering of Christ, was to impart this miraculous gift to Christians, and that this gift is still imparted to people today. And as I said, one of the verses that they go to, to prove, or to substantiate that belief, is Isaiah 53, verses 4 & 5.
So then, let’s examine that belief, by taking a look at those verses. Isaiah 53:4 & 5..
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried. And yet we considered Him stricken. Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed (bruised) for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace, fell on Him. And by His stripes (scourging) we are healed.”
1 Peter 2:24 quotes part of that verse. It says; “He bore our SINS, in His body, on the cross, that we might DIE to sin, and live to righteousness. For by His wounds, you are healed”
Listen again; “He bore our SINS, in His body, on the cross, that we might die to SIN, and live to righteousness.” There you have it, right from God. when Jesus died on the cross, He was bearing our SINS, He wasn’t bearing any of our physical afflictions.
This verse says; “By His wounds, you are healed”. Isaiah 53, verse 5 says; “And by His stripes, we are healed”. Jesus bore our SINS, on the cross, that WE might die, to SIN! And so since He bore our SINS, that we might die to SIN, what are we healed of, by His wounds and His stripes? There is only ONE logical answer. We’re healed of our SIN.
Jesus didn’t die, to heal us of anything else, except sin. I wish, he would have died to heal each and every one of us, of all our physical pains, and diseases, and injuries; But He didn’t. He died to heal us of our SINS. And need to be thanking God every day, maybe every hour of every day, that Jesus did, die for our sins. I would much rather suffer during THIS life, with physical ailments, than to suffer eternally from sin.
The Purpose of Christ
To understand the sacrifice of Christ, the first thing we need to understand, is that Christ’s suffering, and His death, was for the purpose of forgiving our SINS. 1 Peter 3:18 says it plainly; “For Christ also suffered once, FOR SINS. The righteous, for the unrighteous, TO BRING YOU TO GOD. He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the Spirit.”
The purpose of Christ’s suffering and His death, was so WE could be forgiven of our SINS, thus bringing us back into fellowship to God. The fact that Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, is an analogy to the fact that our bodies will also die, but it’s our spirits that are made alive by His sacrifice.
The entire focus is on forgiving our sins, and giving life to our spirits. Our physical infirmities are NOT the point being addressed.
The “griefs” and the “sorrows” that we suffer, refer to the suffering of our spirits (our soul). The fact that he was “pierced”, was because of our transgressions (our spiritual state). The fact that He was “crushed”, was because of our iniquities (our spiritual state). He was “chastised”, so that we could have “peace” with God. And His stripes, were for the healing of our sins.
There is nothing in those verses, that has any reference at all, to our physical condition. It all clearly refers to the fact that we all have sin in our lives, and that we need to be forgiven of that sin. And that is the whole purpose of the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ; To “heal” us of our sins.
Our griefs and our sorrows, and our peace and our healing, all refer to our spiritual condition. And Christ’s suffering and chastisement, and His stripes and His being pierced, were the result of our sins. Those things that He endured, were the price that he paid, to bring us the forgiveness of our sins. None of those things brought us any physical benefits at all. And the scriptures never say that they do. To assume that physical benefits are included in the sacrifice of Christ, is to read into the scriptures, something that is not there, and is not intended by God.
Therefore, if you wanted to prove that God gives us gifts of healing today, you would have to go to some different verses, because Isaiah 53:5 says nothing about physical healing.
Sustained by God’s Providence
Now, just so that you understand, I’m not in any way, discounting, or discrediting, the providence of God. God’s providence, provides for us, and strengthens us, and even sometimes heals us. But if God does choose to heal us, it will be by HIS hand, not by the hands of someone who has been given a miraculous gift. Miracuouss gifts from God, ended with the apostles, and with those that the apostles had laid THEIR hands upon. But that’s a whole different study.
For now, all we need to do is trust in God, to heal us of our sins, and if we overcome some physical ailment along the way, then glory be to God! But learn how to get your sins forgiven FIRST. Because you certainly don’t want to reach the end of your life, and still be in sin.
Before closing, I’d also like you to understand that this article is in no way intended to be a complete study regarding the question of whether miracles exist today. But for those of you who want such a complete, and “exhaustive” study, I would direct you to the four part series on this website, called DO MIRACLES EXIST TODAY ?
Thanks for choosing to take the time to study God’s word, and may your faith grow, as a result.