Healed of Backsliding
Robert Wurtz II
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Peter here takes up a standard passage for the 1st century saints from Isaiah 53, and he expounds upon the great wonder of the finished work of the cross of Christ. He gives the condition of man in the middle of the verse, “For you were like sheep going astray…” This agrees with Isaiah 53:6a, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” This was a perpetual problem for the children of Israel. God had established them as a unique people upon the earth in one sense as a microcosm of humanity. So when Isaiah writes, “all we like sheep have gone astray” he is referring to the entire human race. Peter then gives God’s solution, by whose stripes you were healed. This is a very curious thing to say. Could it be that what man needs is to be ‘healed’ from going astray?
I Will Heal Their Backsliding
When we think of healing, it is usually on a physical level. We know this is right because Matthew 8:16-17 quotes Isaiah 53:4 as being fulfilled in our Lord healing the people and casting out their devils. But we have a fuller picture that is often overlooked and it is found in Jeremiah 3:4a “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.” Here the Hebrew verb raf (rDpDa) is translated as ‘heal’. You will know this verb in the noun form as the LORD is known as Jehovah Rafa in Exodus 15:26 (the LORD that healeth thee). We find this same “heal your backsliding” theme in Hosea when God stated, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” (Hosea 14:4) The noun meéshuvatah (backsliding) can be translated as “waywardness”, “apostasy” or “faithlessness”. The KJV renders it “backsliding”. This is from the same root as shuvah (“return!”) that is used in Hosea14:1. This repetition of shuv creates a wordplay which emphasizes reciprocity: if Israel will return (shuvah) to the LORD, He will cure her of the tendency to turn away (meéshuvatah) from Him. This is a powerful truth.
Heal Their “Going Astray”
So if we can only be free from Sin, that is to say “healed of our backsliding” through the stripes of Christ and His subsequent death; how is that possible? Paul expounds on this in Romans 6: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:1-7) We that are baptized into Jesus Christ by the Spirit are dead to and freed from the power of sin. This is the great healing that we needed. Like a cancer that was eating away at every attempt to maintain a walk with God, Sin(s) was a disease of our very nature that needed to be healed. It is the ultimate healing.
Get into Christ and Stay in Christ
All that Christ accomplished on the cross is available to those that are in Him. He died to sin and we are to be dead to sin. God wants us healed of our backsliding, and to achieve that we have to be baptized into Christ. We get into Christ as Paul reminds us: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:13) and again… Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:1) This is a powerful truth. In order to receive the Spirit we have to leave off resisting Him. This is the message of Stephen in Acts 7. When the Holy Spirit truly comes in we are baptized into Jesus Christ and made free from “wandering”. Not as the songwriter said it…
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
… but rather, healed of our backsliding. As Peter said it, by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Amen.