Medicine and healthcare have become controversial topics among some Christians today. With new technologies, ethical dilemmas, and healthcare laws that some view as infringing on religious liberty, many believers find themselves questioning what the Bible says about medicine and how that should inform their views. This thorough examination of scripture aims to provide insight into how Christians can think biblically about medicine, illness, and caring for our bodies.
As Christians, we know that God is the ultimate healer and great physician. Scripture tells us that Jesus went about healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 4:23). The Bible is filled with examples of miraculous healings, divine interventions, and Jesus’s compassion on the sick. However, the Bible also shows how illness is part of the fallen human condition in this world, and believers are not immune to it. Scripture gives wisdom on how to think about medicine and caring for our health in a balanced way that relies on God’s sovereignty and grace.
When examining this topic, it’s important we interpret Bible passages thoughtfully and not make assumptions about their meaning for modern medicine and healthcare. We must look at the context and intent behind verses — discerning timeless biblical principles from temporary ceremonial or civic laws. As believers, we are called to renew our minds according to God’s word (Romans 12:2) so it shapes our thoughts, speech and conduct on this issue in a faithful manner.
As you read this examination of biblical perspectives on medicine and health, prayerfully consider how it may inform your own views. The following key takeaways provide an overview of what’s discussed:
- Illness entered the world through original sin, but God can still heal and perform miracles.
- Jesus Christ’s ministry demonstrates God’s compassion for the sick and suffering.
- Believers should care for the body with wisdom, viewing it as God’s temple.
- Prayer and anointing oil are prescribed for healing in Scripture.
- Medicine and doctors are not condemned in scripture.
- Christians face complex healthcare ethics involving life and death.
- Faith in God and modern medicine should not be mutually exclusive.
With wisdom and discernment, Christians can develop biblically-informed perspectives on medicine and health. Let’s examine what light the Bible shines on this important topic.
The Origin of Sickness and Disease
To understand the Bible’s perspective on medicine, we must first recognize how sickness and disease entered the world. Scripture teaches that prior to the Fall, when Adam and Eve sinned and invited evil into the world, creation was perfect. There was no need for medicine, hospitals or doctors because nothing was marred by sickness, pain or death.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, the ground became cursed and creation was tainted by sin (Genesis 3:17-19). The apostle Paul further explains that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sickness, disease and physical death were thus introduced into the human experience as consequences of humankind’s rebellion against our Creator.
Yet while sin allowed sickness into the world, the Bible gives Christians hope that one day God will fully redeem creation and restore us to a sinless state of perfection:
And the inhabitant will not say, “I am sick”; The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity. (Isaiah 33:24)
For now, believers still live in a fallen world tainted by sin and its effects. But we look forward in hope and faith to the day when Christ returns to renew all of creation.
Jesus as Healer and Physician
While the Fall brought pain, illness and suffering into creation, the Gospels show that Jesus entered this suffering world to redeem our bodies along with our souls. A significant part of Jesus’ ministry on earth consisted of healing diverse forms of sickness and disease to demonstrate God’s power, mercy and desire to deliver people from the effects of sin.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus healed the blind, deaf and mute; those with leprosy, epilepsy and paralysis; people plagued by bleeding and fever – all with just a word or touch. The Gospel writers describe him healing “every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35), and the “whole multitude sought to touch him” for healing (Luke 6:19). Peter later summarizes that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).
The miracles of healing in Jesus’ ministry displayed that God cares deeply for human suffering and illness that came through the Fall. Jesus entered into human pain to redeem our bodies along with our souls. His concern for the sick declares God’s compassion and His intention to ultimately bring restoration. Christ took up infirmities and carried our diseases on the cross so that by His strips we might be healed (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4-5).
As believers, we confess along with the Apostles that there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved and healed but Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). While medicine may be used appropriately (as discussed later), our ultimate deliverance from the effects of sin comes through faith in Christ’s finished work. We look to Christ as the Great Physician who alone has power to heal completely.
Caring for Our Bodies as Temples
Along with honoring Christ as healer, scripture also teaches important principles about how believers should view and care for their physical bodies. We learn our bodies are not truly our own but belong to God. As Paul wrote:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Knowing our bodies belong to God and house His Spirit should motivate us to care for them well and use them honorably. The Bible cautions against abusing the body through sexual immorality and overindulgence (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Instead believers are instructed to maintain healthy self-discipline:
“honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
“your body is a temple” (1 Cor. 6:19)
“do not be drunk on wine but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18)
As God’s image-bearers, we have a responsibility to steward the bodies He’s given us. 1 Corinthians 6:12 notes that while things may be permissible, they aren’t always beneficial to our health. As God’s representatives on earth, we are called to honor Him with how we use and care for the “temple” of our bodies He created.
Anointing Oil and Prayer for Healing
Along with honoring Christ as healer and stewarding our bodies well, scripture also prescribes certain means for seeking healing from sickness. In the New Testament, believers are instructed to pray over the sick and anoint them with oil.
James 5:14-15 says:
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.
This passage encourages sick believers to seek healing through the prayers of church elders, along with anointing oil. The oil likely represented the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence for healing. Scripture records that the disciples healed through anointing with oil (Mark 6:13) and Paul calls it “the oil of healing” in James 5:14.
Along with anointing oil, James prescribes prayer offered in faith as the means for seeking healing. Throughout the gospels, Jesus healed through prayer and laying on of hands. Scripture consistently presents prayer as a vital way believers minister God’s healing power and invite His intervention. The anointing oil represents the Holy Spirit at work through our prayers.
Through these means of prayer and anointing, believers can seek the Great Physician for healing while also receiving comfort whether physical restoration comes or not. God works providentially through our prayers, and prayer enables us to entrust our bodies to His wise care.
Perspectives on Doctors and Medicine
With this background, we now turn to examining directly what the Bible teaches regarding medicine and doctors. Scripture itself nowhere explicitly prohibits the use of medicine or medical providers. In fact, the Bible records times when physicians attended to believers:
And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians. (2 Chronicles 16:12 KJV)
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. (Mark 5:25-27 KJV)
These passages mention physicians matter-of-factly, without condemnation. The Old Testament also records times when medicine or healing practices were used, as in Isaiah 1:6 and Jeremiah 8:22. There is no scriptural basis for dismissing all medicine as ungodly or prohibited.
However, some Christians argue for relying on prayer and divine healing alone based on a particular interpretation of Exodus 15:26:
He said, “If you will listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.” (NIV)
From this verse, they contend relying on medicine demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s promises of healing and provision. But upon closer examination in context, this passage refers specifically to God sparing the Israelites from the plagues inflicted upon Egypt, rather than being a blanket promise that obeying God will always prevent illness. Moreover, attributing all lack of healing to personal sin or insufficient faith is unwise and not supported in scripture. Only God knows all the purposes of suffering He permits.
Rather than prohibiting medicine, the scriptural precedent reveals God can work providentially through medical means or miraculously apart from them. At times Jesus chose to heal directly. At other times He seemed to work cooperatively with medicine, as when He healed a blind man by spitting on his eyes (Mark 8:22-25), possibly applying the sediment as medicinal salve.
The biblical pattern demonstrates God heals however He chooses – whether utilizing medical means or transcending them. Christians should avoid dogmatic extremes that either rule out medicine completely or rely on medicine while excluding prayer for divine intervention. Scripture presents both prayer and medicine as options that can work hand-in-hand.
Ethics of Life, Death and Medicine
Modern medicine raises complex ethical dilemmas for believers as technology advances. Issues like abortion, assisted suicide, genetic engineering, and surrogacy deeply involve a person’s most intimate Being. For faithful Christians, medical practices cannot be separated from biblical truth. Science does not define morality; God does.
As the debates multiply over matters of life, death and healthcare, Christians must filter these issues through scriptural lenses. We should advocate for medicine and science to promote human flourishing in ways consistent with God’s design. Biotechnology offers much promise for good but also grave potential for evil if not guided by biblical wisdom.
Healthcare challenges increasingly force moral questions about preserving life versus accepting death. Many life-sustaining therapies available today were nonexistent just decades ago. While we value life as precious, believers must humbly acknowledge our lives are in God’s hands. There is a time to accept death, just as there is a time to embrace healing (Ecclesiastes 3:2). As technology advances, the complexities surrounding end-of-life issues especially require scriptural insight and Spirit-led sensitivity.
Abortion, too, involves life-and-death questions invoking passionate opinions across our society. But regardless of public sentiment, for Christians, terminating life in the womb violates scriptural commands against murder. Christians must advocate for pre-born lives, which are fully human persons knit together by God in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Where abortion is accepted as healthcare, God’s people cannot remain silent.
These examples illustrate why Christians cannot blindly affirm any practice condoned in medicine today. Healing cannot be divorced from biblical ethics. Christians should desire the alleviation of suffering while insisting human life be protected and treated with dignity, from womb to tomb. Medical practices must align with God’s design for flourishing.
Conclusion: A Balanced Perspective
To assemble scripture’s perspectives into one cohesive view, believers should approach medicine with nuanced balance. We recognize illness entered the world through original sin, yet God remains powerful to heal through both supernatural and ordinary means. We reject views that either condemn medicine outright or exalt medicine while dismissing the need for prayer. Science has its place, but not as a substitute for trust in God.
Prayer, anointing oil and laying on of hands remain important Christian practices for invoking divine power. But medicine can also be embraced gratefully where God grants healing through medical science and treatment. We need not insist on a miraculous healing while refusing any medical care. Nor should we resort to medicine without petitioning the Great Physician in prayer.
As we strive for balance, our lives remain in God’s hands. His purposes for suffering are often beyond human understanding. Thus we walk by faith, trusting God’s wisdom and sovereignty over life and health. In all circumstances, we find hope in Christ who will one day fully redeem our bodies from every effect of sin and death. Then we will see clearly how He used all suffering to accomplish great good.
The Bible paints a picture that integrates prayer, medicine and faith seamlessly. As believers we can embrace medicine without worshiping it or dismissing the healing power of God through prayer. When guided by biblical principles, we gain insight for approaching healthcare as an arena where science and faith coincide in the gracious providence of Christ – the ultimate Divine Physician.