“Love yourself.” This modern psychological mantra, we are told, is the cure that heals all ailments. Have a negative self-image? Just love yourself. Are you being treated poorly? Don’t let them define who you are – just love yourself. Is society, or certain aspects of it, abusing you and keeping you down? Just remember that you are special – love yourself. Remember that you are a lion and let others hear your roar. Do you feel like you just don’t fit in or there is something about you that’s not quite normal? Just remember you were born this way – love yourself.
This self-help, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, power of positive thinking, believe in yourself message has pervaded western culture. Without throwing the baby entirely out with the bathwater, there is some good in the message: we are all carrying around wounds and scars of some sort. Some of those wounds run deeper than others. Some of us have very real and dangerous struggles with feeling worthless, lost, and helpless. Some of us are truly oppressed in severe and powerful ways. None of this should be minimized, and in fact, it should be recognized for what it is: a product of the fall. How then can we find healing from these wounds? Where is the hope?
By recognizing the problem as a product of the fall first and foremost, the Biblically-minded Christian should instantly recognize the solution, the one and only solution. Peter makes the definitive statement in 1 Peter 2: 24: “By his wounds you have been healed.” From the silence of sorrow and pain comes the thunderclap of this Gospel truth. Healing comes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In context, Peter is speaking to believers who are abused both by the government and by slave-owners for righteousness sake. These believers have suffered for doing good (1 Pet 2:20). The wounds run deep, but Peter puts before them the only medicine than can bring healing: the Gospel itself. First, in verses 21-23, he gives the example of Christ, who suffered unjustly, was wounded and beaten yet never opened his mouth. Second, he gives the transaction: Christ bore our sins on the tree (v 24). The heart of the Gospel is the substitutionary atonement of Christ, who took our sin upon Himself, receiving in His own body the wrath of God poured out, while we are declared righteous, having been given the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to us.
For the suffering and wounded believer, this is all well and good in securing my final destiny, but how does this bring relief from the pain in the moment? Well the third point Peter makes is just that: He shows the relationship to Christ that comes in the Gospel as well. You see atonement isn’t merely a transaction (though it certainly is that), it is a union to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately the believer in Christ can be justified before God because we have been united to the Savior Himself, us receiving all the benefits that belong to Him. In this short little statement, Peter lays out the glorious truth that the death and resurrection of Christ brings actual healing to us. Notice that Peter states it in the past tense: our union to Christ has already affected within us what is necessary for the healing which he speaks of. The physical wounding of Christ (He bore our sins in His body on the tree – v24) and the physical resurrection, through our being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, brings actual healing to the believer. When we see ourselves, if we have been united to Him by faith, we must see Christ. We must understand that there is no ultimate power in positive thinking; the only true power for healing comes in being united to the incarnate Christ.
This is the life-changing truth of the Gospel. We are healed in the Son. We are given life abundant in the Son. We are given true power to endure suffering in the Son. And it is the Spirit of the Son who accomplishes all of this, the Spirit who dwells within us. Sinclair Ferguson writes this:
Vivification of our spirit is involved in regeneration, but this is not restricted to the ‘inner man.’ It ultimately has in view the vivification of the whole person in the resurrection, when the Lord Jesus will transform the Christian’s body of lowliness from its state of humiliation to be like his body of glory. The Spirit does not unite us to Spirit so that in the end we may become disembodied spirit. Rather, he unites us to the Son of God incarnate in our flesh. The hallmark of the Spirit’s work, therefore, is ongoing conformity to Christ crucified and raised, causing us to share his death in order to share his resurrection, to taste his suffering in order that we might also taste his glory. The Spirit implants the seed of this at the beginning of the Christian life and nourishes it to the end.
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as an elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.
 Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers, p.146
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