Isaiah 53:5 explained in detail is the purpose of this post. This passage is very rich. It tells us about God’s plan for our salvation hundreds of years before it was executed. God’s intention towards us was never an afterthought. It was always His grand plan to interrupt history and change its course. In this post I will explain the true meaning of, “By His stripes we are healed”. It is among the most wrongly used Scripture portions in the Bible.
Let’s jump in by looking at a few versions of the verse.
By His stripes we are healed Scripture
I always recommend reading a passage from at least two versions before studying it. The good old KJV is where I first learned this verse.
By His stripes we are healed KJV
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
By His stripes we are healed NIV
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
By His stripes we are healed 1 Peter 2
It’s also good to see where else in Scripture the text appears or was quoted by someone else. This verse was used by the apostle Peter in the New Testament as he tried to explain salvation story.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Isaiah 53:5 meaning in context
The book of Isaiah is primarily a book of prophecy. It contains many prophecies about how God would judge the Jews for their disobedience to God.
They were guilty of idol worship, human sacrifices, exploitation of the poor, and abusing the widows and orphans instead of taking care of them.
So God, through Isaiah, declared judgment for them. This judgment would manifest in their land being plundered.
Their farms would be burned and their homes destroyed. The temple would be demolished. Men, women, and children would be abused and murdered.
And they would be marched off in chains to Babylon. The land would be left desolate and the glory of the Israelite nation would turn to gloom.
But God always gives better news with bitter news.
On the heels of the prophecy about their captivity, God also tells Isaiah to tell them they would not be in captivity forever. At some point, they would be released and restored.
God’s intention is to redeem his people. God’s ultimate plan of redemption is through the Messiah. Isaiah prophesies about the Messiah in multiple places in his book.
He gives details about what the Messiah would do and accomplish. Isaiah outlines the resume of the Redeemer. Isaiah 53:5 highlights just a tiny part of that job description.
Meaning of “he was pierced for our transgressions”
God knew that humans would be disobedient. So before sin actually came into the world, the trinity created a strategy that would save us from sin.
The entire plan involved one of them taking the punishment for our sin. What was the punishment? Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death”.
What is the meaning of transgressions in Isaiah 53:5
This portion of the verse uses the word transgressions to describe our sin. Transgressions specifically refers to being willfully rebellious. Deliberate, intentional disobedience. Presumptuous sin.
If you’re a parent then you know what it looks like when your child decides to do something even when they know it’s wrong.
As adults, we too do things we know goes against the principles of God.
Stop for a moment and think about your life. What’s the one (or few) things that you know doesn’t bring God any glory but you do it anyway.
You probably even reason to yourself that God will forgive you anyway because that’s His promise and He can’t help it anyway because that’s His character.
All those things deserve the consequence of eternal death.
But, Jesus was pierced for those sins we commit in stubbornness and rebellion.
What does wounded mean in Isaiah 53:5
The KJV doesn’t use the word pierced like the ESV. The KJV says “But he was wounded for our transgressions…”
Pierced is a better translation though.
When Scripture says Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, it’s not talking about the prick of a pin.
In this context it means to bore through someone with an object in an effort to fatally wound them. The word pierced describes a violent and extremely painful way to die.
You and I should have been so treated. We should have been run through with swords.
But Jesus took all that treatment for us.
Isaiah 53:5 meaning of “he was crushed for our iniquities”
What’s the difference between iniquity and transgression? Well, while transgression is about being willingful, iniquity has a different tone.
The Hebrew word used for iniquity in the passage means to bend or twist or distort or make crooked. Picture the act of twisting a rope to create a knot. In this verse, this word is used to describe our human nature.
When God made us, we had His nature. We could do nothing but good works. We were perfect. But, because of sin, we have become crooked.
Permanently stained. Prone to doing wrong as naturally as a plant strains it stalks to ensure its leaves turn to the sun.
When Adam sinned, he introduced the disease of sin into our genes. And now, we can hardly get out from under it.
Just like God can do nothing but love, we can do nothing but sin. Basically, sin is our identity. It is who we are. It is what we do. That’s why Paul says:
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me…But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:21, 23)
But Paul found the hope that Isaiah prophesied:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24- 25)
Indeed, Jesus’ sacrifice has given us a way and opportunity to run from our sinful selves. How? By taking on the punishment. Jesus took on our identity of being a sinner. He was innocent but he was bruised for us.
Isaiah 53:5 meaning of “bruised for our iniquities”
When Scripture says Jesus was bruised, it’s not talking about a skinned knee or finger caught in the door. The original Hebrew word means to crush or to beat to pieces.
To this day, I cannot swallow a pill whole. So I put it into a nifty little gadget to crush it until it is almost to powder. That’s the image the word bruised creates in the verse.
If you have ever watched the passion of the Christ, then you will know what they did to Jesus. Not only was his body torn up but his heart and spirit were broken too.
Why did this have to happen?
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22
What should have been our experience didn’t have to be anymore. Because Jesus did pay for our sins with his blood.
This takes me to the next part of the verse.
Isaiah 53:5 meaning of “the punishment that brought us peace was on him”
When humans were first created, we were at peace with God. Adam and Eve had the luxury of talking with God face to face.
That whole perfect relationship with God was destroyed. Now God had to stay away from us to protect us.
Sin caused us to become enemies of God. We rebel against Him and refuse to have Him lead us.
The truth is that we should have been punished for our own sin. But instead, Jesus took our punishment to bring back the peace between us and God. And this is why Isaiah calls Jesus the prince of peace.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
God wanted peace with us even though we didn’t care. So He paid the ultimate sacrifice to save His relationship with us.
By His stripes we are healed meaning
This portion of the verse is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in Scripture.
I took the time to break down the other pieces of the verse so that you could see the whole context of Isaiah’s prophetic words.
I am going to make a bold statement:
Many people grab this verse when they or someone else is sick. Physically sick I mean. Suffering from cancer or some other kind of disease.
This is not what the text is about.
So far, the entire verse has been about Jesus coming to save us from our sinful selves. Notice the words transgression and iniquity. It therefore seems logical that the healing Isaiah is talking about is healing from sin.
Jesus himself said:
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Let’s go deeper.
The meaning of healing in Isaiah 53:5
Earlier I said that we have a disease called sin. Passed down to us from Adam through the generations.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Romans 5:12
Remember, the idea here is that we should pay for our sins. We did the crime so we should do the time. That’s justice.
But in God’s great mercy, Jesus took our place. Jesus submitted himself to our punishment so we could go free.
Jesus took the painful surgery, treatment and the bitter medicine and somehow, we reap the benefits.
The word used for stripes in the verse paints a picture of the black and blue welts that rise on the skin as a result of being whipped severely.
Again, if you watched the movie The Passion of the Christ, you’ll get a basic idea of the kind of treatment Jesus received.
Because Jesus stood in our place, we get to be healed from sin (our diseases) without it costing us much.
The word used for healing in the verse means to cure or to make healthy. But it goes further. The word means to be made so well that a thing or person is restored to its original state of wholeness.
If Isaiah 53:5 was talking about getting better from physical sickness, every person would have been made well because Jesus’s sacrifice applies to every single person on the planet.
Regardless of what belief they hold, Jesus died to save ALL. Buddhist or Hindu. Catholic or Protestant.
God isn’t so interested in our physical healing as much as He wants our soul to be healed and saved. That’s the crux of the matter.
Isaiah 53:5 explained: Encouraging Takeaways and lessons
What can we take away from Isaiah 53:5 to live a glorious life today?
You couldn’t save yourself if you tried
Listen, if we were to pay for our own sins, God knows we wouldn’t make it.
I’m 5 feet 6 inches and cycle between 135 – 140 pounds. I could never take a beating. And I most definitely don’t weigh enough to carry a Roman cross.
Not to mention the humiliation of being naked in the open for the whole world to see.
(Yes, Jesus was naked unlike the paintings we see. A story for another time).
Point is, I wouldn’t make it to being crucified. I would die pretty early in the process. And I would deserve it.
The problem is that even then, my life would be worth nothing because I’m not nearly holy and perfect enough to be a decent sacrifice for myself.
But Jesus is.
Do you know what that means? I can let go off my perfectionist tendencies. While I don’t make excuses for iniquities and transgressions, I also know that Jesus did for me what I can never do for myself.
Jesus paid for you to be free
Jesus did this thing for us. We did not deserve it but He loves us so much that He couldn’t not do everything to save our lives.
And here is the thing: Whether you believe that Jesus died for you or not, you have been healed from sin.
Healing is available. Even to those who don’t believe, healing is available.
We don’t need to do anything to make up for what Jesus did for us. We just need to say yes to Him.
Say yes to the fact that we are sinners. Yes to the fact that we should have suffered. Yes to accepting his sacrifice on our behalf.
In saying yes, we are giving ourselves permission to live a life free from guilt.
…about your past life of too much sex with too many people,
…about a past life of drugs and addiction,
…of drinking till you made a mess of things,
…of having an abortion,
…of being abusive,
…of being dishonest,
…of the burden of hurting deeply because of sexual molestation.
You fill in the blanks with the sin or the wound from your past that haunts you the most…..
Jesus took your place so you could be healed. So you could have peace.
You know you have been healed when you aren’t saddled with guilt from past sins.
You know you have been healed when you know you are saved and feel secure in your salvation regardless of your imperfections.
No matter your suffering, by His stripes, you have been made whole and complete because of Christ.
God doesn’t have contingency plans
Remember this verse is a prophetic one. It was spoken to Israel so they would know what God had in store for them.
It means God had been planning to hijack the enemies plans for hundreds of years. Saving Israel of old was always on His mind.
And you have always been on His mind too. You are loved so dearly by God.
Nothing catches God by surprise. He doesn’t need contingency plans. Saving you, healing you was never an afterthought. It was always always always his plan.
And that’s a truth to repeat over and over and over to get rid of negative self-talk on the days you struggle to feel worthy of God’s love.
The whole Bible is a love story. It’s the story of how much God loves us. Isaiah 53:5 reminds us of how much God planned to suffer for us and our freedom because of that love.
We don’t have to live in bondage to sin, not even sins that come from generations of mistakes. Each day you wake up, the enemy’s goal is to ensure that you either never know this truth or that you forget it.
But hold on to it, even in the darkest of times. Even when you face the consequences of mistakes, keep your eye on the bigger picture.