Category Archives: James

James – Day 44

Introduction

In today’s passage James talks about how to respond to sickness.

Jam. 5:14-16 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (15) And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Sick

James’ next instruction is for those who are sick. The Greek word here refers to physical illness, weakness, or infirmity. God doesn’t tell sick people to pray for themselves, though there is nothing wrong with that. Instead, He tells them to call for the church elders and have them pray. I think the fact that the sick person has to call for the elders says something about how sick the sick person is. That is, they’re too sick to go to the assembly and be prayed for there. It’s also interesting that the sick person is responsible to call for the elders. It is an act of faith and obedience on their part.

Elders

“The elders of the church” in this passage are recognized church leaders – most likely pastors. Though the word “elders” can also refer to people of advanced age, but the addition of “of the church” makes it clear that this is a position, not just older folks in general.

The elders are commanded to “pray over” the sick person. They are also supposed to anoint the sick person with oil. I’ve read one commentator who thinks this refers to the medicinal application of oil to help in the healing process. This seems unlikely to me. Oil was used medicinally, but it certainly wasn’t a cure all. The disciples anointed people for healing during the earthly ministry of Christ:

Mar. 6:12-13 And they went out, and preached that men should repent. (13) And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

It’s clear that the healing of the sick was not accomplished in this case by ordinary application of common medicinal methods. It is mentioned here is something powerful and extraordinary – which wouldn’t really be the case if the disciples were just going around dispensing medicine. The fact that it is “the pray of faith,” not the anointing with oil that will “save the sick” speaks against the oil as medicine theory. I believe that the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (1Jo. 2:20, 27), who actually does the healing.

It is obvious that not everyone we pray for gets better. If we could pray away every sickness and infirmity, no one would go to heaven. But this method is a powerful means of bringing God’s healing power to sickly saints.

Sins … Faults

James makes the connection between sickness and sin. We don’t like to talk about it, but we need to. The Bible makes it clear in several places that sickness can be the result of sin:

Joh. 5:14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

1Co. 11:27-32 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (30) For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

That last passage makes it clear that God can use sickness to correct His sinning saints. It seems clear that the elders are to address this possibility with the sick person when they are called on to pray. The right response, if sin is a contributing factor to the sickness, is to confess it and pray so you can be healed.

This section closes with an encouragement about the power of prayer. The phrase “effectual fervent” is the translation of the Greek “energeo,” or energy. The righteous person who puts his energy into pray can accomplish great things by God’s power.

How Are You Doing?

  • Are you sick?
  • Have you considered the possibility that your sickness stems from unconfessed sin?
  • Have you called for the elders of the church to pray over you If you did, would they come?

Homework

Read James 5:17-18 and 1 Kings 17 to get the background on Elijah’s prayer life.

James – Day 45

Introduction

In today’s passage, James encourages his readers with the power of prayer – a power that is available to them.

Jam. 5:17-18 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (18) And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Elias

Elias is the Greek form of the name Elijah. In yesterday’s passage, James encouraged the sick to call for the church elders so that they could pray for him. Today he reminds his readers of the tremendous power that God makes available through prayer. He offers the example of Elijah as evidence. The story James mentioned is recorded in 1 Kings 17.

1Ki. 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

God held back the rain for three and a half years in answer to that prayer. He did that as a form of judgment on His people for their sins. At the end of the time, Elijah prayed again and it rained:

1Ki. 18:42-45 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, (43) And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. (44) And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. (45) And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.

This second prayer is even more instructive than his first prayer. Elijah prayed and kept on praying until he knew the answer was on its way. He didn’t need raindrops falling on his head to know God was sending the answer – just a little something.

Frankly, I think this probably has a lot to do with Elijah’s success in prayer. We’re tempted to think that Elijah got his prayers answered because he was, well, he was Elijah. That kind of thinking lets us off the hook. We can pray and not get answers because we’re not biblical heroes. That’s just the opposite of how God wants us to think about it.

Like Passions

James could have pointed to many powerful prayers offered by other Old Testament saints, but he picked Elijah. While Elijah was a great man, he also had his struggles. Most notable among them was:

1Ki. 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

James picked this man as an example of getting your prayers answered to encourage us. Elijah was a person like us – someone we can relate to. What we’re supposed to come away with from this is that God will answer our prayers, too. As Jesus said:

Mat. 7:7-11 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (9) Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? (10) Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (11) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

How Are You Doing?

  • Does God answer your prayers?
  • Do you think of getting your prayers answered as something reserved for special people?
  • If you’re not getting your prayers answered, have you accepted that as normal?

Homework

Finish the book of James by reading 5:19-20.

James – Day 46

Introduction

In the final section of his letter, James encourages his readers to help each other do right.

Jam. 5:19-20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; (20) Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Err … Convert

Err is one translation of a Greek word that is also translated “go astray,” “wander,” or “be out of the way.” As much as we don’t like to see it happen, God’s people sometimes stray from the truth like lost sheep. How do you react when you see a brother wandering off?

In some churches, like the church at Corinth, people felt better about themselves when they saw others fall. Paul describes their reaction in this passage:

1Co. 5:1-2 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. (2) And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

That’s not how God wants us to react. We should mourn when a brother or sister strays. Not only that, but we should pray for them:

1Jo. 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

God also expects us to pursue wandering saints in an effort to restore them to fellowship with Him:

Gal. 6:1-2 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

The Marine Corp taught us to set up intersecting lines of fire on the battlefield. Each Marine was responsible to defend the area in front of him, and for the Marines on his left and right. This tactic was rooted in the knowledge that losing one Marine weakened all of us and made it more likely that we would be defeated. The same is true in our spiritual warfare. We have to watch out for each other. When one member of the Body of Christ falls, all suffer for it.

We are to seek the conversion of the sinning brother. It sounds strange to talk about converting someone who is saved, but the idea is to “turn around.” Christ was talking about the same thing when He said to Peter:

Luk. 22:31-34 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (32) But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (33) And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (34) And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

Jesus knew Peter was going to go astray and deny Him, but He also knew Peter would turn back, or be converted, to Him again. (God’s sheep don’t stop being His sheep when they wander off. If they did, He wouldn’t seek them.)

Save a Soul … Hide Sins

It’s natural to avoid getting involved in other people’s problems, but intervention can make a huge difference. James reminds his readers that turning a sinner back from error can save a soul from death. That’s because rebellion against God can lead to death. There are several cases of this in Scripture: Aaron’s sons (Lev. 10:1-3), Korah (Num. 16:35), the men of Bethshemesh (1Sa. 6:19), Ananias and Sapphira (Act. 5:5, 10) and some members of the Corinthian church (1Co. 11:30). So it’s literally true that helping a Christian get back on track can save their life.

Restoring a sinning brother also covers a multitude of sins. When a person sincerely repents, they have this promise from God:

1Jo. 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Besides covering past sins, I think the author has in mind the prevention of future sins. Think of all the sins that won’t happen because someone cared enough to reach out.

How Are You Doing?

  • How do you react when you see other believers sin? Does it make you feel better about yourself, or do you mourn?
  • Do you seek to restore those who go astray, or do you assume someone else will do it?

Conclusion

This practical book begins much like it ended. James doesn’t close with the “say hi to everyone” ending that is so common in Paul’s letters. He ends with plain, practical advice and quits when he’s finished.

Next week, Pastor Joe Roof of Calvary Baptist Church in Albany, NY will be presenting a one-week series from Proverbs 30. Be sure to check in for a blessing each day.