James 5:13-16 (NASB) “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins,they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Introduction: As a pastor I often experience the direct impact illness and suffering has in the lives of church members, my own family and in my own life. The subject of God’s healing power and will to heal has been an issue that I have found to be both encouraging and mysterious. Oftentimes when reading anything on the subject, one will encounter one of two extremes: either God wills all Christians to be healed or He is in a general sense no longer performing miraculous acts of healing in the church. To offset these two extreme positions, this blogger has found James 5:13-16 to be very helpful in shedding light on this very personal, emotionally charged and what can be spiritually liberating subject.
Main point and plan of this study in James 5:13-16: In order to encourage the study and application this text, a fresh exegesis on James 5:13-16 will be offered, along with life applicational headings and commentary. Along the way we will to do the necessary spade work of digging into the Greek text of James 5:13-16. To insure the maximum benefit to the most readers, ample English commentary will be given. Any comments made will aim at shedding as much light as possible on the text and lead out its meaning – which is the goal of exegesis. Pertinent cross references, word studies and background remarks will also be presented to aid insight and study.
We have considered thus far the need for prayer when seeking God for healing, as well as demonstrating God’s concern for those who are physically ill in the church. In the last post we looked more closely at the act of anointing with oil and the manner in which God promises healing in James 5:14-15a. In today’s post we want to consider the spiritual benefits that are offered by God in the act of anointing with oil iin the name of the Lord in James 5:15b.
Particular spiritual provisions available in the act of anointing with oil. James 5:15
Commentary: James 5:15b κἂν ἁμαρτίας ᾖ πεποιηκώς, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ. = “and if he has committed sin, it will be forgiven him.” We have here a second provision that is explicitly spiritual – namely the forgiveness of sins. At issue of course is the level of certainty to be found in the forgiveness of sin upon one’s confession of them at the time of anointing. From the periphrastic construction: ᾖ πεποιηκώς, we have the equivalent of a perfect active, indicating that current state of the person that resulted from past actions, and the fact that forgiveness is available to relieve the person of their burden.
The next clause: ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ = “will be forgiven of him” speaks of a specific certainty of forgiveness. At least in this blogger’s mind, the parallel syntax and grammar of both halves of this verse should not result in saying one provision is probable and the second provision is definite. The reader is invited to review the comments made previously to see that there does indeed seem to be a definite promise of healing, just as much as there is a definite promise of forgiveness of sin upon one’s confession of them.
Physical healing and forgiveness of sins appear to operate on similar principles, save one: guaranteed immediacy. We know from other scriptures that whenever we confess our sins to the Lord, forgiveness is immediate (Psalm 51:2; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 3:24-26; 1 John 1:9 ) yet healing can vary from immediate healing (Mark 7:31-37) to progressive healing or the complete healing taking place with a time span in between (Mark 8:22-26).
The great Lutheran commentator R.C.H Lenski writesin his commentary: “Interpretation of the Epistle of Hebrews and the Epistle of James”, page 664 on this verse: “The application of oil soothes the body to a certain degree; the prayer comforts and strengthens the mind and the soul by placing the patient into the Lord’s hand with faith and confidence in his gracious will. It is the Lord who raises up the patient to renewed strength and health. The prayer directed to him moves him even as he himself has promised. The elders do not bid the patients to rise up and walk. The Lord will raise them up in recovery. The fact that the natural means are not to be discarded as some fanatics demand the mention of oil sufficiently indicates, to say nothing about the further teaching of scripture.”
More next time…