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 third post of this series we 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 the last post we focused attention on the spiritual benefits that are offered by God in the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord in James 5:15b. Today’s post moves the study into James 5:16, with particular interest in
How God’s power and provision to heal ought to be more emphasized in the church’s teaching and pastoral ministry. James 5:16
Commentary: James 5:16 “ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων, ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη.”
James 5:16 “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.” (NASB)
The instructions James writes forth here in verse 16 are very public and very candid in how they portray a church family. It amazes this writer how freely James dispenses these instructions on administering anointing with oil as a necessary practice for the church, and how few churches practice it today. Could it be that developing greater love for one another and trusting relationships of care and concern are more important to God’s plan for His church than chasing after success and size? The present imperative verb ἐξομολογεῖσθε reinforces in its meaning the idea of full disclosure of one’s personal status to another.
Pastors, Elders and Deacons all need to work closely together in shepherding the local church membership with love and care. In Romans 10:9 we see a similar verb without the prefix ἐξ, namely ὁμολογήσῃς, which is translated simply as “confess”. In that familar text of Romans 10:9 we read in the NASB – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Here in James 5:16, the verb ὁμολογεω has prefixed to it the preposition εκ (which in certain verbs appears as “ἐξ”). When a preposition is attached to a verb, the meaning is reinforced and thus if a person is hiding any sin, they need to “unhide it” and tell those church members whom they trust or know (good elders and pastors develop such rapport with their people). The reflexive pronoun ἀλλήλοις (to one another) indicates that perhaps in the context of this confession, those receiving the confession may need to do the same. It is then that James follows with the command for the membership in this circumstance to “pray on behalf of one another” (καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων).
Now the question is: for what purpose are these commands being set forth by James in verse 16? The phrase ὅπως ἰαθῆτε (“so that you may be restored to health”) speaks of purpose or as the Bauer Ardnt and Gingrich Greek Lexicon, page 577 notes in another context of prayer in Philemon 6: “where ὅπως could be thought of as depending on (prayer).” So the purpose of the commands in James 5:16 and the place of prayer throughout the text is clearly stated. Church members are called to a higher degree of Christ-like compassion and love. Many churches today don’t practice anointing with oil due to unfamiliarity or fear of introducing something wierd into the church’s life. May it be suggested that whenever the pastoral leadership and church membership have grown close together in a mutual, trusting relationship, acts of compassion such as anointing with oil won’t be viewed as wierd, but rather as requested acts of pastoral ministry.
Closing thoughts: This then leads to another question: what ought we to do after the act of anointing with oil has taken place? Does the one who received the anointing and those who performed it continue to pray? If so, why? The first question can be answered with a simple answer: pray! The second question can also be answered with a short answer: “yes, both the receiver of the anointing and those performing it need to keep on praying”. By seeing how much anointing with oil is to be a vital part of the church’s overall life, God’s provision and power to heal ought to become more central to the church’s teaching and practical, pastoral ministry.
More next time….