James 5:15

Thursday, 12 September 2019

And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:15

This continues on from what James said in the previous verse. Taken together, these two verses read –

“Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

Understanding the context, James begins with the words, “And the prayer of faith.” According to Paul, whatever is not from faith is sin (see Romans 14:23). James is obviously speaking of believers, and that they have confidence in their prayers for healing and restoration. To waffle in such confidence would be sin, and the prayer would be wasted breath.

But even what “faith” means here must be understood properly. Is James saying, “You must have faith that the prayer is sufficient to heal”? In other words, is the faith referring to confidence in the fact that the person will be healed? No, this cannot be. That would make the prayer the effective means of healing. But prayer is to be to God, and it is God who heals. Therefore, the one who prays must have full confidence in God and in His ability to heal – whether He does so or not.

From there, James says that “the prayer of faith will save the sick.” The thought here is that when the prayer is made, it is made with confidence in God that He does hear, has heard, and will heal the one who is afflicted. James then says, “and the Lord will raise him up.” Note that it is the elders of the previous verse who have prayed, but it is the Lord who does the raising up. How vastly different than what is seen in Charismatic churches. Though they claim to heal in Jesus’ name, the focus is on the healer. The Lord is an afterthought.

James then adds in a second thought by saying, “And if he has committed sins.” The structure of the Greek indicates “‘be in a state of having committed sins,’ that is, be under the consequences of sins committed” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown). In other words, if the person was a drunkard, and that was the cause of his affliction, or if the person is sick because of illegal drugs then the idea is that forgiveness is seen in the healing.

Having noted these things, the words here say, “will save the sick,” and “will raise him up.” These adamant words (many translations say “shall”) are to be taken in the light of God’s sovereignty. One cannot know if God intends for the sickness to continue in order to bring Him glory through it. It would be presumptuous and inappropriate to claim healing over the person. That is an implicit demand that God must respond according to our will, not His.

God did heal through the apostles. Such is true with Paul who is seen to have been the means of healing, raising a dead person, etc. However, Paul also almost lost a person, Epaphrodites, through sickness. The context of his words implies that he had no ability to bring about healing. That account is seen in Philippians 2:25-30.

Again, Paul is said to have left Trophimus sick in Miletus. That is found in 2 Timothy 4:20. And Paul also did not heal Timothy of his frequent stomach problems. Instead, he told Timothy to drink wine instead of just water (1 Timothy 5:23). Further, Paul had his own affliction in his body (see 2 Corinthians 12 and Galatians 4) that he desired to be removed. He asked the Lord three times to remove it, but in the end, it remained. Instead, he noted that the Lord’s grace was sufficient.

These are given to show us that James’ words here are not to be taken in the absolute sense, but are to allow room for God to decide what the outcome will be.

Life application: From the references to sickness which were not healed, it is clear that not all illnesses are covered in James’ words. All things are in the Lord’s providence and if it is His will to heal, then healing will come about.

There is no such thing as a “faith healer,” but there is “faith healing.” God responds according to His sovereign plan and not according to the wiles of TV evangelists and unscrupulous charlatans. Likewise, it is imprudent at best to hold to the doctrines of denominations that forbid medicines, surgery, and the healing hand of trained physicians.

Be careful to take all things in context and, above all, to acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty in the healing process. Always let your prayers reflect that His will be done.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for not allowing Your hand of providence to rule our hearts when dealing with sickness, disease, and even death. Yes, you have instructed us to pray for healing and restoration, but too often we pray according to our desires without including Your will. Help us to always remember this in the future that You may be glorified. Amen.

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