JAMES CHAPTER 5
(v. 13) "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
[Zane C. Hodges states, ("The Epistle of James", Grace Evangelical Society, Irving, Texas, 1994, p. 115)]:
"Calmness and appropriate behavior, even under stress, are what James is really seeking here. A rash oath is a poor response to any situation. But suppose someone was really suffering? In that case prayer was in order and what if someone was cheerful? In that case praise was in order. The word rendered let him sing psalms (psalleto) probably has the more general sense, 'let him sing praise,' although it is likely enough that inthe early church such songs were often built on the psalms of OT Scripture."
(v. 14) Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
(v. 15) And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven."
[Hodges, op. cit., p. 115]:
"In a more specific sense, what if the suffering person (mentioned in v 13) was experiencing sickness? Prayer was certainly in order (v 13), but in this case a special kind of prayer was accessible to the sick person. The sick person could call for the elders of the church.
[J. Ronald Blue states, (Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, Walvoord & Zuck Editors, Victor Books, USA, 1988, pp. 834-835)]:
"A great deal of misunderstanding has resulted from these verses. Some seem to teach from this passage that full physical health is always just a prayer away. Others have found in this passage justification for 'extreme unction'... Still others have tried to relate the process outlined by James to the modern practice of invoking God ('pray over him') and using medicine ('anoint him with oil') - prayer plus a physician. The heart of the problem lies in just what James meant when he referred to the 'sick.' Actually there is no reason to consider 'sick' as referring exclusively to physical illness. The word asthenei literally means 'to be weak.' Though it is used in the Gospels for physical maladies, it is generally used in Acts and the Epistles to refer to a weak faith or a weak conscience (cf. Acts 20:35; Rom. 6:19; 14:1; 1 Cor 8:9-12). That it should be considered 'weak' in this verse is clear in that another Greek word (kamnonta) in James 5:15, translated 'sick person', literally means 'to be weary.' The only other use in the New Testament (Heb. 12:3) of that word clearly emphasizes this same meaning.
James was not referring to the bedfast, the diseased, or the ill. Instead he wrote to those who had grown weary, who had become weak both morally and spiritually in the midst of suffering. These are the ones who 'should call' for the help of 'the elders of the church.' The early church leaders were instructed (1 Thes 5:14) to 'encourage the timid' and 'help the weak' (asthenon).
James said that the elders should 'pray over him and anoint him with oil' It is significant that the word 'anoint' is aleipsantes ('rub with oil') not chrio ('ceremonially anoint'). The former is the 'mundane' word and the latter is 'the sacred and religious word' (Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, ninth ed. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950, pp. 136-7). 'Therefore James is not suggesting a ceremonial or ritual anointing as a means of divine healing; instead, he is referring to the common practice of using oil as a means of bestowing honor, refereshment, and grooming' (Daniel R. Hayden, 'Calling the Elders to Pray,' Bibliotheca Sacra 138. July-September 1981:264). The woman 'poured' (aleipho) perfume on Jesus' feet (Luke 7:38). A host 'put oil' (aleipho) on the head of his guest (Luke 7:46). A person who is fasting should not be sad and ungroomed, but should 'put oil' (aleipho) on his head, and wash his face (Matt. 6:17). Thus James' point is that the 'weak'
(asthenei) and 'weary' (kamnonta) would be refreshed, encouraged, and uplifted by the elders who rubbed oil on the despondents' heads and prayed for them.
For the fallen, discouraged, distresed weary believer, restoration is assured and the elders' 'prayer offered in faith will make the sick person [lit., 'weary one'] well' (i.e., will restore him from discouragement and spiritual defeat), and 'the Lord will raise him up.'
That the restoration is spiritual, not physical, is further clarified by the assurance, 'if he has sinned, he will be forgiven.' Many physically ill Christians have called on elders to pray for them and to anoint them with oil, but a sizable percentage of them have remained sick. This fact suggests that the passage may have been mistakenly understood as physical restoration rather than spiritual restoration."
(v. 16) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
[Notice that the context of confessing one's sins here is limited to those who are suffering spiritually and have called for the elders in particular to assist in spiritual restoration - so that the particular sins if any which have caused the suffering are confessed to one another for the purpose of restoration and relief of the suffering at hand. This then cannot be stretched to mean that one must always confess one's sins to one another to receive forgiveness or restoration of fellowship, especially before an entire congregation - opening up the possibility of causing fellow brothers to sin due to the divulging of the details of one's personal sins.
On the other hand confession directly to God and God alone, (1 Jn 1:9), takes care of the forgiveness of the sins and fellowship problem of the believer]
J. Ronald Blue, op. cit., pp. 835)]:
"The conclusion is clear: 'therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.' A mutual concern for one another is the way to combat discouragement and downfall. The cure is in personal confession and prayerful concern. The healing ('that you may be healed') is not bodily healing but healing of the soul (iathete)...
[Cp Mt 13:15]:
"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' "
[Cp Heb 12:10-13]:
(v. 10) "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
(v. 11) No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
[Notice: spiritual discipline not a physical ailment persay]
(v. 12) Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
(v. 13) 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."
[Cp 1 Peter 2:24]:
"He [Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been [spiritually] healed."
...It is the 'powerful and effective...prayer of a righteous' person that brings the needed cure from God. This of course relates to the closing two verses of James' letter. If James 5:14-16 refer to physical healing, then those verses seem disjointed with the verses before and after them."
(v. 17) Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
(v. 18) Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
[J. Ronald Blue, op. cit., p. 835]:
"James again gave an example well known to his Jewish audience. First, it was the prophets (v. 10), then Jobe (v. 11)...
[cp Jas 5:10-11]:
"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
[Notice that suffering is in view and the believers response to it throughout this section of chapter 5]
(v. 11) As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."
and now 'Elijah'. James identified Elijah as a fellow sufferer. 'A man just like us' could be translated 'a man of like feeling' or 'of similar suffering'
(homoiopahtes; cf. kakopathei in vv. 10, 13). Elijah knew all the frailties of human nature but 'in prayer he prayed' (proseuche proseyxato), that is, 'he prayed earnestly, and 'rain' was withheld and later restored (1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46). Earnest and persistent prayer, of course, is essential, whereas halfhearted prayer is self-defeating (cf. James 1:6-8)