James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14 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.
Christians need to be people of their word. We need to be trustworthy. It used to be that a handshake was all that was needed to complete a deal. It used to be that a man’s word could be trusted. God says that our word still needs to be trustworthy. We do not have the authority to use heaven as a surety for our word. We do not have authority to use the earth as our surety. Heaven and earth belong to God. We need to make sure our word is good. We can do that if we trust in the Lord and act according to His will. God says that if we are not trustworthy, we come into condemnation from God. Those who are saved are children of God. Our actions can either exalt God or we can bring shame upon His name. God is holy and He will always be holy. In truth we cannot bring shame upon God, however, many people get their opinion of God based on what they see in those who profess to be Christians. James has been directed by God to challenge the brethren to walk by faith in God.
In verse 13 the saved are encouraged to pray when afflicted. Prayer is important in the Christian life. Afflicted has to do with undergoing hardship. Hardships are just that, they are hard on us as people. We need God’s strength to go through hardships. Those who are merry need to sing psalms. When God blesses us with a merry heart, we can truly sing psalms. We can be a blessing to others when we praise His name.
In verse 14 we are also counselled with regard to sickness. Sickness is a part of the fall. We all get sick from time to time. God does not say it is sin to see a doctor. However, it is also good to seek God’s direction first. We know that doctors are fallible.
God tells us that the elders in the church have a place in praying for those who are sick. Elders are to be spiritually fit to pray for the sick. In the Bible the word “elder” is used as another word to describe the pastor, or the bishop. All three words apply to the leadership of the church. A small church would not have as many leaders as a larger church would have. The term “elder” speaks to the spiritual age of the person. The Bible teaches that the leaders of the local church are not to be novices. They need to be taught in the Word, but they also need to walk in the Word.
We see again the importance of the true local church. There is no such a thing as elders of some universal, invisible church. Elders belong to a local church. They are men who are saved and who have been taught in the Word and are able to be called as elders. They need to have discernment in praying over the sick. I was dealing with a man recently and in speaking with him, he talked about desiring a word of blessing from me. This man has told me before that he is not sure if he even believes in God. He thinks that if there is a God, He is someone who just gets along with everybody and never has a stern word for anyone. He is a lost man. Yet, he thinks he is worthy of a blessing and he thinks that I, as a pastor, have the power to pronounce a blessing on him. I would be a fool in telling him that he is a good person who is doing well and will one day be in heaven to see his father, who has died a number of years ago. The man is into drugs and is not of honest character. His need is salvation and if he would believe that, it would be a blessing for him. In speaking to him about that I did give him a blessing, but he does not realize that as a blessing.
People have wondered what type of oil should be used as an anointing oil. God does not specify what type of oil to use. It is not the oil that is the solution. Oil is often used in the Bible as a type of the Holy Spirit. We know that no man can confer the Holy Spirit upon another person. Oil is also used as a picture of medicine. The oil could be symbolic of God as the One Who heals and Who forgives sin. Forgiveness of sins is essential to man’s well-being. There are many people who are sick due to their rebellion against God. James was addressing people who he called brethren, but some of whom were not walking in obedience to the Word and will of God.
It is important to notice that God is talking of the prayer of faith. The elders need to be men of God who trust in God. They also need to let God direct them in their prayer so that it is effectual. It is important to note that Christians are not immune to getting sick. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross of Calvary to guarantee that His children would not get sick. He died to take away our sins. Isaiah 53:5 is often abused by many. Peter was directed by God to help us to understand that Isaiah was directed to write those words in reference to spiritual needs. Physical sickness is part of the fall. Sickness can also be used by God to get a person’s attention.
The elders are to be able to discern what God is doing and to be able to pray according to God’s will. The elders are not “mystics”. They are simply men who are walking with the Lord and willing to be used of the Lord to be a help to the saints and to the lost. The prayer in this verse is to be directed to the saints.
James is talking to “any among you”. Those among them are those who are saved and members of a local church. The primary need of any true child of God is to be free from sin. We need to be forgiven when we sin. The elders are there to help restore health to the sick brother.
In verse 16 we see as well that confession of sin is important. The Bible teaches us that confession is first of all to God. When a saved person sins, they need to confess their sin to God. Then it is also important to confess the sin to the person(s) that we sinned against. We see here again that sin can cause sickness. God wants His children to be free from sin. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. The righteous man is the saved person who is walking humbly before the Lord. Effectual prayer is effective prayer. Effective prayer is prayer that reaches the throne of God. Prayer that reaches God is prayer that comes from a heart that is right with God. God is not interested in noise. He wants to hear the prayer of His saints. He wants His saints to walk humbly with Him and keep short accounts with Him. This is important.
God gives us the truth to help us to know His blessings. His blessings are for those who walk humbly with Him. It is not an automatic thing that a saved person will walk humbly and obediently with God. God equips all of His children to follow Him faithfully. However, His child must yield to His leadership daily.
Ephesians 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Christians can walk accurately with the Lord. Christians need to choose to obey God and walk accurately before Him. We do not always do that and thus the need to confess sin. Biblical confession of sin is always with the desire to stop the sin. It is not the Catholic confessional where a lost person goes to a lost man to confess some sin in the hope of being forgiven so they can go out and sin again with a so-called clean slate.
Biblical confession is a humble acknowledgement before God and man of sin, with the desire to stop the sin. It is through true confession that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will be applied to the heart to cleanse the repentant saint of sin.
We need God’s forgiveness. We need to be able to be merry. When we, those who are saved, are sick, it is always good to seek God’s direction to make sure the sickness is not the result of His chastening. We do not need to live in paranoia. We need to live in humble honesty before the true God.