Part 15 – In Summary
This is part 15 of a 15 part Bible Study on the book of James .
Compiled and written by Norma Becker – a true woman of God and God’s word.
*The Index, with links, to all 15 parts is at the bottom of each page.
To sum it up, it seems 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 might suggest that the passage may have been mistakenly understood as physical restoration rather than spiritual restoration.
So, if we wander off into sin, remain in sin and God brings sickness into our life to bring us back to himself, we need to recognize this, call the elders, and when they come we are to confess our sin and they will anoint us and pray for us.
If sin is the cause, God will raise us up – maybe not instantly but it will be complete. Because the sin is taken care of through confession there is no further need for chastisement, so God restores us to physical health. This is the promise of James 5:15 in context and in harmony with the point of Elijah’s illustration in verses 17-18.
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16)
…remember, when you see the word therefore, you are to look back and see what it is ‘there for.’
What Has Been the Problem Right Before This?
It seems that sin had caused some to be discouraged and actually sick from it. Back in verse 13 he says, “Is any one of you in trouble?” This was a problem that was bothering but they weren’t incapacitated yet. Going back even further, here are some of the things that they were doing that James considered sins:
- they had problems with perseverance (1:3)
- temptation (1:13)
- anger (1:19)
- lack of good deeds (1:22 and 2:14)
- lack of control over the tongue (1:26 and 3:5)
- favoritism (2:1)
- envy and selfish ambition (3:16)
- quarrels (4:1)
- worldliness (4:4)
- self centerdness (4:6)
Why Were They to Confess These to one Another?
If people are praying for one another for their daily spiritual problems they will keep short accounts with God and will not deteriorate into a situation that needs a restoring process. Again, it is assumed that after confession there is repentance. When a person is restored to righteousness, their prayers are powerful and effective.
One the other hand, we cannot assume from this passage that James is saying they should make a public confession of ALL their sins in a public meeting, or to unload COMPLETELY even to a chosen individual in private. Giving public confession is practiced in recent years but it is apt to have more harmful than beneficial results. Too often it gives an outlet for an unhealthy exhibitionism. You need to use discretion as to the extent to which, and the people to whom you are prepared to tell your sins of thought, word or deed.
In verses 17-18 he is saying Elijah was a righteous man who prayed earnestly. Also he is assuring his readers that such answers to prayer were within the reach of any believer.
“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone would bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
This conclusion just amplifies verse 16 and could be expanded from the Greek to read: “My brothers, if any believer among you strays from the truth and another believer turns him back so he returns to the straight and narrow, let him know that he who turns a sinning Christian from the error of his way will save his soul from physical death and will restore him from the consequences of a multitude of sins.”
The text literally reads, “will save his soul,” but we know a saved person has already had his soul redeemed. The Greeks often used the word for soul to describe the whole human being. The redeemed sinner will be saved from physical death which can come through God’s chastising discipline.
The goal is always restoration such as in Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
Conclusions from James 5:19-20
Christians are responsible for restoring straying believers, in gentleness, according to Galatians. Continuing in unchecked sin can result in death because the believer has disqualified himself from representing God or accomplishing His work.
Restoration is possible even if the sins are frequent and serious; confrontation will cover a multitude of sins. We cannot sin so badly that God cannot forgive us, but for God to forgive us, we need to turn from our sin back to Him.
How Should Christians Face Sickness?
It would be wonderful if we had one clear scripture that said, “When you are sick, this is what you should do.” Unfortunately there is none but we can draw a prescription from various portions of God’s word:
First, acknowledge that God is sovereign, then rest in that unshakable truth.
(Deuteronomy 32:39; Romans 8:28)
Second, remind yourself of the biblical reasons for sickness – those purposes God can accomplish through illness.
Third, determine if your sickness is because of continued pattern of sin. Is God using your illness as chastisement? For most of us, the answer will be no. If you know of someone where this is true, follow James 5.
Fourth, by faith commit the matter to the Lord. Wait patiently for His response.
Fifth, seek professional medical attention. Do not presume upon God and wait too long or ignore your doctor.
Sixth, recognize that it is not necessarily God’s will for you to recover. Many of God’s great servants were sick – Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, Daniel, Paul, Epaphroditus and Timothy. Thank God for the circumstances in which He has placed you (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). You are not thanking God that you hurt, but rather that He is who He is and that He will work through your circumstances.
Seventh, ask God for the faith and patience to endure and the wisdom to understand why (James 1:2-5). God has promised that His grace will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Claim that promise for yourself and rest in it. Have other Christians pray with you and for you.
Finally, pray that your circumstances may work out for the glory of God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
There is nothing wrong with praying for healing. Paul asked three times to be relieved (2 Corinthians 12:8). But we also need to be willing to receive God’s answer – regardless of what it is.
There was a Norwegian theologian, Ole Hallesby that prayed:
“Lord, if it will be to your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify you more, heal gradually; if it will glorify you even more, may your servant remain sick awhile; and if it will glorify your name still more, take me to yourself in heaven.”
This brings us to the end of James and he has given us clear instructions about how to achieve practical holiness and spiritual maturity.
He exhorted his beloved Jewish brothers – and now us – to stand with confidence, serve with compassion, speak with care, submit with contriteness (sorrow for sin) and share with concern.
A believer should be what God wants him to be, do what God wants him to do, say what God wants him to say, sense what God wants him to sense and share what God wants him to share.
Spiritual maturity involves every aspect of life.
Index of James Bible Study
Part 1 Who is James?
Part 2 When and to Whom Was James Written?
Part 3 How to Welcome Trials with an Attitude of Joy?
Part 4 What Does ‘Tempt’ Mean?
Part 5 What is the Key to Responding to Trials?
Part 6 Those with True Religion Should Serve
Part 7 Expression of the Character and Will of God Himself
Part 8 Spiritual Maturity
Part 9 Spiritual Maturity continued…
Part 10 What Causes Fights and Quarrels Among You?
Part 11 Is This How We Are To Be?
Part 12 What About My Plans?
Part 13 Let God be the Judge
Part 14 The Power of Prayer & Praise
Part 15 Summary and last part