Monday, December 05, 2011

Digging Deeper James 5:15 with commentary

Good Monday morning. I am back from my travels and see I left Victory Call in good hands and have pretty big shoes to fill. Stephanie did a great job "filling in" for me while I was away. I better be careful or I may lose my job. But seriously, I appreciate Steph's willingness to jump in last minute and cover the Victory Calls so I could go. I certainly didn't leave her an "easy" portion of Scripture to share.

Though our verse for this week is James 5:15, I have included verses 13 and 14 for context. These verses can be controversial as some would interpret them to mean spiritual sickness and others to mean physical sickness and various other differences. I think many of us are so afraid of the extremes that we fastidiously stick to the middle of the road. It might be uneventful there but it's safe. I think you know what I mean.

Would you stop and pray right now that as you meditate on this portion of Scripture this week that GOD, not Diane, not the commentators, not you, but GOD's Spirit would illumine HIS meaning of these verses to your spirit. God's word has ONE interpretation, many applications, but one true meaning. With that said, let's forge ahead.

James 5:13-15
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

"'sick'...can also mean 'to be weak' (even spiritually weak, as in Rom. 14:1), when used(as it is here) without any qualifiers, it usually refers to physical sickness...Some think that anointing...with oil was medicinal or sacramental...but it is best seen as a symbol representing the healing power of the Holy Spirit to come upon the sick person...In the name of the Lord means it is God, not the oil, that heals.

5:15 the prayer of faith. Not the faith of the sick person but the faith of those praying...Will save perhaps carries a double meaning here: (1) the sick person will be physically healed...and/or (2) the sick person may also experience spiritual salvation..., or growth in the blessings of salvation (sins...forgiven). As seen throughout the gospels, Jesus healed both physically and spiritually, and the same double connotation may be present here as well. James is not teaching that all illnesses will be healed if people would simply call on the elders, or try to make themselves have enough faith or pray with enough conviction. Healing, when it does come, is always a gift from God, who is sovereign over all circumstances, including sickness and health. It does not follow, therefore, that lack of faith on the part of the sick person is the reason that the sick person may not be healed..." [ESV Study Bible study notes pg. 2399]

Have a great week. In the midst of your Christ-mas preparations, remember HIM.


Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery and Development at America's KESWICK. In addition to her Keswick responsibilities which keep her busy, she loves to read, write and teach, travel and laugh with her grandchildren. Diane has been married to her husband John over 26 years. She has 2 children, 3 grandchildren, 3 step-children, and 7 step-grandchildren.

1 comment:

Vince Warde said...

I have spent some time on this verse as well. Since I myself have been disabled for many years, this interest is far from academic. Here's my current thoughts.

And the prayer offered in faith - A reference to the faith of both the Elder and the sick person

will make the sick person - The Greek word translated "sick" (kamno) is used in only two other places - both times it is not translated as "sick" but as "weary".

well - The Greek word here is "sozo". The root word means "safe", as to keep safe. The word itself literally means "to deliver or protect". Usage includes the following meanings: heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole.

This portion of the verse could be translated , "will make the sick and/or discouraged person whole." The next phrase tells us how this will be accomplished.

the Lord will raise him up - Probably a reference to the resurrection, rather than healing. The Greek word is used consistently to describe resurrection from the dead. This is the ultimate promise, rather than physical healing.

The Greek word translated "raise him up" is "egereio". This word can mean "waken", "rouse", "raise", "rear up", "stand" or "take up".

The most common uses of the word are:
1) To awaken from sleep
2) To rise from sitting or laying down
3) To be raised from the dead (by far the most common).

If he has sinned, he will be forgiven - Note that the Scripture says IF he has sinned. All illness is not the result of sin.

So, how is this verse to be correctly interpreted? How would the original readers have understood it?

First, I think it impossible that they would have thought that this verse was an absolute promise of divine healing in this present life. Why? Simple - As now, they would have know that many people of faith do indeed sicken and die. They knew that, as Hebrews 9:27 tells us, "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment".

I think that there are other factors in play here that modern readers - and too many preachers - do not take note of.

1) James has just admonished his readers to persevere (vv10-11) using the example of Job, who both suffered physically and was very discouraged.

2) Discouragement is a very natural reaction to illness. It is also one of the Devil's greatest tools for destroying the faith of believers.

3) James uses a word that means either sick or weary. I believe that this was deliberate and I think it is probable that he had both in view. Illness and pain is extremely draining there is a strong temptation to give up - both physically and spiritually.

4) James also uses a word that can mean both "to heal" and "to preserve" and "to make whole".

5) Finally he addresses both the topic of the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection.

Therefore, I would explain (via paraphrase) the verse thusly:

"The prayer offered in faith will preserve and encourage the sick person. In the resurrection he will be made completely whole and free from defect in his resurrection body. The Lord will forgive any sins he has committed."

This is supported by Young's Literal Translation, which renders the verse thusly: "and the prayer of the faith shall save the distressed one, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if sins he may have committed, they shall be forgiven to him."