The General Epistle of James (Part 23)

vs. 13-20.
A. Against all the errant uses of the tongue that James has addressed, the epistle closes by setting forth godly uses of the tongue in afflictions, merriness, sickness, faults and errors.
B. v. 13 instructs believers as to how to respond to affliction or merriness.
1. This world is for us a mixture of affliction and joy. ECC 3:4; 7:14.
a. Constant affliction discourages hope and hearing. EXO 6:9.
b. Constant mirth stifles our development. ECC 7:2-6.
2. afflicted: Cast down, depressed, oppressed, in mind, body or estate; hence, grievously
troubled or distressed.
a. James is not here speaking of self-affliction, per LEV 16:29; JAM 4:9.
b. The affliction here is either ill-treatment by others or sickness.
c. One may be cast down but that need not mean destruction. 2CO 4:9.
d. Let neither oppression or depression be our undoing. 1TH 3:3.
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e. The proper response to affliction is prayer. 2CH 33:11-13; JON 2:2; LUK 22:44.
f. “It matters not what is the form of the trial, it is a privilege which all have to go to
God in prayer. And it is an inestimable privilege. Health fails, friends die, property is lost, disappointments come upon us, danger threatens, death approaches - and to whom shall we go but to God? He ever lives. He never fails us or disappoints us if we trust in him, and his ear is ever open to our cries. This would be a sad world indeed, if it were not for the privilege of prayer. The last resource of millions who suffer - for millions suffer every day - would be taken away, if men were denied the access to the throne of grace. As it is, there is no one so poor that he may not pray; no one so disconsolate and forsaken that he may not find in God a friend; no one so broken-hearted that he is not able to bind up his spirit. One of the designs of affliction is to lead us to the throne of grace; and it is a happy result of trials if we are led by our trials to seek God in prayer.” (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
3. “...Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” c/w 1CH 16:7-10.
a. psalm: In a general sense: Any sacred song that is or may be sung in religious
worship. Specifically: Any one of the sacred songs or hymns of the ancient
Hebrews which together form the “Book of Psalms.”
b. This shows that James is considering merriness from a spiritual perspective.
(1) Sinners may be merry in their sin (REV 11:10) but it would be incongruous with sacred songs.
(2) The true Jew has always cause for rejoicing. PHIL 3:3; ROM 5:11.
(3) A merry heart is healthful. PRO 15:15; 17:22.
C. Instruction is given for the sick. vs. 14-15.
1. He is to call for the elders of the church.
a. A church may have more than one elder. ACT 20:17.
b. A single elder can do all that is required of a minister.
2TI 3:16-17; TIT 1:5; LUK 12:42.
c. A plurality of elders is permitted but not invariably required in a church.
2. The elders are to pray over him.
a. Other scriptures show a special importance of the prayers of a man of God.
GEN 20:7, 17; JOB 42:8; JER 7:16.
b. A pastor is to be given to the word of God and prayer. ACT 6:4.
c. His knowledge and assimilation of the word of God should make him a particularly
righteous man whose prayers avail much. v. 16 c/w JOH 15:7.
3. The anointing with oil was connected with the sign gift of healing. MAR 6:13.
a. Sign gifts confirmed prophecy and the apostles' ministry.
MAR 16:14-20; HEB 2:3-4.
b. Sign gifts were for the benefit of unbelieving Jews. JOH 15:22-25; 1CO 1:22.
c. Sign gifts were only to last for forty years. MIC 7:15 c/w ACT 7:36.
d. That this instruction was meant to be understood in connection with miraculous
healing is underscored by the certainty of the healing: “...and the prayer of faith
SHALL save the sick...” (v. 15). c/w ACT 28:8.
e. Whereas the sign gift of healing has passed away, prayer remains a powerful help.
4. “...and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (v. 15).
a. If sins had been the cause of sickness (e.g. 1CO 11:29-30), the sins would be also
forgiven. PSA107:17-20.
b. He Who has power to forgive has power to heal. MAR 2:10-11.
c. The word “if” implies that the sickness might not have been a judgment for sins.
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(1) Sickness is part of the bondage of corruption with which we must all contend until the resurrection. ROM 8:23.
(2) Some troubles of the flesh are simply permitted for God's glory.
JOH 11:4; 2CO 12:9-10.
D. James also gives instruction concerning confession of faults and effectual prayer. vs. 16-18.
1. These are instructions for believers' actions amongst themselves, not orders for confession of faults to a pretended praying priest-confessor.
2. The confession is not public but private, “...one to another...” (v. 16).
a. This obviously differs from public confession of sins/faults as in MAR 1:5.
b. This is not confession of sins for baptism, but confession by baptized believers.
c. Things that are different are not the same.
3. This instruction concurs with MAT 18:15-18 where a fault occurs between brethren.
4. Sin need only be confessed to the degree that the offense extends.
a. MAT 18:15-18 shows that containment is of primary importance.
b. The fault should be confessed to the one that has been offended, who can therefore
forgive us. LUK 17:3-4.
c. Heart-sins that harm nobody else need only be confessed to God. 1JO 1:9.
d. If one is struggling with a sin, he might consider confessing that to a trusted brother,
seeking his counsel and prayer where such would be conducive to healing.
e. However, public confession of a sin which would require church exclusion demands
destruction, not healing. 1CO 5:1-5 c/w EPH 5:3.
5. The confession of faults one to another is connected to prayer one for another that healing
might result. v. 16.
a. The healing may be physical. GEN 20:17.
b. The healing may be spiritual. JER 3:22.
c. The healing may be relational.
(1) (PRO 18:19) A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
(2) The offended brother who is in the right would do well to pray fervently for the brother who has offended him. LUK 6:28.
(3) Such prayer may be for his reform unto confession to heal the wounded relationship or for his healing (physical or spiritual) after confession.
(4) Much strife in churches may be owing to a desire to fight rather than pray for an offender. JAM 4:2.
6. Effectual fervent prayer avails much.
a. effectual: That produces its intended effect, or adequately answers its purpose.
b. fervent: Hot, burning, glowing, boiling. Of persons, their passions, dispositions, or
actions: Ardent, intensely earnest.
c. avail: To have force or efficacy for the accomplishment of a purpose; to be
effectual, serviceable, or of use; to afford help.
d. God hears the prayers of the righteous, not the wicked. PRO 15:29; 1PE 3:12.
e. So powerful is this principle that Elijah is used as an example. vs. 17-18.
(1) passion: I. The suffering of pain. III. An affection of the mind. Any kind of feeling by which the mind is powerfully affected or moved.
(2) Elijah experienced the same feelings as us yet his prayer altered weather.
(3) This should encourage us to seek the prayers of good men.
vs. 13-16, James recommends personal prayer, prayers of ministers and prayers of
7. In
others. How important is prayer to our individual and corporate Christianity!