Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sickness and Sinning...Part 1

As James wraps up his very practical book, he ends with the topic of sickness in James 5:13-20. He begins by describing 3 circumstances of life. First, he speaks of when we are suffering (v13). The word for suffering used by James is broader than just physical sickness. It is also used referring to various other hardships (mental, emotional, etc.). It literally means “to suffer misfortune” as in the example of the imprisonment of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:9 or the example of Timothy’s hardships in ministry as seen in 2 Timothy 4:5. According to James, in these times of our lives, we are to pray

Second, James addresses the times in our lives when we are cheerful (v13). This is the contrast to the first example of suffering. This is when life is smooth. In these times we are to sing praise to God. James is driving home the point that whether we are suffering or cheerful, proper communion with God is needed in all of life’s situations.

Now James gets to his main point. He now speaks of those who are physically sick (v14-16). This is not a word describing minor sicknesses such as the flu or a cold. This word described a serious condition, one that was beyond human ability to treat. This word was used to describe the royal officer’s son who was about to die in John 4:46-47. It was used to describe Lazarus who shortly after did die in John 11:1-3, 6. It was used to describe Dorcas in Acts 9:37, who also died. And it was used to describe Epaphroditus who Paul described as being close to death (Philippians 2:26-27).

What are we to do when faith and life collide leaving us in a serious physical condition? James says that first we have a need to CALL (v14). It is the sick person who is to take the initiative to call for the Elders of the church. Notice that it is the church leaders who are called, not a person with special gifts of healing. The gift of healing was one of the sign gifts given to the early church to validate that the message of these Apostles was truly from God. As the Word of God became more and more complete, it, rather than signs gifts, became the validation that a message was from God (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). The Elders are to anoint the sick person with oil and pray for them. This was not medicinal but rather a symbol of the Holy Spirit (James 4:5).

Second, James says that when we are in this type of sickness, we also have a need to CONFESS (v15-16a). According to James, the prayer offered in faith by the church leaders will restore the sick one and the Lord will raise him up. It is obvious from this passage that even without the spiritual gift of healing being active, God still does heal. However, it is very important to properly interpret Scripture with Scripture in this case and realize that our prayers being answered are conditional on our requests being in God’s will (1 John 5:4). It is obvious from Scripture that it is not always God’s will to heal. Paul had a thorn in the flesh which was most likely a physical ailment that God did not heal (2 Corinthians 12:7). Timothy had a stomach problem that was not healed (1 Timothy 5:23). On one of Paul’s journeys he had to leave Trophimus in the city of Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20). He did not simply heal Trophimus and bring him along on the trip.

Be sure to read tomorrow's blog entry for part 2 of Sickness and Sinning.

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