In yesterday’s verse, James invited those who were sick to call for the elders of the church, to be prayed over and anointed with oil…
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. (James 5:15)
I knew when I started this series way back in June that this section of James would be coming near the end. This passage leads to big differences of opinion among Christians. A short devotional like this will not provide an exhaustive answer on the huge topic of sickness and healing. I will simply share my present understanding of this passage, realizing that some of you will like my explanation, and some will not.
First let me warn you about two ways of handling this verse that can lead to trouble. The one is to say this verse promises healing to every Christian who has enough faith. The other is to suggest that while it’s a promise, it doesn’t work every time. If we hold to the first view, we end up devastated (and perhaps questioning our own salvation) when the healing doesn’t come. If we hold to the second view, it leaves us unable to trust everything God says in His Word.
God always keeps His promises, so if it seems like some of His promises are not being fulfilled, it likely means that we have misunderstood what He has promised. It is very important that we interpret Scripture with Scripture – considering everything the Bible has to say about a topic, so that we don’t take one verse out of context.
With the exception of Enoch and Elijah, all the godly people in the Bible died. We do not live forever on this side of Heaven. The apostle Paul dealt with something that I think was a physical ailment, because he referred to it as a thorn in the flesh. He asked the Lord for healing from this, but God replied that “My grace is sufficient for you.”
It’s important to remember that English often does not match the depth of the Greek language. Teachers who know Greek tell us that the word which has been translated “sick” in this verse refers more to weakness – especially in a spiritual sense. James was likely addressing people who were weak and exhausted from problems they were dealing with in their spiritual lives. He mentions sin in this verse because some of these people were suffering because of their sin.
That brings up another important question: Is sickness a result of sin? I believe the answer to that is yes, no, and yes. Allow me to explain:
Yes, the fact that we have sickness in our world is one of the consequences of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When humanity sinned, sickness and death became part of our experience here on earth.
No, an individual’s sickness is not necessarily a direct result of some sin in their life. Some very godly people end up contracting some very serious illnesses.
Yes, it is true that sin in our lives can cause sickness. For example, studies have shown that bitterness and resentment can lead to health problems.
When someone is sick, it is not our job to judge why they got sick (like Job’s friends did); it is our job to pray for them, and care for them.
James 5:15 is not a promise of physical healing for every Christian who has enough faith, or has enough praying friends who have faith. It is a promise that when we come to Jesus in faith, confessing any sin, He will heal our spiritual brokenness.
Today’s Good News is that Jesus can heal our spiritual brokenness.
Now, go share the Good News…
FAITH in ACTION!
If you are joining us part way through this Journey in James, you can access the devotionals you have missed in the archives. (The series started on June 1.)
If this is your first visit to this website, please read the “Featured Post” from March 1, 2018.