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Healing - James 5:13 - 17


My following comments are in response to the following questions.


Expectation of Healing


Should we have some expectation of healing from James 5:13-16?


Does “sick” mean physical sickness or spiritual sickness?


If spiritual, is it: unbelief, wicked acts, misunderstanding, or error?


If physical, is it: illness due to germs (e.g. flu, measles, HIV), illness due to poisoning, illness due to injury, malfunction due to malformation, malfunction due to deterioration?


If we should have an expectation of healing, why are we not seeing it happen?

     Are the people who we call elders really the “elders” as described in these verses?

     Do these people understand how to offer prayer in faith?


    The passage seems, in English translations, to make a distinction between physical illness and sin. If the meaning is as it appears, the believer is guaranteed healing, when in right relationship in the body.




I believe the sickness in James 5:14 is physical sickness.  The Greek word "astheneo" suggest to have little, or, to be without physical strength. Why the person might be sick is not stated in this passage.  Some might suggest that the sickness is due to sin since in verses 15 and 16 speak of being forgiven of sin when a person is healed of a sickness.  I'm not convinced that James is speaking of sickness due to sin because of that statement.  He might well have had Jesus statement in mind when He said something to the effect, "what's the difference between saying you are healed and your sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2 and 5)."  In one sense of the word, all sickness is due to original sin (Genesis 3). 


"Let him call" is an aorist, middle deponent, imperative, Greek verb.  Aorist means a successful, one time, action.  In this case, the one calling the elders for the prayer of healing should expect the elders to come and pray for him.  Middle voice means the subject of a sentence is receiving the action.  In this case, the one calling for the elders to pray is receiving the action of prayer.  Imperative suggests a command. In this case, it's a decisive action on the part of the one calling for prayer.  The verb "should call" suggests to me that the sick one has an expectation of healing at some point after being prayed for by the elders. 


James says the elders will anoint the sick person with oil.  James' Jewishness is showing through here.  Anointing with oil is an Old Testament practice.  We know that James did not forsake Old Testament style practices to the same extent as Paul.  Paul gave no such instruction for praying for the sick.


Note the word "elders" is plural, not singular.  The sick person is not calling on his pastor for prayer.  He's calling on elders to pray for him.  This opens up the whole discussion concerning what New Testament elders are.  I would suggest that many, and maybe most, pastors in the western world church, are not Biblical based elders.  What James had in mind concerning elders may be hard to find today. That being said, when I was healed of Diabetes, one pastor anointed me with oil, while others laid hands on me during the prayer.  


The prayer of healing is made "in the name of the Lord", James says.  This is important.  In the name of the Lord means the elders who are praying for the sick person is acting on the behalf of Jesus.  They are not acting on the behalf of themselves, the church, or, the one asking for prayer.  Acting on the behalf of Jesus might well suggest, as old time Evangelicals used to say, "the will of God".  That is to say, if it is God's will, the sick person will be healed.  I don't think we should rule this thought out as those of the hyper faith persuasion do.


"The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well (NIV) " or, "the prayer of faith (trust in Jesus) will heal (Greek sozo - future, active, indicative) the sick.  The verb tense suggest an expectation of healing.  The future tense might suggest a healing, but possibly, not at the same time the prayer is offered.  I'm sure some will debate this point, but we are talking about the future tense.  The future might be in respect to the time when prayer was requested, or, the future tense might be in respect to the time when the prayer is offered to the Lord.


At the time of prayer, or, possibly the time of healing, sins will be forgiven, that is, "if" he has sinned, as seen in the NIV. 


"Therefore confess your sins …"  Confess is translated from the Greek verb "exomologeo", a present, middle, imperative, verb, meaning, the confession is a decisive action in the present tense.  There's no beating around the bush about the confession of sin.  The word "sin" is translated from the Greek word "paraptoma"; a blunder, a lapse in judgment, or a false step.  Whether James is thinking of outright defiance of God or a simple blunder needs more consideration.


Once you confess your sins or blunders to "one another", not necessarily to the elders, "you may be healed" - Greek; "aiomai" (aorist, passive, subjective) - to heal, is used spiritually, figuratively, and physically in the New Testament.  Aorist, passive, subjunctive, means the healing is "probable" at some particular time, and as earlier stated, maybe not at the time of prayer.


Note that the prayer of "a righteous man" is powerful.  An unrighteous man's prayer, elder in this case, is not powerful.   


I believe I can safely say according to this passage that if a sick person calls legitimate elders, and if the elders are acting in God's will, the sick person can expect healing as some point, but not necessarily at the time of prayer.  All this being said, these 3 verses must be considered in light of every other Biblical passage concerning healing.  For example, 1 Peter 3:7 says that if a husband does not treat his wife properly, it may hinder his prayers. So, I suggest that if such a man calls the elders for prayer and if he is not treating his wife properly, he should have no expectation of healing. 


The simple fact as I see it is that the Bible does not teach any one clear cut way in which we can obtain physical healing from Jesus.  I've personally tried every way in which people were healed in the Bible, from fasting, praying in faith, calling on elders, casting out demons, and more, and, I'm still not healed.  In the final analysis I trust Jesus whether I'm healed or not.  Although hyper faith folk call that lack of faith, I call it real faith.



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