An Argument Of The Book Of JamesRelated Media
When Believers Are Under Trials, An Obedient And Faithful Response (Quick To Hear, Slow To Speak, Slow To Anger) Toward The Lord And Other Believers Will Move The Lord In His Goodness To Provide Wisdom And Blessing For Their Needs Rather Than Necessary Discipline For Their Evil
I. An Introduction of Greeting: James1 as a servant ( δοῦλος ) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ sends greetings to the twelve tribes2 who are scattered among the nations3 (1:1)
II. An Exhortation to Face Trials in a Godly Way: James urges his readers to adopt a good attitude toward trials and not to incriminate God but to recognize themselves as the fountain of death because He is separate from evil and only gives forth life (1:2-18)
A. A Good Response to Trials: James encourages those under trials to be joyful with the knowledge that the testing of their faith produces endurance, to let endurance have its perfecting work in them, and to ask God for wisdom in faith, because they will be rewarded by Christ for their perseverance 1:2-12
1. Be Joyful: James encourages his readers to be joyful when they encounter trials with the knowledge that the testing of their faith produces endurance 1:2-3
a. Exhortation--Consider Trials Joy: James urges his readers, as his brethren, to consider it all joy ( Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ) when they encounter various trials 1:2
b. Reason--Testing Produces Endurance: The reason his readers should consider their trials to be joy is because they know that ( γινώσκοντες ο῞τι ) the testing of their faith produces endurance ( ὑπομονήν ) 1:3
2. Let Endurance Work: James affirms that his readers ought to let endurance have its perfect work in them in order that they may be mature and lacking in nothing 1:4
a. Exhortation--Let Endurance Have Its Perfect Work: James urges his readers to let endurance have its perfect result (work) 1:4a
b. Purpose--That They May Be Mature: The purpose of letting endurance have its perfect work is in order that (ι῞να ) the readers might be mature (perfect) and complete, lacking in nothing 1:4b
3. Ask God for Wisdom with Faith: The writer urges his readers to ask for wisdom from God when facing trials and He will give it to those who believe that He will help them as they do not doubt but reflect on the spiritual perspective of persecution in their lives 1:5-11
a. Ask God for Wisdom and He Will Give It: James urges any of his readers who lack wisdom (when faced with trials) to ask for it from God--who gives it to all men generously and without reproach--and God will give it to him 1:5
b. Ask In Faith without Doubting: James urges his readers who ask for wisdom to ask for it in faith without doubting because those who doubt are unstable and will not receive wisdom from God 1:6-7
1) Exhortation--Ask for Wisdom In Faith without Doubting: James urges his readers who ask for wisdom to ask for it in faith without any doubting4 1:6a
2) Reason I--The Doubting Man is Unstable: The reason that James urges his readers who ask for wisdom to ask for it in faith without doubting is because the one who doubts is unstable (like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind) 1:6b
3) Reason II--The Doubting Man Will Not Receive Wisdom: The reason that James urges his readers who ask for wisdom to ask for it in faith without doubting (that He will help) is because the one who doubts should not expect to receive anything from the Lord because he is double minded and unstable ways 1:7-8
c. The Spiritual Perspective of Persecution:5 In contrast to doubting that God will help the one who asks for wisdom, James urges his readers to reflect accurately on the spiritual perspective of persecution in their life 1:9-11
1) The Perspective of Persecution for the Poor: In contrast to doubting that God will help the one who asks for wisdom, James urges his readers to let the brother of humble circumstances (poor) glory in his high position (before God)6 1:9
2) The Perspective of Persecution for the Rich:7 In contrast to doubting that God will help the one who asks for wisdom, James urges his readers to let the rich man glory in his humiliation8 because he like the flowering grass will pass away in the midst of his pursuits9 1:10-11
4. He One Who Perseveres Will Be Honored: James proclaims that the one who perseveres under trail is blessed he will be rewarded by the Lord as He promised 1:12
a. One Who Perseveres Is Blessed: James proclaims that the one who perseveres under trail is blessed 1:12a
b. Reason--He Will Be Rewarded: The reason that James proclaims that the one who perseveres under trail is blessed is because (*ti) once he is approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him 1:12b
B. Impute Yourself and Not God: James urges those being tempted to recognize themselves as the fountain of death rather than God who is separate from evil and only gives forth life 1:13-18
1. Do Not Accuse God: James affirms that no one should accuse God of tempting them with evil when they are tempted with evil 1:13a
2. Reasons Temptation Does Not Come from God: James affirms that temptation does not come from God who is completely separate from evil and only gives good gifts, but comes from ourselves 1:13b-18
a. Reason I--God Is Not Tempted Nor Tempts with Evil: The reason God should not be accused of tempting the readers is because He cannot be tempted by evil, let alone tempt others (with evil)10 1:13b
b. Reason II--Temptation Comes from Ourselves Not God: James affirms that the reason God should not be accused of tempting the readers is because temptation which leads to death comes from ourselves rather than from our good and consistent God who gives us life 1:14-18
1) Temptation from Self: James affirms that each one is tempted when he is enticed by his own desires which lead to sin and which ends in death11 1:14-15
2) Don’t Be Deceived, Be Confirmed in God’s Goodness: James affirms that rather than being deceived the readers should be confirmed in knowing that God in His consistency only gives good things concerning which our salvation is proof 1:16-18
a) Exhortation--Stop Being Deceived: James affirms that his readers are to stop being deceived12 1:16
b) Giver of Good Gifts: James affirms that (instead of sending temptation) every good and perfect gift comes from our consistently good Father13 1:17
c) An Example: James affirms that his readers (us) existence as born-again believers is an example of God being the enlightening source of good14 1:18
III. A Summary Exhortation to Action for Those Under Trials:15 In view of God’s regenerative work through His word, believers under trials are exhorted to receive without opposition God’s sanctifying word (be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger) 1:19-20
A. Readers Know of the Work of God’s Word: James affirms that his dear brethren know this (the regenerating work of the Word in their lives)16 1:19a
B. Readers Are Exhorted to Respond Well to God’s Word: James urges everyone to receive God’s sanctifying word (be quick to hear) and not to oppose it (be slow to speak, and slow to anger) when in trials 1:19b-20
1. Be Quick to Hear: James urges everyone to be quick to hear (the word when in trials)
2. Be Slow to Speak: James urges everyone to be slow to speak (when in trials)
3. Be Slow to Anger: James urges everyone to be slow to anger (when in trials) because ( γὰρ ) the anger of man does not achieve the uprightness of God 1:19b-20
IV. Obedience to the Word of God Yields an Experience of Salvation:17 James affirms that believers who are under trials need to remain obedient to the word of God in order to experience salvation in their lives by being quick to obey God’s word, by being wise in their speech, and by asking God to help them with their struggles rather than becoming angry and lashing out (1:21--5:12)
A. QUICK TO HEAR--James urges his readers to be quick to hear through obeying the inner witness of the word, not showing favoritism, and expressing their faith through good works which are helpful to others 1:21--2:26
1. Hearing Through Obeying the Inner Witness of the Word: When a believer is under trials, he hears the word of God when he obeys the inner witness of the word in the realms of guarding his heart, service and personal purity all of which yield blessing in life (1:21-27)
a. Receive the Inner Witness of the Word of God: When under trials, believers are to put aside all filthiness and wickedness18 and to receive the word of God which is active within them, and which will lead to present deliverance in life19 (1:21)
b. Do Not Forgetfully Neglect the Word of God: When under trials, one is quick to hear when he does not respond to the word of God with forgetful neglect but with obedience leading to the blessing of salvation in life (1:22-25)
1) Exhortation to Do the Word: James urges his readers to be doers of what the word says and not only hearers of the word who delude themselves (by false reasoning)20 1:22
2) Reason I--Not Doing the Word Is Inconsistent: The reason James urges his readers to do what the word says is because ( ο῞τι ) to not do so is to be inconsistent like someone who would forget who he is after looking in a mirror21 1:23-24
3) Reason II--Doing the Words Brings Blessing: The reason James urges his readers to do what the word says (the perfect law, the law of liberty)22 is because this is how they will be enriched (blessed) in what they do23 1:25
c. Examples--Valuable Religious Activity: When under trials, one is quick to hear when his religious activity is of value--as he guards his heart (controls his own tongue which leads his heart astray) and serves those in need with personal purity (1:26-27)
1) Fruitless Religious Activity: James describes as fruitless the religion of one who thinks himself to be religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, but misleads his own heart 1:26
2) Fruitful Religious Activity: James describes pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father as to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world 1:27
2. Hearing Through Not Showing Favoritism: When a believer is under trials, he hears the word of God when he does not show favoritism toward the wealthy in order to prosper, but is committed to all people as the Lord was toward him (us) (2:1-13)
a. Prohibition Stated--Stop Showing Favoritism: James urges his readers stop holding their faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of favoritism24 (2:1)
b. Hypothetical Illustration that Partiality is Evil: James illustrates his prohibition against showing favoritism by affirming through a hypothetical situation that to show partiality to those who are rich (and may thus benefit the church) against those who are poor is to do what is evil (judge with evil motives) 2:2-4
c. Favoritism is Contrary to The Work of Christ: To show partiality toward the rich is wrong because it is contrary to the work of Christ toward men, it dishonors the poor man, and it honors those who are opposed to the Lord (2:5-7)
1) Favoritism Is Against the Work of Christ: James affirms that favoritism is wrong because it is contrary to the work of Christ toward men who honored the poor in that he chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him 2:5
2) Favoritism Dishonors the Poor: James affirms that favoritism is wrong because it dishonors the poor man 2:6a
3) Favoritism Honors the Rich Man Who Is Opposed to the Lord: James affirms that favoritism is wrong because it honors the rich man who opposes them, personally drags them into court, and blasphemes the fair name of Christ by which they have been called 2:6b-7
d. Favoritism Will Lead to Judgment: James explains that for his readers to show partiality is for them to transgress against the ethical Law of the Lord which will result in future judgment [at the Judgment Seat of Christ] (2:8-13)
1) It is Well to Love: James proclaims that if his readers are fulfilling the Royal Law of Love,25 then they are doing well 2:8
2) Favoritism is Sin: James proclaims that if his readers are showing favoritism they are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors 2:9
3) Explanation: The reason those who show favoritism are convicted by the Law is because (γὰρ) one is guilty of all of the Law even if he keeps the whole Law and stumbles in only one point because it all comes from the same God26 2:10-11
4) Act As Those to Be Judged: James exhorts his readers to so speak and to so act27 as those who are to be judged28 by the Law of liberty because judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy, and mercy triumphs over judgment 2:12-13
3. Hearing Through Good Works: When a believer is under trials, he hears the word of God when he expresses his faith through good works to bring about deliverance in life for others (2:14-26)
a. The Effect of Faith Without Good Works: James affirms that faith which is not expressed in good works will not bring about deliverance in life29 (2:14)
b. The Uselessness of Faith Without Good Works:30 For James the uselessness of faith which is not expressed in good works is demonstrated in the one who speaks encouraging words to another in physical need, but does not act to relieve their distress (2:15-17)
c. An Objection:31 One objects that there is no necessary connection between good works and faith (2:18-19)
d. An Answer to the Objection:32 James answers this objection, by demonstrating that there is a connection between good works and faith in that together they benefit other men in life (2:20-26)
1) There Is a Connection Between Faith and Good Works: James responds that there is a connection between faith and good works if one is willing to recognize it, namely, that personal faith is useless to other men if it is not expressed in good works (2:20)
2) Illustration I--Abraham:33 Abraham demonstrated to himself and before men that he had faith in the Lord when he offered Isaac on the alter (2:21-24)
3) Illustration II--Rahab: Rahab demonstrated before men that she had faith in the Lord when she received and delivered the spies out of Jericho (2:25)
4) Illustration III--The Body: The connection between faith and works is that works make one’s faith useful just as a spirit makes one’s body useful in life (2:26)
B. SLOW TO SPEAK--Hearing Through Wise Speech: Those under trials (especially teachers) need to be wise in their speech so that they do not destroy others with their words in an expression of natural wisdom, but so that they sow the seeds of life with inner purity and the external deeds of love in accordance with God’s wisdom (3:1-18)
1. Not Many Should Be Teachers: James instructs his readers that not many should be teachers because of everyone’s tendency to stumble in their speech which affects their whole lives and because only the mature are able to control their speech 3:1-5a
a. Exhortation: James exhorts his readers, as brethren, that not many of them should become teachers because they know that as teachers they shall incur a stricter judgment 3:1
b. Reason--All Stumble: The reason James exhorts not many of his readers to be teachers is because they all stumble (sin)34 in many ways 3:2a
c. Affirmation--The One Who Does Not Stumble Is Mature: James affirms that one who does not stumble in what he says is mature (perfect) and is able to control all of his life (body)35 3:2b
d. Support: Through the analogy of horses and ships James supports his thesis that one who controls a small part (his tongue) is able to control his whole body 3:3-5a
2. Tongue is destructive: James affirms that the tongue is destructive like fire because it cannot be tamed, but this should not be the case 3:5b-12
a. The Tongue Is Like a Destructive Fire: James notes that just as a great forest is set aflame by a small fire, so is it that the tongue is a fire--the very world of iniquity--which is set among the body parts defiling the whole person and setting the course of one’s life on fire by hell (the devil) 3:5b-6
b. Reason--It Cannot Be Tamed: The reason the tongue is like a destructive fire is because it, unlike beasts, birds, reptiles and sea creatures, cannot be tamed since we use it to bless God on one hand and to curse men who are made in God’s image on the other hand 3:7-9
c. Conclusion: James concludes that the same mouth should not bring forth both blessing and cursing because this is unnatural (as with water from a fountain, figs from a fig tree and salt water) 3:10-12
3. Speak in Wisdom: James urges those who are teachers (wise and understanding) to demonstrate this by their good behavior and their deeds in the self-control of God’s wisdom which is not characterized by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, but is characterized by an internal purity which manifests itself in acts of love which sow the seed of righteousness in peace 3:13-18
b. Not False Wisdom: James exhorts those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in their heart not to be arrogant and thus lie against the truth because this kind of wisdom is not from God, but is earthly, natural and demonic 3:14-16
2) Reason--Not From God: James explains that harboring jealousy and selfish ambition is arrogant because this wisdom is not that which comes from the Lord (above),40 but is that which is earthy, natural and demonic because wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist there is disorder and every evil thing41 3:15-16
c. True Wisdom: In contrast to false wisdom James affirms that the wisdom from God is characterized by inner purity which flows into external manifestations of love because the seed of righteousness is sown by peacemakers 3:17-18
1) Characteristics of Wisdom from God: In contrast to false wisdom ( δὲ ) James affirms that the wisdom from God (above) is characterized by purity which flows out into external manifestations of love--it is:
a) Internal Characteristic: first pure ( ἀγνή )42
b) External Characteristics which are expressions of love:
(1) then peaceable ( ε῞πειτα εἰρηνική )
(2) gentle ( ἐπιεικής )
(3) reasonable ( εὐπειθής )
(4) full of mercy and good fruits ( μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν )
(5) unwavering ( ἀδιάκριτος )
(6) without hypocrisy ( ἀνυπόκριτος) 3:17
2) Seed of Righteousness Is Sown by Peacemakers: James also proclaims that the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace43 3:18
C. SLOW TO ANGER--Hearing Through Remaining in Relationship with God: James exhorts those who are under trials to become slow to anger by ask God to help them with their desires, and patiently waiting for future judgment upon evil doers rather than seeking illegitimate resolutions like becoming angry and lashing out at one another (4:1--5:12)
1. Resolve Struggle: James explains that the source of quarrels and conflicts among his readers is in their attempts to resolve their desires in illegitimate, godless, external ways rather than repenting of their sinful responses and submitting themselves to God’s work in their lives 4:1-17
a. The Source of Struggle: James explains that the source of quarrels and conflicts among his readers is their desires (lust, passions)44 which wage war ( στρατευομένων ) in their members 4:1
b. The Lack of Resolution--An External Focus: James explains that his readers lack true resolution to their struggles because they attempt to resolve them through external efforts, approaching God with wrong motives, and committing spiritual adultery by becoming friends with the world, but God is graceful to the humble 4:2-6
1) An Attempt to Resolve the Internal through the External: James explains that his readers try to resolve their inner struggle through external quarrels and conflicts against one another rather than asking God for help: 4:2
a) Lust: They lust and do not have so they commit murder45 4:2a
b) Envious: They are envious and cannot obtain so they fight and quarrel 4:2b
c) They Do Not Ask: James explains that they do not have because they do not ask (God for what they need)46 4:2c
2) They Do Not Receive Because of Wrong Motives: James explains that his readers ask for help from God but they do not receive from Him because they are asking with the wrong motives--that they may spend it on their pleasures 4:3
3) Their Pursuit of the World Alienates Them From God, But He Is Graceful: James explains that as his readers have sought after their desires by making friendship with the world they have committed spiritual adultery against God who is jealous for their love and will give grace to those who are humble 4:4-6
a) Friend of the World/Enemy with God: James identifies his readers as being spiritually unfaithful (adulteresses)47 since their desire for friendship with the world makes them an enemy of God 4:4
b) God’s Jealous Longing: In view of the spiritual adultery which the readers are committing James explains that Scripture speaks with a purpose when it states that God jealously longs for his people’s love48 4:5
c) God Gives More Grace: James explains that even though God jealously longs for his people’s love He gives more grace (than his longing deserves) as one who is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble49 4:6
c. Resolution to Struggle: James announces that the resolution to struggle is in his readers deeply repenting and submitting themselves to God’s work in their lives and not in constantly denying their real need through focusing on externals like judging others or arrogant self-planning 4:7-17
1) Moving toward God and Away from Illegitimate Demonic Satisfaction: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by moving toward God with repentance and resisting the devil 4:7-10
a) Submit to God: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by submitting to God50 4:7a
b) Resist the Devil: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by resisting (standing against) the devil with the promise that he will flee from them51 4:7b
c) Draw Near to God: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by drawing near to God whereupon He will draw near to them 4:8a
d) Become Pure:52 James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by ceasing from doing evil (cleansing their hands) and plotting evil (purifying their hearts as double minded (double-lifed, δίψυχοι ) people 4:8b
e) Repent: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by repenting of their evil:
(1) Be miserable and mourn and weep 4:9a
(2) Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy be turned into gloom 4:9b
f) Humble Yourselves: James urges his readers to find resolution to their struggles by humbling themselves53 in the presence of the Lord whereupon He will exalt them 4:10
2) Do Not Focus on Externals: James urges his readers not to illegitimately meet their desires (4:1) by focusing on external things like exalting themselves as God and judge over others or proclaiming positive, arrogant self-planning rather than dealing with their own sin and dependence upon God 4:11-17
a) Do Not Exalt Yourselves Over Others: James urges his readers not to illegitimately meet their desires (4:1) by exalting themselves as God and judge over others rather than dealing with their own lives as sinners 4:11-12
(1) Do Not Speak Against One Another: James urges his readers to stop speaking against one another54 4:11a
(2) The reason James urges his readers not to speak against one another is because by doing so they are speaking against the Law55 and are setting themselves up inappropriately as God and judge and there is only one Law Giver and Judge (e.g., the One who is able to save and destroy--the Lord) 4:11b-12
b) Do Not Proclaim Positive, Arrogant Self-Planning: James urges his readers not to illegitimately meet their desires (4:1) by proclaiming positive, arrogant self-planning rather than dealing with their dependence upon God 4:13-16
(1) Stop the Arrogant Self-Planning: James urges those who proclaim positive, arrogant self-sufficiency to not do this because they do not know what their life will even be like tomorrow 4:14a
(2) You Are Finite: James reminds his readers that they are finite (just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away) 4:14b
(3) Recognize Your Dependence Upon the Lord: James instructs his readers that in stead of their arrogant self-planning they should recognize their dependence upon the Lord's will in their life as they plan56 4:15
(4) Arrogant Boasting is Evil: James informs his readers that they are presently boasting in arrogance which is evil 4:16
3) To Deal with Desires Externally Rather than Internally with God is Sin: James concludes (ου῏ν) that if his readers know the right thing to do (do not deal with desires externally but with God [4:1-16])57 and do not do it, then they are sinning58 4:17
2. Wait Patiently and Do Not Attack One Another: Because God will one day hold the rich accountable for their evil to Christians, James exhorts hurting believers to wait patiently and not to attack one another because they will be held accountable 5:1-12
a. The Rich Will Be Held Accountable for their Evil:59 James tells the rich to mourn greatly because they will be held accountable for the evil which they have done to others in obtaining their temporal things 5:1-6
1) Greatly Mourn: James tells the rich to greatly mourn because their perception of that which endures is wrong since material things will disappear (corrode) and even testify against them in the last days when eternal things will be weighed60 5:1-3
2) Reason to Mourn--Their Evil is Waiting to Testify Against Them: The reason James tells the rich to mourn is because their evil toward others (such as not paying workers, living luxuriously on the loss of others, and using their authority to kill upright people who do not resist them) will be stored up and waiting for them 5:4-6
b. Persecuted Believers Should Wait Patiently Upon God: (Through the technique of interchange,) James exhorts persecuted believers to wait patiently upon God’s timing and not to attack one another because they will be held accountable 5:7-12
1) Wait As A Farmer: Because the rich are going to be held accountable when the Lord returns for the evil they do, James exhorts persecuted believers to wait patiently (strengthen your hearts) just at a farmer waits for the seasonal rains61 5:7-8
4) Don’t Manipulate by Lying:66 James exhorts believers not to manipulate by lying because they will be held accountable 5:12
V. Restoration Through the Community: In order to continue under sever trials, James exhorts believers to express their hearts to God and each other, always with the stronger helping the weak with sin so that life may be preserved (5:13-20)
A. Express Your Hearts: James exhorts each person to express their hearts to God and to each other in order to continue under severe trials 5:13-15
1. The Suffering Should Pray: James exhorts those who are suffering to pray67 5:13a
2. The Courageous Should Sing: James exhorts those who are courageous to sing praises 5:13b
3. The Spiritually Sick Should Seek Intervention:68 James exhorts those who are spiritually sick to seek intercession by the elders 5:14-15a
a. Call for the Elders: James exhorts the one who is spiritually weak to call for the elders 5:14a
b. Pray Over the Spiritually Sick: James exhorts the elders to pray over the one who is spiritually sick 5:14b
c. Anoint the Spiritually Sick: James exhorts the elders to anoint the one who is spiritually sick with oil signifying God’s blessing 5:15a
4. Results in Restoration and Forgiveness: James notes that the results of the prayer for the spiritually sick are restoration and forgiveness of sins 5:15b
B. Prayer Can Bring About Healing and Preservation: James instructs his readers that when they are involved in helping one another with sin in their lives through prayer, they can bring about healing and preserve others’ lives 5:16-20
1. Confess Your Sins to One Another: James exhorts his readers to confess their sins to one another in order to be healed 5:16a
2. James instructs his readers that prayer by upright people can do much as is illustrated by Elijah’s prayers 5:16b-18
3. James explains to his readers that their involvement with one another when they help one another with sin preserves life and covers over sins 5:19-20
1 See the introduction on his identity. He was the half brother of Jesus and a leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13ff; 21:18).
2 This description identifies the readers as Jewish.
3 These readers do not seem to be residents of Palestine but a scattered people. In view of 2:1, “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” it seems that this audience is limited in its reference to believing Jews. Perhaps they were members of the Jerusalem church who were driven out of Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19-20). If this is correct, then James was once their spiritual leader (Acts 15) and now he writes with spiritual authority and knowledge of their needs.
4 The doubting not only relates to the existence of God, but to His willingness to help in our need. Doerksen writes, “It is a deep conviction that God’ is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him’ (Heb. 11:6), coupled with an acknowledgment of our need for help. We must believe not only in God’s ability to respond to our petition, but also His willingness to do so in conformity to His nature and will” (James, Everyman’s Bible Commentary, 21). Later he says, “‘Doubting’ speaks not of uncertainty but of internal indecision. It is wavering between two competing desires: self-interests and God’s interests. That doubting suggests a reluctance to commit oneself wholly to God’s care.... One may doubt because his is not fully assured that God will respond, or because he is not sure he wants God to answer (Ibid.).
5 James Burdick writes, “These are sobering thoughts that tend to reduce the rich to the level of men in general, just as the privilege of suffering for Christ lifts the poor man to a new plane of dignity and worth” (“James,” in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12:170).
6 This high position relates to his position in Christ and possibly the honor which he will receive for suffering for the name of Christ (cf. Acts 5:41).
7 Donald Burdick writes concerning the persecution being described here, “The very same treatment that exalts the poor man and gives him a new sense of worth also humbles the rich man. Suffering shows him that, instead of having a lasting lease on life, his life on this earth is no more permanent that ‘a wild flower’ (cf. Isa 40:6-8)” (“James” in EBC, 12:170).
8 Perhaps this humiliation relates to the trials which he is experiencing.
9 James makes allusion here to Isaiah 40:6-7; see also Psalm 102:4, 11; 1 Peter 1:24.
10 Burdick writes, “That is, he cannot be successfully tempted. His omnipotent, holy will fully resists any invitation to sin. Furthermore, in him there is not the slightest moral depravity to which temptation may appeal. Therefore, it is inconsistent to think that God could be the author of temptation” (“James,” EBC, 12:172)
As Doerksen says, “There are certain passages that speak of God’s testing. He tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1) and Israel (Ex. 16:4; Judg. 2:22), but that was to build character, not to solicit evil” (James, EBC, 30).
11 Burdick writes, “A chronological order is suggested by the words ‘then’ and ‘after.’ First, temptation comes (v. 14); then desire, like a human mother, conceives and ‘gives birth to sin.’ In this graphic manner the author portrays the experience of yielding to temptation. Than sin, the child of evil desire, develops till it ‘is full-grown’ and ready to produce offspring. When it conceives, it ‘gives birth to death.’ James is not suggesting that only when sin has reached its full development does it result in death. The details of the illustration must not be pressed too far. The author’s intention is simply to trace the results of temptation when one yields to it. The order is evil desire, sin, death” (“James,” EBC, 12:172).
12 The construction is a prohibition with a present tense imperative ( Μὴ πλανᾶσθε ) which has the sense of stopping what you are doing (Dana and Mantey, § 290).
13 Burdick writes, “The context seems to indicate that the lights referred to are the stars and planets. ‘Father’ probably has the twofold significance, pointing on the one hand to the creation of the lights and on the other to God’s continuing sovereignty over them.
Unlike the ‘shifting shadows’ that are caused by the sun, moon, and stars, God ‘does not change’” (“James,” EBC, 12:173).
14 This birth is said to come “through the word of truth” and therefore, probably refers to spiritual birth rather than physical birth. This was accomplished by his choice ( βουληθεὶς ). These early Christians were to be the first portion of the harvest (firstfruits) of the many people (his creatures) who would believe in later centuries.
15 Doerksen writes, “The mention of regeneration through the Word (v. 18) fittingly introduces new thoughts concerning the Word. As the Word produces regeneration, so it is also a means of sanctification. After writing of the experience of the new birth, James continues with the challenge to live out the new life by means of the word” (James, EBC, 39).
Perhaps what follows is the “wisdom of God” offered in 1:6 for dealing with trials! These two verse seem to be programmatic for the next major unit of this book. The outline of the passage is given in 1:19-20. Then the next major section unfolds as follows: (1) Those under trials need to remain obedient to the Word for true life [1:21--2:26], (2) Those under trials need to be wise in their speech to give life [3:1-18], and (3) Those under trials need to ask God to help them with their inner struggles rather than becoming angry and lashing out [4:1--5:12].
The larger structure of this book may be as follows: (1) Introduction to People with Problems [1:1], (2) Basis for trusting God with Problems [1:2-18], (3) How to Go on with Your Faith in the Midst of Problems [1:19--5:12], and (4) People Helping People for Restoration in Life [5:13-20].
16 This is translating the term for “know” ( ῎Ιστε from οἰδε ) as an indicative rather than an imperative. If it is an imperative it refers to what follows (‘My dear brothers, take note of this:’) but if it is an indicative it refers to what has just preceded it.
17 James now unfolds his exhortation above in 1:19-20 in the context of particular issues which his readers are experiencing. His thesis is that by obeying God’s word when they are under pressure, they will experience salvation in their daily lives. God’s word not only offers salvation from the penalty of sin, but salvation from the effects of sin in this life. The tone of what follows is very similar to wisdom literature. By heeding the advise of James, the readers will find skill for living a more profitable life.
18 The readers are to strip off this moral filth like dirty clothes in preparation for the word (cf. Hebrews 12:1).
19 Burdick writes, “That the Word is described a ‘planted in you’ suggests the readers were believers who already possessed the truth. The phrase ‘which can save you’ simply describes the truth as saving truth. James is not calling for an initial acceptance of that message, but for a full and intelligent appropriation of the truth as the Christian grows in spiritual understanding” (“James” in EBC, 12:175).
Doerksen understands “saved” in the final eschatological sense (James, EBC, 44). One wonders, however, why this conclusion is drawn. It seems that the context emphasizes the present aspect of salvation rather than the past or future. They are experiencing trials and James is writing to offer help in this present situation.
20 See Colossians 2:4 ( παραλογιζόμενοι ). James is exhorting his readers to put into practice what the word says to them and thus what they profess to believe.
21 James does not want them to forget who they are (firstfruits for all that God has created [1:18]). Any failure to respond cannot be blamed on lack of understanding because this look is described as an intense observation.
22 This law is probably the ethic of the Mosaic law (cf. James 2:8, 12) where “law” is also used.
23 Could this be parallel to the wisdom of Psalm 1 (a wisdom/Torah psalm).
24 Literally this reads, “μὴ ἐν προσωπολημψίαιας ε῎χετε τὴν πίστιν ....” “Stop having the faith in favoritism ....” Burdick writes, “To say that practicing favoritism contradicts one’s profession of faith is another way of saying that one’s action does not measure up to the truth he professes to believe” (“James” in EBC, 12:177).
25 Again, this Law is the ethical code of Moses (Exodus 10; Deuteronomy 5 cf. w/ Leviticus 19:18; see also Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14). It is the law to love one another--all men be they rich or poor.
26 This may support the concept that the ethical Law is a reflection of the very character of God. Therefore to break any of the commandments is to rebel against God in his very person. To not commit adultery, but to commit murder is to not love one made in the image of God and thus to not love God Himself! What we do to one another we do to God (Psalm 51).
27 This is a literal rendering of the Greek which reads, “Ου῞τως λαλεῖτε καὶ ου῞τως ποιεῖτε.”
28 Since this audience is identified as being believers (see above), then this judgment must be referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 3:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Luke 19:11-27).
29 A major theological issue in James is the meaning of this verse. One may work with the problem in the following logical manner:
The field of meaning of the term for “save” ( σῴζω) is as follows: (1) To “preserve or rescue fr. natural dangers and afflictions” as in from death, mortal danger, disease, ill condition, (2) To “save or preserve from eternal death” and (3) One and two above at the same time (BAG, p. 798-799):
If the message of this unit is that when a believer is under trials, he hears the word of God when he expresses his faith through good works to bring about deliverance in life for others (2:14-26) ...,then the “force or sense” of this question is in reference to the first denotation of σῴζω : “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers” and not those senses of two and three above. This meaning is further supported by the contextual placement of this unit: This statement falls in a unit addressed to believers--”my beloved brethren” (1:19), exhortations in 1:19 outline this unit for believers under trials, “the word implanted” is a new covenant description (1:21 cf. Jer. 31:33), reception of the word implanted is able to save the lives of those who are already brethren (1:19-21). Therefore, since they are already brethren (1:19), the eternal aspect of σῴζω is no longer an issue.
The analogy which follows (of words and food to a hungry man as faith and words is to deliverance) is temporal. A man is born once physically but is sustained by daily food. A man is born once spiritually but must be sustained by works.
One might illustrate James teaching in the following way: A car going down the street is about to hit you. You say to the Apostle Paul, “Faith will deliver me right?” Paul says, “Yes, you will go to heaven.” But James says, “Faith and works will let you live and have a productive life now--sooo get out of the street!”
Faith alone will not win approval at the judgment seat of Christ where our works are judged (1 Cor.3; Luke 19:11-27).
30 The example is designed to illustrate the proposition in 2:14 that faith which is not expressed in good works will not bring about deliverance in life (2:14).Therefore, the uselessness of faith which is not expressed in good works is demonstrated in the one who speaks encouraging words to another in physical need, but does not act to relieve their distress (2:15-17). The words are words of ‘faith,’-- “go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” --but the actions of “not giving them what is necessary for their bodies” are in no way useful for their needs. Therefore, the example demonstrates that faith which is not expressed in good works is useless since it does not bring about deliverance in life (σῴζω ).
Another important question is what is meant by the statement “faith by itself, ... is dead”? 2:17
The field of meaning of the important terms is as follows--for the term “πιστίς:” (1) That which causes trust and faith, (2) Trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = believing, and (3) That which is believed, body of faith or belief, doctrine: (BAG, pp. 662-664).
For the term “νεκρά “ (1) Dead as in living persons falling dead, lifeless, morally depraved, separated, useless, and (2) The dead person (BAG, pp. 534-535)
If the message of this unit is that the uselessness of faith which is not expressed in good works is demonstrated in the one who speaks encouraging words to another in physical need, but does not act to relieve their distress (2:15-17) ...,then the faith described is an active sense of believing and not a body of faith or belief. Likewise if the message of this unit is that the uselessness of faith which is not expressed in good works is demonstrated in the one who speaks encouraging words to another in physical need, but does not act to relieve their distress (2:15-17)..., then “dead” is descriptive of a separation which is lifeless, or useless. Therefore, the sense of “faith by itself, ... is dead” is not that of “a body of doctrine which is not sufficient for eternal life,” but that “it is the act of believing which is useless in that it does not preserve life in the present as in 1:21.”To only express one’s faith without the necessary accompanying good works to help someone in their distress, is to express a faith which is not helpful to others; it is separated from life in its effects.
31 One might ask, “what is the meaning of the objector in 2:18-19?” It seems that he is arguing that there is no necessary connection between faith and good works:
“you have faith
and I have works
You show me your faith apart from works
and I will show you my faith by my works
You believe that God is one. You do what is right.
Demons also believe and shudder.”
The objection is that faith and good works need not be correlated with one another since they can be demonstrated to exist apart from one another. This misses James’ point concerning the profit of faith when expressed alone as opposed to with good works.
Therefore, the objector is arguing that faith must not necessarily be correlated with works to prove its existence, but James is arguing concerning the necessary correlation of faith with works in order for there to be any present benefit in the trials of life.
32 James offers evidence for the profit of combining works with faith through two illustrations: (1) the father of faith--Abraham, and (2) the epitome of a Gentile who had faith--Rahab.
Abraham’s good works of obeying God as he offered up his son who was to fulfill the promise already given to him, demonstrated to himself and others the justifying faith of the patriarch with God. Abraham’s works demonstrated the growth of Abraham’s faith to himself (2:22) as well as the truth of God’s earlier declaration of righteousness (2:23a). Abraham’s works demonstrated to others that he was God’s friend (2:23b).
Rahab the harlot’s faith also demonstrated to others that she had expressed believing faith in the Lord when she received the messengers of the Lord and then delivered them from her people who were under the judgment of God by sending them out another way (2:25).
In both cases, the works of the one who had faith in the Lord was a profit in present life trials. This fits well with the message for this unit: “when one is under trials, one hears the word of God when he expresses his faith through good works to bring about deliverance in life for others (2:14-26)”
33 One might ask, “how do we harmonize James’ ‘justified by what he does and not by faith alone’ (2:24) with Paul in Romans 4:1-3?
It seems that the harmonization lies in the emphasis of the two passages. In Romans the emphasis is “before God” where in James the emphasis is “before men.” For Paul, justification is to declare a sinner righteous in the sight of God: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about: but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2). For James, justification is to vindicate or show that a person is righteous before men. In Genesis 22, Abraham demonstrates the reality of Genesis 15:6 (cf. also 2 Chronicles 20:7 where Abraham is called by men, “Thy friend forever;” Isa. 41:8; and John 15:14 where the disciples are told that they will be Jesus’ friends if they do what he commands them to do).This distinction of “before God” and “before men” is consistent with the message of James 2:14-26 where the emphasis is that: When one is under trials, one is a hearer of the word of God when he expresses his faith through good works to bring about deliverance in life for others (2:14-26). When faith is combined with good works, it brings about deliverance for others, and thus leads them to declare that one is righteous before God.
34 This term does not merely describe “mistakes” so much as acts of sin (cf. 2:10).
35 Burdick writes, “If anyone could be found who never sins with his tongue, he would never sin in any other way, either. Since sins of the tongue are hardest to avoid, anyone who could control his tongue would surely be able to ‘keep his whole body in check’ --keep it from being used as an instrument of sin” (“James” in EBC, 12:187)
36 In other words, those who are teachers among the Jews--the scribe and the rabbi (TDNT 7:505).
37 The term is πραῦτητι describes a strength under control. This is the gentleness which comes from wisdom.
38 This is a first class condition which assumes that this is true.
39 The prohibitions are both in the present tense with μὴ thus demanding the activity to cease.
Burdick writes, “James’s readers may have been priding themselves in their partisan defense of the truth--a defense that was to their own advantage and advancement. Through such bitter and partisan defense, they were in reality denying the very truth they were attempting to defend” (“James,” EBC, 12:190).
40 See John 3:3, 7.
41 Braudick writes, “James is no doubt speaking of disturbance and turmoil in the church. The ‘evil practice’ refers specifically to worthless activity, to deeds that are bad because they are good for nothing and cannot produce any real benefit...” (“James,” EBC, 12:191).
Doerksen suggests that these may be false teachers, “‘Truth’ may refer to the facts in a case, the truth; or it may speak of the truth of the gospel. If the second meaning is the case, the so-called wise teachers were actually living a lie against the gospel” (James, 88).
42 This is the absence of sinful attitudes and motives (in contrast to the self-seeking motives mentioned in 3:14-16).
43 Burdick writes, “James concludes his discussion of ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’ by reiterating the second quality listed in v. 17. To ‘raise a harvest of righteousness’ demands a certain kind of climate. A crop of righteousness cannot be produced in the climate of bitterness and self-seeking. Righteousness will grow only in a climate of peace. And it must be sown and cultivated by the ‘peacemakers.’ Such persons not only love peace and live in peace but also strive to create conditions of peace” (“James,” EBC, 12:191-92).
44 The term is ἡδονῶν meaning pleasures from which we get the term “hedonism.” Burdick writes, “Pleasure is the overriding desire of their lives. Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of its realization” (“James,” EBC, 12:192).
45 Burdick appropriately writes, “Some, insisting that the word must be taken literally, say that James is not referring to any specific occurrences but is indicating what happens when men desire pleasure rather than God (Ropes, p. 255). This interpretation, however, does not do justice to the pointed accusation ‘You Kill.’ In the context of forceful words such as polemoi (‘wars’) and machai (‘battles’), it seems better to take phoneuete (‘you kill’) as hyperbole for hatred” (“James,” EBC, 12:193). See also Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15 where hatred is identified with murder.
46 Question--is what they are asking for what it is that they need? Or are they asking for symptoms of the deeper issues? Are the real issues tied to the original sins of lust and their envy? And are lust and envy the core issue? They are expressions of the heart’s longing which is met illegitimately (cf. 1:14-15). James will move in this direction with the next verses.
47 See Jeremiah 31:32; Hosea 2:2-5; 3:1-5; 9:1; Ezekiel 16.
48 This is probably the gist of passages like Exodus 20:5 and 34:14.
49 The last part of this verse comes form Proverbs 3:34. Burdick writes, “The reference to the gift of grace looks back to God’s demand for loyalty (vv. 4-5). God in grace gives his people the help they need to resist the appeal of the world and to remain loyal to him. The reference to ‘the humble’ constitutes the theme for vv. 7-10, where James pleads for submission to God. ‘The humble’ are the people who willingly submit to God’s desire for them rather than proudly insisting on satisfying their own desires for pleasure (cf. vv. 1-3) (“James,” EBC, 12:194).
Therefore, the difficulty which these readers may be finding themselves as God does not answer their prayers is in part due to his resisting the proud!
50 The term is ὑποτάγητε and is the logical response to 4:6 so that they might receive grace rather than God’s resistance. The writer is urging his readers to not flee from God under the fuel of their desires, but to remain in relationship to Him (submit).
51 The term for resisting describes a face to face confrontation ( ἀντίστητε ) as in Paul’s face to face confrontation of Peter in Galatians 2:11. Perhaps the Devil is brought in at this point because it is his “world system” which the readers are going toward as they seek resolution of their desires apart from God (cf. 4:4).
52 These words describe ceremonial cleansing as in Psalm 51:7-9; 16-17.
53 This is again an allusion to Proverbs 3:34 cited above in verse 6. Burdick writes, “Here the specific form of humbling is that of repentance for the sin of transferring affections from God to pleasures of the world” (“James,” EBC, 12:195). See also Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 5:6).
54 This is another prohibition with the present imperative with the sense that they are already doing this.
James does not seem to be speaking against evaluating whether someone is murdering or doing evil in this exhortation. We are supposed to do such things (cf. 1 Cor. 5; Luke 6:32). Rather, it seems that he is addressing those areas which are “questionable” (cf. Rom. 14) wherein people place themselves up as God instead of really dealing with their own sin!
55 Again this is probably the ethic of the Moral Law (cf. Lev. 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself”).
56 See Paul’s use of this phrase in Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19; but note that he does not use it mechanically (Acts 19:21; Romans 15:28; 1 Corinthians 16:5, 8). Whether stated or not, Paul knew his life and plans were conditioned upon the will of God.
57 It seems that the right thing to do was explicitly stated as repentance in 4:7-10. James is exhorting his readers not to ignore their desires by doing evil (pointing their fingers at others and proclaiming arrogant autonomy). Positive thinking is not the button which moves God to resolve our lusts during hard times. God desires for us to be in touch with our real needs and to ask Him for help rather than just our wants.
58 Burdick writes, “It is like saying, ‘Now that I have pointed the matter out to you you have no excuse.’ Knowing what should be done obligates a person to do it” (“James,” EBC, 12:198).
59 “There is good reason to believe that the persons referred to in this section are not believers. It might be argued that they are personally addressed in the same way other groups are addressed in previous sections (3:1; 4:13). Since the epistle in general is written to Christians, it might be assumed that the rich of 5:1-6 are Christians just as the rich of 1:9-11 are. However, there are significant differences between 5:1-6 and the rest of the epistle. These individuals are not addressed as ‘brothers’ (cf. 1:2, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14, 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12). Furthermore, they are not called on to repent and change their ways but only to ‘weep and wail’ because of the judgment they are going to undergo. It is, therefore, more reasonable to understand the section as similar to OT prophetic declarations of coming judgment against pagan nations. It will be noted that the latter also are interspersed among sections addressed to God’s people (e.g., Isa 13-21, 23; Ezek 25-32)” (Burdick, “James,” EBC, 12:199).
These are those who are probably persecuting the readers. James is encouraging his readers that God will one day deal with the evil of these men by judging them.
60 Burdick writes, “The tarnish was indication of how long the hoarded wealth had lain idle. He warns the rich, ‘their corrosion will testify against you’” (“James,” EBC, 12:199).
61 Burdick writes, “In Palestine the early rains came in October and November soon after the grain was sown, and the latter rains came in April and May as the grain was maturing. Both rainy seasons were necessary for a successful crop. Knowing this, the farmer was willing to wait patiently until both rains came and provided the needed moisture” (“James,” EBC, 12:201).
62 A prohibition with the present imperative.
63 Burdick writes, “And the Judge is represented as ‘standing at the door,’ as if his hand is on the latch, ready to enter at any time” (“James,” EBC, 12:202).
64 Probably Jeremiah is an outstanding example of this--He was put in stocks (Jer. 20:2), throne into prison (Jer. 32:2), lowered into a cistern (Jer. 38:6).
65 See Job 1:21-22; 2:10; 13:15; 19:25-27; 42:10-17.
66 See Matthew 5:34-37.
67 The term for suffering ( κακοπαθεῖ ) was used above (v. 10) in its noun form for the prophets.
68 The purpose of this passage does not seem to be to give the reader a formula or pattern to follow when he or another believer is sick in a physical way. This view has been a traditional interpretation of the passage by evangelicals such as Doerksen (James, EBC, 13:29-134), Tasker (The General Epistle of James, INTC, 129) and Burdick (“James,” EBC, 12:203-204).
However, Daniel Hayden notes that, “If James 5:13-18 is a reference to special healing of physical illness, then it is totally unique to the teaching of the New Testament Epistles and disruptive to the argument of the Book of James” (“Calling the Elders to Pray” Bibliotheca Sacra 138:551 [July-September 1981]:258). He goes on to point out that nowhere else in the Epistles is there a special divine healing of the sick through the ministry of the elders. Timothy was told to take wine for his stomach (1 Tim. 5:23), Trophimus was left sick in Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20), Paul’s infirmity was the work of God (2 Cor. 12:7-10), believers are encouraged to view physical distresses as working toward a spiritual benefit (Rom. 8:18-25; 2 Cor. 4:16-18) and as completing and perfecting them (James 1:4) (Ibid., 259). This segment, if on physical healing, also does not seem to fit into the flow of the preceding context concerning injustice (5:1-12) or the confession of sin following it (5:15ff). Therefore it seems that a different design must be sought which takes into consideration all of the elements of the text. True this could be the only text which addresses this doctrine of healing but a better explanation is possible.
It seems that the design of James 5:13-20 is to encourage his Christian readers, who are suffering persecution, to support and restore one another through the ministry of the strong praying for the weak.
This design can be supported through the specifics of the text as follows: (1) James has been arguing that trials and temptations are going to come and how the believer reacts to them is important (1:2-18). Then in 1:19--5:12 James shows how faith should respond to such trials. Finally, in 5:13-20 James provides specific instructions on how to restore those who are or have not reacted well and thus are discouraged. Therefore, this unit can and does fit well into the logic of the book.
(2) Two groups are addressed in summary form in verse 12 who will be developed throughout this segment. Those who are suffering from the hardship of persecution, not sickness (cf. κακοπαθεω, 2 Tim. 2:9; 4:5) and those who are able to keep up their courage during these persecutions (cf. ευθυμεω, Acts 27:22, 25). The latter will need to strengthen the former.
(3) Although some terms allow for a lexical meaning of ‘sick,’ they also allow for meanings which better fit into the context of the book, (e.g., ‘sick’ in 5:14 (ἀσθενεω). This term generally means weak and is used to describe a weakness due to persecutions, convictions, insults, and distress (cf. 2 Cor. 12:10; Rom. 14:2; 1 Cor. 8:11). To anoint (ἀλειφω) with oil has many expressions with those not physically sick (Lk. 7:38, 46; Jn. 12:3; 11:2; Mk. 16:1) and although Mark 6:13 could be used to support the traditional view, it seems that the concept of anointing the head with oil as a sign of blessing and refreshment from God better fits the passage in light of eastern, Old Testament culture (cf. Ruth 3:3; 2 Sam. 12:20; 14:2; Ps. 23:5; 45:7; 92:10; Amos 6:6; Matt. 6:17). The term in verse 15 for ‘the one who is sick’ ( καμω) specifically is used to describe one who is weary of enduring trials which God has set before him in Hebrews 12:3. The term ‘restore’ in verse 15 (ἐγειρω) does not necessitate physical healing (Matt 12:11) and may be a figurative way of describing the restoration of one discouraged. Also the term for ‘healed’ (ιἀομαι) clearly can have the sense of spiritual healing as in Hebrews 12:12-13 where those who are spiritually weak (weak hands and feeble knees) are said to be healed from their struggle with sin (cf. Heb 12:3-4).
(4) The movement from the work of the elders (v. 14) to the forgiveness and confession of sin (vv. 15, 16) is light of the above design is logically relating sin to one who is not persevering during persecution and the spiritual healing which comes from confession which enables the believer to then live a Spirit enabled life.
(5) the illustration of Elijah (vv. 17-18) is an appropriate one because Elijah demonstrated the possibility of effective prayer (1 Ki. 17:1; 18) even through he became discouraged under persecution (1 Ki. 19). It is also interesting to note that if prayer for physical sickness were in view, James could have used Elijah’s prayer for healing of the widow’s son (1 Ki. 17:17-24).
(6) The concluding verse of the book (5:19-20) are an encouragement for believers to minister restoration to one another for their physical and spiritual prosperity.
In light of the above the passage should probably not be used to support an obligation on God’s behalf to heal a believer who is physically sick because the doctors have applied medicine or the elders have applied oil and prayed. This passage does not support the Catholic doctrines of ‘extreme unction’ or ‘confession of sins to priests.’
Rather this passage is very similar in application to Galatians 6:1; John 13; and Hebrews 10:24-25. It is the responsibility of those who are strong in their Christian faith (e.g., elders) to support and encourage those weak believers who during difficult times become weary and are willing to apostasize in the sense of Hebrews. The weak believer has the responsibility to confess these types of sins (discouragement in their Christian faith etc) to those who seem to be doing well, and the strong have the responsibility to uphold the weak through the ministry of intercessory prayer. The Christian life is not to be that of independence but interdependence. The body of Christ is to care for itself. When believers are discouraged, they are to be encouraged. When there is sin in a believer’s life, there is to be restoration through confession and prayer.
This passage does not necessarily teach that there should be public confession of sin because in such a confession the weak would be present with the strong (which violates the set pattern) and because the purpose is for the strong to pray for the needs of the weak--not just to ventilate. However, there is to be a sharing of areas of sin and personal need for the purpose of a stronger brother to help (v. 19) and pray for the weaker.
God desires the body of Christ to work towards strengthening, restoring, and rejuvenating the spiritually weak. Perhaps oil might be placed upon the head of one who is physically sick because of sin (1 Cor. 11), but the oil was actually a sign of the ending of mourning and the entrance into life and festivity.
Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines