James 5:17-20 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which convert the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Elijah – Elias’s case is given to show that all men are alike in constitution and to encourage others to pray even for miracles (1Kin. 17:1; 18:1, 41-46).
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth…” here seven facts are given about backsliders: It is possible for brethren or Christians to err from the truth and become unconverted (see Peter as an example in Luke 22:32). An erring Christian can be converted again. An erring Christian becomes a sinner again, if he sins (Rom. 6:14-23). An erring Christian incurs the death penalty again when he sins (Ezek. 18:24; Rom. 8:12-13; Gal. 5:19-21). If the erring Christian is saved from his error, his soul will be saved again from death (1Jn. 1:9; 5:16; Rev. 2:5). If he repents and is saved again from death, his sins will be forgiven and hidden. If he does not repent, he will be lost and will have to pay the penalty for sin (2Tim. 2:12; Heb. 6:4-6,10:26-29, 2Pet. 2:20-21).
Conversion means a change of direction, a new walk with God and is explained in Acts 3:19 “Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord,” thus for us to convert a sinner is to get someone to turn back to God, to change direction, and to walk anew with Him. It is not, however, to save others from their sins, for that is Christ Jesus’ salvation work as our Saviour (Rom. 1:16; Php. 1:28-29; 1Thes. 5:9; Heb. 9:28; 1Pet. 1:10-11).
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avail much.
There is a twofold secret of bodily healing: Confess your faults one to another – admit what you have done wrong; Pray one for another, that you may be healed (Mat. 21:22; Mar. 11:24). The Greek word for faults is paraptoma which means a falling aside when one should have stood upright; a transgression; a moral fall.
A couple of Biblical facts about Sickness and Healing: Both death and sickness originated with sin and are now being propagated by satan (Job 2:6-7; Luke 13:16; John 10:10; Acts 10:38; Rom. 5:12-21). The first prophecy and promise of redemption included healing (Isa. 53:5; Mat. 8:16-17; 1Pet. 2:24). Healing was promised on condition of obedience (Psa. 91:1-16; Isa. 58:1-14; Jas. 5:14-15). God permits (allows ) satan to afflict sinners and even His own people when they go astray, to bring them to repentance (Job 33:12-30; Psa. 38:1-22; 103:3; 1Cor. 5:1-5; 2Cor. 2:6-11). Health, as well as healing, was promised when men met certain conditions (Pro. 3:1-8; 12:18; 18:21; Isa. 58:1-14; 1Pet. 3:10-11; 3Jn. 1:2). Christ came to redeem from both sin and sickness (Isa. 53:1-12; 61:1-2; Mat. 8:17; 1Jn. 3:8). The Holy Spirit was sent into the world to carry on the healing ministry (Acts 2:33; 1Cor. 12:9; Heb. 2:3-4). Healing is provided as part of Christ’s atonement (Isa. 53:4-5; Mat. 13:14-15; John 3:14; 10:10; Rom. 8:11; 1Cor. 11:23-32). Healing is on the same basis as forgiveness of sins – prayer and faith (Mat. 9:1-7; 13:15; 21:22; Acts 28:27; Jas. 1:4-8; 5:14-16; Heb. 11:6). God has provided all necessary means of healing and complete defeat of satanic powers (2Cor. 10:4-5; Eph. 6:10-18; John 14:12-15; Jas. 4:7; 5:14-16; 1Pet. 2:24; 5:7-9, 18). Healing is always the will of God for His people who may: “ask what ye will” (John 15:7); “whatsoever” (Mat. 21:22; John 14:12-15; 15:16); “anything” (John 14:14); “what things soever you desire” (Mar. 11:22-24); and “much more” than earthly parents would or could give their children (Mat. 7:7-11).
Thus, it is clear in Scripture that physical healing is provided for in the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament is based upon better promises than the Old Testament (Heb. 8:6).
James 5:13-15 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
If anyone endures hardness or afflictions or suffers trouble: Pray! That’s right, talk to God about it, He is the only one that can change, restore or repair lives and situations. When you are merry – cheerful and happy – sing Psalms! That’s right, praise God for who He is and what He has done for you! If you are sick, two commands are given to receive healing:
Call the elders – someone that’s been serving God for years with a good report of their lives (see 1 Timothy for requirements) – and confess your sin – acknowledge that you have allowed the enemy to destroy (John 10:10) by not heading to all God commands in His word that keeps us protected under His wings (Ps. 91:4-6) so that the pestilence can’t reach us.
Four things the elders are to do for the sick: Pray over them, anoint the sick with oil, invoke the name of the Lord and pray the prayer of faith.
No doubt pure olive oil is meant, as it was customary among Jews to carry such oil with them in all their journeys, to anoint their bodies and heal their wounds and bruises (Luke 10:34). This anointing was merely symbolic of the healing of God by the Holy Spirit (Mar. 6:13). It doesn’t mean that olive oil was a cure for all kinds of diseases. The oil itself did not heal, for one would not have to pray and invoke the name of Jesus Christ merely to anoint with oil, nor would it have to be done by the elders.
The prayer of faith shall save the sick – this is what heals the sick in such cases. When the prayer of faith is prayed and the name of Jesus Christ invoked, the Lord shall rise up the sick and forgive him if he has sinned. This power to heal is promised to every believer (Mat. 17:20; 21:22; John14:12-15; 15:7, 16; 16:23-26). The Lord shall raise him up refers to true divine healing. Healing and forgiveness go hand in hand (Mat. 9:5; 13:15; Acts 3:16).
James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest you fall into condemnation.
Jews and Arabs were notorious for swearing or taking oaths by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, the temple, the altar, and the different members of the body. Even simple affirmatives were always accompanied with an oath. It was this wicked practice that caused this command to see the light. The Greek word for condemnation here is hupokrisis which means hypocrisy. The idea is that those who were in the habit of making oaths also believed that they could make them with the mouth while the heart cancelled them. Oaths were made with mental reservations to annul them, regardless of how solemn they were. This was all done in hypocrisy and fostered searing of the conscience as to what was said. One soon became a confirmed hypocrite in such matters.
Jesus commanded us in Matthew 5:34-37 “Not to swear at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swears by thy head, because thou cannot make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these come of evil.” Don’t make any promises whatsoever, but stick to what you said you will do or not do, thus let your Yes be yes and your No be no. Our word forms part of our testimony and the enemy will do whatever necessary to discount our trustworthiness in the hope to destroy our living sacrifice (1 Pet. 2:21-23).
James 5:7-11 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman wait for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be you also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draw nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest you be condemned: behold, the judge stand before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
We are warned to have the right attitude – patience instead of moaning and groaning until the coming of the Lord, which refers to the rapture (not the second coming) when the Lord will come in the air to receive the saints to Himself (John 14:1-3; Luke 21:34-36; 1Cor.15:23, 51-58). The early and latter rains in Palestine, the early rain at seedtime and the latter rain at harvest time, are used here to picture the fruit of the harvest of souls. The early spiritual rain fell at the founding of the body of Christ (Acts 2:1-16) and the latter rain will be poured out at the end of this age when the complete harvest of this dispensation will be gathered (Acts 2:16-21; cp. Hos. 6:3; Zech. 10:1).
Many examples in the word are given to us for those who suffered in patience and of whom the world was not worthy of (Heb. 11:32-40). Job is given as an example as one who suffered because of that which he feared that did came over him as seen in Job 1:5 and his acknowledgement of this sin where he said: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me” (Job 3:25). We are reminded in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
James 5:1-6 Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
These verses contain the first and last prophecy in James regarding six predictions concerning evil rich men that awaits them because they have condemned and killed the just.
Miseries will come upon them, their riches will become corrupted and their garments moth-eaten, their gold and silver to canker that eat their flesh and the rust or poison of their riches will witness or testify of their many sins. These riches that are corrupted instead of cankered as gold and silver, refers to crops, flocks, stores of grain, wine, oil, and many changes of clothing in the wardrobes.
Lord of Sabaoth is a term often used in the Old Testament of God who is Lord of hosts, or Lord of armies, who has infinite power to rule the nations and punish the wicked (1Sam. 1:3, 11; 4:4; 15:2).
Living in pleasure on earth – the Greek word truphao which means to live softly or delicately; fare sumptuously; live in luxury; to be effeminate; to be licentious; to revel – and been wanton is the Greek word spatalao that refers to living riotously and in pleasure (1Tim. 5:6; 1 Pet. 4:3); and nourishing of the hearts as in the day of slaughter refers to feasting and surfeiting as men do at the times of their religious feasts.
James 4:13-17 Go to now, you that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appear for a little time, and then vanish away. For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now you rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that know to do good, and do it not, to him it is sin.
Boastings here consist of bragging on buying and selling from city to city and what one will do here and there. One should always say, “If the Lord will, we shall live to do this, or that”. This would demonstrate a personal faith in God and His providence instead of one’s own abilities. All such boasting is of evil intent. We cannot travel, shop, work or live life from our own understanding and ideas, we have to trust in God and acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He can direct our paths (Pro. 3:5-6).
God’s will is always to make us perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:21).
For what is your life? It is a vapour…This is practically what was said of the rich man in James 1:10-11, so little worth to one’s life whom only focuses on the riches and ‘success’ of this world. The last verse warns that if we know what is good – to do right according to God’s standards – and we don’t, we are sinning. The Greek word for sin is hamartia which means to miss the mark.
James 4:8-12 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speak evil of his brother, and judge his brother, speak evil of the law, and judge the law: but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judge another?
Cleansing the hands was a symbol of innocence and purity (Mat. 27:24), but here it means to separate yourself from the world and consecrate your life to God, renouncing all sin.
For those who do not dwell in the secret place of the most High, that does not abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psa. 91:1), in reconciling with Him, you have to draw near to God again so that He can come near to you. But certain conditions are commanded to restore to your previous state. You must have no double-mindedness which refers to doubting God (Jas. 1:6-8) and you must be afflicted – mourn and weep – which shows of a true repentance that will always bring the mercy of God if done in time–that is now (1Jn. 1:7; Heb. 9:27).
Ten types of sin and pleasure are mentioned in James 4:1-9: Wars and fighting; lusts of sin (Eph. 2:1-3); murders and killings; desires – covetousness; adulteries and other sexual sins; friendships with worldly men; envies and jealousies; pride and haughtiness; laughter prompted by sin; joy founded on sin. True followers of Christ would not be guilty of those as stated repeatedly in 1 John 3.
To speak against; backbite; rail at; slander (1Pet. 2:12; 3:16)refers to slandering among the different factions of Jews and the Jews against their brethren who had accepted Christ and God is the one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or destroy. Man has no right to usurp this authority when we judge those who choose to stay in sin.
James 4:6-7 But he give more grace. Wherefore he says, God resist the proud, but give grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Four promises are made to backsliders here: God gives more grace to the humble; the devil will flee from you when you submit – give – yourselves to God; God will then draw near to you and lift you up. When we give place to the enemy in our lives (Eph. 4:27), we are entering a backslidden state from where things will go from bad to worse as we regress spiritually, and decay will follow in all other areas. We have to know that the enemy walks around like a roaring lion to seek whom he may devour (1Pet. 5:8) and for us to not fall for his vices, we need to be sober and vigilant and thus not get into a backslidden state, otherwise, we will be devoured. In 1 John 5:18 we have been promised that those born of God – which means you have been born-again and are saved – thus sin not and keep yourself, that the wicked one cannot touch you! Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
James 4:1-4 From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
About this time in Judea the Jews made many insurrections against the Romans under the pretence of defending their religion and procuring their way of life. Many factions among the Jews also fought violently, massacring and plundering one another. In some provinces, Jews killed many heathens and brought destruction upon themselves. These wars were undertaken through a spirit of covetousness and zeal, trying to convert the heathen and destroy idolatry.
This passage should never be taken by the Christian as an excuse for unanswered prayer. By so doing he automatically classes himself as lustful, murderous, covetous, adulterous, worldly, proud, sinful, and blasphemous. Is it any wonder that God does not answer the prayers of such people? No man can ask amiss if he is in Christ and asks according to the promises (John 15:7; Heb. 11:6; Jas. 1:5-8). The reason Christian prayers are not answered is because of their unbelief.
For a Christian to get answers to prayers, we must be free from the cares of the world (Mat. 13:22; Lk. 21:34-36); not gain the world at the expense of our souls (Mat. 16:26); not offend others as the world does (Mat. 18:7); not be of the world – partake of it and be like the world (John 15:19; 17:14, 16); not love our lives in the world (John 12:25); be delivered from the world (Gal. 1:4); be crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14); shine as a light in the world, no darkness in us (Php. 2:15); deny worldly lusts; live godly in it (Tit. 2:12); be unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27); not be friends with the world (Jas. 4:4); escape the pollution and corruption of the world (2Pet. 1:4; 2:20); not love the world, neither the things that are in the world (1Jn. 2:15-17); be like Christ in the world (1Jn. 4:17); overcome the world (1Jn. 5:4-5); be not conformed to it (Rom. 12:2); and be dead to its ways (Col. 2:20).