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Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
We are coming to the end of James.
We have two more weeks and we will cover the last section of James’ teaching.
Throughout the book we have seen James focus on a couple themes.
We have seen that he had been encouraging and correcting the Christian believers that have been dispersed due to the heavy persecution that has come to the church.
People are attacking the church and the believers find themselves away from home, maybe in a foreign land or scattered in the pagan culture.
His teaching has focused on enduring these trials, having a living and active faith, controlling their speech, and submitting to the will and plans of God.
In the center of all of this is his teaching to humble themselves and submit to God and he will give grace.
He comes to the end of the book with a very important aspect of the Christian believer’s life.
This aspect is fundamental to living a life that is in line with his teachings to this point
This aspect is the aspect of prayer.
In chapter one he teaches that if a believer is lacking wisdom, that they should ask.
But gives a condition.
James will point the struggling believers to the power of prayer to help them with their current trials.
Stand with me in honor of God’s word as we read James 5:13-20
These are the words of the Lord.
You may have noticed that James repeats the words “Is anyone among you?”
Each time he does this he starts a new idea.
Today we are going to look at the first couple of these and next time we will finish James with the last one.
Verses 13-18 are all about prayer.
The word prayer is in every one of these verses and is the central idea of this section.
Before we dig into this there is a challenge that we need to bring up.
Theologians and scholars have continued to disagree with the exact meanings of this section of scripture.
There are many religions and sects that have used these verses to defend their beliefs without support from the rest of the bible.
The Roman Catholic church have taken them to support extreme unction of anointing or the sick and dying.
Faith healers have used them to convince people that if you just pray enough, if you just have enough faith, God will heal any sickness at your request.
My goal today is to go through these and teach what is does say, explain the differences in interpretation that people have, and for us to have confidence in the intent of the scriptures.
Let us begin in verse 13
Prayers of Individuals
James starts with these two book ends of life.
suffering and being cheerful.
When we read this it is common for the reader to put themselves immediately into the text and then come to conclusions from that.
This is the first argument that comes.
What suffering is James talking about?
The word used kakopatheia - Kakos “evil” - pathos “to suffer”
This same word was used in verse 5:10
If you remember James was and has been speaking of the suffering that comes from dealing with people.
This was tied long - anger, patience.
So in context of chapter 5 which tells the believers that even though the rich are persecuting and abusing you , that you are to wait patiently during this time as you suffer these things.
It is a strong argument that due to the common use of the word kakopathia in both sections that this is not referring to physical suffering from diseases and illness but from being abused by the persecutors.
Who is he writing too? he is speaking to the twelve tribes dispersed abroad.
There are many that will focus on physical sickness and it cannot be definitively stated that he is not talking about physical suffering as these are connected many times.
But the suffering that the church is experiencing is a spiritual attack with physical consequences.
But that isn’t the main point James is making in this verse.
He is pointing the believer back to the source of power in dealing with life and that is prayer.
If anyone among you is suffering.
He should pray.
What a simple concept.
but how often do we find ourselves wading into the deep end of the pool and almost drowning before we look to God.
Before we see him and his comfort.
Paul and Peter tells us this is our God
Why does James point them to pray because it is what God has given us to deal with suffering to be healed from suffering.
The verb pray is in the present tense which can be translated as “let him keep on praying”.
How a believer overcomes the sufferings that are caused by people of this world is by continually praying to our God and Father.
this is the key to dealing with this type of pain.
He then speaks of those that are cheerful should sing praises.
The word for cheerful here is to have good spirited happiness.
(on account of encouragement).
There is a very close connection between singing praises to God and prayer.
We sing to God in gratitude for the blessings that God has given us.
Those blessings can be correction, teaching, or other encouragement that he has bestowed on us.
Worship singing is not ment for God to give to us, it is for us to give to God.
In praises and lament.
on the peak and in the valley.
He continues into what is a single section all pointing back to the prayer for the sick.
Is anyone among you sick?
This another word that lead people to different conclusions.
The word here is asthereo and it can be translated as sick.
Which it is multiple times in the Gospels and acts.
In the writings of the epistles it is primarily used to refer to the results of suffering.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (CSB)
10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul uses this word in weakness and when he is weak.
Paul refers to weakness as the result of things like insults, hardships, and difficulties as a result of following Christ.
He says take pleasure and that he is strong when this weakness is happening.
It would appear that James is speaking of the same results of the trials that have come on the believers.
This means it is likely that James is speaking of the emotional and spiritual weariness that the church was experiencing.
As we move forward though this section we will be using this as the framework for the type of sickness that James is speaking of.
These verses have been used by many to speak of physical healing and what I will say is yes all aspects of what James is speaking of does correlate with dealing with physical healing that is taught in other scriptures like
2 Kings 20:1–5 (CSB)
1 In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill.
The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’
” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases you.”
And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Isaiah had not yet gone out of the inner courtyard when the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.
Look, I will heal you.
On the third day from now you will go up to the Lord’s temple.
So be careful in using James to define all of what the bible teaches on prayer with relation to healing but that it teaches about prayer that the church needed at the time of his writing of the Epistle.
Prayers of Elders
These people who are emotionally drained.
They are emotionally weakened.
They may be ready to just give up.
They may be having thought like.
“I can’t do this anymore”, “Is it ever going to get better”.
Maybe they have lost their strength to believe that prayer is effective, that God is listening.
These people are to call on the elders of the church.
Those that are spiritually strong to help those that at this time are spiritually weakened by suffering.
When we come to that point that we just need the support of the leaders that God has given to the church, we need to call on them and they are to come and pray over the sick over the weary and tired.
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