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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

James 5



Verses 1-6

The Path of Death: Warning to the Rich- James 5:1-6 shows us the path of death by telling the rich man his end. Why this passage on rich people? The rich had misused the poor to obtain their wealth, and this will lead to death. James called the rich to the path of humility earlier in James 1:10. For those rich men who refuse this humble journey laid forth in this epistle, James speaks divine judgment upon them. God also wanted those who were being oppressed to see the dangers of wanting things other than God; for they had to live godly while enduring wrong suffering from the rich.

Divine Priorities according to the Book of Proverbs - We find in Proverbs 3:1-10 that God wants to bless us spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially. He lists these blessings in that priority. In other words, a person can go to Heaven is our hearts are right, even though he may not be educated, healthy or prosperous. God will bring these blessings to us in this order. When a person skips his spiritual needs and obtains wealth corruptly, the very wealth that he has obtained will be used to destroy him. This is the warning to the rich men who have used the labour of the poor to gain their wealth.

Illustration - Having lived and working in African as a missionary during the larger part of my career, I have learned that many businessmen gain their wealth in Africa by withholding payment from workers. This tactic works well for many years because bribes are used to protect the business from prosecution. According to James 5:1-6, this same behavior was a problem among the Jewish community.

James 5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

James 5:1"Go to now" - Comments - James is saying, "Come on now and listen to what I have to say to you.

James 5:1 — "weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you" - Comments - The phrase "weep and howl" shows an intensive structure in the Greek text, which literally reads, "weep while howling." These rich men need to repent of their wrong doings since terrible things lie ahead for them if they do not repent.

James 5:1Scripture Reference - A warning to rich people who put their trust in riches:

Luke 18:24, "And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"

1 Corinthians 1:26, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:"

1 Timothy 6:9, "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."

1 Timothy 6:17-19, "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life."

James 5:2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

James 5:2Comments - The rich man loves to gather riches and to walk in expensive clothing. His clothing declares to everyone that he is rich and powerful.

James 5:3 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. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

James 5:3"and the rust of them shall be a witness against you" - Illustration- In Uganda recently, the President's office has organized a probe to investigate corruption within various governmental departments. A team led by a federal judge has investigated both the Uganda Revenue Authority, which collects taxes, and the Electoral Commission, which organizes elections. In this investigation, employees are told to declare their wealth. If their wealth exceeds their salaries by an excessive amount, then corruption is suspected. These employees had to declare items that the judge considered as valuable, such as land, homes and bank accounts. Many of these corrupt employees were found to own very rich homes that exceeded their ability to purchase and maintain based upon their salaries. In the same way, God will judge corruption on the great Day of Judgment. The more wealth these wicked people have gathered by sinful Acts , the greater their judgment.

James 5:3 — "and shall eat your flesh as it were fire" - Comments - We know that the word "fire" is used figuratively in the context of Proverbs 6:20-35 to represent the whorish woman. But the whorish woman is also figurative of a man's love for the things of this world ( James 4:4).

James 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye 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."

Thus, we can see an illustration of Proverbs 6:27 in the epistle of James 5:1-3 when the rich men are warned that their unrighteousness mammon will eat their flesh as fire.

Proverbs 6:27, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?"

In other words, the more wealth that they have gained in an ungodly manner, the greater the fire that they will be subjected to in hell.

James 5:2-3Comments - The Corruption of the Rich Prayer of Manasseh - These rich men have laid up earthly treasurers. Note a similar statement from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:"

James 5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

James 5:4"Behold, the hire of the labourers" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Deuteronomy 24:14-15, "Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee."

James 5:4 — "which is of you kept back by fraud" - Comments - Christians in developed nations may read this statement as an event that does not happen very often, as I used to read it. When I began to live in an underdeveloped nation, I saw this as a common event in a land where corruption held a stronghold. This type of situation can occur because widespread corruption makes it difficult for justice to rule. A few rich people get rich, while most people are defrauded and the nation gets poorer.

James 5:4"and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth" - Word Study on "the Lord of sabaoth" - The Greek word σαβαὼθ (Sabaoth) is a transcription of the Hebrew word צְבָאֹ֖ות (armies) (Strong) (G 4519), which is derived from the Hebrew verb צָבָא, which means, "to mass (an army or servants)" (Strong) (G 6633). The phrase "Lord of sabaoth" is equivalent to "Lord of Hosts," which is frequently found in the Old Testament.

Comments - The phrase "the Lord of sabaoth" means, "the Lord of Hosts." Why did James use this name? Just like God delivered those who cried to God in the Old Testament from many rich and warring nations, and as He delivered their cities from the approaching armies, so God will deliver us from the oppression of the enemy, because he is their Lord also, even of the Host of men and armies. The name Lord of Hosts describes God's divine character of vengeance and judgment upon the sinner.

Illustration- Read Psalm 18.

Psalm 18:17, "He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me."

James 5:5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

James 5:5"ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter" - Comments - Just like taking a calf and fattening him for the slaughter by giving him all he can eat, so these rich men have indulged in pleasures and lusts with as much enemy as they can find to seek after those pleasures.

James 5:6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

James 5:6Comments - The rich first brought judgment against the Christians, then killed them during the persecutions under the Roman Emperor Nero. The early Church fathers record how these early believed did not resist this judgment and torture inflected upon them, even unto death.

Verses 7-11

Examples of Patience - In James 5:7-9 the pastor gives his people the example of the farmer as a man of patience ( James 5:7). They are to make the same decision as the farmer to patiently wait for their eternal rewards ( James 5:8) without grumbling and complaining ( James 5:9).

In James 5:10-11 the pastor gives clear examples of patience during wrongdoing by referring to the suffering servants of the Old Testament. God gives us the greatest example from Scriptures of someone who suffered the deepest losses for something that was not their fault. The example of Job tells us how he overcame through patience.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The farmer an example — James 5:7-9

2. Job an example — James 5:10-11

James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

James 5:7"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord" - Comments- A Christian must focus his hope (the anchor of his soul) on the longing to see Jesus come and deliver him out of this wicked world.

Illustration- When we work a long, hard day, our hope is to see the end of the workday, especially, payday, when we will receive our reward.

Job 7:2, "As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:"

James 5:7"Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth" - Comments- The farmer waits while laboring, not with slothfulness, but with hard work. He prepares the ground, he sows, he waters and he sweats to care for plants until harvest. We, too, are God"s husbandmen.

James 5:7"and hath long patience for it" - Comments- Many people start out in the Christian life like they started out following Jesus, in multitudes. Many are called, few are chosen. Many people start out and say I will, but they do not do God's Word. Note:

Matthew 21:28-31, "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Song of Solomon , go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."

James 5:7"until he receive the early and latter rain" - Comments- Within the context of this passage of Scripture, the early and latter rains symbolize the First and Second Coming of Jesus Christ; for it says in this verse "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord,: and in the next verse it says, "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." ( James 5:8) Kenneth Hagin and many Pentecostal and Charismatic ministers of the Gospel say that before Jesus returns again, we will wait like farmers do for the latter rain. The first or early rain was the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the early church. The latter rain means another Holy Ghost out pouring like Acts is coming before Jesus' return. 120]

120] Kenneth Hagin, The Triumphant Church (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1993, 1994), 224-5; Kenneth Hagin, The Coming Restoration (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1985, 1989), 224-5.

Note references to the early and latter rains in the Old Testament:

Job 29:21-23, "Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain."

Hosea 6:3, "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth."

Zechariah 10:1, "Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field."

James 5:7Comments- We find a similar illustration of the farmer and his harvest in 2 Timothy 2:6-7. While James places emphasis upon the farmer's patience, in 2Timothy Paul places emphasis upon the certainty of the reward of farmer's labours.

2 Timothy 2:6-7, "The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things."

Note how Hosea 10:12 places an emphasis upon how our sowing determines the type of harvest received.

Hosea 10:12, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you."

James 5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

James 5:9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

James 5:9Comments- The sins of grumbling and judging one other are what the children of Israel did in the midst of their trials in the wilderness, and God was quick to judge His people in this matter.

1 Corinthians 10:10, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer."

It happens when a person walking in earthly wisdom blames others for his or her circumstances. Note that James has mentioned this sin in an earlier passage:

James 4:11, "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge."

James 5:10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

James 5:10Comments- The epistle of James opens with an emphasis upon trials and patience. In its closing verses James clearly emphasizes the need of patience during times of affliction.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye 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.

James 5:11 — "Behold, we count them happy which endure" - Comments- This illustration used by James refers back to the opening verse of this epistle, which also tells us the theme of the book of James.

James 1:2, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations."

Job is given to us as an example of a man who endured the greatest temptation that any man has had to endure, outside of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It enlarges our understanding of what it means to rejoice and to be happy in the midst of afflictions. It does not mean that we have to laugh and be excited about the situation. Rather, God considers a Christian in the midst of trials to be joyful when they patiently endure the storm, while they allow the peace of God calm their inner souls. The manifestation of an inner peace in the midst of a storm is called "endurance" in this epistle. The theme of the book of James is not that you have to laugh during your trials of affliction, although there may be times to do so. The phrase "counting it all joy" means that we allow the peace of God that passes all understanding to guard our hearts from overwhelming sorrow and despair.

Philippians 4:7, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

God wants to bring us into a place of resting in Him, where we keep our peace while the storms rage. Thus, James is not referring to the outward joy that the world expresses during afflictions when it says, "Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" ( Isaiah 22:13) Instead, is it an inner peace and strength that abides within our hearts that God is leading us into.

Isaiah 22:13-14, "And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die."

Take Job as an example. He was not eating and drinking and ignoring his situation by having a party. However, he did have a deep inner peace with his Maker that kept him looking for Him for answers in the midst of his disappointment. In the end, God revealed Himself to Job as the mighty Creator who is able to heal and to deliver. This was the patience and endurance of Job. This is where God wants to bring us according to James 1:3-4, into the patience of Job.

James 1:3-4, "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

Does not the Holy Scriptures tell us that Job was "perfect" because he had endured.

Job 1:1, "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil."

James 5:11 — "Ye have heard of" - Comments- James could have said, "You have read about the patience of Job ," in James 5:11. Keep in mind that James is writing to Jewish converts who were dispersed across the Roman Empire, and still assembling in synagogues; for James uses this word συναγωγή in James 2:2, "if there come unto your assembly." In this assembly, the chief speaker would read the Scriptures as we see Jesus doing in Luke 4:16. Naturally, the others in the assembly become "hearers." Thus, we can imagine James describing in James 5:11 a speaker reading from the book of Job and those seated are "hearing" the story, followed by comments about the text. This is why James uses the phrase "hearers of the word" in James 1:19-25.

Luke 4:16, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."

We have testimony from Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340), the early Church historian, that such public reading of the Scriptures was standard practice in the early Church.

"These things are recorded in regard to James , who is said to be the author of the first of the Song of Solomon -called catholic epistles. But it is to be observed that it is disputed; at least, not many of the ancients have mentioned it, as is the case likewise with the epistle that bears the name of Jude , which is also one of the seven Song of Solomon -called catholic epistles. Nevertheless we know that these also, with the rest, have been read publicly in very many churches." (Ecclesiastical History 22325)

James 5:11 — "the patience of Job" - Comments - With the life of Job , James gives us the greatest example in the Scriptures of how a man overcame a trial through patience. No other person endured such hardships in the Old Testament. This is the only reference in the New Testament to the individual named Job. In this reference, the emphasis is made to the good outcome of the Lord, and not to the destruction and sickness caused by Satan.

James 5:11 — "and have seen the end of the Lord" - Comments- The Lord's mercy and compassion was only revealed at the end of the book of Job , and not at the beginning or in the middle of this lengthy story. Thus, James accurately uses the phrase "the end of the Lord."

The result of hard times, if one endures them without backing out of faith in God, is to see God"s reward. See Job 42. God restored to Job his riches two-fold and gave him more children.

Verses 7-18

Final Appeal: Patience, Speech, and Prayer - James leads us to the final step of our journey of perseverance by exhorting on patience ( James 5:7-11), sound speech ( James 5:12), and prayer ( James 5:13-18), which virtues support the theme of the perseverance of the saints; for it is only through patience, sound speech, and prayer that we will persevere and overcome the trials of life. Each of these trials listed above must be patiently endured if we are to overcome them. In order to illustrate the two virtues of patience and pray he draws upon two of the greatest examples of patience and prayer from the Old Testament. Job serves as a person who demonstrated the greatest example of patience in the midst of trials, and Elijah's prayers demonstrates the greatest example of prayer during a three and a half year trial of drought.

It is through patience and prayer that we find the strength to endure trials while counting it all joy. This is the way that a believer is able to endure trials; for without patience or prayer, a person will faint and give up his faith in God in the midst of trials, which was the temptation that Job faced. Thus, we find this same theme of patience ( James 1:2-4) and prayer ( James 1:5-8) in the opening verses of this epistle.

Outline- Note the proposed outline:

1. Appeal for patience — James 5:7-11

2. Appeal for pure speech — James 5:12

3. Appeal for prayer — James 5:13-18

Verse 12

Final Appeal for a Pure Speech - In James 5:12 the pastor makes his final appeal for his people who have a pure speech. He has told them earlier that "if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect Prayer of Manasseh , and able also to bridle the whole body." ( James 3:2)

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 ye fall into condemnation.

James 5:12Comments- During the midst of trials people often make vows to God for deliverance, which they later fail to fulfill. James 5:12 is warning us against such vows, and tells us to guard our tongues during these times of hardships. We must be true to our words and to our promises to others.

Verses 13-18

Practical Advice in the Midst of Trials- When we face trials and afflictions, we have two choices. We can either choose to rejoice, or we can sorrow. In order to learn how to rejoice in the midst of trials, which is the theme of this epistle (verse 2), we are taught in James 5:13 to sing psalms and worship the Lord in an act of faith. This effort to worship God will lift us out of our sorrows. As we learn to practice this action of faith, it becomes easier for us to maintain our joy during these trials.

However, if we do not learn to walk in joy, then we will be overcome by sorrow. It is this sustained sorrow that will lead to sickness ( James 5:14). But thanks be unto God for His endless grace. He has made a way for us to be healed if we do not learn to rejoice. If we will simply call the elders of the church to pray for us ( James 5:15) and acknowledge our sins (verse 16), then God will forgive us and heal our bodies. This is because sin has been the root cause of the sickness in the first place. James 5:17-18 gives us an example of how effective prayer is despite our human frailty if we will only believe. Then James 5:19-20 tell us to watchful to know when our brethren fall into sorrow and sin, so that we may help them escape this entrapment before it leads them into sorrow and ultimately sickness. In this world of wrong suffering, it is easy to allow sin to creep in. The church has been ordained by God to help one another overcome sin, not to condemn the brethern. Thus, the epistle of James opens and closes with the same exhortation to rejoice during trials of afflictions.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Different ways to Pray — James 5:13-16

2. Elijah an Example — James 5:17-18

James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

James 5:13"Is any among you afflicted" - Comments- The same Greek word κακοπαθέω (G 2553) is used in James 5:10 to describe the afflictions endured by the prophets of Old. Also, Paul was afflicted for the Gospel's sake:

2 Timothy 2:9, "Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound."

Paul tells Timothy to endure such afflictions also:

2 Timothy 4:5, "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

An example of affliction in today's society would be someone who is going through a divorce.

James 5:13"let him pray" - Comments- We are to pray whether things are good or bad. Many Christians tend to pray only when things go bad for them.

James 5:13"Is any merry" - Comments- Joy is not reserved for the good times and comfortable circumstances, but to be merry in difficult times as well. Note:

James 1:2, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;"

Acts 27:22, "And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man"s life among you, but of the ship."

Acts 27:25, "Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."

James 5:13"let him sing psalms" - Comments- Note:

Acts 16:25, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."

1 Corinthians 14:15, "What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."

Praise is a weapon in spiritual warfare:

Psalm 8:2, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."

2 Corinthians 10:4, "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)"

This leaves no room for worldly music of any type, only God inspired music. Note:

Ephesians 5:19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual Song of Solomon , singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"

Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual Song of Solomon , singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

James 5:13Illustration:

Psalm 42

James 5:13Scripture Reference- Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 15:15, "All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast."

James 5:14 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:

James 5:14 — "Is any sick among you" - Comments- This question is for any believer that is sick. It simply means that it is God"s will for every believer to be healed. The word "any" includes everyone. God will heal any believer of any disease if they will simply be obedient to God"s Word.

James 5:14"let him call for" - Comments- This is an act of faith by the church member in obedience to God's Word.

James 5:14"the elders of the church" - Comments- An elder must keep sin out of his life in order to have a prayer of faith. Note 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9.

James 5:14"and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" - Comments- Oil, seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture, is used with prayer to demonstrate to those observing that it is the Holy Spirit, as God's power, doing the healing and not man.

James 5:14Comments- A. B. Simpson notes that this passage was authored by James , the bishop of the mother church in Jerusalem, a leader who had the authority to confirm the decrees at the first Council of Jerusalem, to which the apostles and elders submitted and accepted. In this verse, this great leader of the early church commits the power to lay hands on the sick to the elders in foreign cities, to those who are in touch with the flock, who are within reach of suffering humanity.

This verse is more than just a suggestion to the church when they are sick. It is a decree that establishes the healing ministry to pass from the apostles to the church leaders. The decree that Jesus first handed down to the apostles in Mark 6:13 and then to the seventy elders, James now passes down to all of the elders of "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" ( James 1:1).

Mark 6:13, "And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them."

James 1:1, " James , a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting."

This fact is seen in that the early apostles saw themselves as ministers of the new covenant. They realized that they had been given the authority to reveal this new covenant with as high authority as they held the Jewish Old Testament Scriptures. According to 2 Corinthians 3:1-11, they were appointed ministers of this new covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:6, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."

They gave commandment by divine authority.

1 Corinthians 7:17, "But as God hath distributed to every Prayer of Manasseh , as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."

1 Corinthians 14:37, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 4:2, "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."

These apostolic epistles began to be read at church gatherings along with the Old Testament Scriptures.

Colossians 4:16, "And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."

1 Thessalonians 5:27, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."

Thus, these writings began to hold equal authority to the Old Testament Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:16, "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

Therefore, as this epistle from James , the bishop of the church in Jerusalem, began to be distributed to other churches, the elders scattered throughout the known world began to receive this decree as a commission for them to begin praying for the sick in their churches, believing that God would honor this decree and heal the sick. This ordinance became a standard practice in the early church and is still used today in almost all Christian circles.

Finally, note that when the Scriptures mention a matter two or more times, it is confirmed as a practice for the New Testament Church. This is because a matter is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses ( 2 Corinthians 13:1).

2 Corinthians 13:1, "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

Thus, it was necessary for the New Testament Scriptures to refer to the anointing with oil twice ( Mark 6:13, James 5:14) in order to establish this practice as an ordinance in the Church, just as foot washing is mentioned twice in the New Testament ( John 13:1-17, 1 Timothy 5:10) and has become an ordinance in some churches.

John 13:14, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another"s feet."

1 Timothy 5:10, "Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints" feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work."

This is also why we bless our meals before we eat, because we are following the examples of Jesus in the Scriptures.

James 5:15 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.

James 5:15 — "and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" - Comments- The Scriptures always connect sickness with sin. In fact, the Jews believed strongly in the relationship of sin and sickness. This is why Jesus' disciples asked Jesus, "Master, who did sin, this Prayer of Manasseh , or his parents, that he was born blind?" ( John 9:2) Thus, this statement was easily accepted and understood by his Jewish readers.

A skeptic may reason that if sin has caused this sickness, and God's chastisement is being applied to this poor soul in order to teach him obedience, what gives the elders of the church the right to undo this curse. The answer is easy. Jesus gave the New Testament Church the authority to both judge sin and to forgive sin.

John 20:23, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

Because this same authority rests under the divine power of His name, He has given this same authority to the Church when we use His name. We see this authority given to the Church again in 1 John 5:16.

1 John 5:16, "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it."

An illustration of this authority is seen is Paul's two letters to the Corinthians. In the first epistle, Paul told the church to deliver a sinner over to Satan.

1 Corinthians 5:4-5, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

In his second epistle, Paul gave the church the authority to forgive his sin, and receive such a one back into the body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:7, "So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow."

Therefore, when a sick person comes to church and asks for the elders to pray over him, this faith is also an act of repentance and humility before God. God is quick to forgive, even quicker to forgive that person than a man or woman who knows of the sin is the sick person's life. Song of Solomon , we are to be careful not to judge others too quickly.

Note these insightful words from Frances J. Roberts regarding sin and sickness:

"How can I give you healing for your body whilst there is anxiety in thy mind? So long as there is dis-ease in thy thoughts, there shall be disease in thy body. Ye have need of many things, but one thing in particular ye must develop for thine own preservation, and that is an absolute confidence in My loving care.

"‘Come unto Me', it is written, ‘all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' ( Matthew 11:28) Only when your mind is at rest can your body build health. Worry is an actively destructive force. Anxiety produces tension, and tension is the road to pain. Anger throws poison into the system that no anti-biotic ever can counter.

"‘Be sure your sin will find you out', the Bible states. One of the most common ways that hidden sin is revealed is through the maladies of the body. More arthritis is brought about by resentments and r than is caused by wrong diet. Moe asthma is caused by repressed fury than by pollen or cat fur.

"There was no illness in the body of Jesus because there was no sin in His soul. There was weariness as a natural result of labor and sacrificial service, but there was no undue fatigue and exhaustion brought on by anxiety." 121]

121] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 92-3.

James 5:15Comments- If we believe that fear and worry can cause sickness in our bodies, then why is it hard to believe that faith can heal the body. This is because faith is the opposite of fear.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:16"Confess your faults one to another" - Comments- As a sick person is asking for prayer, it is essential that they confess any sin that has brought them under the sickness. Why do we need to confess our faults to one another? James 3:2 says that we all fall and stumble in some area of our life.

James 3:2, "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect Prayer of Manasseh , and able also to bridle the whole body."

Illustration- A word of knowledge can point out someone who has a certain infirmity in a congregation. If that person stands and acknowledges his need, God can have the church pray for them and God will heal them quickly.

James 5:16Comments- Note that the command to confess our faults is found within the context of asking the elders for the prayer of faith for healing (verses 14-15). We then see in verse 16 that this confession precedes the healing, "Confess your faults one to another….that ye may be healed." The order in verse 16 is confession, prayer from others, followed by healing. This is because sin has to be dealt with during the process of divine healing. Note:

Matthew 9:5, "For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?"

The Scriptures have always associated sin with sickness.

Psalm 103:3, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;"

Isaiah 58:8, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward."

Matthew 9:5, "For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?"

We have a similar verse in 1 John 1:9, which tells us to confess our sins and the Lord will forgive them.

1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

James 5:17 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.

James 5:17Comments- Emmanuel Scott's illustration of pray goes something like this. Someone asked a little boy, "Do you pray?" He said, "Sometimes I say my prayers, and sometimes I pray my prayers." 122]

122] Emmanuel Scott, "Sermon," Chapel Service, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, 1980-83.

Verse 19-20

Conclusion: Appeal for Compassion Towards One Another - James concludes his epistle to these Jewish congregations in James 5:19-20 by exhorting them to have compassion for one another by showing other brethren how to overcome in faith as they have overcome, so that none of them stray from their faith in God. This epistle has given two paths to choose from for each trial faced. Thus, those who hear and do God's Word are now equipped to show the erring brother how to convert and walk in the path of life. The brother who errs can be shown to face the temptation of showing partiality by refusing to judge others and showing mercy to the poor ( James 2:1-26). He can be shown how to overcome an unbridled tongue through meekness of wisdom ( James 3:1-18). He can be shown how to overcome strife by submitting himself unto God and resisting the Devil ( James 4:1-12). He can be shown how to overcome boasting by committing his ways unto God ( James 4:13 to James 5:6). Finally, he can be exhorted to patience and prayer through the examples of Job and Elijah ( James 5:7-18).

Watching Over the Brethren - James 5:19-20 provides the concluding remarks to the epistle of James. We see within these final verses a charge to watch over one another. The word "brother" is used twenty-one times throughout the epistle of James ( James 1:2; James 1:9; James 1:16; James 1:19; James 2:1; James 2:5; James 2:14-15; James 3:1; James 3:10; James 3:12; James 4:11; James 5:7; James 5:9-10; James 5:12; James 5:19). Song of Solomon , why did he not include the term "and sisters"? Perhaps in the Jewish Diaspora these synagogues were led by men, and served as a brotherhood of Jewish believers. The women and children simply followed the men in the faith. James is concluding his epistle to these congregations by exhorting them to look out for one another in the faith, so that they do not stray from the group.

James 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

James 5:19Comments- We are to pursue the word of truth, which is able to save our souls (See James 1:18-21).

James 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

James 5:20Comments- James concludes his epistle by focusing upon the life of a sinner again, not on a one-time experience of sin in a believer"s life, but from a lifestyle of rebellion and turning away from God's Word. Christians who backslide and live a lifestyle against God's Word will receive death. This is what James means by "a multitude of sins." One occasion will not condemn a Christian, but a turning away from God back to a life of sin will do so. If a backslider does return, his sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, which is what James means by "shall hide a multitude of sins."

James 5:19-20 describes the efforts of church members helping one another through this Christian life, converting those who err back into the fold, and thus, saving a soul from death. James 5:19 makes it clear that this sinner refers to a "brethren" who can now be damned, if not converted back to faith in God by saying, "if any of you do err from the truth." Thus, we sometimes need other believers for help to strengthen ourselves.


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on James 5:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

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