Series 19


Things Hard to be Understood
by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: James 5: 10-20)

The Bible has much to say about bodily healing. In this study we shall look at James 5:13-16 and notice three important things.

  1. 1. It applies to us today as much as it did to those to whom it was first written. It was written “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James1:1). Some have said that all James has recorded is only for Jewish believers – but see Galatians 3:28!
  2. 2. Much wrong teaching has been based upon these verses. The scriptures have often been distorted (2 Peter 3:16), and some have taught that it is always God’s will to heal and that no Christian need suffer.
  3. 3. This brief portion of scripture answers all the questions which we want answered regarding the subject of healing. For instance: Does God heal today? Does He always heal? Does healing depend on our faith? Is there any age limit in healing? Should we anoint the sick? Is it wrong to seek medical help when we are ill?

What should a child of God do in a time of sickness or infirmity?

1. Every time of sickness or affliction should for the Christian be a special occasion for prayer.

James 5:13 (KJV) says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” Sickness should be an occasion for prayer. Just as when we are happy we are to sing, so, if we are sick, we should pray. This does not mean that in every time of sickness we are to ask for healing; it means that we should relate our sickness to the Lord and by faith place ourselves in the centre of His will. The greatest blessing that can come to us in sickness is not physical relief but spiritual blessing; therefore, when sickness comes our first reaction should be to turn to the Lord. Matthew Henry rightly says, “One of the designs of affliction is to lead us to the throne of grace”, and sometimes “He makes me lie down…” (Psalm 23:2), so that in a lying position we can the more easily look up into His face.

2. After private and individual prayer the prayer fellowship of others may be sought.

James 5:14 says, “Is any one of you sick? He should call for the elders of the church to pray over him.” Notice the words “He should call…”. This method is commended, but not commanded. It is a great thing to be able to call for Christian brethren in order that prayer may be offered for us! Indeed, we may be too ill to pray for ourselves; and there is a very great strength in united prayer – look up Matthew 18:19, and compare Acts 12:5. But notice, so far there is no instruction to pray for healing. Look at verse 14 again. We are invited to send for the elders of the church that they may pray over us, anointing us with oil in the name of the Lord – not necessarily praying that He will heal! What, then, should be the attitude of the elders and of the sick person?

3. The eye of faith must look to the Lord alone for the revelation of Himself and of His will.

Verse 14 concludes – “and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Oil is a type of the Holy Spirit, and every spiritual blessing we receive – for the enlightenment of our minds, the strengthening of our bodies or the comforting of our hearts – is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit. Then why use oil? Anointing with oil is not necessary for healing, but it is an act by which the pray-ers express their faith in God visibly and show they are trusting Him to perfect His will in the life of the sick person.

4. If it is God’s will to heal in answer to prayer, a definite and specific gift of faith for the healing of the body will be given to the pray-ers.

Verse 15 says, “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”, and when prayer is offered in faith the Lord always raises up the sick person. But, “the prayer offered in faith” cannot be offered at will, because it is not always God’s will to heal. If it is His will, those who are praying will be enabled by the Holy Spirit to pray in faith; but if it is not His will it will not be possible to pray this prayer. Job prayed for deliverance, but see James 5:11; Paul prayed for the removal of his physical infirmity, but see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; and read Philippians 2:25-30, and compare 1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20. Sometimes it is not God’s will to heal in answer to prayer. By faith some are killed (Acts 12:2); some are delivered (Acts 12:8-11); some “escaped the edge of the sword” (Hebrews 11:34); and others “were sawn in two” (Hebrews 11:37). It is often God’s will to heal, but it is not always so. When it is His will to grant healing the gift of faith will be imparted to those who pray. “The prayer offered in faith” is a certain kind of prayer, and to claim healing does not necessarily bring healing.

5. The use of natural and remedial means should not be ruled out when healing is being sought.

Healing can come: (1) supernaturally, by a direct touch from the Lord; (2) by natural means, through rest, sleep, food, change of air; (3) God may use remedial means, either medical or surgical. It is not wrong to call in a doctor; on the contrary it is wise to do so. It is not for the patient to decide whether he is to be healed in this way or that, but the choice lies with the Great Physician who never makes a mistake and is perfecting His will in the lives of His children.

6. Though sickness is not necessarily the result of sin it may be so, and thus in every time of sickness we should search our hearts to see if there is any unconfessed or unrenounced sin that is hindering God’s blessing.

Verses 15 and 16 are very searching. They indicate not a priestly but a mutual confession. Sometimes sickness comes as the result of undisciplined living – look up 1 Corinthians 11:29-32; Proverbs 28:13.

7. There is no limit to what the Lord can and may do in answer to fervent, persistent and believing prayer.

James 5:16 encourages us to believe this. God does hear and answer prayer, and He does heal the sick when it is His gracious will; but His will is best, and if it is His will for us to suffer, then to be healed would be to have His second best – look up 1 Peter 4:19.