Animals, Colors, Metals, Numbers and Signs in Scripture.
Most of the healings in the scripture can be attributed as signs of Jesus Christ or signs of the apostles and prophets. However, in the 5th chapter of the book of James some have taken some statements and made a doctrine that goes about like this: If a person is sick or someone in his family or friends is sick, if he, the sick, will pray and believe and call for the elders of the church then the elders will lay their hands on the sick person and anoint him with oil and the sick person will be healed. This doctrine is called faith-healing. Further, if the person is unable to pray then his family can pray and believe in his place. The problem with this teaching is that James chapter 5 does not teach this.
The subject passage is quoted as follows: James 5:13 "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 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: 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. 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."
When studying the scriptures it is important to remember that the scriptures are a thorough furnisher unto all good works: 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." We do not have to guess at anything when it comes to good works. The scriptures furnish everything that is needed in the way of good works. If it is not in the scriptures, then we should leave it off.
"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray." There are many afflictions that can plague God's children. Paul had an affliction for which he prayed three times and the answer came from God: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Sometimes what we need when we are afflicted is to know that God's grace is sufficient for us. Sometimes, it pleases the Lord to heal us of our affliction. We are to pray, "God's will be done."
Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Singing praises to God is always a good practice for God's people when they are merry.
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: 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. Often time's people will form an opinion on a text based on what someone else has said about the text. Other times people will form an opinion on a text before they know exactly what the text says. In considering the above we need to ask ourselves some questions so that we may know what the text says:
1. The first question we may ask ourselves is what is the sickness under consideration? Should one call for the elders of the church over a sore throat? Should one call for the elders of the church over a head cold? There are numerous minor bodily sicknesses that are generally not life threatening and for which taking some medication or simply waiting a little while that one will be healed. They are, however, sicknesses. If any sickness requires calling for the elders of the church, then the elders would have time to do nothing else but to answer the call of every member of the church for every minor illness. Next, when does an illness graduate from being a minor illness to a major illness? If I need my tonsils removed, should I call for the elders of the church? If I need gall bladder surgery, should I call for the elders of the church? If a woman needs a hysterectomy should she call for the elders of the church?
One might say that if the illness is life threatening, then we should call for the elders of the church. However, when does an illness become life threatening? As we can see there is no easy way to classify an illness that one could say that I need to call for the elders of the church.
Moreover, there is more than one type of sickness. There are physical ailments and there are heart sicknesses. One could have a sin-sick soul. One could have great depression. One could have a physical sickness for which he is afraid of dieing or he is afraid to undergo an operation. One could have a sickness brought on by worry.
By examining other verses of scripture we can conclude that God has not promised that we will be raised up from every physical sickness:
a. 2 Tim. 4:20
"Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick."
Paul, who was an elder of the church, left Trophimus sick at Miletum. If
Paul could have done something about Trophimus' sickness, then it stands
to reason that Paul would have done something.
The Lord spoke
of a special type of sickness in the following verses:
This sickness was a sickness of heart or soul as he compared the condition of his people who have a knowledge of their sinful condition to that of a person who needs the care of a natural physician. There are certain sicknesses that he physician cannot help with. When a person is burdened down with worry, or when a person is mourning over his perceived sinful condition, or when a person is burdened with depression, or when a person is worried about the conditions of his life, or when a person is burdened with a fear of death or fear of the unknown that awaits him. These are things that the prayers and faith of the elders can be beneficial and in which the Lord will raise him up.
2. The second question we should ask ourselves is what is the anointing oil that we are to use? The anointing oil that was used to anoint the kings and priests in the Old Testament is not appropriate for our use. The scriptures plainly tell us that if we use one part of the law covenant that we are debtors to use it all: Gal. 5:3 "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
The only anointing oil mentioned for our use in the New Testament is the oil of gladness: Heb. 1:9 "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Thus, this is the only oil available for our use. Thus, the anointing oil to be used by the elders is he oil of gladness. We do this by telling or reminding them of the great works and compassion of the Lord.
3. Moreover, we may ask ourselves, whose prayer of faith is under consideration? I have heard it said to the individual that if you have enough faith, then the Lord will raise you up and you will be healed of your sickness or disease or injuries. I have also heard it said to a father and mother whose son was gravely injured in an automobile accident and who lie unconscious that if they would call for the elders of the church and have enough faith their child would be healed and raised up. The above scripture tells us plainly whose faith is under consideration: let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over himů" Since, the elders are the ones to pray over the sick, then it stands to reason that the "prayer of faith" is the elders prayer of faith. This raising up has to do with the elders prayer of faith not the faith of the sick individual or the faith of the parents.
4. Does "raising up" mean physical healing? In this case, it does not necessarily follow that the individual will be physically healed of natural sickness. Rather, the promise is that if the person is plagued with worry, or if he is plagued with depression, or if he is plagued with mourning over his sinful condition, or if he is plagued with great concern over the conditions of his life, then the Lord will raise him up out of his state of worry, or depression, or mourning, or great concern.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." Here we are called upon to pray for one another that we may be healed from our faults. There is nothing about this sentence that indicates that we will be healed from physical sickness. Clearly it is our faults we are to confess and it is our faults that we are to pray for that we may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This is a verse that holds great promise and that should encourage us to upright living and to have the knowledge that Christ hears and responds to our prayers.