Imagine one of these situations:

Your wife has been in a terrible car accident. There is internal organ damage. The doctors do not give much chance of survival. You are distraught with grief and concern for her well being.
Your ten year old daughter is diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. The doctors have told you that her prognosis is not good. If she survives, they are not sure about whether or not she will be able to lead a normal life.

These are the situations that shake our lives.
These are the situations that bring us all to prayer.

What would you do?
First, every Christian would petition the Lord for his healing and grace in the situation. We would ask everyone that we know to be praying and would be encouraged by the prayers of others. You would also seek every available medical option.
In your soul searching, you would also think about and look for any passages of Scripture that relate to your need. During times such as this, many Christians have turned to James 5 and wondered whether or not this passage is a promise for physical healing.

LIKE Herbert and Catherine Schaible. They are the couple from Philadelphia Sentenced to 3 ½ years in jail for failing to seek medical attention for 8-month-old son Brandon. Brandon died last year of treatable pneumonia because Herbert and Catherine believed that if they had enough faith that Brandon would be healed.

Brandon wasn’t their first child to die while mom and dad waited for healing. In 2009 their 2 year old son Kent died from failure to seek medical care. The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia.

“Experts say about a dozen U.S. children die in faith-healing cases each year.”
February 19, 2014 1:48:04 PM PST
article by MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA – February 19, 2013 —
FAITH HEALERS quote James 5:15 as evidence that with enough faith, every illness will be healed.

Many Christian pastors and denominations that do not associate with the faith healing movement believe that James 5 provides a ritual to be performed with anointing oil when someone is sick.

So, as we come to this passage in James 5 it is important that we examine whether or not there is an established practice here for praying for the sick, and whether there is a promise that those who are sick will get better if they are prayed for and anointed with oil.

1. There are some practical reasons for a study such as this.
2. Everyone will face a health crisis
3. Everyone knows someone facing a health crisis
4. Most translations of James 5 seems to indicate that healing is promised to people who are “sick”
5. If James 5:15 is a promise for physical healing, then many of us lack faith.
The Schaibles pastor, Nelson Clark, blamed Kent’s death on a “spiritual lack” in the parents’ lives, and insisted they would never seek medical care, even if another child was dying

Many Christians have felt devastated when they prayed in faith and their loved one got worse or died.

Finally, we can learn some valuable lessons in Bible interpretation by studying this passage. We can transfer these lessons to other Bible studies.

If James 5:15 is a Promise for Physical Healing….
NOTES taken from David James, “The Prayer of Faith for the Sick” taught at Word of Life Hermeneutics Conference, (Used by Permission)
a. Many / most are not physically healed when this is done
b. When someone isn’t healed is it always due to a lack of faith?
c. If so, whose faith is lacking – the one praying, the one needing prayer or both?
d. Characters in the Bible who were not healed
i. Timothy: Paul told him to take wine as medicine for ongoing stomach problems (1Tim 5:23)
ii. Trophimus: Paul left him sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20)
iii. Epaphroditus: He nearly died from some illness (Phil 2:25-27)
iv. Paul: His physical problem was never healed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
e. In what sense is the sick person “saved”?
f. What is the connection between sin and sickness?
g. Is “physical sickness” the only way to understand this passage?

Key Words in James 5:13-18
SUFFERING (James 5:13)
1. Found 4 times in NT
a. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9, ESV)
b. “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” (2 Timothy 4:5–6, ESV)
c. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13, ESV)

i. KJV – afflicted
ii. NIV – in trouble
iii. NAS – suffering

This word in indicates HARDSHIPS associated with following Jesus

SICK (James 5:14)
1. Greek “astheneo” (no strength)
2. CAN mean physical sickness. “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” (Luke 4:40, ESV)
3. MORE OFTEN, means spiritual, psychological or emotional weakness
4. “However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” (1 Corinthians 8:7, ESV)
5. Means weakness NOT sickness every time in Romans (Rom 4:19; 5:6; 6:19; 8:26; 14:1-2; 15:1)
6. “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” (Romans 4:19, NKJV)
7. TDNT: In the NT the words are hardly ever used of purely physical weakness,but frequently in the comprehensive sense of the whole man, e.g., the “weaker sex” Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 491.
8. SO, a better translation would be “Is anyone among you weak (spiritually struggling).

“Sick” in James 5:15
1. Greek word kamno
2. Used only 2 other times in NT
a. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:3, ESV)
b. “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:3, ESV)
“Healed” in James 5:16
1. Used 26 x in NT
2. Majority of uses = “physical healing” “But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8, ESV)

3. Some uses indicate Spiritual restoration
a. “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:15, ESV)
b. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, ESV)

“Anoint with Oil” in James 5:14
1. Used 9x in the NT
2. Used only ONE TIME to refer to physical healing. “And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6:13, ESV)

3. Used to refer to the preparation of Jesus body for burial. “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” (Mark 16:1, ESV)

4. Used to refer to someone caring for themselves while fasting. “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17–18, ESV)

Conclusion: Here, anointing with oil may refer to refreshing someone who is going through a difficult time of spiritual struggle and may have “let themselves go.”

Interpreting James 5
a. Context of the New Testament Epistles
i. Physical healing is only mentioned one time. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29–30, ESV)
ii. Physical healing is never connected to the ministry of the Elders. Especially note 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; 1 Peter 5; Acts 20.

b. Context of James
i. Physical healing is not in harmony with the rest of James

ii. James focuses on trials, spiritual struggles, encouraging believers who were wandering from their faith.

c. Preceding context
i. James 5:13 “Is anyone SUFFERING? Let him PRAY
ii. James 5:13 “Is anyone CHEERFUL? Let him SING

d. Following context
i. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV)
ii. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19–20, ESV)

1. James 5 does not provide instructions for someone who is physically sick.
2. There is no formula that guarantees physical healing.
3. James 5 provides a remedy for people struggling with sin and weakness.
4. The Elders have a vital role in praying for and encouraging those struggling with sin, defeat and spiritual weakness.
5. The path to spiritual victory over sin comes through confession. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV) (More on this next week)