Nestled late in the Bible, in the Book of James comes an important study on healing which many cursorily read and yet seldom connect it to the overall study of healing in the Bible. The passage in James regards what to do when one falls ill:
[Jam 5:14-15 KJV] 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. BLB
In most of the studies in this blog, we have looked at the healings of Jesus and apostolic healings following the ascension of Christ, described in the Gospels and Book of Acts. In James 5 though, we are looking at an admonition by James for handling physical infirmity in the Church, the 'Ikklesia' or Congregation or gathering/assembly of God. Modern thinking,even in the church precludes divine healing too often and will use passages on healing to merely mean one should go see a physician. Christ's healing though is not just for centuries past for a short time, but for today, and many churches and believers are seeing a revival in the gift of healing, even taking it to the streets for the thing it was partially for: a sign to unbelievers, and a platform for the preaching of the 'glad tidings' or Gospel.
Let Him Call for the Elders
Every Church which has Christ as head is supposed to have designated 'elders'. The Greek word for elders is
Let the Elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour; especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine. I Ti 5:17.The word 'elder' may refer to Bishops, deacons or an appointed office of elder, as well, so the mandates are clearly that they are the leaders of the church, surrendered to the authority of God. the term 'elder' is not a new one in the New Testament: it is clearly a hebrew understanding of authority or guidance in the Synagogue, which also bears the template of organization of the Congregation of God which is laid down in the NT. For example 'elders in the temple are referred to in the following passages:
Acts 24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and a certain orator Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.Exodus 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together....For this reason for example using the 'Presbyterian' rubric, we are dealing with a form of church 'government', though the church is unique in having 'servant leaders' like in kind to their lord and Savior : they are to teach, guide, uplift and lead, but not in a exclusive rule over the congregation, the pattern of which is condemned in Revelation in the 'Nicolaitans'. (rule over the laity). In the church, the elders 'show the way', or 'set the template' for the way believers are to live their lives, for keeping the congregation on the straight and narrow with the word and with doctrine, and in this case, giving direction to the gifts, particularly, here, to healing.
Laying on of Hands
Those that are sick are encouraged to go and have the elders
1. Pray over them
2. Anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord
and they are confirmed in their faith that they will be healed. Implicit in this understanding is the laying on of hands, which is referred to as a basic building block of doctrine:
[Hbr 6:1-2 KJV] 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.Laying on of hands, as has been mentioned several times in these studies was considered such a foundational understanding that when Paul in Hebrews wishes to teach the doctrines of Christ in depth, he briefly refers to the foundations of doctrine which are considered the 'milk of the Word'.
[Hbr 5:12 KJV] 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
The elders 'show how' the gifts are to be done and the doctrines to be taught, and that is why their selection and character is central in the health of the church. They have to be men of honour and honesty, temperate and good will and knowing the Word and doctrine, or like an unlicensed driver without skill, the car would veer off the road. When the passage in James refers to 'praying over them' it is understood that they mean at least much of the time the laying on of hands and not merely 'over' being a synonym for 'about'. (See Being Made Whole).
Anointing With Oil
Why would God who is Spirit, need for us to have elders in healing 'anoint with oil'? Isn't this a sort of religious ritual? There is nothing in the Word that does not make sense or have a purpose. From the very beginning, God includes the anointing with oil in a variety of circumstances including preparation for the Levitical and high Priesthood, and also on certain sacrifices.
[Exd 28:41 KJV] 41 And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office.
[Exd 29:7, 36 KJV] 7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour [it] upon his head, and anoint him. ...
36 And thou shalt offer every day a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it.The laying on of hands and the anointing with oil confers authority to do a thing, and the setting apart of the thing for God's purposes. For example, the sweet smelling 'hakatoret' of the temple anoints the holiest of the furniture of the Holy Place, and is peculiar to the Temple with no duplications allowed:
[Exd 37:29 KJV] 29 And he made the holy anointing oil, and the pure incense of sweet spices, according to the work of the apothecary.
[Exd 30:38 KJV] 38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.
Moving back though to the original passage regarding the prayer for the sick, the anointing with oil and the prayer for the sick, keeps in tact the organization of the church, establishes supplication to God for the sick to be made well or whole, and the anointing is obedience to a command which sets apart the person to God and his purposes, and obeys the Word for we are all a living sacrifice to him. This leads to the next and critical way the prayer for the sick is to be done:
In the Name of the Lord
[Phl 2:9 KJV] 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Even after Salvation, even after coming to Christ, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, we cannot just consider coming before God to be 'business casual Friday'. God is holy, a fact we have lost in the modern evangelical Church. We are not to make him an icon on the wall, or a statue in great cathedrals, but we are also not to for a moment forsake the holy awe with which we are to approach God. He is our friend and brother, but he is also Creator of the Universe and Almighty God, and somewhere in the sixties in our zealous attempts to make people not too afraid of God to receive him, in an attempt for us to make people see his love, we dismissed his holiness which can be equally dangerous. Christian liberty never means we can rewrite the Bible and his commandments to suit our purposes, nor does it mean that God is our equal: that is a crazy notion. He has the love of a Father and brother, the comfort of a good friend, our best friend, but he also hung the stars in space and is our sovereign King. The proper understanding of our place before him requires the idea of both: even in prayer, even in healing and the other gifts, after Salvation with the indwelling Spirit, we are to use his Holy Name and be in awe of his name in coming into his presence as we would for any earthly sovereign power. We end our prayers or begin them "In the name of Jesus". We call out demonic spirits, in HIS name, since he has given us the authority of his name:
[Mar 16:17 KJV] 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;There are countless examples and apprisals regarding coming prayerfully and in awe, IN THE NAME OF GOD, in the name of his son JESUS or YSHUA, in order to approach God on this throne: he is our mediator and his son is given 'the name above all names' for he alone prevailed and overcame in the adjudication of mankind against the curse of the Fall. Hence, it is no surprise that we find the healings, and gifts done 'in his name'. We do not heal: Christ heals. We do not 'prophesy' technicallly, Christ prophesies. We do not exhort in wisdom, given excellent explications of the Scriptures etc, Christ does, so what we do, we do 'in his name', the name above all names, our mediator, our righteousness and our sacrifice ,the only of which is sufficient to come before a Holy God. When the elders pray for the sick, anointing them with oil, it is in HIS name and power, not our own.
The Promise to doing things God's Way is quite simply that the sick will get well.
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. BLB
There are three points here: the prayer of faith shall:
1. Save the Sick2. The Lord shall raise him up3. His sins shall be forgiven.
The sick shall be healed in obedience to faith. It is as simple as that, yet we so seldom have the faith to even try it the way the Lord has prescribed. Yes, there are people with the 'gift' of healing; technically, anyone who prays for the sick or infirm who is right with God should be able to pray for the sick or lay hands on the sick and they will get well, but here, in the church, the prescription for service and the reward of the faithful is very clearly spelled out. The word for 'save' is the same used often for Salvation:
'sotzo' or sozo, and connotes a deliverance to safety, a rescue, etc. No doubt if one were unbeliever healed in this way, the healing will probably afford salvation in the long run, but there is never a mistake in the use of this or any other word in scripture, though here the sick are 'rescued' or delivered from pain and suffering, foreshadowing the deliverance of salvation. The Lord shall 'raise him up' also foreshadows the resurrection, though here it means raising up from a sick bed, the word is used in regard to many healings in the New Testament:
egeiro: which is also used of the raising from the dead even by the apostles in the Book of Acts, e.g.:
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walkThe rising up and 'coming back to life or health' is seen in the case of Dorcas raised from the dead, and in the above passage of the lame beggar being restored to full function, leaping for joy at the dismissal of years of bondage. Great joy is had by all in the healing of a suffering person, reinforcing faith in those who prayed, at the ways and promises of God being true and trustworthy, and in the one who is healed. This act of healing reinforces faith, and the cohesion of the Church, and so it is no surprise either that the last point is that "His sins shall be forgiven:
His Sins Shall be Forgiven
Forgiveness of Sins is the culmination of the great plan and harvest of God, in that loosing us from the bondage of the Fall of Adam, our sins are taken from us, as though they had never been, not by our own actions or pleadings, but by the one great work of God in the atonement on the Cross. The prayer for the sick in literal, natural illness parallels and shows the plan of salvation: sin has left us 'sick' and diseased, missing the mark, away from God and his love and purpose: in His Name, in supplication, we are made whole by His work and act on the Cross and in his Resurrection we are raised to Life and the wholeness of life in Christ. This call for prayer for the sick is not the only time that the forgiveness of sins and healing are paralleled, and in fact, one time, when seeking healing, the hearers surrounding Jesus are astonished to find that he forgives sin, and that first, before the healing:
Note that first, Yshua forgives sin, and is accused of blasphemy, for only God can forgive sin. He makes the point though, that the forgiveness of sin is primary, for it is the thing keeping us from both natural and divine healing and from having whole lives. To demonstrate that he is in no way 'blaspheming', being the incarnate God, he then directs the man with palsy to 'Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house': the healing is immediate and presupposed: he does not even address the palsy, but in faith extraordinaire' takes the higher ground of the healing having already occurred in the command to 'take up thy bed and go' which would not be possible if the healing had not occurred.
[Mat 9:2-6 KJV] 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This [man] blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
The healing of the sick then upholds
1. The Order and Government of the Church, and heals the body
2. Confirms the basic doctrine of prayer and the laying on of hands
3. Confirms the 'setting apart' of healing as the work of God through the anointing with oil
4. Shows the way of Salvation
5. Imputes the forgiveness of sin,
6. Provides cohesion to the Body of Christ, and
7. Reinforces faith in all, along with a healed person
The Word of God outlines procedures not to call us to religious ritual, but to maintain the ways, teachings and purposes of God in a wondrous work. When we obey, we see the miracles of God still extant today yet when we go our own way or repetitively mouth the words, 'that was for then, this is now', we miss the great goodness of God in the many gifts he has given us. The prayer for the sick is a prayer for us all, soon to be healed by the great and good Lord of Life.