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New Testament Overview - Lesson 6

James - Part 2

Beginning in Chapter 3, James emphasizes the power of your words and the importance of controlling what you say. He also addresses the importance of wisdom, treating the poor with compassion, praying for each other and knowing and being able to accurately teach the gospel.

J. Carl Laney
New Testament Overview
Lesson 6
Watching Now
James - Part 2

I. FAITH TESTED BY ITS PRODUCTION OF SELF-CONTROL 3:1-12

A. Responsibility of Teachers 1

B. The Test for Maturity 2

C. The power of the Tongue 3-5

D. The Evil Nature of the Tongue 6-8

E. The Hypocrisy of the Tongue 9-12

II. FAITH TESTED BY ITS APPROPRIATION OF TRUE WISDOM 3:13-18

A. The Demonstration of Wisdom 13

 

B. The Character of Earthly Wisdom 14-16

C. The Character of Heavenly Wisdom 17-18

III. FAITH TESTED BY ITS REACTION TO WORLDLINESS 4:1-10

A. Manifestations of Worldliness 1-5

B. The Remedy for Worldliness 6-10 V. 8 is the key!

IV. FAITH TESTED BY ITS AVOIDANCE OF SLANDER 4:11-12

A. The Exhortation: Stop what is going on! 11a

B. The Reasons: 11b-12

V. FAITH TESTED BY ITS AVOIDANCE OF PRESUMPTUOUS PLANNING 13-17

VI. FAITH TESTED BY ITS REACTION TO INJUSTICE 5:1-11

A. The rich are condemned 1-3

B. Their conduct is described 4-6

C. The poor and oppressed are encouraged 7-11

VI. FAITH TESTED BY ITS CONSISTENT HONESTY 5:12

VII. FAITH TESTED BY ITS RESORT TO PRAYER 13-18

A. The power of prayer 14-15

B. The prerequisite for prayer 16

C. The example of prayer 17-18 Elijah 1 Kings 17:1 ff.

D. The Key Words

1. v. 14 "Sick" (astheneo)

2. "Anointing" (aleipho)

3. v. 15 "Sick" (kamno)

4. v. 16 "Healed" (iaomai)

E. The Context

F. The Exposition

IX. FAITH TESTED ITS CORRECTING THE ERRANT 5:19-20


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  • An overview of the New Testament is necessary for Biblical literacy. You need to know more than Bible stories with moral lessons. What you need is a worldview of God’s encompassing plan for the ages. Keep your eyes on the road. If only you watch those things directly in front of you,  you can lose perspective of God's bigger plan and overcorrect your course. However, if you keep your focus on the big picture, you can steer a straight course. This lecture calls your attention to the main point: God’s sovereignty over all, including history, and God's redemptive plan for humankind.

  • This second lecture focuses on God’s plan to reclaim his kingdom, and execute judgment on Satan and his followers. Humanity joined with Satan to rebel against God, and yet in God’s infinite grace and mercy, God has a plan for you along with the rest of humanity (John 3:16). This plan reasserts God's sovereignty over all creation, including humanity and Satan and his followers.   

  • In this third lecture, Dr. Laney gives a brief inter-testament timeline leading up the physical presence of Jesus on earth. You will learn about the synoptic gospels and listen to a brief discussion of the four source theory of the synoptic gospels and its difficulties. A brief overview of the design and purpose of the gospels gives proof to the divine authorship of scripture. Finally, you will learn about the land which God chose to reveal himself to not only Israel but also to the Gentiles, which points again to the scope of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

  • In this fourth lecture, you will learn about significant events in the life of Jesus Christ our Lord. You will start with the most significant event in human history, the birth of Jesus, with which begins the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages: the redemption of humanity. As you read about his baptism, the temptations he faced, the offer of his Kingdom, the miracles he performed, the rejection of Israel, his teachings through parables, the transfiguration, his entry into Jerusalem, his death, resurrection, and ultimately his ascension, you will stand amazed at how each one validates who Jesus is: your Savior and your King, sent by God the Father out of love and mercy for your redemption.

  • Chapters 1-2.

    Ten days after the ascension of Jesus came the Feast of the Pentecost. It was on this day that the early church received the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. As a result of the indwelling and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit the church grew. With that growth also came persecution.  In this lesson, you will learn about the testing of a living faith, the response of your faith to the trials you face and the importance of your response to the Word of God. You are challenged to ask yourself “what does active faith look like?”
     

  • Beginning in Chapter 3, James emphasizes the power of your words and the importance of controlling what you say. He also addresses the importance of wisdom, treating the poor with compassion, praying for each other and knowing and being able to accurately teach the gospel.

  • Acts 13 - 14

    The people in the church in Antioch, Syria were led by the Spirit to send out Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel to the gentiles. Cyprus was their first stop and then they went on to Asia Minor. The Lord empowered them to perform miracles when they faced opposition. People responded to the gospel by becoming disciples of Jesus.

  • The Jerusalem Council, Acts 15

    Paul and Barnabas were faithful to preach the gospel, even though they faced opposition and physical persecution. As gentiles became disciples of Jesus, there was the question of whether or not they needed to follow Judaism in order to be a part of the early church. In the Jerusalem Council, the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas agreed on an answer to this question and gave Paul and Barnabas a letter they could take with them to churches in other cities.

  • Acts 16-17:10, Philippi and Thessalonica

    Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways for a while because they disagreed about whether or not to take John Mark with them. Paul went to Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece with Silas.

  • Acts 17:16 - 18:22

    After leaving Macedonia, Paul went to Athens. He preached on Mars hill to the Areopagus, using the, “altar to the unknown god,” as a way to explain to them about Jesus. After that, he spent some time in Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila, met up with Silas and Timothy who had recently been in Thessalonica, then traveled back to Jerusalem. On the way, he stopped at Ephesus and Antioch of Syria.

  • Priscilla and Aquila mentored Apollos in Ephesus and he went on to have a ministry that was influential to people in a wide geographical area. There were also believers there who hadn't heard about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When Paul prayed with them and laid hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. To them, this was a confirmation of the prophecy in Joel chapter 2. As people responded to Paul's preaching, Demetrius and others associated with the temple of Artemus confronted Paul because they saw this as a threat to their religion and their occupation of making idols. After continuing to preach in Ephesus and also write the book of Romans, Paul traveled to a few more cities, then left for Jerusalem. He stopped in Ephesus to say goodby to the elders that he had relationship with, and charged them to watch over and encourage the believers there. 

  • Letter to the Romans

    The letter to the Romans has had a significant influence on our Christian faith and in our understanding of the Gospel. It was a pivotal book in directing reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In Luther’s introduction to his commentary on Romans, he writes, “Night and day, I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement, the just shall live by his faith. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through shear grace and mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt my self to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into Paradise. The whole scripture took on a new meaning and whereas before the justice of God had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. The passage of Paul became to me the gate of Heaven.” The purpose of this lecture is to summarize the main points of Romans and to offer some insights into the foundational ideas that the apostle Paul presents.

  • In this section of the book of Acts, you can travel with the Apostle Paul as he is transported to Rome as a prisoner. Just before the last part of the trip, Paul warns the crew to wait for better weather. They proceed anyway and get caught in a storm that destroys the ship near the coast of Malta, where everyone makes it ashore. While they are there, Paul is bit by a poisonous snake, but God miraculously heals him. When they are able to get another ship, they go on their way and arrive in Rome. 

  • Paul's Imprisonment and Ministry in Rome. By this time, Paul is living in Rome as a prisoner under house arrest. As Paul writes the book of Ephesians, he uses the metaphor of, "sit, walk, stand," to describe how we live life as a fully devoted follower of Jesus. In Philippians, he emphasizes living with an attitude of joy, even in times of suffering. A major theme in Colossians is how Jesus is the, "image" of God the Father. Philemon is an example of reconciliation because of the work of a mediator. 

  • 1 Timothy and Titus

    After the conclusion of the book of Acts, you don’t have a historical account of Paul’s activities. However, there is a significant amount of information from his letters that give you an indication of where he may have traveled. It was during this time that Paul wrote a group of letters that are referred to as the, “pastoral epistles.” They are letters to teach and encourage a couple people that have recently become pastors.

  • Titus and 2 Timothy

    The letter to Titus and the second letter to Timothy are written to encourage and instruct a couple people who have each recently begun to shepherd a congregation. Paul encourages them to be people of integrity, choose leaders of good character, value the teachings of scripture, teach sound doctrine and refute error. Some of the comments reflect the close personal relationship that Paul had with each of them.

  • The Superior Person of Christ

    The author of the book of Hebrews is not known, but the book teaches us about how the person and work of Christ is superior to everything that has happened before he lived on earth. He is better than the visions and dreams of the prophets because he is an exact representation of God. He is also superior to Moses, Aaron, the angels and the high priest. There are passages that warn you that there are consequences if you don’t press on in your relationship with Jesus.

  • The Work of Christ and Life of Faith

    The work of Christ is superior to the old covenant because it’s not limited to a physical sanctuary, it is based on Christ’s sacrifice not the blood of sacrificial animals, and the Spirit lives in you to give you access to God. This should encourage you to persevere in your life of faith and live it out in practical ways.

  • Letters to the Churches

    God gave the apostle John a vision about churches in 7 cities at that time and prophecies about future events. John was exiled for his faith to the island of Patmos. Some of the churches were commended for their faith and some were rebuked for areas of failure and encouraged to repent and return to living their lives by loving God.

  • End Times

    The prophetic section of Revelation describes the tribulation and judgment that will take place on the earth before Christ returns. After the 1,000 year reign of Jesus, Satan will be vanquished and the final “great white throne judgment” will take place. Then the “New Jerusalem” will descend on the earth and believers will enjoy fellowship with Jesus and each other forever. “Revelation shows us that the bad guys lose, Jesus wins and we all get to be with God in the new heaven and new earth.”

Over the course of 20 lectures, Dr. Carl Laney walks you through a moderately detailed overview of the New Testament with ministry applications. You will begin with God’s plan for the ages, then move to a discussion of the historical context and key events in the life of Jesus. After a couple of lectures on James and the testing of our faith, Dr. Laney highlights Paul’s missionary journeys, his trip to Rome and his subsequent imprisonment. The New Testament survey continues with a study through the books of I and II Timothy, Titus, Hebrews and concludes with the book of Revelation. 

Course: New Testament Overview, by Dr. Carl Laney

Lesson 6: James - Part 2

Hi, I’m Carl Laney Prof here at Western Seminary and it’s my privilege to give you a survey of the New Testament. We are focusing today on the second half of the Epistle of James, the theme of which is The Test of a Living Faith. Let’s pray and then we’ll get into our study.

Father we’re thankful for the letter that was written by James, the half-brother of our Lord. We’re grateful for the practical message of this important letter. Guide us as we study today and as we think through the practical implications of a genuine and saving faith. Bless our time we pray in Jesus name Amen.

I. FAITH TESTED BY ITS PRODUCTION OF SELF-CONTROL 3:1-12

A. Responsibility of Techers 1

Well we continue our study in James and we’re at the beginning of Chapter 3, in the Epistle of James. James has declared that faith without works is dead. Now he shows that works are not limited to actions, they include words as well as actions. In verse 1, he gives a warning, “Let not many of you become teachers my brethren, knowing that as such we’ll incur a stricter judgment. Since a teacher’s work is performed primarily through his or her words, control of the tongue is of utmost importance. I’ve wondered why teachers, like myself, will be evaluated by a stricter judgment. And I’ve concluded that we are held accountable for leading others into false teaching or error and so it makes us very responsible to make sure we study and accurately divide the Word of Truth. There is a big responsibility there for teachers because we’re going to be held accountable if we lead people astray. And then I believer there is also greater accountability for those who have been recipients of greater light, the greater the light the greater the accountability. As we take time to study the truth of God’s Word and to know that truth we are accountable for it. Jesus condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites, they knew the truth, but they weren’t living it out. That’s a real danger for teachers to know what you aren’t really living out personally to teach what you’re not living and applying yourself. So there’ s a great responsibility and a stricter judgment for teachers.

B. The Test for Maturity 2

Then he points out in verse 2, that a person’s ability to control their tongue is really a test case for spiritual maturity. Someone who cannot control their tongue demonstrates their lack of spiritual maturity. If you can control your tongue it indicates that you can control other bodily impulses as well.

C. The power of the Tongue 3-5

James to go on now to point out the power of the tongue. It’s amazing what a small organ the tongue is, but how powerful the tongue is as well. The illustrations all emphasize that something very small can affect something very large. It begins in verse 3, by referring to the bit in the mouth of a horse. It’s a small little instrument, the horse’s bit, but it’s able to turn a horse one direction or the other. Then he uses the illustration of the ship’s rudder. The ship’s rudder, again a small little appendage to the back of a ship but it’s able to turn the whole ship, an ocean liner turns by the use of the rudder. And then he mentions a fire igniting a forest, a small spark can ignite a forest fire. Something very small affects something very large. That’s like the tongue.

D. The Evil Nature of the Tongue 6-8

He points out in verses 6-8 the evil nature of the tongue. He says that the tongue is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It can be a source of blessing, but it can also be a source of cursing, and the ability to control one’s tongue reflects one’s spiritual maturity. So, we all need to work on controlling our tongue.

E. The Hypocrisy of the Tongue 9-12

What can we do to control the tongue? Well, one of the things that I suggest is to think about it before you speak it. You know we often fall into the trap of just kind of blurting what we’re thinking instead of thinking about it and being careful about what we say. I’ve found that writing it out is often better than blurting it out. Sometimes if I have something to say to someone, that’s really important, I’ll write it out in a letter and then I’ll take it home and have my wife, Nancy, read the letter. Then we edit it together and then we will carefully pray about it and then send the letter because I want to make sure that I don’t just blurt out my feelings and thoughts, but I write it out carefully. And then I’ve learned to avoid speaking every time I feel like it. There’s time I feel like I want to speak but I wait, maybe wait for ten seconds and maybe what I have to say isn’t as important as listening to what others are saying. In fact, I’ve sometimes taken a 3x5 card to some meetings and written on the card, “Just shut up,” just listen, just listen, and let others speak and learn from what they are saying. A pastor friend of mine said that he didn’t speak often at the board meetings of his church. But when he did speak people listened. If he was speaking all the time people wouldn’t pay attention to him, but since he reserved his voice for those special occasions, where it was really important when the pastor spoke, people listened. Practicing the disciplines of silence can help us to control our tongue.

II. FAITH TESTED BY ITS APPROPRIATION OF TRUE WISDOM 3:13-18

A. The Demonstration of Wisdom 13

Beginning in verse 13 of Chapter 3 James talks about faith tested by its appropriation of true wisdom. He discusses wisdom and he begins in verse 13, Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. We all want to be wise but the wise person according to James is the one who applies his knowledge in producing good behavior. The wise person isn’t the person who knows it all, the wise person is the person who lives out the implications of what he or she knows. The Hebrew Bible in the Book of Proverbs calls it the fear of the Lord, the fear of the Lord is an active response to what we know to be true about God and that’s really what James has in mind here when he talks about wisdom.

B. The Character of Earthly Wisdom 14-16

James now contrasts earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. There is an earthly wisdom and the early wisdom makes no practical application of God’s truth. Earthly wisdom encourages pride, jealousy, and disorder. This so-called wisdom doesn’t originate with God. James says it’s sensual, it’s demonic. Your familiar with earthly wisdom, earthly wisdom basically leaves God out of the picture. Earthly wisdom says this earth was created by natural forces of evolution and that God doesn’t even exist and wasn’t involved. That’s earthly wisdom and it’s demonic it comes from Satan himself. It’s not based upon the revelation that God has given us.

C. The Character of Heavenly Wisdom 17-18

But then there’s heavenly wisdom and this wisdom comes from God. It’s a spiritual wisdom and he says it bears fruit, verse 17, But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. That’s the kind of wisdom that I want to have in my life, that’s heavenly wisdom. It’s wisdom that comes from God.

III. FAITH TESTED BY ITS REACTION TO WORLDLINESS 4:1-10

A. Manifestations of Worldliness 1-5

James moves in Chapter 4 discussing how faith can be tested by its reaction to worldliness. Here he declares that believers should submit to the standards of Christ rather than the standards of the world. Worldliness may be defined as an attitude which places self or things at the very center of one’s aspirations or activities. And James describes what this worldliness is like. It’s characteristic of quarrels and conflicts, 4:1, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? [b]Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” That’s worldliness. Lust of the flesh another characteristic in verse 2, Prayerlessness another characteristic of worldliness. Prayer with wrong motives, praying to God for things that are selfish rather than Kingdom oriented. James uses the image of adultery in verse 6 like the prophets used that image of a spiritual adultery, “you adulterous. Sounds like he’s prophetic doesn’t it. Sounds like the prophets, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God. You know you can’t be friends with the world and be in a friendship relationship with God. They are incompatible relationships. You cannot be on good terms with the world and good terms with God.

B. The Remedy for Worldliness 6-10 V. 8 is the key!

So, what’s the remedy? What’s the solution to worldliness. We face it all around us. Well James gives us a number of bullet points that would help us deal with the subject of worldliness. I think verse 8 is really the key to this section, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” But he begins in verse 6 encouraging us to appropriate God’s grace, “But He gives a greater grace.” Appropriate that grace and as you appropriate that grace God will change your heart and turn you away from worldliness. Verse 7 he says, “Submit therefore to God.” Come under his authority and his leading. Verse 7 also says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Oppose him, say no to him. Satan can bring temptations our way, but we can say to him, “Satan get out of here. You have no authority over me, I’m a follower of Jesus.” Sometimes I’ve found it’s even helpful to verbalize that when I face a strong temptation. Just say out loud, “Satan get out of here you have no authority over me, I’m a follower of Jesus.” Just saying those words helps me to turn from the evil one and his temptations.

Separate yourselves to God verse 8, draw near to him in prayers, devotions and in fellowship and he will draw near to you. He will encourage you in your spiritual life. In verse 8 he says, “cleanse your hands, you sinner.” In other words, repent and turn away from your sin. Verse 9 you have to be careful you don’t take out of its context, he’s dealing here with the subject of worldliness but notice he says, “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.” Not exactly a verse you would want to read at a celebration. Yet, what he’s saying here in verse 9 is get serious about God. If you’re involved in a worldly life style get serious about God. Repent through mourning and weeping instead of just living a party life that ignores God, get serious about God. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom as you get serious about God. Verse 10, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” We find that pattern throughout the Bible. Those that are humble are exalted and those that are proud are brought down low.

IV. FAITH TESTED BY ITS AVOIDANCE OF SLANDER 4:11-12

A. The Exhortation: Stop what is going on! 11a

In verses 11-12 James says that “our faith can be tested by the avoidance of slander.” Here he returns to the subject of speech and warns against slandering a brother. What is slander? Slander is anything negative that you say about another person without having the courage to say it to that person’s face. And James says here, stop doing it. Apparently, it was going on, so James uses the present imperative here, “Do not speak” could be rendered stop speaking against one another, stop what’s going on. It’s a command with a present imperative, stop what is going on, stop doing it.

B. The Reasons 11b-12

And then he gives the reasons why in verse 11-12 he says, in speaking against a brother you judge the brother and you become a judge of that person rather than a fellow believer with that person. You are a judge of that person. God’s the judge and let God do the judging. You know we need to be willing to put a stop to slander when we hear it going on. I remember I was together with some Christians who were having a conversation and I heard what was becoming slanderous against a pastor that I personally knew. You know I came to a point in that conversation where I said to the men gathered I said, “You know I think this conversation needs to stop,” and I just waited, and you know it did stop. I think all the brothers there sensed the conviction that we had gravitated into slander as we talked about this pastor. The conversation stopped, and it did not continue. Be bold enough to stop a conversation that you find is slanderous. If somebody comes to tell you something say, “you know have you spoken to this person about it? If you haven’t, then do that rather than telling me about it.” We need to be those who put a stop to slander.

V. FAITH TESTED BY ITS AVOIDANCE OF PRESUMPTUOUS PLANNING 13-17

As Chapter 4 concludes James talks about a faith tested by its avoidance of presumptuous planning. Someone has said you know how to make God laugh? Tell him what you’re going to do tomorrow, and God looks down and says you think that’s what you’re going to do tomorrow, I’ve go other plans for you tomorrow. So, what is James telling us about planning, Well James warns against the evil of presumptuous planning. The illustration that he gives is from the world of business, but I think there’s an application to every area of life. He’s says, 13 ‘Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” James says you don’t know what the rest of this years going to be like. You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You’re just a vapor that appears for a little while and vanishes away. James is not condemning intelligent planning but rather he is rebuking arrogant planning, planning that disregards God. Include God in the planning process. Give him the lead in making your plans. You can tell God here’s what I think that you’re leading me to do but I want to leave some alternatives for you to lead me another way. Paul had some plans on his second missionary journey. He wanted to go to Bithynia but the Holy Spirit said no. He wanted to go south to Ephesus, but the Holy Spirit said no. So, Paul just continued on his way, and ended up at Troas and there he received that vision of the Macedonian calling him over to Macedonia, and Paul began his ministry there in Europe and preaching at Philippi. Well Paul had a plan, but he was sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to redirect him as he continued making those plans.

Verse 17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Notice the context of this statement. It’s talking in the context about the willful sin of presumptuous planning. I once heard this text applied by a preacher who was saying you need to be in evening church service and the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it to him it is sin. Well it was a misuse of this text. He was trying to motivate people to come to the evening church service, on the basis of a sense of guilt. The context here in verse 17 is presumptuous planning.

VI. FAITH TESTED BY ITS REACTION TO INJUSTICE 5:1-11

A. The rich are condemned 1-3

Chapter 5 James goes on to point out that faith is tested by its reaction to injustice. And it’s a bit troubling as James addressed his readers, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Who is he talking to here? Wow. Is he talking to Christians? Well there were some rich ones, James 1:10. He is talking to non-Christians? Well it could be. It might be like the Cretans, who professed to know God but by their deeds they denied him. Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Are they Christians or non-Christians. Perhaps we should regard this as a general warning to all people who had misused their wealth. All people who have resources but misuse those resources and take advantage of others with less resources.

B. Their conduct is described 4-6

So, he goes on to describe the conduct of these people who are taking advantage of the laborers and not paying them a fair wage. 4 “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you;” whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian it’s wrong withhold the proper wages from those that have worked hard for you.

C. The poor and oppressed are encouraged 7-11

For the oppressed experiencing poverty and oppression, he gives them a word of encouragement in verse 7, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” The Lord is coming and he’s going to make things right. When the Lord comes he’s going to establish righteous rule on this earth and all things will be right. He says in verse 9 “stop complaining, don’t complain brethren against one another or against those who are oppressing you. God is the judge and he will deal with them with justice.” And then he points out the examples of the Prophets who were faithful during times of trial, and Job who suffered a great deal of hardship and yet was without complaint. Be patient as Job was.

VI. FAITH TESTED BY ITS CONSISTENT HONESTY 5:12

In Chapter 5:12 he points out that faith can be tested by its consistent honesty. This sounds a lot like what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no.” What God requires is constant honesty. We shouldn’t have to go around saying something and adding a phrase, “Scouts honor,” “I swear on stack of Bibles this is true.” If we are always speaking honestly no one will ever question our honesty. What is required here and what is expected by James is constant honesty. May we speak the truth and speak it consistently. Sometimes I’ve misspoken and had to correct myself. I had to go back tell someone I had a phone call with, I called them up again and said, “You know I spoke something in that phone call that wasn’t true, and I want to correct myself.” That person appreciated my honesty and I seek to maintain a reputation of being consistently and constantly honest.

VII. FATH TESTED BY ITS RESORT TO PRAYER 13-18

Now we come to verses 13-18 where faith is tested by its resort to prayer. James encourages believers to recognize and respond to the needs of the church and to pray with those that are suffering. And to sing and rejoice with those that are being blessed and are cheerful.

A. The power of prayer 14-15

He points out in verses 14 and 15 that prayer is powerful as God answers prayer. God answers prayer and it’s a powerful resource that we as believers enjoy.

B. The prerequisite for prayer 16

He points out the prerequisite for prayer in verse 16, confess of sin. You know sin breaks down our communication with God. This past weekend my wife’s cell phone wasn’t working so we called on another phone, found out that a cell tower in our neighborhood was down. Therefore, there was no communication outside our neighborhood. Well that’s what happens when sin comes into our life, it breaks down our communication with God. So, we need to confess our sins and deal with the sin issue, in order to communicate effectively with God in prayer.

C. The example of prayer 17-18 Elijah 1 Kings 17:1ff

Then as he’s talking about prayer he gives a great example of Elijah, a man of prayer. Elijah was a man like us, he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Elijah prayed, and God answered. That, I think, is the real lesson from this text on the subject of prayer. Prayer changes things, God is a God who answers our prayers.

But as we examine the immediate application, in this particular context, it raises a question for us. Is James referring to physical sickness in this context or is he referring to spiritual distress. There’s two possible interpretations of this passage and most often it’s understood to refer to physical. Somebody’s sick, pray for that person and God will restore them from their physical sickness. Several years ago, a Portland area father and church official were sent to jail for refusing to divulge the whereabouts of a man’s sick daughter. They said they would abide by the church’s teaching regarding the treatment of the sick by prayer, the laying on of hands and anointing with oil. They rejected medical treatment. They said that the church’s healing practices were based on the Bible and they quoted James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;” and, on the basis of James 5:14 and 15, they refused medical treatment. They said if God wants to person to be healed, God will heal them. Well many of these people were sick and some had even died, as a result of neglecting the medical attention that was readily available. I’ve wondered, is that a proper interpretation of this passage. Could this passage be interpreted possibly in a different way? And in fact, it can. It can be interpreted in a different way.

D. The Key Words

1. v. 14 “Sick” (astheneo)

It depends, first of all, upon the words and their translation and the context of the passage. Let’s look first at the words that are used. In verse 14, “Is anyone among you sick?” The word translated sick, astheneo comes from theneo the word for strengthen and the prefix alpha which means not strengthened and can refer to weakness. It is used of physical weakness in twenty texts of the New Testament, but it’s also refers to spiritual weakness fourteen times. So, it’s about half and half, physical weakness versus spiritual weakness and we have to determine by the context which is intended here in this context.

2. “Anointing” (aleipho)

The anointing, it’s not the chrio, sacred anointing but a profane or maybe common anointing. It’s the kind of anointing that you would give someone that you welcomed into your home and you take some oil and pour that on their head as they came into your home as a welcome and a refreshment for them. It was an encouragement, it was a way of saying I appreciate you, I want to encourage you and you would anoint them with oil to bestow honor and refresh them.

3. v. 15” Sick” (kamno)

Verse 15 uses a different word for sick and this word is used only here in the New Testament and Heb.12:2-3 where it speaks of growing weary and it’s a spiritual weariness that is being referred to in Heb. 12:3-4. It can carry the idea of physical illness but primarily it has to do with spiritual weariness and spiritual fatigue.

4. v. 16 “Healed” (iaoma)

Then in verse 16 it refers to the one who is healed, and that God will raise him up and the word healed is used elsewhere in the scripture of the healing of the heart. Heb. 12:12-13 a spiritual healing, a healing of the heart. Well, there’s an alternative interpretation of these words that would suggest a spiritual restoration rather than a physical healing maybe in mind.

E. The Context

The context also suggests this possible interpretation. The problem with these readers is that they were at the point of emotional and spiritual exhaustion and their struggle with poverty, persecution, temptation, and sin. The reference to Elijah in verse 17 would seem to support this. Elijah found himself spiritually weak and weary after his encounter with Jezebel and then he went off into the wilderness. This interpretation seems to be more consistent with the promise made in verse 16 where it mentions the healing, verse 15, “the Lord will raise him up” and then in 16, “So that you may be healed.” Many have prayed for physical healing for people they know to be sick and they have found disappointment instead of a healing. But there’s no question that God wants spiritual healing of those who are weak and weary as they struggle in their spiritual lives. So, this is an alternative reading of the text that I think seems to be more consistent with the words, the context, and our own Christian experience. Just a little over a year ago a dear friend of mine died after fighting cancer for two years and my wife and I prayed for those two years that our friend would be healed. We virtually followed the instructions here of this text and he was not healed. But every week I went to see my friend and prayed with him, brought him food, when he lost his hair to his cancer treatment, I shaved my head in identification with his struggle and he was encouraged. He said, “You know, Carl, nobody’s ever done anything like that for me before” and he was encouraged when I pulled off my cap and my head was bald as his was. You know as I visited him and encouraged him he was spiritually refreshed. He was encouraged. He died from his Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, but he was spiritually refreshed throughout his struggle with his cancer. So that, perhaps, is an alternative view that does have support from the context and the words. So, as we look at this passage then perhaps what James is saying is that the elders have a ministry of bringing refreshment and encouragement to spiritually weak and weary saints. The spiritually weak and weary are to call for the elders when they feel that need, verse 14, “is anyone spiritually weak and weary call for the elders of the church” and the elders have a responsibility to come and pray and encourage that saint. This is an effective ministry that the elders can have. I’ve been involved in hospital visitation and home visitation and I’ve always found that my visits bring encouragement and people say, “You know this is the first time a pastor has ever come to my home and visited me here” and they are encouraged, and they are refreshed even though they are struggling physically.

The anointing with oil. It may not be a ceremonial or ritual anointing that is in mind here that would somehow bring healing, but it could be metaphorical in the sense, bring the kind of refreshment that oil brought to people coming into your home in ancient times. It could be a metaphorical anointing bringing refreshment and encouragement to that brother. The anointing with oil might not help, but brining them some food, bringing them some soup. Bringing them a smoothie that would taste good and be refreshing that may be in mind here. Bring something that would encourage them. And then expect God to work and God to answer.

F. The Exposition

The prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is spiritually weak and weary. It’s not always God’s will for us to be healed physically but it is his will to be healed spiritually and to be encouraged.

James points out the possibility of a sin issue. Sin must be dealt with, sin must be confessed and addressed, bring it to the Lord for cleansing. Only after sin is confessed and forgiven can we experience spiritual refreshment. Well this is an alternative view that I think is well worth considering and I suggest that for your consideration.

IX. FAITH TESTED ITS CORRECTING THE ERRANT 5:19-20

The last thing that James wants to point out in his letter is, faith can be tested by its involvement in correcting the errant. What do you do for a Christian, the word among you there, who has strayed from the truth? How do we respond? Well we don’t just ignore them we reach out to them and intervene in their behalf. We seek to turn them back and by so doing they may be saved from physical death, James says. In I Cor 11, we find that some people were sick, some people had even died because they persisted in sinful behavior and God eventually took them home to Heaven. So, in turning back someone from their sinful life style, we may save them from physical death and help them to experience God’s forgiveness and cleansing rather than his chastening. So, what is James telling us in this letter? James is basically saying keep the faith, keep on keeping on. Don’t let your trials or persecution or poverty turn you from living the righteousness that is yours by personal faith. Demonstrate the living reality of your faith through your deeds of kindness, through your consistent good works. You know, we live in tough times and these tough times can make us bitter. Tough times can make us selfish, tough times can make us focused on our own needs rather than needs of others. I think James is really saying, “Don’t let that happen as you go through trials, keep on letting the Spirit of God lead you to make practical application of God’s truth as you interact with other people and seek to be a blessing to others and to the world.

Transcribed by BT Volunteer Sandy Whitfield

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