Sunday, November 28, 2021
Pastor MIKE SPAULDING SUNDAY SERMON ON JAMES 5: 7-13
The Power of Prayer
Starting in verse 7, James closes his letter with a word of encouragement and exhortation. We find a word of summary in “Therefore.” As you have heard me say numerous times, “therefore” means “in light of everything that I have said, these things follow.”
What do we see James highlighting first in verse 7? James says that our demeanor should be characterized by patience as we wait upon the return of Jesus. The Greek word there is parousias. This subject is the theme of much debate and emotion. Is this a reference to the rapture or to the Second Coming?
My belief is that James is referring to the rapture of the church. Some would object that James had no idea of rapture. Rapture critics constantly say that the early church did not hold to a rapture teaching. Critics say that the rapture, especially the pre-tribulation rapture of the church was an invention of John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s. Those views are simply wrong and people who espouse them do so out of ignorance, willful or otherwise.
Here is a sampling of what some of the early church fathers said. We begin with Irenaeus.
Irenaeus (130 A.D. – 202 AD) was a bishop of the church in Lyons, France. He was an eyewitness to the Apostle John (who wrote the Book of Revelation) and a disciple of Polycarp, the first of the Apostle John’s disciples. Irenaeus is most-known for his five-volume treatise, Against Heresies in which he exposed the false religions and cults of his day along with advice for how to share the Gospel with those were a part of them.
In his writings on Bible prophecy, he acknowledged the phrase “a time, times and dividing of times” in Daniel 7 to signify the 3 ½ year reign of the Antichrist as ruler of the world before the Second Coming of Christ. He also believed in a literal Millennial reign of Christ on earth following the Second Coming and the resurrection of the just.
On the subject of the Rapture, in Against Heresies 5.29, he wrote:
“Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance — in fact, as nothing;”(1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.”(2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”
Irenaeus in this passage describes the church leaving the sinful world just before unprecedented disasters. Note his use of the term “caught up” which is Rapture terminology as that is the meaning of harpazo, the term for “caught up” in the King James Bible describing the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. He then quotes Matthew 24:21 where The Lord Jesus Christ says: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” And it is during this time that those who convert to Christianity during the final years will receive the incorruptible crown mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25. In Irenaeus’ belief, the Rapture took place prior to the end times Great Tribulation.
Cyprian (200 AD – 258 AD) – Cyprian was Bishop of the church in Carthage. During his short stint as leader of the church, he guided the flock through intense persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. In 258 AD after spending seven months of confinement to his home by order of Roman authorities, he was beheaded for his faith. Several of his works still exist today.
In Treatises of Cyprian he wrote in describing the end times Great Tribulation:
“We who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. Do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an early departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us hence, and sets us free from the snares of the world and restores us to paradise and the kingdom.”
Again we see use of language commonly found in reference to the Rapture as Cyprian describes the judgments of the end times as “imminent.” And he makes his belief on the timing of the Rapture when he wrote that Christians will have an “early departure” and be “delivered” from the devastating global judgments that come during the Day of The Lord.
In line with the Apostle Paul who wrote that “God has not appointed us to wrath, but salvation..” Cyprian expressed joy and encourages the believing reader to rejoice that the Church will be “taken away” before the disastrous Great Tribulation. Just as The Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 used the same language of one “taken away” and the other “left.” Additionally Cyprian references the mansions which The Lord Jesus Christ promises to come back and take His believers to in John 14.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3.
Additionally, there are very distinct differences between the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. Here are several points of distinction.
1) At the rapture, believers meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, believers return with the Lord to the earth (Revelation 19:14).
2) The second coming occurs after the great and terrible tribulation (Revelation chapters 6–19). The rapture occurs before the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
3) The rapture is the removal of believers from the earth as an act of deliverance (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 5:9). The second coming includes the removal of unbelievers as an act of judgment (Matthew 24:40-41).
4) The rapture will be secret and instant (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). The second coming will be visible to all (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:29-30).
5) The second coming of Christ will not occur until after certain other end-times events take place (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24:15-30; Revelation chapters 6–18). The rapture is imminent; it could take place at any moment (Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Why is it important to keep the rapture and the second coming distinct?
1) If the rapture and the second coming are the same event, believers will have to go through the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
2) If the rapture and the second coming are the same event, the return of Christ is not imminent—there are many things which must occur before He can return (Matthew 24:4-30).
3) In describing the tribulation period, Revelation chapters 6–19 nowhere mentions the church. During the tribulation—also called “the time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7)—God will again turn His primary attention to Israel (Romans 11:17-31).
The rapture and second coming are similar but separate events. Both involve Jesus returning. Both are end-times events. However, it is crucially important to recognize the differences. In summary, the rapture is the return of Christ in the clouds to remove all believers from the earth before the time of God’s wrath. The second coming is the return of Christ to the earth to bring the tribulation to an end and to defeat the Antichrist and his evil world empire.
For these reasons and more, I encourage you to remain steadfast in your hope of the soon return of Jesus. Do not allow the things of this world to rob you of hope and the joy that comes from abiding in the Lord Jesus. James says the same thing in verse 8.
In verse 9 James returns to a short reminder of refusing to have a critical spirit toward a brother or sister. I see another reference to Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in James’ statement about judging. This is what Jesus said on the subject.
1“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
James is saying that people who judge others unrighteously, which is captured in the idea of complaining, will face the same level of judgment. James has in mind that patience is not demonstrated in criticizing or unrighteously judging others. Jesus is our judge and His return is near, is the idea behind “the judge is standing right at the door.”
We are given an example of the type of patience James has in mind in verses 10-11. Most Christians and even some non-Christians are familiar with the phrase “the patience of Job.” I think James had Job in mind back in verse 7 where he mentioned the early and late rains, and now brings him to the forefront.
Two of the most enduring passages in Job for me are these:
6For evil does not come up from the dust, nor does trouble spring up from the ground, 7 but people are born to trouble, as surely as the sparks fly upward. Job 5:6-7
What Job means there is that trouble comes to everyone at some point. Trouble is common to all men. The apostle Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”
The second passage in Job that is well-known is this one from Job 1. Here is the passage in its context.
13 Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 He said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
That is patience that is difficult for me to imagine exhibiting. But, as James says, enduring through difficult times bring blessings. Paul would write to the believers in Rome that God uses everything that happens in the life of a believer for His purpose.
But above all James writes in verse 12, do not swear. This is explained by what James says following this. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” In other words, be people of integrity. Do what you say you are going to do. Be consistent in your words and your actions. This admonition also means that we are not to invoke God’s name as a way of impressing upon another the seriousness of our vow.
If you find yourself suffering, then pray. If you find yourself joyful then sing praises – verse 13. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we read that God comforts us in our afflictions.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
This idea of prayer and praising is carried over in verses 14-15. I have to say that these verses are some of the most difficult to interpret and understand. Is James referring to physical healing or spiritual restoration? They have been used by some to suggest a prescriptive practice for the church today. Some Christians will use this passage to suggest that people are always healed by having elders pray over them after anointing them with oil.
The difficulty comes from the translation of the word sick. That word is astheneo and is translated eighteen times in the Apostolic Scriptures as sick. It is translated fourteen times as emotional or spiritual weakness. The point we must consider is that in the thirty-two times of its use in the New Testament only three times does it refer to physical sickness.
A better and more consistent interpretation of these verses is to understand sick as weak, specifically within a context of weak spiritually. That is the meaning of “sick” in verse 15. It is the word for weak, wearied, or faint.
Additionally, the word for anointing here in verse 14 has to do with the application of medicinal balms rather than a type of ceremony where oil symbolic of the Holy Spirit is applied to someone’s body. This should not discount in the least the common practice of anointing people with oil and praying for their wholeness.
HA Ironside relates how JN Darby and JG Bellett were used of God this way.
In the early days of what is now generally known as “the Brethren Movement,” Mr. JN Darby and Mr. JG Bellet were called in to many sick rooms in Dublin, where they acted literally upon the directions given in James 5:14-15. Many remarkable healings were granted in answer to the prayer of faith; so much so that attention began to be centered upon these two brethren as special instruments used by God. This attention troubled them and they felt it wise to desist from going to the sick, but prayed together or separately for the afflicted in a more private way, acting rather on verse 6 than on verses 14 and 15. God answered in the same grace as when the formal service was carried out.
Ironside says of verse 16 that:
This is ever faith’s resource. Burdened hearts can and should confess their sins one to another when conscious that their illness is chastening for wrong done against the Lord. Then we can pray one for another that healing may follow: for the earnest prayer of a righteous man is ever effective.
I have taken the time to discuss these verses because it is unwise as well as wrong to make this passage say something that it does not. Many believers have been taught and are being taught even today that this passage describes a sure method for being healed of anything. That is not what James is teaching.
To be sure, James does use a Greek word aleipho for “anoint” in verse 14 and speaks of healing in verse 16. The apostle Paul instructs believers that one gift of the Holy Spirit is healing (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28).
God certainly can and sometimes does heal people of the most destructive and life-threatening diseases known to mankind. But, He does not always heal nor is God obligated to heal. God’s ways are not restricted by any type of mantra we utter. He is not obliged to answer any prayer in the affirmative other than a prayer for salvation. That prayer when offered from faith is answered every time for God turns no one away who desires to receive Jesus by faith.
We read in 1 John 5:14-15 that:
14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
One author explained the source of the power of prayer this way:
When the Scriptural teaching that prayer is a definite means of working with God is apprehended, we feel that this is fully in keeping with His gracious character. God yearns to take His sons into His confidence and let them share with Him in the accomplishment of His purposes. He has so arranged this world that there is a definite place for answered prayer in the divine government. He deliberately so constituted things that His believing children may have, and are invited to have, a definite share in the fulfillment of His saving purpose with mankind through intercessory prayer. The Scriptures are replete with illustrations of how the cause of the Lord was furthered as God answered the prayers of His people.
The “Therefore” of verse 16 alerts us that James has concluded his remarks on that subject and as we move to verse 17-18 we find an example given to illustrate James’ point of the power of prayer wielded by a righteous individual. You can read about this event in 1 Kings 17-18.
The conclusion of this epistle is interesting in that there are no salutations, no greetings to individuals presumed to be at the letter’s destination, no greetings from those with James in Jerusalem.
James has used his entire letter to exhort the brethren to obedient living and purposeful sanctification. Here in the end he takes the time to call the brethren to action. In this exhortation he says those who are walking faithfully can reach out to those who have strayed and “turn them back.”
Here we find another passage in the Scripture where, depending on your theological perspective you will arrive at a meaning. It is important to allow the Scriptures to say what they do without our interference. Douglas Moo offers this insight:
The truth does not refer here to Christian doctrine in the narrow sense, but more broadly to all that is involved in the gospel. This truth is something that is to be done as well as believed (cf. Ps. 51:6; Gal. 5:7; 1 John 1:6). And for James, of course, correct doctrine cannot be separated from correct behavior. What the mind thinks, and the mouth confesses, the body must do—anything less is worldly, sinful “double-mindedness” (1:8; 4:8). The language of “wandering” that James uses here might suggest that he is thinking only of inadvertent or casual sins. But the Gk. planaō that we have here often refers to any deviation from the truth of the faith, whether inadvertent or intentional, minor or major. And, since James suggests in v. 20 that the “wandering” Christian is saved from spiritual death, the deviation from the faith here must be a very serious one, tantamount to apostasy.
In verse 20 the soul saved from death is clearly that of the backslider. Death in this instance is either the destruction of his body but not the eternal damnation of the soul or it means the condemnation to eternal damnation that is a result of apostasy. Your theological perspective relative to soteriology will dictate how you interpret passages like this.
For those who wonder, my position is that believers are saved by faith and secure in that salvation. We have, present tense, eternal life when we believe (John 3:16). Nothing or no one can take us out of the Father’s hand (John 6). We are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (Ephesians 1:13-14) that God will complete what He started – “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). And of course we know and are comforted by the truth that Jesus is both the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
James ends his letter on an encouraging note. He makes certain to impress upon his readers that we are in fact our brother’s keeper. Those in the faith must look out for the brethren. Living in a fallen world is dangerous and many are the hazards encountered daily. The body of Christ operates in whole and in health when members are concerned for one another.
My prayer for the body of Christ for as long as He tarries is that the world will know by our love for one another that we have been with Jesus! 1-As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health.
11 He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. Acts 4:1-13 (Emphasis added)
May that be our common testimony, that all will know that we have been with Jesus!
Semper Fidelis to Jesus!
This concludes our study in the book of James. If you have enjoyed this study I would enjoy hearing from you. Please write to me at the address below.
You may support The Transforming Word Ministry by sending your gifts to:
Dr. Mike Spaulding
PO Box 3007
Lima, OH 45807