James 5: 12 – 20
We come to the concluding part of the Book and letter of James to his audience, whom we have highlighted as predominantly Jews coupled with the fact that majority of his teachings and doctrines were based on the Old Testament values, traditions and customs. Again, at the time of his (James) writing, the New Testament doctrines had not yet been written.
One of the values held by the Old Testament believers in relation to matters of judgment and suffering is always based on the fact that someone or some people have gone against God’s instruction and the resultant effect of coming against His Will was evidenced by the many afflictions, pains, trials and tribulations witnessed in the person’s life.
This was the reason why James wrote on this matter, even to the ones who had been afflicted, intimated and oppressed. He had to advise them not to swear or curse anyone because of what they suffered from their oppressors else they would also be condemned, which means they might not make it to Heaven, or more so would be judged in the same way as their oppressors.
James’ idea for any that was afflicted was for them to pray and wait patiently for the second coming of the Lord. He did not however mention that the afflictions would disappear like we have today. Such were advised to count it all joy as they went through many of the vicissitudes of tribulations and the many sufferings and hardships they were going through. To many who were happy, he told them to sing praises and hymns to God.
To many who were sick, James asked for a call of the elders in their midst to pray and anoint them with oil. Oil and wine were Old Testament products that were used for people who had one form of sickness or the other. Wine, because of the alcoholic content was used as an analgesic while oil was used in dressing their wounds. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind – he saw a man by the roadside who was beaten by the thieves he encountered on his way to Jericho. He was left half dead with so many bruises on his body. The Good Samaritan saw him and poured some wine on his wound and further used oil to dress up the wound.
Are we supposed to use such in our present-day Church? No. We have many hospitals around which have been developed as part of the infrastructures to bring help to humanity when required, especially when the help gravitates towards the medical part of our lives. We are therefore advised to seek medical attention when we don’t feel right in our bodies and also use prayer as an addendum. To not seek medical attention becomes a case of being misguided.
There is nothing wrong in praying especially when we pray in accordance with the Will of God. When we seek medical attention, it doesn’t in anyway diminish our faith in God as some have taught.
To the ones who were in sin, he instructed them to confess their Sins to one another which is also an Old testament creed and culture. But in the New Testament, we are supposed to confess our sins to God and the blood of Jesus would cleanse us from our sins and we are then restored back to fellowship with God.
Because of our association with God, when we pray, we are able to make much power avail. Likewise, our prayers become effective because of our association with God and they are reckoned with when we pray in accordance to His Will. Elijah prayed that there won’t be rain and it didn’t rain for three and a half years and nothing grew in the farmlands. Elijah prayed again and it rained and all went back to normal.
As long as I pray in accordance with the Will of God, then I can become confident that God will hear and respond to my prayers.
Apostle Paul puts it this way, “God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
For the many who think they have dropped out of fellowship with God, James advised to go after them. Get them back and we would have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
Apostle Paul’s perspective was such that caution was given to the ones who want to restore fellow brothers and sisters. He said, “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might need forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”
May the Good Lord open our eyes of understanding, grant us the spirit of Wisdom so that we are able to see the wonders of His revelation in the person of Jesus, through the undiluted Word in the Bible.
We conclude with a quote from C.S Lewis who said, “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”