Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2021 Sermons . Eternal Saviour or Eternal Doctor (Part 7)

. Eternal Saviour or Eternal Doctor (Part 7)

JESUS, SAVIOUR OR DOCTOR?

IF ANY MAN IS SICK – LET HIM CALL ON THE ELDERS

 

We continue today with our study regarding healing. It is very appropriate for the time we are living in, and many believers sit with many questions.

 

One issue we need to deal with is the issue of anointing with oil and what that means. I have grown up in an environment where as a child I would watch pastors have a sick person come to the front in church, he would take out this tiny bottle of olive oil and put a drop on his finger and put it on the forehead, then he as an elder or a group of elders would lay hands on the person and pray for the person. In about all the cases there was no healing, this confused me.

 

 

As a student pastor I did the same, and then my theology changed. Every church that I went to have a small bottle of oil in the pulpit for me to use. I refused to do so as I do not believe this is what the word of God teaches. When we interpret Scripture, the grammatical historical context matters, the context in which a verse appears matters. Context is King. I made it my duty to understand this complicated text. When you read the text from our context, it is confusing and promises some magical stuff over sick people. Let us be honest about it. But, when you read the text based on its original context and word usage, it makes sense and works even today. I have watched the ritual of a drop of oil on the head performed over and over again over the years. I guess if we are all honest, you would be sharing my concerns. As I shared my newfound thoughts on the text, fellow pastors would shoot me down, not based on facts and data, but on tradition. It was refreshing to discover recently that Dr John MacArthur who is renowned as the best New Testament Scholar in the world as well as Dr Thomas Schreiner, who is a renowned New Testament Professor at one of the largest seminaries in the world agrees with me fully. I have my own set of prep which I did to put my thoughts on paper BUT I decided however to merge it with Dr Mac Arthurs rendering of the text as a basis for my approach as it gives that extra credibility.

 

The book of James is written in a context where Christians are under persecution while in captivity. They have questions about their trials. We spent weeks looking at it, focussing on the joys produced by trials, asking for wisdom from God etc. James shows them how to exercise true faith in difficult circumstances. From perseverance to true faith to controlling one’s tongue, submitting to God’s will, and having patience, this book aids readers in living authentically and wisely for Christ. He showed them how to live according to heavenly wisdom and not earthly wisdom. James as a loving pastor gives a whole lot of practical advice especially towards the end. In chapter 5 from verse 7 he tells them to endure in trials. I do not have time for a total review.

 

Now, as a believer you understand all that theology, but you are still depressed, you are still under the weights of life, you are still in the pit, you are still in the gutters, you feel like you are under the gutters, the issues of life including persecution are too devastating to you. It might in our day be an unfaithful spouse, a divorce, a separation, a desertion, a child that has rebelled against you and against the Lord and broken your heart, the loss of a job, economic instability, a huge debt that may have come in your life, physical illness, mental illness and then of course the biggy – Covid 19. You just heard that you have cancer, or you have a test coming up in a week or two that is going to find out what it is that is bothering you and you are fearful about that, or you are anticipating a surgery on your heart; or whatever it is you are really struggling to rise above it. What do you do? Where do you go? That is the question James posts.

 

When you cannot find the resource within yourself, where do you go?

I think James 5 really addresses that issue in verses 13 and following.

 

Let us read together:

James 5:13-18 (ESV) 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 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. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

This text has been a challenge for interpreters through the years. I believe the chapter is noticeably clear. Somebody is sick and they go to an elder or the elders of the church, and the elders of the church pray for them, anoint them with oil, and they are made whole. Is this, in fact, the promise for a physical healing? If it is, I must be honest, it is not working. Not just at Logos, but everywhere. Just exactly what is this passage about? What kind of sickness is this? The illustration of Elijah at the end will help us understand this, as it is all about rain and not sickness.

 

A lot of issues rise out of this passage, that need to be addressed but I think if you get the right flow, it becomes a tremendously important passage for our understanding. The issue with this passage is to understand it rightly because it is so practical for our Christian lives. Not to understand it, it is not just to miss the point of the text. It is to miss the application of the text to your life. Proper understanding of Scripture has tremendous implications.

 

Many believers are under the discipline of the Lord, all of us at some time or another. We are exposed to persecution, or we are exposed to sufferings of all kinds, and we become defeated, and we become depressed, and we become despondent, and we are unable to gain victory over our trials. And what do we do? This passage gives the answer to that.

 

Just a little reminder, James is writing to Jews, a church of Jews, those who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. They were scattered in what is commonly known as the diaspora in Greek, or the dispersion. The Jews scattered out of the land of Palestine all over the Gentile nations. We do not know which specific congregation he is writing to, but in reading Chapters 1 – 4 you will see that they are facing many issues, issues that were damaging, issues that were depressing, issues that brought about a sense of not feeling well, spiritual, and physical depression, tension which will cause neck aches, back aches, a loss of energy and go. I can give you illustration after illustration to back this up. These righteous people who belong to God, who were the children of God, who belong to the Lord of Hosts, were being mistreated. They were having their wages withheld, and they were even being condemned in courts and they were even being executed and they went quietly. Now this shows something of the nature of the suffering of the Jewish believers. Literally, some of them had been executed.

 

In James 5:7 (ESV) James tells them to 7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.” They had to wait for their final answer like a farmer waits for rain.

 

In verse 10 and 11 he gives them an example of patience and bearing up under trial. James 5:10-11 (ESV) 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

 

So, this is all about being patient in suffering.

 

And then comes the passage on prayer in verse 13. “Is any among you suffering”. He is not talking about physical sickness here. He is talking to those who are suffering, who are spiritually exhausted, who have worked and have not been paid, who have been condemned in the courts, who have been imprisoned. He is talking to those who have family members who have been executed and it is more than you can bear. They are spiritually exhausted, they are debilitatingly weak and weary. What do you do when you are weak and defeated and without victory? You feel like a fallen soldier. That is the issue in this text. This has nothing to do with physical sickness or healing here in verse 13. I believe he is talking about spiritual weakness here, spiritual weariness, spiritual exhaustion, spiritual depression, calling for spiritual means and what He calls for is prayer. James says that if this is you, “let him pray”.

 

Let him pray. Turn to God for comfort, turn to God in personal communion, let him pray. In the Greek it is a present imperative. Let him continually plead. It is a command; begin to continually plead. This is the same as what Peter says in: 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

 

When you as a believer are in these circumstances, pray and keep on praying, pray 24/7, go aside and pray and plead in particular, and even fast and pray if you need to. You need to make it a matter of prayer.

 

Remember that old hymn – What a friend we have in Jesus? Remember the words: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to Him in prayer.” Sometimes we fail to recognise what a friend He is.

 

Now, James goes on in verse 13. “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Most believers were suffering but as usual, people respond differently. There are those who during their trials are cheerful. Now, if there is anybody like that let him sing praise. The Greek word for cheerful is  euthumeo {yoo-thoo-meh'-o} Meaning: to put in good spirits, gladden, make cheerful. This is a person who can say, it is well with my soul, therefore despite my circumstances I will put myself in good spirit, I will gladden my heart, I will make myself cheerful. Well, such a person does not resort to prayer, and pleading, but to praise.

 

 

We will sing that song in closing this morning. It is based on the story of a rich man Spafford who in 1873 lost everything in the Chicago fire and then lost his daughters when a boat sank. Despite his circumstances he could say, ‘It is well with my soul.’ If you are experiencing well-being in your soul, you are happy in spirit, then, literally in the Greek, sing  (psallo) which is to sing psalms.

 

So, the prayer, and the praise here in verse 13 is not in the context of physical sickness per sé, but suffering on all levels, which can probably include physical sickness. But that is not the focus based on the context of James.

 

We move on then to the difficult verse which is verse 14.

14 Is anyone among you sick? 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.

We then get the person who just cannot deal with their situation alone in prayer. They need help, they need care, they need their feet washed metaphorically, they need assistance, they need somebody mature in Christ to stand by them. They have been praying vertically, but horizontally they need somebody to Parakaleo them, to come alongside them to counsel them, support them, assist them, and pray for them.

 

Let me illustrate this very practically. You can self-medicate at home for certain sicknesses, and that you should, but there comes a time when you go to a doctor, and then he might be able to help you, but there comes a time in which you need a specialist. You need the right person, at the right time in the right circumstances.

 

But are we talking about physical sickness in verse 14? James 5:14 (ESV) “14 Is anyone among you sick? 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.”

 

Now we are going deeper into this thing. Suffering was one level, now we are using the word “sick”. What does this mean? Is he talking about a physical illness? With a right understanding of what this text means, all our tensions and theological confusions will disappear. Suddenly we will realise why a drop of oil on the forehead and prayer does not take away cancer, and pneumonia and heart problems, and migraines and Covid 19.

 

There are several terms and expressions in the New Testament for sickness. The term here is from the Greek verb,  astheneo {as-then-eh'-o} Meaning: 1) to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless 2) to be weak in means, needy, poor 3) to be feeble.

 

 

Sickness here is in the sense of wellbeing.

 

It may refer to sickness in the sense of some illness and on occasion does in the New Testament. But all the lexicons where you have the actual priority listing of the translations – it is like a dictionary – where you have the translation of the meaning of this, indicate that its primary meaning is to be weak, feeble, or impotent.

 

For example, in Romans it is used to being weak in faith. In 1 Corinthians 8:9, it is used of spiritual weakness. In Acts 20:35, it is used of being weak or deprived in material resources. In Romans 5:6 it is used of spiritual weakness, the impotence of the unsaved spiritually. In 2 Corinthians 11:21 it is used of weakness of personality. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV) we see Paul say: 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

Paul is not defining some physical illness but the general weakness of his humanness under the assault of persecution and trials and trouble. It is simply the opposite of powerful. I believe that the translators did injustice using the word ‘sick’ in English rather than ‘weaknesses’. There is nothing in this context of James about illness but there is a lot about people suffering under tremendous oppression and persecution and trials, which produce suffering and depression as indicated in verse 13. And suffering can produce this impotence and this weakness; it produces weakness emotionally, weakness and impotence spiritually and a sense of not feeling well, but depressed.

 

Sure, there may be a physical effect of that which your doctor can treat. But there are those who, because of the battle and the persecutions and the trials have come to the place where they do not have the strength, to carry on themselves. In fact, maybe they cannot even rise to their own prayer life. And so, he says if you are so weak and so impotent, “call for the elders of the church and let them pray over Him.” The elders are the spiritual leaders of the church.

 

What is this saying? Simply this. If you do not have the strength to pray for yourself and to deal with your struggle and you find yourself spiritually weak, then go to the spiritually strong and let them pray for you and minister to you. The elders of the church are the overseers, the pastors, the shepherds. They are the spiritually strong. They are defined in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus chapter 1 as those who are the strong spiritual leaders of the church. You go to the spiritually strong, those who are proven strong, those who are victorious, those who have learned how to patiently endure, those who know the Word of God and know the God of the Word, those who have strength and wisdom and understanding and compassion in their spiritual life, those who are the righteous man of verse 16, where it says that “the effectual prayer of a righteous man is effective.” Go to the spiritually strong, call on them. Literally, “to call” for the elders is from the Greek word: proskaleō. You have often heard me use the term “parakaleo” and “parklytos” which is the word for the Holy Spirit. In this context it means to call them alongside, call the elders alongside. Go to your pastor or pastors/elders is what it is saying, and let him or them (depending on the situation) pray, proseuchomai. Always use the praying to God.

 

And what is the responsibility of elders? According to Acts 6:4, the elders were to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word, right? And that transitions over to what the elders do. Our responsibility is for the spiritual well-being of the congregation. That comes down to teaching them and holding them up in prayer. I think far more important in the life of the church than a counselling ministry, is a praying ministry. Rather than simply tell people what you would do to fix their problems, you are better off to take them to the one who alone can solve the issues of life.

 

Counselling is nothing more than teaching people what the Word of God says and applying it to their circumstances. Having told them what the Word of God says, you then take them to God Himself in intercessory prayer. Here is the pastoral duty of prayer, come alongside the weary and the wounded soldier who is defeated and without strength, and beseech God on his or her behalf, this is really pastoral praying. That is why we as elders are here. That is why you have pastors and elders so that you can lean on the spiritually strong when you are spiritually weak, so that we can take up your burden, and help you carry it.

 

There is a curious addition, however, to the text in verse 14. It says at the end of the verse, “Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” What is that? Well, come back next week, as we head into a very interesting topic that very few understand, and not because it is not in the text, but because we have been ignorant of the real meaning of the text.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church – 11 July 2021