Calling the Elders to Pray -- By: Daniel R. Hayden

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 138:551 (Jul 1981)
Article: Calling the Elders to Pray
Author: Daniel R. Hayden

Calling the Elders to Pray

Daniel R. Hayden

[Daniel R. Hayden, Director, Christolized Ministries, Inc., Rhinelander, Wisconsin]

Bible students differ as to the exact meaning of the words on healing in James 5:13–18. Many are reluctant to advocate a contemporary use of the “gifts of healings” in the church; but all are unanimous in feeling that the passage is calling for dealing in some way with physical illness among God’s people. Exactly how the teaching of James is to be implemented by the elders of the church, or precisely what circumstances warrant its application, is a matter of debate.

Many see this passage as a formula for church practice which obligates God to grant requests for physical healing. The result of this view is that many Christians are disappointed when God does not answer what He seemingly had promised. God does obligate Himself with His Word, but not to man’s misinterpretations of His Word. This writer suggests that James 5:13–18 is not referring to physical sickness at all, but is rather giving instruction for dealing with persons who are discouraged or depressed.

Contextual Considerations

The interpretation of any verse of the Bible must fit with the thought of the context in both the immediate passage and the overall understanding of Scripture. If James 5:13–18 is a reference to the special healing of physical illness, then it is totally unique to the teaching of the New Testament Epistles and disruptive to the argument of the Book of James.

Where in the Epistles, from Romans through Jude, is there emphasis on a special divine healing of the sick through the ministry of church elders? It is not found in the writings of Paul, who gave thorough instructions to the elders regarding their spiritual qualifications and responsibilities. Gaebelein expresses an important observation in this respect. “The Epistles which are the highwater mark of divine revelation, are the Epistles of Ephesians and Colossians; we find nothing in these Epistles about healing of diseases by anointing and prayer. Nor is it mentioned in any of the other Pauline Epistles.”1

“Gifts of healings” is merely mentioned in the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, but there is a curious silence in the rest of that epistle, as well as in all other epistles, as to any instruction for ministries of healing to the sick. Instead, Timothy was told to take wine as a remedy for...

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