Considerations On Theme Of James 5:13-18 -- By: Robert G. Winter

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 01:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: Considerations On Theme Of James 5:13-18
Author: Robert G. Winter


Considerations On Theme Of James 5:13-18

Robert G. Winter

Bible students have long debated over both the interpretation and application of James 5:13–18 It has usually been assumed that the passage deals with physical illness. The author examines whether or not that is a valid premise and suggests that the passage really is not so much concerned with physical healing as it is with prayer and spiritual healing in the midst of persecution.

James 5:13–18 has been a battle ground for interpreters over the centuries. Today there are many who are confused over its real meaning. This passage is the one the Roman Catholics use to support their doctrine of extreme unction.1 It is the passage that many in the modern faith-healing movement use to teach that we have a guaranteed healing if we pray under the proper circumstances.2 It is a passage many churches use to place oil on the foreheads of sick people. They feel that in that procedure God promises to provide physical healing. The result

of this view is that “many Christians are disappointed when God does not do what He seemingly had promised.3 God does obligate Himself to fulfill His Word. But He does not obligate Himself to fulfill man’s misinterpretations of His Word.

Now in just a cursory reading of James 5:13–18, many questions come to mind. When James talks about suffering in verse 13, what kind of suffering is he referring to? When he talks about sickness in verse 14, what kind of sickness does he have in mind? What actually is it that the elders of the church have to offer in their prayers that other people do not? Do they have a special access path to God? What is this “anointing” and what kind of oil? Does the prayer of faith always heal the sick and allow the Lord to raise him up? What does sin have to do with it? What kind of healing is he talking about in verse 16? And why does he use an illustration about rain in the middle of a passage about healing?

The presuppositions carried into the study of this text often flavor the way it is interpreted. Yet those presuppositions can hinder the Bible student from coming to an accurate understanding of the meaning of the text. In this study, this author will use primary source materials and then allow what is learn...

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