One of the things that I like about the book of James is that it gives such clear, precise answers to the controversies of our day. It's a remarkable book. And it's a book that American evangelicalism desperately needs to hear. And one of the controversies today is obviously the subject of healing. It's so easy to go to extremes. And I thought I would start with a true story that illustrates one of those extremes. I know of a person who kept telling his wife that her diabetes was the result of sin and unbelief. And she felt devastated, because she had confessed every sin she could think of, and confessed it numerous times. She had done all kinds of things to (as it were) step out in faith. For example, her husband had convinced her to throw away her insulin as an act of faith that God was going to heal. He believed that it was God's will that every believer be healed. And if there wasn't healing, it was an evidence of one of two things: sin, or unbelief. You can imagine how this began driving her crazy after months of agonizing over her lack of faith or unknown sinfulness. After repeated trips to the so-called "faith healer" and being hospitalized for her condition because she wasn't taking insulin, and other complicating illnesses, she became bitter and confused over what in the world God wanted in her life. That story is not the exception in some charismatic circles. It can be multiplied thousands of times over. It has led to immaturity and instability in the lives of many people. It has caused some to question their faith. And so, this is a very relevant question: What are we to think of healing? The Bible talks a lot about this subject, and we need to understand it if we are to be mature. James is not going to address every possible issue on healing. You have to look at other Scriptures for that. But I think he addresses the most important issues for us to have balance.
Let's go to the other extreme. Some have discounted healing completely. And when you look at the kind of stories that I started with, you can see why. B.B. Warfield believed that all claims to miraculous healing were either hoaxes or demonic. He thought that God no longer performed miracles. But there are others who have discounted all miracles because they have seen so much fakery. You have all probably seen the video tape and heard the recordings of Peter Popoff's wife giving him detailed information by radio into an ear piece. She would give the information about who had what disease, names and addresses, and other details, and he would pretend that he had been given a word of knowledge, and call these people up to be healed, and tell all kinds of information about them. If you have ever read books by James Randi, Paul Kurtz and others who have devoted their time to exposing superstition and fraud, it could easily turn you into a total skeptic. But chicanery and fraud and counterfeiting does not disprove true healing any more than the presence of "fool's gold" disproves the presence of real gold.
In any case, in Christian circles you often have people go to one of two extremes: those who never expect miracles and those who expect miracles constantly as if it is their daily right. The mature position that James wants us to hold to is a position that lies somewhere in between. And rather than going through the passage phrase by phrase, I thought I would open up it's meaning by asking the text questions that flow out of the controversy.
Now before I do that, let me read you a quote from J. I Packer. He says:
Reacting against flat-tire versions of Christianity, which play down the supernatural and so do not expect to see God at work, the super-supernaturalist constantly expects miracles of all sorts - striking demonstrations of God's presence and power - and he is happiest when he thinks he sees God acting contrary to the nature of things, so confounding common sense. For God to proceed slowly and by natural means is to him a disappointment, almost a betrayal. But his undervaluing of the natural, regular, and ordinary shows him to be romantically immature and weak in his grasp of the realities of creation and providence as basic to God's work of grace.
We are talking today about a mature approach to the subject of sickness and healing, and the first question I want to address is this: Does God want you sick? Some of you have been taught that God never wants us sick. It is always Satan who wants you sick, and God who wants you better.
Is it God's will that you sometimes suffer and experience illness? (vv. 13-14)
You may not like my answer to this question, but I would have to say that if you are sick, "Yes, God wants you sick." He's sovereign, and you wouldn't be sick if He didn't want you sick. Does He want you to stay sick? That's another question, and the answer in most cases is probably "No." But in verse 13 James obviously assumes that there will be sick people in every congregation, and later we are going to be seeing how the Greek implies that not all will be healed. And in verse 15 he implies that some sicknesses came because of discipline for sin. So I think it is important that we realize that God is the one who brings disease and God is the one who heals every cold, whether you are using medicine or not. Only God can make your medicine to be effective.
Let me give you some examples to show that God brings disease, and not just Satan. Micah 6:13 says that sin is one of the reasons God wants people sick. Therefore I will also make you sick by striking you, by making you desolate because of your sins. He doesn't blame the sickness on germs or Satan. It's not an accident that you happened to breath in that germ. There are no accidents in God's plan. God may use those secondary causes, but God claims to be the ultimate cause of disease. In Deuteronomy 7 God says that He afflicted the Egyptians with disease, and He will afflict the Israelites with disease if they disobey His laws. And verse 15 of that chapter is a glorious promise of healing as well. It says, And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you. 1 Corinthians 11 says much the same thing; that God made many in the church of Corinth sick and/or weak because of their sins. It was God's judgment. Until they repented, God wanted them sick. Deuteronomy 28 is a long catalogue of some of God's favorite sicknesses with which He afflicts His people by way of loving discipline. And so, when people say that it is not God's will that you be sick, I think that is nonsense. Nothing happens independently of God's sovereignty, and God directly brings disease even into believers' lives. He does it for their good. And far from it being a bad testimony, God thinks it is a great testimony.
For example, in Deuteronomy 29, God gives a reason why bringing these diseases is so great. He says, so that the coming generation of your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, would say, when they see the plagues of that land and the sicknesses which the LORD has laid on it…Why has the LORD done so to this land? And He goes on to say that it gives the people an opportunity to witness to God's power and to glorify God and to say that God did it for discipline. Wouldn't that be an awesome testimony? Yes, it is God's will, that He discipline His people. In fact, Hebrews 12 says that if you are without discipline, that God doesn't even love you. And so the first principle that we need to understand is that sickness comes from God. Sure He may use Satan. Sure he may use germs. But He is the sovereign Lord over sickness, and that's why He is the logical choice to go to when you get sick. It gives hope to know that He is the author of sickness and HE is the author of healing. He casts down and He raises up. It also makes you carefully evaluate why you are sick. We ought not to just automatically and carelessly take medicine without thinking and without prayer. Many of us are deists when it comes to taking pills. We should take medicine prayerfully, and with a submissive attitude that learns from His sovereign dealings. James wants us to go to God.
Is all sickness the result of personal sin?? (vv. 13-14 with John 9:2)
A second mistake that we might make, is to assume that all sickness is due to sin. And this is a mistake that I have seen in so many charismatic circles. Many of them instantly assume that there is sin in your life. Just put it under the blood and you'll be healed, they say. And it's true that verse 15 implies that some sicknesses may be due to sin, and it's very important that we ask God, "Lord, are you disciplining me? Please show me if I have displeased you in any way?" And He will show it to you. But notice that verse 15 also implies that not all sickness is due to sin. He says, and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. That word "if" implies that in many cases, the cause of that disease was not sin. I think that "if" would encourage the wife in the story that we started with.
In John 9:2, Christ's disciples ask Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" [They immediately assumed the same thing these Charismatics do.] Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. Here was a case where God wanted the man blind apart from any question of sin, and he had been blind for many years. Job was another example. God Himself denies that Job was being afflicted with boils because of sin. In fact, on the back of your outline I have given a detailed listing of some of the various reasons for why God allows disease in our lives. There are also some additional cautions and instructions on that outline that you can study on your own. But James himself indicates that not all disease is because of sin.
Is all lack of healing a sign that a person lacks faith? (vv. 15-17 ["avails much"], with 2 Kings 13:14; Mark 6:5-6)
The third question is kind of a trick question. It asks, "Is all lack of healing a sign that a person lacks faith?" Verse 15 says, "Yes," but not in the sense meant by Mac's statements to his diabetic wife. He was implying that she needed to work up her faith – you've got to believe harder. But faith is a gift sovereignly given by God. It's not something we work up. And in verse 15 it says, And the prayer of faith will save the sick. And that is true whether it is the person who is sick that has faith, or the person who is praying. And that makes sense. If God gives the faith, automatically it means that He intends the result. God ordains the means as well as the ends. But what many people confuse with faith is not faith; it is presumption. Faith is needed. Mark 6:5-6 indicates that Christ couldn't heal very many people in his home town because people didn't believe. God hadn't given them faith. It says, Now He could do not mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. And so, yes, faith is connected to healing. That is very important, and I will develop that in a bit.
But the reason it is a trick question is that most people who answer that question act as if we can generate faith, and that God can be manipulated by simply squeezing our eyes shut and wishing. Now there are things we can do to increase or nurture our faith. One of them is immersing ourselves in God's promises. Why? Because God sovereignly gives faith through the Word. Another thing that stirs up faith in His Word is witnessing the mighty works of God. Another is by constantly praying. Many times faith is given by God in the very act of praying. Verse 16 says, The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. The word "much" is a relative term. If there is faith, there is not much: there is all; it is always. But fervent prayer avails much because God often grants faith in the process of fervently praying out loud, or as the Scripture says, "crying aloud." So there are some things that we can do to stir up faith.
But the thing that I am countering here is the popular idea that if you are a man of faith, that your prayers will always be answered. But I want you to notice that here in James, faith is not connected to the man. It is connected to the prayer. Verse 15 says, And the prayer of faith… Even tremendous men of faith like George Mueller didn't pray for some things because they sensed that God didn't want it. They didn't have faith to pray for that. So let's not assume that even a tremendous man of faith will always have healing. It has never worked that way, even with the Apostle Paul, who left Trophimus behind in Miletus sick – not yet healed (2 Tim. 4:20). Here is a man of faith who couldn't heal his friend. Let me give you another example where God did not give permission for healing. And we can use verse 17 as background. It describes the faith of Elijah. Here was a man of faith. Were all his prayers answered? No. And think of his successor, Elisha. Elisha was even more a man of faith than Elijah, and he had a double portion of God's Spirit. Yet is says in 2 Kings 13:14, Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!" Isn't it odd that the greatest man of faith in the Old Testament died of a sickness? Isn't it odd that Paul, the greatest healer in the New Testament, couldn't heal himself and couldn't heal his friend Trophimus?
And I would say, "No. It's not odd." It's not the man; it's the presence of sovereignly administered faith. I think we need to get rid of the idea that there are faith healers that we need to go to. It's not the person; it's the prayer of faith. And it's so cool when God gives that faith. You have this God-given surge of confidence that God is going to heal. You have no doubt. Now I pray even when I have not been granted that faith, and I have found in the very engagement of fervent prayer that God often generates the faith. So I'm not passive about it. My answer to this question is a qualified "Yes." But it's not always a negative thing if a person praying for healing has no faith and God sovereignly decides not to answer "Yes." Sometimes the lack of faith is simply God's lack of permission. He's saying, "I don't want you praying for that person."
Is healing in the atonement? (v. 15b with Matt 8:16-17; Rom. 8:18-25)
Another question that is often brought up is the question, "Is healing in the atonement?" This is a hotly debated question. Pentecostals initially said "Yes," but because of their abuse of that doctrine, many charismatics and non-charismatics over-reacted and said "No." My answer is, "Of course it is in the atonement, or there could be no resurrection." Resurrection is the ultimate healing. And for proof that healing is in the atonement, let me read you Matthew 8:16-17. When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses." Matthew is indicating that the only reason Christ was able to heal anyone was because He was going to die to make that healing possible.
But here is where the early Pentecostals made a mistake. They assumed that because healing was in the atonement, that healing was just as readily available as forgiveness for sin. But turn with me to Romans 8 so that you can see where they made their mistake. This is a passage which looks forward to the end of time when the whole universe will be renovated. And so you could say that the renovation of the whole universe is in the atonement. But God has His timing for how and when that will happen. Verses 18-25 of Romans 8 say that the whole creation is groaning and waiting for the restoration of the universe, and then verse 23 says, Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. In God's time table, the redemption of our body has to wait for the second coming. Our souls are redeemed now, our bodies will be redeemed then. That's when the atonement will be most fully applied. And the ultimate healing is the resurrection, and any healings we have right now are simply small foretastes or downpayments of the final healing. If all healings were instantly available now just as all forgiveness is, then there would be no need for us to groan at all between now and the second coming. In fact, there would be no death. There could be no death.
And so the bottom line of these first four points is that it is unbiblical to say that God intends to heal all diseases. If that were true, no believer would die. Christ had a marvelous work of healing, but He didn't heal everybody. Many were left for the apostles to heal later. And there were some whom Paul said he could not heal.
Are so-called "faith-healers" the only ones who can pray for healing?
Elijah is only introduced as "a man with a nature like ours" (v. 17), not as an example that only "holy men" can pray
But let's just quickly handle point 5. I've already anticipated this when I said that it was not the man, but the prayer of faith that was important. But some people get the idea that you have to go to a so-called "faith healer" in order to get healed. But James makes this something that absolutely anybody can pray for. There are some who are especially gifted this way, but notice in verse 17 that James does not bring up Elijah in order to convince us that there is no point in trying to pray for healing ourselves. His point is to encourage all of us to pray. He says, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours… Not a superman; not someone that we can't identify with. He was a common man that God just happened to give the gift of faith to more frequently.
Therefore, you can pray for healing (v. 13)
From James' perspective, you can pray for your own healing when you are sick. No problem. Verse 13 says, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. The sick person is quite capable of praying in faith for his own healing. And I don't know how many times I have been instantly healed by praying for myself.
Therefore, the elders can pray for healing (v. 14)
Verse 14 says, Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him. Ordinary elders are vehicles of the Lord's healing as well. God delights in using the ordinary.
Therefore, all church members can pray for each other (v. 16)
Verse 16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. And so any church member; any saint, can pray for your healing. And what a glorious thing it is when the saints pray for each other. Don't think that healing is a function of office. It is a function of God's Spirit that any believer can lay hold of.
Should we only pray for healing on the "big ones"? James covers every kind of sickness under the following categories:
Feeling bad (v. 13). Means to suffer, to feel bad: kakopathei is made up of kaka (bad) and patheis (inward state or feelings)
Another question that comes up is if we should only ask for prayer on the "big ones." I think there may be an order in these words, with the sick person praying for his own diseases first, and if that doesn't work, asking the elders to pray for him, and if that doesn't work, having a number of members pray for you. But look at the gamut of diseases that God expects us to go to Him for: The word for "suffering" in verse 13 literally means to feel bad. If you are kakopathei, you are under the weather. He doesn't say that you should instantly run to others for prayer for every little sniffle. Instead, he wants individuals to challenge their own faith by bringing every instance of their own mild sickness to Him in prayer.
Sickness that makes you weak (v. 14). "Sick" is asthenei or "weakness." This is a sickness that has wiped you out.
The word for sickness in verse 14 is asthenei, and it means "weakness." It seems that this is a little more prolonged form of illness. Perhaps you have prayed several times for your healing, and you just aren't getting better. He says, call for the elders.
Very severe sickness (v. 15). Kamnonta can simply mean illness, but can also mean "be hopelessly sick, waste away" (BAGD)
Verse 15 uses an even stronger word for illness, kamnonta, that my Greek dictionary defines as illness of "[to] be hopelessly sick, [to] waste away." The point of these different Greek words is to emphasize that it doesn't matter how little or how big the sickness is, it is something that ought to drive us to prayer. No sickness is so far gone that it beyond hope. No sickness is so small that you should forget to pray when you take your aspirin, and say, "Lord, please bless this aspirin to my health."
See the Lord's use of weakness, sickness (1 Corinthians 11), boils (2 Kings 20:7), diarrhea (2 Chron. 21:12-15), itchy skin (Deut. 28:27), bruises (Ps. 38:5) and hemorrhoids (2 Chron. 21:15)
In your outline I have given a sampling of ailments that God uses to work together for the good of His people: things like boils, diarrhea, itchy skin, bruises and hemorrhoids. Go to the Lord for all of these things. You will be amazed at how many times God will only answer your own prayers.
Should I be discouraged when I get sick (as if Satan has gotten the upper hand)?
Suffering Should Direct Us To Pray About The Problem (v. 13a)
Satan may hope to work those things together for my bad, but God's intention is that they draw us to Him. Verse 13 says, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Let your suffering drive you to depend upon the Lord. That's its purpose. James 1 gives an exposition of why we ought to be glad for the suffering God has brought into our lives. He had said that we are to count it all joy.
Happy Circumstances Should Direct Us To Praise (v. 13b)
Point B: when circumstances are wonderful, he doesn't want us to forget God. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. God should be the first one that we turn to and the first one that we praise. When you take an aspirin and your headache goes away, and you are cheerful again, you should praise God for how that aspirin interacted with your body. Our life should revolve around Him, and everything that happens to us should draw us closer to the Lord. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we will acknowledge that quite the opposite often happens. We forget God when things are going great and we complain when things are going lousy. And it's not by accident that James uses sickness to teach us on this subject.
How to look to the Lord in sickness
God should not be your last resort; He is your only resort, with or without medicine (vv. 13, 14a, 16)
The last question is, "How do I look to the Lord in sickness?" When we have sickness, the first impulse we have is to take medicine or go to the doctor. Now don't get me wrong, the Bible advocates use of doctors and medicine. In fact, medicine is an important part of the Dominion Mandate. But God condemns those who trust in doctors as a substitute for trusting God. They can't be a substitute. Medicine will do you no good if God does not will it. On the other hand, God delights to bless the use of medicine as we trust Him for healing. 2 Chronicles 16:12 says that king Asa was unable to be healed because he ignored God while seeking physicans. And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was very severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. That is what James warns us about. Seek God first, not as a last resort. He is your only resort, with or without medicine.
On every level of sickness that he mentions, James says we should be in prayer. Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Another way of going to the Lord is through the elders. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him… A different word in verse 15, but still prayer. A different word for healing from illness in verse 16, but again prayer, in this case, believers praying for each other.
The Role That Elders Can Play (vs. 14-18)
Notice That You Are Responsible To Call Us (v. 14b); Don't Expect The Elders To Somehow Find Out Through The Grapevine
Because I have covered most of the material in point VIII already, I will quickly wrap up. But I want you to notice that the onus of responsibility is on the sick person to call the elders for anointing and prayer. That doesn't mean that elders can't volunteer. But frequently elders don't find out that something was wrong until the believer has already left the hospital. Don't expect the elders to magically know when you are sick and in need of pastoral care. God has given elders for the oversight and benefit of the congregation.
Let me give a couple of additional words on these elders: 1) first, notice that James describes the plural for elders. It's normal to have a plurality of elders. Though there were mission churches that Paul had planted that still didn't have elders some years later, he sent Timothy and Titus to train men to take that role. The ideal for each congregation is for there to be more than one elder. Second, notice that James' conception of the office of elder was not first and foremost one of managing court trials. Those do happen. But James sees the eldership as being a pastoral ministry with healing being one of its components. Ministry, not legalism; ministry, not control, should characterize the elders of a congregation.
I've already commented on the role of sin in disease. Let me just make a couple of additional comments on the role of confession of sin. James makes it very clear that there are some diseases that will only be healed as we confess to each other. He is indicating that sometimes it's not enough o confess our sins to God. He wants us to humble ourselves before others. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. Job 42 gives us God's command to Job's counselors to seek Job's forgiveness, and it was not until after their confession and Job's forgiveness that both they and Job entered into God's blessing. And I think the neatest part of that story was that Job's disease was reversed not due to the confession of his own sins, but due to the confession of his tormentors sins, and his willingness to forgive them. Be sensitive when someone asks for your forgiveness and asks you to pray for him. This granting of forgiveness and mutual prayer can bring healing. I have found it so on occasion in my life. Husbands, humble yourselves before your wives and confess your failings to her. Otherwise, 1 Peter 3:7 says that your prayers will be hindered. You've got to be in right relationship, and there are many examples in the Bible of diseases that came because people weren't in right relationship. 1 Corinthians 11 says that the weakness and sickness that many were experiencing was because they had fouled up their relationships to each other. Has it ever dawned on you that your weaknesses and sicknesses might be due to similar reasons? Parents, you may need to confess to your children. Children, you may need to confess to each other. The degree to which you take James 5 seriously shows the degree to which you see God working in your lives. Too many Christians are deistic in their thinking. They scoff at the idea that their eczema might be due to chastening. The naturalistic mind sees this as nonsense. Anything that can be explained in natural terms will not need a supernatural explanation. But James wants us to see the supernatural in the natural world; in everything that we do.
But I do want to comment on that phrase, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. This has been interpreted various ways. Jay Adams thinks this is medicine but almost no one agrees with him. I think it is really stretching the passage to think that oil was the medicine they used for every disease. If that's what he meant, he could have said, "Use medicine." So I really think that is far fetched. Some think it is entirely symbolical, and they never anoint with oil. But that's never made sense to me. Why does He mention the symbol if He had no intention of us using the symbol? I believe God actually wants oil; he wants the symbol and not just what it symbolizes. Some have thought that this is the only place where oil is connected with healing, and so we don't need to use it. But turn with me to Mark 6:13. God can heal without oil and He does so on many occasions. But I believe the use of oil was normal for elders. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. Anointing with oil apparently was commonplace in the disciples ministry. Mark 16 in the Majority Text is another passage which speaks of a formal laying on of hands to heal the sick. In the book of Acts, Paul lays hands on the man with dysentery. We may not know why God wants elders to lay on hands and anoint with oil, but it is best to follow His Word and do it the way God says to do it. Why does God want water for baptism, and bread and wine for communion? Why does He want us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? I don't know. But I'm not going to argue with Him. He's the one doing the healing, and I'm not about to question God's wisdom.
But notice that it is not the oil that heals, and not the confession or the laying on of hands that heals. There's not something magical going on here. I do it just because God wants me to do it. It doesn't say the oil heals. It says, And the prayer of faith will save the sick and the word "save" can be translated as "heal" as well. But it is prayer that heals. And I want you to notice the certainty with which God speaks when this prayer of faith is present: and the Lord will raise him up. Not maybe, but will. But notice also that he doesn't say that God will always heal people when the elders pray. He says it is when there is a prayer of faith. And the Greek is actually stronger. It says, "and the prayer of the faith will heal the sick." That may be awkward English, but the emphasis in the Greek indicates that there is a special faith present when healing takes place. Let me read you a couple of quotations from commentators who explain that odd phrase, "the prayer of the faith." And each of them emphasizes that this is a special God-given faith that gives an assurance that it is God's will for this person to be healed.
D. Edmond Hiebert says, it "is not just an ordinary prayer for another, however good and sincere it may be, but the prayer prompted by the Spirit-wrought conviction that it is the Lord's will to heal the one being prayed for." Douglas Moo says, "Prayer for healing offered in the confidence that God will answer that prayer does bring healing; but only when it is God's will to heal will that faith, itself a gift of God, be present. Such faith cannot be 'manufactured,' however gifted, insistent, or righteous we are." So it is only when God sovereignly gives the elders that faith that healing occurs. C. Samuel Storms says, "That anyone should exercise this kind of faith can only be because God has produced it in the heart of the one who prays. Therefore, the particular kind of faith to which James is referring, in response to which God will grant our request, is not the kind that we may exercise at our will. It is the kind of faith that we exercise only when God wills."
Now this is important because it distinguishes between the submissiveness of mature healing and the immature demands and sensationalism of Pentecostal healers. We have already seen that it is not God's will that Christians always be healed. And when they are healed, it is clear that God is the one who gets the credit, not the awesomeness of the healer. Without an understanding of God's sovereignty we can turn faith into manipulation. And that has frequently been done. Listen to what David Hubbard has to say about those who focus on the methodology and not on God's sovereign mercy. He says:
Setting fixed terms which decide whether he performs healing or not nudges us across the border that separates providence from magic and trespasses on God's right to be Lord. It pre-empts his authority to decide when and how to manifest his power. It makes our conformity to certain conditions rather than his sovereignty the ultimate ground of how he works. In the process, everyone loses. We find it hard to cling to God's love when healing does not take place, and God becomes servant of our needs and not Master of our destiny.
Do you see what he is saying? God is the one who determines when we will have this faith, and God is the one who heals. The elders are just ordinary people. They don't have the gift of healing, even though I have seen examples of miraculous healings in our churches. Our prayers are used, but verse 15 emphasis that the Lord will raise him up.
Does God continue to perform miracles? Absolutely yes. They've not passed away. James does not attribute healing and other miracles only to prophets and apostles. He deliberately picks ordinary people and ordinary elders, and even when he picks a hero of the faith like Elijah, he says, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. The clear implication is that James wanted the congregation to continue to expect God to be a God of miracles, sovereignly dispensing them where and when He wills.
To me, this chapter is more exciting than Pentecostalism. And it is guaranteed not to leave you immature and emotionally unstable. We have a great God, but He works in orderly ways. Let's follow His order. You will find it far more satisfying than the faith healing of Pentecostalism. May God stir up faith for healing in this congregation. Amen.