James presented God’s Word to enable believers to measure their faith, conduct, and humility. He also encourages us in patient service while looking for the imminent return of our Lord. Now, he completes the letter with the test of fellowship through prayer. We have noted the believer’s reliance on God and one another, and this is as it should be. This morning we will finish the messages of the Book of James and complete his thought on the responsibility and opportunity of the brethren to edify one another.
VII. Instruction on prayer. James 5:13-18
A. The Reliance. James 5:13-15
1. In times of trouble. James 5:13a “… Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.”
2. In times of rejoicing. James 5:13b “… . Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
3. In times of sickness James 5:14-15a
The words used here denote either physical disease or emotional despondency. Either of these conditions can incapacitate a person, leaving them weak, feeling helpless and hopeless. In times like this, the believer is instructed to call for the pastor to come and minister to them as we saw in the last message. This time of compassion being shown, care bestowed, and counsel being given, should be a time of self examination.
B. The Reflection. James 5:15b
“… and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
The Apostle John repeated the instruction that James gave here in his first letter –
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And Matthew recorded the relationship between sickness and sin –
Matthew 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
This man, along with these men, knew that his primary need was of forgiveness. The physical healing was simply an illustration of the spiritual healing!
Matthew 9:6-7 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house.
Upon being restored to good health and especially if one is restored to a right relationship with God, James reminds us that sin against God may have also involved sin against men. Forgiveness needs to be sought from the Lord first, but this should lead to seeking forgiveness from the offended person. Therefore James instructs us in –
C. The Response. James 5:16-18
1. The expectation. James 5:16a
The brother or sister has been shown compassion in the ministry of the church. The pastor has manifested the love of the Lord in his ministry to this person. Now we are instructed to continue in this care for one another through the confession of sins and prayer for one another. We must understand the underlying truth of this instruction – we must have a love for God and for one another that enables, even constrains us to confess our offenses personally and even if necessary, publicly. We do not mind so much to share praises in the congregation or to pray in the congregation, but to confess our faults – that is something different altogether. All of what James has written leads to this point – a necessary component in growing into the stature of the fulness of Christ – being that perfect man. When we have offended – confess it!
Colossians 3:12-14 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
Ephesians 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Also, We must be prepared to intercede for the brethren. These verses, speaking of the confession and forgiveness of sin, reveal not only the possibility, but the probability of sin being involved and we must be prepared to forgive and pray for the brethren.
2. The earnest desire. James 5:16b
3. The example. James 17,18
The Prophet Elijah as noted in 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:41-44
a. The person: He was of the same nature as other men.
b. The prayer.
1). He prayed for the rain to be held back by the Lord according to God’s instruction.
2). He prayed for the glory of the Lord to be manifested in accepting his offering.
3). He prayed for the rain to be restored to the land, but notice in this case –
c. The persistence.
He prayed seven times for the rain to be restored. Notice that Elijah prayed earnestly, expecting the Lord’s will to be done. We need to learn to be persistent in prayer in the accomplishment of God’s will. Do not stop until you know that what God wants to be done is done!
Not everyone will be submissive to the Lord’s conviction and they will bring judgment upon themselves, but this judgment belongs to the Lord and while we pray for His correction in their lives, we need to be praying for them to submit, confess, and be restored into fellowship with the Lord and His people –
D. The Restoration. James 5:19, 20
1. The interest shown in the brother’s testimony.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2. The intercession to save the brother’s life.
1 John 5:15-16 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
When God judged the sin and declared the penalty to be death, His judgment was righteous and there was no point in interceding for these. A few examples are Korah, Achan, and –
Leviticus 10:1-2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
But the Lord reveals many instances where He has responded in mercy to the intercession of His children. Remember Abraham, Moses for examples.
Upon repentance with confession, the brother is restored in the fellowship of the church. The unity of the church is maintained and the Lord is glorified.
The instruction in prayer leads to unity of the brethren. James gave us a measure of our prayer life. Do we love one another enough to pray and give of ourselves to one another.
James’ letter reflects the words of our Lord in summary –
Mark 12:29-31 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Today we ask the question – Do you love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, and mind? You cannot love Him unless you have responded to His love for you in repentance and faith, trusting Him as your Saviour. Are you saved?
As you measure your life by His Word that He has led James to write, how do you measure up? How is your faith, your conduct, your humility, your expectation of His return, your fellowship? If there is something that is not right this morning, then settle it with the Lord and if necessary, with one another.
Remember the words of Paul –
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: