Study # 79
Thesis: The responsibility of the elders is to do three things very carefully:
April 7, 1999
Introduction: Last week we began our look at James' final exhortations regarding how we are to respond to our circumstances. We considered the problem of "disappointment" as a matter for real prayer. We considered the blessing of "being merry" as a matter for truthful singing. And we began to consider the problem of illness.
In respect to the matter of illness, we noted several things. First, that it is the responsibility of the ill to determine whether/when they need the ministry of the elders of the church. Second, that the issue with which James is primarily concerned is the problem of distance in the relationship between the ill and the Lord as evidenced by the despairing attitude referred to in verse 15. Illness is not a legitimate basis for being despairing, but it is often used for that. Third, that James is not addressing all manner of illnesses, but only those illness situations that have brought the individual to despair.
Now, this evening, we want to consider the responsibilities of the elders when they are called.
- 1) to communicate the compassion of the Lord to the despairing/ill;
- 2) to probe the spiritual condition of the despairing/ill so as to determine whether the condition is a discipline from God, or the natural consequence of living in a 2nd Law World; and
- 3) to pray "prayers of faith".
- I. Their SECONDARY Responsibility: Annointing With Oil.
- A. Our first question: what does the annointing with oil mean?
- 1. Examples in the New Testament.
- a. Luke 10:34 - the only medicinal reference in the New Testament and it refers to "wounds", not illness. This is not a parallel passage to James' thought.
- b. Mark 6:13 - an element in the ministry of the apostles when sent forth by Jesus. This MIGHT be a parallel passage to James' thought.
- c. Matthew 6:17; Luke 7:38-46; Mark 16:1; and John 11:2-3. These passages speak of the display of love...and are probably the parallels to James' thought.
- 2. Conclusions we draw.
- a. James was not writing about the practice of a rudimentary form of medicine.
- b. James was not writing about the practice of a miraculous healing ministry.
- 1) Because it was never universal to the local church and its elders.
- 2) Because the experience of the Church has never included a covenant-principle of physical healing.
- c. James was writing about the elders' responsibility to communicate the love of God to the ill person.
- d. The cultural shifts have eliminated this action in some cultures because pouring oil on people in some cultures is not a recognized symbol.
- B. Our second question: What is the significance of the annointing "in the name of the Lord"?
- 1. The problem is that the Lord has lost His proper place in the perspective of the individual who has summoned the elders.
- 2. The elders must act in such a way as to reconstruct that perspective--THEY are not the ill person's hope; HE is.
- C. Our third question: What is a culturally significant substitute for "annointing with oil"?
- II. The Elders' Primary Responsibility: Prayer.
- A. Indicators that this is not "just any old prayer".
- 1. It is called "the prayer of faith" that results in the Lord's action of restoration of the despairing.
- 2. It is said, in verse 16, to follow "confession of sin to one another", which implies that a function of the elders is to probe the relationship that the ill person sustains to God.
- 3. It is said, in verse 16, to result in healing as the result of the strength of the working of the righteous man's prayer.
- 4. It is said to follow the example of Elijah in his prayer for rain. (See Leviticus 26:18; 1 Kings 8:35-36; 1 Kings 17:1; compare 1 Kings 18:1 with Deuteronomy 28:12.)
- B. Conclusions we draw...
- 1. From Elijah's example, we conclude that the prayer of faith is a prayer that is based solidly upon divine revelation...not humanly generated "feelings of victory/faith".
- 2. From the linkage to confession of sin, we conclude that healing of illness is only promised if the illness is a divine discipline and not a natural consequence of living in a 2nd Law World.
- a. Did sin lead to the illness? Healing.
- b. Did the illness lead to sin? Lifting up.
- 3. From the linkage to confession of sin, we conclude that the elders have the responsibility of probing until the relationship is clear, and the sins have been identified.