My outline from Sunday School this week.
Introduction: There are three points to keep in mind as we study this passage. The first is that the forgiveness of sins is a greater miracle than that of healing the sick. (Matthew 9:1-7) The second point is that God uses both divine and ordinary means to heal. (Acts 28:7-9) Finally, we must remember that many times God does not heal, either through divine or medical means. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) In all cases it is always best to rest in God, who alone is wise, and able to give us what we really need, sometimes healing, sometimes a thorn in the flesh, but all is always for His glory and our good.
I. Calling The Elders
A. ‘Elders’ Is Plural (not too long on this point)
1. Does not mean ‘Elderly’ (I Peter 5:5) (only in quick reference)
2. Does not mean ‘Saved Longer’
3. Means Pastor, or leader who has authority in the Church
B. It Is The Sick Who Initiates The ‘Ceremony’ Or ‘Procedure’ (less than a ‘ceremony’ but more than a ‘procedure’)
1. Public confession of sins before the Elders
2. Repentance of sins
C. Others May Suggest That The Sick Call For The ‘Ceremony’ Or ‘Procedure’
II. The Responsibilities Of The Elders
A. General Prayer
B. Anoint With Oil (no discussion as to the meaning of ‘anoint’-makes no major impact on the text)
C. Specific Prayer After Confession
III. God’s Work
A. Sickness Is Healed (not always guaranteed)
B. Sins Are Forgiven (always guaranteed when confessed and repented of)
IV. When Should We Request Healing? Send For The Elders?
A. Examine Your Conscience
1. Is this sickness the result of sin?
2. Am I willing to make my sins public (if need be)?
3. Do I have a repentant heart?
B. For The Elders
1. Have they repented of all known sins?
2. Have they asked for God’s guidance in their prayers?
3. Do they believe God will use this means for Divine healing?
4. Is this belief based upon assurance from God?
C. Congregational Prayer For The Proceedings
Conclusion: This teaching is at the same time very simple and yet hard to believe. I have struggled with this passage for several weeks. I have found that in the end, we must not try to explain it away by spiritualizing it as some do, (either by making the sickness to mean sin, or by making the ‘anointing with oil’ to mean medicine) but take it at face value as God’s commands concerning healing.
It doesn’t make logical sense to our minds, doesn’t require any special abilities, only faith in God and His promise. It is a command to be obeyed, not an optional benefit of being a Christian. As uncomfortable as it may make us feel, we must accept this teaching of James as being just as inspired by the Holy Spirit as Paul’s teaching on Justification.
When we refuse to obey this we are living beneath our privilege, and at the same time, living in disobedience to God’s Word. May God forgive us for our neglect and give us the courage and faith to obey.