Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on James 5:15-20

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Prayer offered in faith - James 5:15-16

Echoing how the wise ask in faith and not with doubt (see notes on 1:7-8), the prayer of faith refers to the intercession of the elders and the entire community as they pray for their sick brothers and sisters. Throughout his letter, James has been offering wise sayings, proverbial observations about what generally happens to the righteous and to the foolish. The prayer of faith is not a formula for or a guarantee of healing, but prayers of confession and petitions for healing usually result in both physical and spiritual blessing. Acknowledging the holistic nature of our humanity and of God’s reign over all dimensions of life, James realizes there is often a correlation between sickness and sin (Prov. 3:12; 1 Cor. 11:29-30; Heb. 12:6). Yet, when righteous people pray, it is strong advocacy before God, because He inclines his ear to the righteous (cf. Ps 34:15; 1 Pet 3:12).

Elijah - James 5:17-18

Offering yet another illustration from the Old Testament, James reminds his readers of the prophet Elijah, a human being like everyone else. However, because he prayed earnestly and lived righteously, the Lord granted his request for a drought to punish King Ahab and for the rain to return (1 Kings 17-18). James’ point is that Elijah had the same means of grace that is available to all who are wise -- prayer. See WCF 21.3-4, 6; WLC 178-196.

Concluding Exhortation. - James 5:19-20

In these final verses, James urges his readers to care for each other, safeguarding and redirecting wayward members away from foolish practices that undermine their character and community back to the way of wisdom.

Wander from the truth - James 5:19

To wander from the truth refers back to the beginning of the letter and the word of truth in 1:18. Throughout his letter, James has addressed the whole community correcting specific ways in which they either have or are able to wander from the ways of wisdom into sinful, destructive practices. See WCF 17; WLC 79; CD 5.1-5.

The church as a means of shaping righteous character - James 5:20

Death refers to spiritual death or judgment, which is also manifested in physical death (see 1 John 5:16-17; Rev 20:6, 12-15). God has ordained the church as a means of shaping righteous character, keeping Christians in the way of wisdom. Love of God and neighbor covers a multitude of sins (cf. Rom 11:14; 1 Pet 4:8). Of course, Jesus’ death and resurrection are the most mature manifestation of that love, a love that Christians manifest when they lay down their agendas of self-ambition to serve each other and their neighbors.

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