Introduction: Have you heard someone announce that they worship on
their own? They are tired of “church” and communing in the
wilderness is better because the wilderness does not say unpleasant
things to them. While it is important to have private time with God,
in our study this week James points out the benefits of regular
fellowship with other Christians. Let’s dive into our study of the
Bible and learn more!
- Fellowship with God
- Read James 5:13. This describes a lot of us. Chances are
that we are either in trouble or are feeling happy. How
should we respond to these greatly differing experiences?
(By turning to God. Either we should pray for help or we
should praise God through singing.)
- What is your normal reaction when you run into
trouble? (In the past, I would immediately do what I
could to fix the problem. Now I’ve learned that my
first reaction must be to turn to God.)
- Do you become angry when you face problems? (Human
nature is to blame others, and get angry because of
what they have done to us. If, by the power of the
Holy Spirit, we first turn to God it will save us
from instantly saying or doing the wrong thing in
anger. This avoids making the problem worse.)
- What kind of attitude is reflected in James’ advice for us
to pray or praise? (God is in charge of our lives. He is
the one who is the source of all blessings. We turn to Him
for help and we thank Him with praise.)
- Fellowship with Believers
- Read James 5:14-15. Being sick is a particular kind of
trouble. Why not just pray on your own – as James mentions
in verse 13? Why bring the elders into this? (God does
not need elders to convince Him to heal, but the idea of
fellowship with fellow believers is introduced here.)
- At times I have been a part of a group of elders who
prayed and anointed a sick person. In America, drug
manufacturers disclose the problems with their drug
at the same time as they advertise how their drug can
cure. My wife used to tell me that I needed to
disclose that when I was a part of the prayer and
anointing in the past no one got better. My wife was
joking, but until recently, it was true. Is James
making false promises about healing?
- Was I the problem? When James writes “the
prayer offered in faith,” was he writing about
the elders’ faith? If not, whose faith is he
describing, the person who is sick?
- Read Mark 2:1-5. Whose faith is Jesus talking about here?
(It is not clear. Jesus seems to be talking about the
faith of all of them.)
- Read Matthew 18:19. What if the sick person had faith and
only one other elder was righteous, would that be
sufficient faith to cause the healing? (Notice that Jesus
does not mention the degree of faith or righteousness
required, He just mentions the number of believers who are
in agreement. Two is enough.)
- Let’s look again at James 5:15. Does James give a time for
the raising and healing? (No. I’m sure that everyone in
all of the anointing services in which I was involved were
sinners – from the sick person to all of the elders. James
does not say that we have to be sin-free, he says that we
need to have faith. In addition, he does not give a time
for healing. I believe that God will raise to eternal life
all who fell asleep trusting in Him.)
- The most recent time that I was part of a prayer group of
elders, the sick person was healed. God does miracles in
my life and the lives of those for whom I pray, and I
believe this has much more to do with the sovereign will
of God, rather than my relative righteousness. What do you
- Healing, Faith and Sin
- Look again at the last part of James 5:15 and Mark 2:5.
Jesus says to the paralytic that his sins are forgiven.
James says, almost as an afterthought, sins can be
forgiven. What is the relationship between the healing and
- Read John 9:1-3. Why did the disciples ask about sin and
blindness? (The understanding of the day was that sin
caused diseases. I think there is still a lot of truth to
- What did Jesus say was the reason for the blindness?
(That God might be glorified. It was not a matter of
- When sin is confessed and forgiven, is God glorified?
(Yes! The statements of James and Jesus about
sickness and sin have at least two explanations.
First, the understanding of the people of the time.
But, more importantly, God wants to cure us of sin.
His ultimate goal for us is a life free of sin and
sickness – and that goal will be realized in heaven.)
- I just came back from spending several days at Disney
World, where fat people abound and ride around in electric
carts. Indeed, most of those walking around were also fat.
(Speaking of fat, I managed to gain four pounds during
vacation!) At the same time, I saw almost no one smoking.
It seems that the health risk of smoking has been
exchanged for the health risk of obesity. Here is the
hard question: can sin interfere with healing?
- If you would be reluctant to pray for healing for a
smoker, what about an obese person?
- Aren’t some people naturally predisposed to being
fat? Does that matter?
- I’ve done a lot of reading about the brain, and I’m
convinced that exercise is a universal “cure” for
sickness of all types, including mental issues. Is
the failure to exercise a sin that prevents us from
- Have I insulted nearly everyone? My point is that we
look at smokers with lung cancer, and homosexuals
with AIDS, and we feel less compassion for them
because of their actions.
- Confession of Sin
- Read again James 5:15. What is the timing of the
forgiveness? (After the person has been healed. This
suggests that healing is available to all.)
- Read James 5:16. Wait a minute! After all our discussion
of sin, is James saying that we need to confess our sins
to be healed? Or, is the praying for each other the only
factor related to healing?
- Look again at James 5:16. What do you think about
confessing sins to our fellow believers?
- Read Psalms 51:4, Psalms 32:5 and 1 John 1:9. To whom do
these texts suggest that we should confess our sins? (We
sin against God, and it is God who has the power to
forgive sin. Thus, it makes sense to confess our sins to
- As you think about this issue, are there different kinds
of confessions? (I think so. First, there is the
confession and forgiveness of sin which is a matter
between you and God. Second, Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:4 and
Leviticus 6:1-5 all suggest there are sins that we need to
make right with others. Third, is what I think James is
talking about: a general sense that we work with fellow
believers on the road to righteousness. We pray for each
other, we discuss sins with each other, we discuss
spiritual issues with each other.)
- Prayer Power
- Read James 5:17-18 and re-read the last part of James
5:16. We have been discussing sin, but I think James’
focus is on prayer. Why does James mention Elijah as an
example? (He says he “was a man just like us.” All of us
have the potential for powerful, effective, prayer.)
- Read 1 Kings 19:3-4. In our discussion so far, I have
equated health issues with sin. Jesus suggests in
Matthew 15:16-18 that this equation is false. On the
other hand, not trusting God is a sin (Revelation
21:8). When James points us to Elijah, what is he
saying? (Faith and earnestness in prayer are the key
to healing, not an absence of sin.)
- Read James 5:19-20. This sounds like the ultimate “works”
claim – if we re-convert “backsliders” many of sins will
be forgiven. What does the context suggest is the proper
understanding of this? (It speaks to our understanding of
sin, rather than the nature of salvation. This chapter has
been about fellowship. If your attitude is to uphold and
save fellow church members, that, rather than your
waistline, is what is important in God’s eyes.)
- Friend, are you part of a regular fellowship? If not, you
are missing a critical aspect of being a Christian. Why
not repent of this and join a group who pursue faith and
- Next week: The Everlasting Gospel.