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Author Topic: James 5:12-20  (Read 1630 times)

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Hidden In Him

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James 5:12-20
« on: January 27, 2017, 12:48:58 PM »
Maintaining Confidence In God, Despite Satan's Attacks

     As is clear from James, Satan's strategy against believers during New Testament times essentially worked like this: He would first bring hardships into their lives and then try to convince them they were experiencing these hardships because they were sinning against God, and therefore had no right to be confident in Him. As with Job, he would then attempted to bring them into such condemnation as to believe they were being rejected by God. If Satan could somehow convince the believer of this, he would then goad him to cast down his faith and confidence in God, and walk away from Christ in dejection.
     This is why James now urged his readers that, above all things, they needed to avoid swearing oaths to God, for by doing so they might needlessly bring themselves under condemnation for having broken a solemn vow:

     But above all things, my brothers, do not swear, neither by Heaven or earth, nor swear any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No" be "No," that you not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12)
     Thankfully, this practice has long since been discarded by the church, but the importance of what James was communicating here cannot be understated. In an environment where Satan was already working overtime to convince them that they were "cursed of God" rather than blessed, the last thing believers in Jesus Christ needed was to bring themselves under condemnation by swearing vows that were completely unnecessary. Instead, as soldiers of Christ, they needed to put on the armor of God and withstand Satan's deliberate attempts to get them to cast down their confidence in God.
     It must be remembered that James made this statement in the context of exhorting his readers to endure until the end:

     Be long-suffering, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord... Firmly establish your hearts, because the coming of the Lord has drawn near... Take as an example of enduring hardships and long-suffering, my brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call blessed those who have endured. (James 5:7-8, 10)

     As we shall see, not only was maintaining confidence in God vital to the spiritual survival of believers during New Testament times, it was also the key to their receiving healing as well. Thus, walking in righteousness before God was paramount, but not the righteousness imputed to believers through their faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice, but rather a personal righteousness they built into their lives by walking in obedience to God.

Confidence Through Obedience, Not Imputed Righteousness

     Many Christian messages today are little more than motivational speeches. The believer is hyped and encouraged to build up his self-image by seeing himself as blessed, empowered, righteous, etc. based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. But this is not how the saints of old built up their confidence in God. Rather, they built it up by walking in obedience to God.
     As King David once declared:
     The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness. According to the cleanness of my hands has He recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also upright before Him, and I have kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed unto me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight. (2 Sam 22:21-25 KJV) 

     Throughout the scriptures these same sorts of statements appear over and over again. The faithful are reminded again and again that God does not hear the prayers of sinners, but His ears are open to the prayers of the righteous:

     The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayers of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)

     He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him, and hear their prayer and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, yet all sinners He will utterly destroy. (Psalms 145:18-19, LXX)

     Seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to destroy their memorial from the earth. (Psalms 34:14b-16, LXX)

     Nor was this just an Old Testament teaching. The apostle John likewise encouraged his readers that if they walked in obedience to God they could fully expect Him to answer their prayers:

     Beloved, if our heart should not condemn us, we have confidence before God, and whatever we may ask we receive from Him because we are keeping His commandments and doing those things that are acceptable in His sight. And this is His command, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as He gave commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)

     So where did all this focus upon imputed righteousness come from? Certainly we come into relationship with God through imputed righteousness, but how did the importance of walking in personal righteousness thereafter get completely erased from our modern Christian vocabulary? As I taught in an earlier study, I believe much of the problem stems from our false interpretation of what James was saying in his teaching concerning Abraham:

     Was not our father Abraham justified by works, having offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working together with his works, and by works was [his] faith made manifest. And the scripture was fulfilled which said, "And Abraham believed God, and it was accredited unto him for righteousness," and he was called a friend of God. You see [then] that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. (James 2:20-24)

     As explained in Study #11, the words "and Abraham believed God, and it was accredited unto him for righteousness" meant that because Abraham believed God, the Lord knew he would do whatever He asked of him, and therefore He could accredit righteousness unto Abraham in advance because of He knew Abraham believed in what He was saying.
     To illustrate this principle, I gave the example of a championship basketball coach at a University who selected players, not on the basis of their current talent, but on how much they were buying into his system and his teachings. Those who were completely buying in (i.e. who completely believed) would often be chosen based on their complete faith and trust in him and his teachings.
     To teach that a believer build up his self-confidence in God based on imputed righteousness alone is to teach that God essentially has no expectations for His children other than that they continue to "break the law" and need to be bailed out of prison over and over again. But when God redeems us from bondage to sin, His desire is that we begin patterning ourselves after His Son Jesus Christ, and turn from the sins that landed us in prison to start with by beginning to lead a life of true righteousness. His desire is that we become sons and daughters He could be proud of because of the lives we were leading. Thus, it still holds to this day that walking in obedience is the way to actually build up confidence in God, and expect Him to answer your prayers. And as we shall see, these were principles behind what James was about to teach on the subject of healing.

The Prayers Of A Righteous Man Would Come To Pass

     In many ways the letter of James was an encouragement to the poor and oppressed to remain confident in God. Blessed were not those who were rich in this life but those who endured trials and sufferings while remaining faithful to God (James 1:9-12). On these same terms, God had chosen the poor and oppressed to be rich in faith (James 2:5), and they would be made heirs of His coming Kingdom of God (James 1:11, a quotation of OT scripture on the coming of the Messiah).
     Now, at the end of the letter, James was again returning to encouraging them that every believer who suffered hardships yet was remaining faithful to God could expect their prayers to be answered, particularly with respect to healing:

     Is anyone suffering hardships? Let him pray. Is anyone encouraged? Let him sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, the Lord shall raise him up. And if he may have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess, therefore, your sins to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great influence, and comes to realization. Elijah was a man of sufferings similar to us, and while in prayer he prayed for it not to rain and it did not rain upon the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth caused its fruit to sprout. My brothers, if any one among you goes astray from the truth and anyone brings him back, know that the one having brought a sinner back from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:13-20)

     The driving point in this passage is found in the words, "The prayer of a righteous man has great influence, and comes to realization." By this, James was reinforcing his previous reassurance that "the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, the Lord shall raise him up." In other words, the entire passage was an encouragement to his readers that "the ways of righteous men are acceptable with the Lord" and He therefore will hearken to their prayers (Proverbs 15:28-29 LXX).
     The Greek word for ""The prayer of a righteous man has great influence, and comes to realization" often carries this sense in the New Testament. It is often used of both prophecies and prayers coming to realization, i.e. coming to pass. For instance, in reference to the prophecies he had shared with them that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians:   

     And because of this also we give thanks to God incessantly, that having received the word of God reported by us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it truly is, the word of God, which among you who believe is also coming to realization. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, in that you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out... For you yourselves know that we are appointed unto this, for even when we were with you we were telling you beforehand that we were about to suffer affliction, even as it came to pass, as you know. (1 Thessalonians 2:12-15, 3:4)

     In another passage, Paul again used this word in reference to how the prophecies concerning the Antichrist already appeared to be on their way to realization, for an Emperor named Gaius Caligula had already attempted to have a giant statue of himself as the god Zeus transported to Jerusalem and set up in the temple, thus fulfilling the prophecies in Daniel. And since that time relations between Rome and Judea had only gotten worse, suggesting it was only a matter of time before the real Antichrist manifested himself to become Emperor and then fulfilled what Caligula had only attempted to do. Thus, Daniel's prophecies concerning the coming of the "lawless one" were already coming to realization. It only remained now for the Antichrist himself to be revealed in his own time:

     Do you not remember that when I was with you I was telling you these things? And you know it yet remains for him to be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already coming to realization, only he is holding back at present until he manifests out of the midst, and then shall that lawless one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy with the breath of His mouth and depose with the brightness of His coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8) 

     Thus, using this word in the exact same sense, James cited how because Elijah was a righteous man his prayers came to pass. He then reiterates this by telling them, "Elijah was a man of sufferings similar to us, and while in prayer he prayed for it not to rain, and it did not rain upon the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth caused its fruit to sprout."
     His central point, then, was to encourage them to remain confident in God, and in the hope that He would indeed heal them, for the prayers of a righteous men had great influence with God, and would come to realization.
     The apostle Peter also taught this principle. In quoting Psalms 34 cited above, he likewise told his readers:

     The one wishing to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and let his lips not speak guile. Let him turn aside from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears [are open] to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:10-12)

     The apostle Peter very well knew God heard the prayers of the righteous, because as one of the elders himself, he had raised the dead just a few years before James wrote his letter. Like Elijah before him, who also raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24), Peter knew the prayers of a righteous man had such influence with God as to not only heal cripples (Acts 3:1-12) but even raise a dead woman back to life:

     And in Joppa there was a certain disciple by the name of Tabitha... and it came to pass in those days that she was sick and died. And having washed her, they put her in an upper room. And Lydda being near to Joppa, the disciples having heard that Peter was there sent two men to him, urging, "May you not delay to come to us." And having risen up, Peter went with them... And having put everyone outside, Peter bowed his knees and prayed. And having turned to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise." And her eyes opened and, having seen Peter, she sat up. And having given her a hand, he raised her up, and having called the saints and the widows, he presented her [to them] alive. (Acts 9:36-41)

If Anyone Was Sinning, All They Had To Do Was Repent

     But what, then, about those whose sicknesses were the result of them sinning? As James stated:

     Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, the Lord shall raise him up. And if he may have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess, therefore, your sins to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. (James 5:14-16)

     This was not such a big problem that it couldn't be fixed. Because Spirit of God was vey close to the New Testament church in general, those whom God loved He was disciplining. But all they had to do was confess their sins to one another, and repent. Then they could pray for one another to be healed.
     What sort of sins might they have been committing which were bringing the Lord's discipline? For starters, all the bitter strife and contentious debating they were engaging in was certainly not going over well with the Holy Spirit. Such activities quenched the Holy Spirit, and it was for this reason that these same activities were bringing judgment upon the Corinthians. Competition over leadership was causing division, which was in turn leading to them no longer even taking communion together as one body. And Paul warned that it was for this very reason, because those causing division were dividing up the body of Christ and thereby destroying it, that many were becoming sick and some had already died:

     For first of all, when you come together in church, I hear divisions to be among you... for in eating one takes his own supper first, and one hungers, and one is drunken. Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God, and put those who have not to shame?... Let a man prove himself, and thus let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the one eating and drinking eats and drinks judgment to himself, not distinguishing the body of the Lord. Because of this many among you are weak and sick, and many have fallen sleep. But whenever we were judging ourselves, we were not being judged. But being judged, we are being disciplined by the Lord, that we not be condemned with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone hungers, let him eat at home, lest you come together unto judgment. (1 Corinthians 11:18, 21-22, 28-35)

     As Paul stated here, it was simply a matter of judging themselves so that they not be judged. Thus, James was likewise telling his readers that if they would simply confess their sins to one another and pray for one another, they would be healed. The thrust of the passage was not to condemn them but rather to encourage them. They were to confess their sins to one another, pray for one another, maintain their confidence in God, and endure until the end. He would end the letter with one final encouragement:

     My brothers, if any one among you goes astray from the truth and anyone brings him back, know that the one having brought a sinner back from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and cover over a multitude of sins, [i.e. hide them from the judgment of God]. (James 5:19-20) 

Satan Would Soon Be Seeking Those He Could Devour

     But the spiritual danger to believers was increasing, for persecution would soon break out against the church (Acts 12). Some leaders would be killed, and others would be driven out of Judea (see 1 Thessalonians 2:12-15 cited above). Satan would then raise up violent opposition against Christianity wherever it gained a foothold. By 64 A.D., he would incite the Romans to begin killing Christians, after which persecution against the faithful would be sanctioned by the empire and become very widespread.
     Thus, like a lion walking about throughout the ancient world, Satan would soon be seeking those weak in faith, to "sift them like wheat" hoping to devour them spiritually. As Peter would later warn the churches:

     Be sober, be watchful. As a roaring lion, your adversary the Devil walks about seeking someone to devour, whom resist strong in the faith, knowing you are experiencing the same sufferings your brotherhood is in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

     Many Christian leaders would soon be dragged before Sanhedrins and magistrates to face interrogation. To withstand these interrogations, they would need to put on the whole armor of God. As Paul taught, though their interrogators might be human, those who were ultimately behind the persecution being instigated against them were demonic spirits in heavenly places, princes charged by Satan with goading wicked men into attacking the faithful so as to silence the preaching of the gospel:

     Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the strategies of the Devil, because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against [spiritual] authorities, against the world rulers of this dark age, against the spirits of wickedness in heavenly places. Because of this, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having subdued all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having girded your waist about with the truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped your feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace. Above all, having taken up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the wicked one. Also, through all prayer and supplication, receive the helmet of deliverance, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying in the Spirit at all times, and remaining wakeful unto all perseverance and supplication so as to pursue this same need for all the saints, and for me, that in the opening of my mouth with boldness there may be given unto me utterance to make known the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:11-19)

     They would be slandered by false witnesses, for which Paul advised girding their loins with the truth. They would be accused of disobeying God by defying those in authority, for which Paul advised putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and answering in reply that it was better to obey God than man. They would be threatened with beatings, torture and possibly even death, for which they needed to put on the helmet of deliverance, knowing that regardless of whether they lived or died God would ultimately deliver them from their oppressors. They would be told what a foolish thing it was to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah, for He had died a shameful death on a cross. So Paul's advice was that above all things they needed to put on the shield of faith, so as to quench all such fiery arrows of the wicked one. And to drive back the accuser of the brethren, they were to use the sword of the Spirit to counter the arguments being used against them and their faith from scripture. Lastly, they needed to always remain clothed in the readiness to share the gospel of peace, i.e. just in case their persecutors offered them an opportunity to.
     The common characteristic behind every piece of this spiritual armor was that each required great confidence in God to wear. And such confidence came from two sources: the righteousness of the believer, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Jewish Sanhedrins were very spiritually intimidating places to be brought into. Thus, even the apostle Paul requested that others pray for him that he might speak the word with boldness and confidence as he ought to:

     Also, through all prayer and supplication, receive... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, and remaining wakeful unto all perseverance and supplication so as to pursue this same need for all the saints, and for me, that in the opening of my mouth with boldness there may be given unto me utterance to make known the mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:17-19)

Turning The Tide Of Battle On the Enemy

     Thus, like soldiers on the battlefield, the command of Jesus Christ in New Testament times was for believers to stand against every onslaught of the enemy, and not knuckle under to religious intimidation being brought against them by oppressors. Like a Roman legion standing its ground against a crazed barbarian attack, believers needed to first withstand the frontal assault of the enemy before starting the march forward to destroy his forces. But this moment of victory would never come if they did not first use every piece of their armor to stand their ground. 
     So, too, will Satan attempt to use similar forms of intimidation against believers in the coming years. They will be vilified as hypocritical, judgmental, ignorant and hateful, especially given their position on homosexuality. Thus, against accusations that Christianity is a "religion of hate," the true soldiers will need to gird their waist with the truth that they are trying to save others from eternal torment even as the rest of society stands idly by and says nothing. Against accusations they are bringing trouble upon society by creating psychological trauma for those confused about their sexuality, they will need to reply that those who endorse sexual behaviors forbidden by God are the real ones bringing the trouble upon society. Against threats of imprisonment, violence, and death, they will need to put on the helmet of deliverance and refuse to be afraid of what men can do to them but only remain fearful of God. Against accusations they are motivated merely by ignorance, homophobia and "outdated myths," the true soldiers will need to wield a faith so strong that it is completely indestructable. Against arguments that the scriptures do not actually teach against loving homosexual relationships but only against sexually abusive ones, they will need to effectively wield the sword of the Spirit and prove such arguments false. Lastly, they will need to maintain a good conscience before God and man by never returning evil for evil, but always be ready to share their faith with accusers whenever the opportunity is presented.     
     Yet to take such a stand will become exceedingly unpopular in coming years, and because if this most will flee the battlefield in fear. But those who remain standing through it all will prove themselves the soldiers God can trust, and will be used by Him to eventually turn the tide of battle on the enemy. His Spirit will be poured out upon them to such a great extent that miracles greater than have ever happen in human history will be made manifest through their hands.
     As was prophesied in The Harvest:

     Miracles which exceed even some of the most spectacular Biblical marvels will cause whole nations to acknowledge Jesus. Leaders of some of the most powerful communist countries will be openly confessing the Lord and exhorting their people to follow Him. The visible glory of the Lord will appear upon some for periods of time and this glory will heal everyone it touches. The pillar of fire that led Israel will not even compare to the intense presence of the Lord in these days...  Believers will be in awe continually, wondering each day what great new things they will see... Young children will cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, and divert raging floods with a word. Some will actually take dominion over entire hospitals and mental institutions, healing every patient in them by laying hands on the buildings. During the harvest the world will understand that "... the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders." (Joyner, The Harvest, P.33-34)

     As James was trying to convince his readers, these warriors will regard healing as a foregone conclusion, knowing that the prayers of a righteous man have great influence with God, and therefore come to pass. As the Lord Himself prophesied in A Divine Revelation Of Hell, healing will be the trademark of the coming end-time harvest: 

     "[The Antichrist] will bring peace to many nations out of a very chaotic time... He will make an alliance with many nations, and the great men of the world will follow him into a false sense of security. But before these times I will raise up an army of believers that will stand for truth and righteousness. The mighty army that Joel spoke about will hear My voice from the rising to the going down of the sun. In the night hours also they will hear My voice, and they will answer Me. They will work for Me, and they will run like mighty men of war. They shall do great works for Me, for I will be with them"...
     "They are an army of holy men and women, boys and girls. They have been anointed to preach the true gospel, to lay hands on the sick, and to call the sinner to repentance... These are they who have turned to me with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. This army will awaken many to righteousness and purity of spirit. I will soon begin to move upon them, to choose for My army those I desire. I will search for them in the cities and in the towns... You will see them begin to move across the land and do exploits for My name's sake. Watch and see My power at work.
     "The Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. He shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be ashes under the soles of His feet. They shall be called the army of the Lord. I will give gifts unto them, and they will accomplish My mighty works. They shall do exploits for the Lord of glory. I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy. This army shall fight against the forces of evil and shall destroy much of Satan's work. They shall win many to Jesus Christ before the day the evil beast arises," said the Lord. (Baxter, A Divine Revelation Of Hell, P.171, 140-141)

« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 12:56:25 PM by Hidden In Him »