Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses[e] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
James is laying out a series of tests that would give evidence of genuine faith. This epistle was written to believers, though James knew that among them were those deceived into thinking they were believers when their life proved otherwise. So James moves logically through these tests and here proposes the test of truthfulness. James is calling out those who have obvious sin in their life and as a result are physically sick. James states that the “prayer of faith” will heal the sick. God will lift them off their death bed and forgive their sins. The sin mentioned here is an active sin that has produced illness.
Looking through scripture we see Jesus healing the sick and at the same time forgiving their sins. We see in John 5:14 the sick man that Jesus healed was sick as a result of sin.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
But note that not all sickness is a result of sin. Look in John 9:1-3, this illness wasn’t a result of sin but to display God’s greatness and bring him glory on earth.
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him”.
I conclude that physical illness isn’t always due to sin but we often neglect the idea because we too often ignore our own sin. James is calling his readers to make it a practice to confess sin and to pray for one another. Sin has serious consequences; though illness can be one of them there is a far greater consequence of Hell forever. Living a life with habitual sin that is never confessed is a dangerous place to be because it could mean you were never a believer (see Matthew 7).
To confess sin to another believer and praying for one another achieves 4 things:
- Illuminates the wrong to one’s self
- Induces a healthy humility
- Invites a closeness to other believers
- Illustrates God’s design for the Church
Don’t neglect your sin against your creator and savior! Seek accountability in your local Church! Keep short accounts with God and not just because of the consequences of sin, but because you exhibit a genuine faithfulness to him.
With Great Love & Truth,