James chapter 5

Vv. 1 -6

The context of this passage is found in,

Acts 6:1 "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. 8 ¶ And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."

The early church followed and improved on the Jewish practice of taking care of the needy, the widows and orphans among them. The book of Acts tells us of the great influx of new converts, including widows and the fatherless. The Elders' burden of personal care became so heavy and time consuming, that deacons were appointed to carry out this duty.

During this time, rich patrons commonly took care of poor clients in return for praise and adoration from them. Today the state had taken over the welfare system in return for praise and adoration in the voting booth.

However, in the historic faith of Judaism, the care of the needy was a religious duty. The new church realized that it replaced the old Jewish church, and it saw the laws of God still binding upon God's people. So the Christian synagogue or church continued to fulfill the welfare responsibility spelled out in the law.

Deuteronomy 24:19 "When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. 20 When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. 21 When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow."

(Deut 26:12, Isa 1:17, Eze 22:7, Malachi 3:5 "And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.")

Paul also saw these Old Testament requirement binding upon the Gospel Church:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."

Ephesians 4:28 "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

The early church was a time of transition from the old Judaism to the new Christianity, and many Jewish converts felt liberated from the old requirements of the law. The growing emphasis on individualism, or personal independence within the Roman Empire left many willing to abandon the old requirements of God's law, or abandon the Greco-Roman practice of supporting the poor in exchange for their praise and adoration.

We have also seen that same individualism today, with everyone and even Christian congregations being their own god, establishing their own law, and becoming a law unto themselves. James dealt with that sin in 4:11-17.

The modern Church has almost totally abandoned the old requirements of God's law, turning the entire welfare system over to the state.

I believe I told you of the Moral Monday demonstrations in Alabama. One group of demonstrators, including some pastors, was pressuring the state to provide welfare. The other group, including the state, was saying it was the church's responsibility. But the issue was not a moral issue, but a money issue: The state could no longer afford the welfare system.

Not only was the requirement of charity neglected in the early Jewish church, but also the law requiring prompt pay for work done. There was neither charity nor justice present in the church to which James writes.

Leviticus 19:13 "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning."

James tells them that the lack of charity and justice meant that judgment was on the way, and it came within a few years. However, due to James letter, the church did go on to develop a strong faithfulness to charity and justice. These early Christians then avoided losing their lives in the judgment that came. In his day, the evil situation deserved James' harsh words.

V. 1, James tells the rich who are unjust and uncharitable to "weep and howl" because of the miseries that would soon overwhelm them for their sin. He uses strong language, but the judgment to come was even stronger.

Within a few years, unbelievable miseries came upon the rich who did not yield to James' instructions.

Vv. 2-4, the miseries

Vv. 2, 3, first, their wealth will turn to rust and be devoured by moths. I still have my old Navy 100 percent wool "P" coat, and there is a small moth hole in it. So we can understand a costly woolen garments being moth-eaten. James knew full well that neither gold nor silver rust. Precious medals have from the earliest been the most secure form of wealth and security.

So James tells them that the wealth they kept for themselves by withholding what was due to the poor and by fraud against the laborers will be turned against them. They found their security in that wealth, but their misuse of that wealth had God's judgment against them.

V. 3, second, their gold and silver will eat their flesh "as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days". They were looking for old age security through their violation of God's laws concerning the just and proper use of their wealth—just payment and proper charity. Any plan for security that ignores God's laws becomes a death-dealing fire.

Ye have heaped treasures together... From where did they get these treasures?

They got their treasures from withholding proper charity from the poor and from fraud against their workers.

V. 4, third, they had been unjust in their treatment of their workers. They held back the wages of workers, paying them as late as possible. James tells them that the cries of their defrauded workers have been heard by "the Lord of sabaoth"; that is, the Lord of Hosts, the omnipotent God. James says are you so foolish as to think that the all-powerful and omnipotent God will not judge you? Their treatment of poor workers shows contempt not only for these poor people, but also contempt for the God who commanded that justice be done them.

Deuteronomy 24:15 "At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee."

Exodus 22:20 " He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed. 21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. 23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. 25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. 26 If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: 27 For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious."

The workingman of that day was a day laborer, and he was to be paid by the day. Now men work by the week or month, and they must be paid accordingly. The point of Leviticus 19:13 is that the worker must be paid faithfully as agreed upon.

Our Lord also dealt with this is payment matter in Matthew 20:1-20. The land owner agreed with his day laborers for a penny a day. Some worked all day, others worked only an hour or so, yet all were paid the same. Starting with the new hires, the lord paid a penny. Those who had worked longer expected more, and became upset because they were not paid more. But the employer told them he did no wrong because he paid everyone the agreed upon wage. The logical answer by those who worked longer would be to form an union, and picket the work place.

By withholding what was due from the widows, the poor and the labourers, the rich were sacrificing to the god of mammon. They were depending on their god to sustain them in their old age. James warns them of the utter destruction that would consume them if they did not repent.

We know that in a few years, the destruction and fire did come upon the wicked, and the faithful Christians fled the city before the destruction fell.

Here we see an interesting situation: For the last 100 years or so, men have cried out to a union when they feel they are being wronged by an employer. The union became in effect their "lord of sabaoth", their omnipotent god. They cried out for an "all powerful" union to replace the "all powerful" God. This replacement god was established in the early 1900s. I cannot imagine the working conditions before the unions, but I can say that according to v. 4, the wrong god was established for the labor movement. Rather than take their request for justice to the "Lord of sabaoth", they took their request to the mob.

We saw in 3:14-17, that James is dealing with two spirits, one from above and one from below. As a result of the fall, man seeks his security from the spirit from below, which leads to envy, strife, confusion and every evil work, 3:16.

V. 5, these rich men have thought nothing of their self-indulgence. They had lived a luxurious life of pleasure, at the expense of oppressing the poor, and withholding what was due to them according to the law of God. They lived as though nothing would ever change.

The rich had been like cattle which happily eat and drink, mindless of their coming slaughter. The rich had condemned and murdered the just by withholding from him what was justly due him, and the poor had no way to resist them. Exploiting the poor was then as now a form of murder. It kills his ability to survive, and it reduces the poor man near to death.

Today, it is the state that is murdering its people by moving them into poverity.

The problem James dealt was then and is now a sin problem. We see from the Law as given to Moses that the problem has been around as long as sin has been around. Today, we see politicians and rich men from the local level up exploiting those who have no way to resist them. They confiscate the wealth from the taxpayer under the color of law. Then they spread that confiscated wealth around to their friends.

V. 7, gives the difficult answer to the unjust men: We are to cry out to "the Lord of the sabaoth"; we are to establish our hearts, and patiently wait for the Lord to work His justice. But patience does not release us from the commands of God that say, "Thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not kill". Both commandments require positive action to protect our neighbour's property and his life.

James deals very bluntly with the problem of the carefree use of wealth. James' solution clearly is not a political solution; it is not the duty of the state to confiscate and redistribute the wealth in order to take care of the poor.

I know that few enjoy history as it relates to Scripture, but I love it. So I will restrict this to a very short history lesson concerning what was taking place during this particular time.

The Rome of the first century church.

Rome was for many years a flourishing, strong nation. Lawrence Reed posted this article, "Are We Going the Way of Rome?" in 2001:

"...Why did Rome decline and fall? The record is abundantly clear on this point. Rome fell because of a fundamental change in ideas on the part of the Roman people - ideas that relate primarily to personal responsibility and the source of personal income. In the early days of greatness, to a considerable degree, each Roman regarded himself as the chief source of income. Each individual looked to himself – what he could acquire voluntarily in the marketplace – as the source of his livelihood. Rome's decline began when large numbers of citizens discovered another source of income: the political process, or the state.

When Romans abandoned self-responsibility and self-reliance, they began to vote themselves benefits—that is, they used the government to rob Peter to pay Paul. They saw the government as a means of reaching into other people's pockets, and help themselves to their wealth.

When Rome yielded to envy, and coveted the productive people's wealth, they set into motion (Howard E.) Kershner's First Law: "When a self-governing people confer upon their government the power to take from some and give to others, the process will not stop until the last bone of the last taxpayer is picked bare."

The legalized plunder of the Roman welfare state was undoubtedly sanctioned by people with good intentions. As Henry David Thoreau once said, "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."..." http://www.mackinac.org/3

I downloaded the entire article, which was very good, but written from a secular view.

The early church existed in the beginning days of legal plunder in the Roman empire. Rome started with a strong, self-supporting people, but had moving very quickly into welfareism. In order to support its spending on welfare and its military, it had to corrupt its money. By A.D. 268, its once silver coin was reduced to just .02 percent silver. What took several generations to accomplish in Rome, only took a few years in the world of our day. Our corruption went from 90% silver to nothing overnight to pay for Vietnam.

So James could have yielded to the times, as some pastors have done and are doing in the "Moral Monday" demonstrations. He could have appealed to the then current example of Rome as the state moved toward a welfare system. But he tells us that poverty is not a political problem, but is a major moral problem.

Paul's answer to the poverty of that day, and of our day, is found in 2 Thessolians 3:10, "if any would not work, neither shall he eat". Those who could not work were to be provided for by their family and by the people of God, and not by the state.

Ephesians 4:25 "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

Both Paul and James attacked those who considered themselves liberated from the law and who disregarded their religious and moral obligation to their fellow members of the faith.

* Maybe they assumed that because the world was changing, so too their obligation to the commands of God.
* Maybe they felt that the Gospel changed God's ancient law. That change is identified as Moral relativism.

Moral relativism is defined as morality that is relevant at the time. It is destructive to law and society. Moral relativism many times tries to soften what it sees as the hardness of God's law. In doing so, it replaces God's word with man's. Erosion then sets in to destroy the whole of the law.

James is correct in condemning the arrogance of the rich. They replaced God's law with their convenience, and the resulting judgment would soon be upon them unless they repented. Evidently, they repented, because a short time later, Paul is collecting funds for the famine in Judea from churches in other countries. Clearly then, James' warning of the soon coming destruction against the rich had prepared the way for Paul's collection, because there were no dissenters to this moral obligation to be members one of another.

Christian charity grew rapidly to include the care, not only of needy fellow members, but of all needy peoples. The early church's faithfulness to God's law was notable. One of the aspects of the early church that commended it to unbelievers was its remarkable concern for and care of people in need, both Christian and non-Christian alike.

Even now, the major hospitals in the world were founded by Christians. Though founded by Christians, the goal of the majority of those hospitals today is money, not care for the poor. But we do read of medical care for the poor again gaining a foothold outside of the profit motivated medical community.

We need the letter of James once again to revivify the church in proper charity and work ethic. There are evidences today of a renewed emphasis on Christian works of mercy.

James 5:7-9. Soon coming judgment

Vv. 1-6, the rich have taken advantage of the poor who were unable to defend themselves. The rich used their power to transfer the wealth from the helpless to themselves, even driving the poor to the starvation.

Now James assures those who have fallen victim to the rich of God's judgment against their oppressors, the rich. The idea of and concern for judgment today is basically only of the Last Judgement:

Hebrews 9:27 "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"

The Last Judgement is certainly important, and is the subject of our Lord's sermon in Matthew 25:31-34,

"31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:"

Isaiah pronounces a series of judgments on the ancient nations of the day. We read of God's judgments, beginning in the Garden, and followed by the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome and other great nations of their day. In these events, we see God's judgments on men and nations. God's judgments in history have a purpose. Judgments restore order by bringing about condemnation and destruction on sinful men and nations.

When we pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10), we are praying, among other things, for judgment. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace because He is the Lord of Judgment.

His coming in clouds is referred to in Isaiah 19:1, and signifies judgment.

Isaiah 19:1"The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it."

Psalms 37:28 "For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off."

Revelation 1:7 "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."

James 5:3, James speaks of the coming and very near judgment. Apparently, he had in mind the quickly approaching judgment of Jerusalem and Judea as promised by the Lord in Matthew 24.

As we see in Isaiah, the clouds of judgment do not have exclusive reference to the Last Judgment. Revelation describes what was to take place in 70 AD. The unsaved Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the "the Lord" riding upon the swift cloud of judgment against Jerusalem. He revealed Himself in the clouds of judgment to everyone in that day. Here is just one short sentence of that account:

"Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the twenty-first day of the month of Artemisios [Iyyar], (Niese: June 8, Capellus: May 21) (297) a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those who saw it, (298) and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen (299) running about among the clouds, and surrounding the cities." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 5, § 3)

God's judgment was seen in the clouds around Jerusalem. The physical armies of judgment was the form of the mighty Roman army.

Accordingly, "The last days" of James 5:3 do not refer to the end of the world, but to the end of the Judaic world that condemned and crucified Christ.

From the biblical perspective, history is a series of judgments, great and small. All the judgments will peak with the Last Judgment. History is a series of judgments, as we see around us today. Because man refuses to see that the wars and catastrophes are judgments, he fails to repent and grow, which leads to more judgments.

There is a last judgment of which Peter speaks:

"2 Peter 3:8 ¶ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 ¶ Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

Must the "fervent heat" rain down on the world from above as it did on Sodom? There are plenty of speculations as to what the "heat" might be, and that is all they are, speculations.

Over the years since the first atom bomb, speculation has included that 1 Peter 3:11 refers to atomic fire. Atomic fire will generate an unbelievable fervent heat, actually the heat of the sun. An uncontrollable atomic faire started in March 2011. It continues to burn with increasing intensity, and it is beyond modern technology to control it.

"Tokyo Says Radiation Levels ‘Absolutely Safe" for hosting Olympics" (http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/09/04/tokyo-says-radiation-levels-absolutely-safe-for-hosting-olympics/)

Divine Providence started that the fire with an earthquake that destroyed Fukishima. There is no way to describe the world wide death and destruction that is now taking place, and will continue to worsen with no end in sight. We saw just the beginning of the destruction within the first 11 months. The infant mortality rate increased by 35% in California. Projections say that within 10 years, the entire Pacific ocean will be polluted with radiation. Already the sea food from the West Cost is contaminated, as is all meat and produce from the West Coast. The radiation showers down on all plants, and man and animals eat those plants.

The answer by the US government is to ignore radiation level of the West Coast, and of the food from that area. Private monitors, however, tell the truth. The US response has been to refuse to even address the disaster that is progressively growing worse. Their answer is to raise the published safe levels of radiation, and ignore the problem. All the main stream media has done the same, including popular talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh.

The death and destruction may well fit into the population control efforts by the wicked, but it certainly was the God of Providence who started the nuclear fire.

Einstein said that splitting the atom was a terrible way to boil water.

The major immediate health problem is that radio active Iodine causes cancer of the thyroid. It is being carried by the west winds to the US. The radioactive iodine loses its danger after 6 weeks, and we may be out of reach of it. A preventive for the radioactive iodine is Liquid Dulse, which fills the thyroid with good iodine, preventing the radioactive iodine from filling that void.

It is difficult to now get an honest evaluation of what is going on, as the spin machine has gone into full speed to prevent panic by the population of the Northern Hemisphere.

We are told that the world will be destroyed by fire. Does that fire have to rain down as it did on Sodom? The nuclear fire at Fukishima has not even begun in earnest. There are thousands of tons of fuel rods on the top floors of the reactors at Fukushia, with many tons on top of damaged reactor, 50 ft high. Due to the "dam" of frozen earth attempting to hold back the radioactive cooling water from the ocean, the water under the plant is saturating the ground, turning it into quick sand. When the building collapses, the nuclear fire will ignite in earnest, with no way to stop it. The entire northern hemisphere will be polluted with an unseeable death. Would that fire fit into 2 Peter 3:9-14.

(See "FUKUSHIMA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW", by Devvy. 8/25/13. NewsWithViews.com
http://www.newswithviews.com/Devvy/kidd601.htm) I have the entire article, which I will send upon request.

Failure to recognize the fact that judgment is a call to repentance only results in more judgments.

V. 7, Judgments are "the coming of the Lord" as King to bring conviction to evil-doers and justice to the world. Indeed, many "innocent men" die in these judgments, but a world war against God must result in a world wide judgment, as the world forsakes justice.

James urges a difficult path of God's people who were suffering at the hands of the rich who saw what little wealth they had being transferred to the rich; that is, patience and stedfastness in the faith until "the coming of the Lord." In James case, the "coming of the Lord" in judgement was the Jewish-Roman War of A.D. 66-70. The Lord promised that that war would be unrivaled in its horrors, and even though Christians who were forewarned survived it, they lost their homes and relatives. (See the "Triumph of Titus" by Bro. Need.)

James uses a clearly startling image to describe the coming judgment. A harvest requires "the early and latter rain." The farmer patiently waits on the rains because he wants a harvest. So too must we wait on God's judgments as reviving rain. The alternative to judgment is that injustice will continue and triumph.

Egypt experienced judgment after judgment in the ten plagues, each one increasing in severity, yet Egypt refused to repent. The result was the death of a generation of young men in the Red Sea.

Likewise, the people of our day refuse to learn and be spared further judgments. In all this, God is breaking up ground to sow His seed, "thy kingdom come".

As "the husbandman waiteth for the" the rain and fruit, we must wait on the Lord of Judgment to act. Man cannot control the Lord of Judgment any more than the can control the weather, particularly the needed rain in due season.

V. 8, James urges to "Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh". Everything that these Jewish Christians loved, their land and its people, was about to be destroyed in "the coming go the Lord", yet James urges patience.

V. 9, we are told "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth at the door." The judgment was inevitable on those who had crucified their King, the Lord of glory. We know that many of those very persons who demanded the crucifixion of the Lord were called, converted and were now part of the Christian synagogue.

The new Christians were not to involve themselves in grudges, murmuring, nor accuse one another. They were not to grudge against those who crucified the King, nor against those rich Jews who were persecuting them at the time.

The crucifixion was done according to the predetermined counsel of God, and it was now time to consider the future, not the past. When judgment is "at the door", it is too late to try to relive the past. They were told that they will have a future if they will think in the terms of the King's work, the "Kingdom of God, and his righteousness".

Vv. 7, 8, "coming" is the word "parousia", which means "visit of a ruler". This "royal visit" speaks of the judgments of history, and those judgments are God's royal visits to the world.

Instability, both in the world and in the church, marks a time of judgment, so James urges patience. James knows that living in an age of crisis is painfully difficult, and he never misleads us into thinking that it is an easy thing to go through times of upheaval and judgment. Stoicism, which is the indifference to pleasure or pain, is never implied in Scripture, as made clear by Jeremiah's terrible pain as expressed in his Lamentations.

James urges patience because the conclusion of God's judgments is good, however painful. In a sinful world, God's judgments are necessary, and considered in the light of His word, they are a blessing. Patience means that our perspective of history sees God's Divine Providence at work. By God's grace, we know His purposes for His Kingdom, for history, and for us is being accomplished. Patience can be a mark of grace, a trust in God's purposes, and a knowledge that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

Patience means recognizing that there can be no peace without judgment. Peace without justice would be no more than hell. Peace without justice would mean an unchanging and everlasting state of evil. History is a series of judgments to prepare the way for God's new creation. However difficult and painful, we must welcome God's judgments against the sinful plans and actions of evil men.

James 5:11-20, "anointing".

As we mentioned in the first chapter, James was a half-brother of Jesus. He was martyred in A.D. 62 under Nero, A.D. 54-68. This book was written several years earlier. The date has been placed between A.D. 35 and 52 under either Caligula or Claudius. So James' letter is probably the earliest book in the New Testament. Thus James wrote in the midst of horrible persecution by both the Jews, as Saul was doing, and by Rome under very wicked Emperors. Nero,. His persecution against Christian took on new energy after he burned Rome in A.D. 64, and blamed it on the Christians.


Tiberius Caesar, A.D. 14-37
Caligula 37-41 – At the beginning of his spectacular career, Caligula announced that he was a god, fully equal to Jupiter. He had all the heads of the images of Jupiter replaced with his head.
Claudius 41-54 – Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because he considered them trouble makers. Aquila and Perscilla were among those expelled.
Nero 54-68 – his reputation is very well known.
Galba 68
Otho 68
Vitellius 69
Vespasin 70-79
Titus (who destroyed Jerusalem under Vespasin), 79-81

Roman governors in Jerusalem:

Pontius Pilate, 36-37. Pilate wanted Jerusalem to be like all the other cities of the Roman empire, so he ordered that images of Caesar be established next to the Temple. The Jews were so incensed that a group of about 7 thousand marched on Pilate, demanding the images be removed. Finally, Pilate grew tired of the mob, and said that if they did not disperse, he would have them executed. The Jews threw themselves on the ground and laid their necks bare. Pilate gave way, and removed the images.

Paul appeared before both Felix (52-60) and then Festus (? - 62).

Vv. 10, 11, "the prophets as an example." The Christians of James' day were suffering persecution from the rich, James 1, and suffering at the hands of the Jews, as seen in Saul's (Paul's) efforts to capture Christians to put them to death. The Jews' conflict with Rome started in about A.D. 40.

The sufferings of the prophets of old were well-known, and James reminds them of those sufferings for speaking the word of the Lord. Jeremiah was cast into the dungeon by his own people, because he spoke the word of the Lord to King Zedekiah, Jeremiah 38.

James tells his readers to take these men, and all the prophets, as examples "of suffering affliction, and of patience". Those who endure are happy or blessed. Using Job's example, James clearly presents God's compassion and mercy.

Hebrews 11 also gives the same message to the Christian synagogue of faith and patience. V. 39 "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:"

We count them happy...


V. 12, "swear not" The context is James writing to the first century Jews who had been saved out of Judaism: "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad". James again refers to what Christ said to the multitude of Jews who followed Him. This time, James refers to Matthew 5:34-37, Let your yea be yea... During the trials of patience, they must control their tongues.

Neither Christ nor James forbad all oaths. In both Testaments, holy men used oaths. (Ge 21:23, 24, 24:3, 26:28, 1 Ki 17:1, 2, 2 Co 1:23, Ga 1:20.) What is forbidden are oaths that are false, rash, vain, or even without cause.

An oath is simply a promise. In James' day it would be something like this: "I swear or promise by the Altar of the Temple that this is true", or "I swear or promise by the throne of Caesar that I will do ..."

James is telling them and us to simply say "yea or nay".

It is especially tempting and easy to speak rashly of God and of others when we are under the stress of troubles and opposition. In appealing to God or to man for help in great adversity, we are inclined to stress the seriousness of our condition by using exaggerated language and swearing by God.

"The Jews were wont to split hairs in their use of profanity, and by avoiding God's name imagine that they were not really guilty of this sin, just as professing Christians today use "pious oaths" which violate the prohibition of Jesus." (RWP)

Exaggerated language runs the risk of condemnation. If we are God's people, a simple word is enough. As the people of the Truth, we need no more than our simple yea and nay to verify our word. "This is true", or "This is not true", rather than "I swear by the Lord of Heaven that this is true". Let our simple word of truth be our bond.

V. 13, if we are in trouble, we can pray, and God will hear us; if we are blessed and thriving, we can sing God's praise.

Vv. 17, 18, James reminds us of the power of God, and urges us to pray. For an illustration, he uses a man who had the same fallen weakness as we have, Elijah. Yet, he prayed to God for a judgment upon Israel, and a three and a half year drought came. Then he prayed again, and it rained.

Now we come to the end of James:

Vv. 13-16, is a difficult and misunderstood passage.

As I have seriously examined this passage, it looks like it is often misused to give a false hope

This text can only be understood as an unit, and in the context of sin. James has told of their persecution by unconverted Jews. His answer to the persecution is faith and patience in their difficulties. He holds up two men who endured great troubles without wavering in their faith, Job and Elijah. Job was reduced from great wealth to sickness and poverty. Elijah, like them, had been persecuted by his own people, who professed to be the chosen people. Neither Job nor Elijah compromised their faith. Those of the Christian synagogue to whom James writes were likewise hated and persecuted.

V. 13, "Is any afflicted, let him pray."
V. 13, "Is any merry, let him sing."
V. 14, "Is any sick, let him call..."
V. 14, "Let the elders anoint..."

"The act of anointing appears to have been viewed as emblematical of a particular sanctification, of a designation to the service of God, or to a holy and sacred use." Eg., prophet, priest or king. (McClintock & Strong Cyclopedia)

Vv. 14, 15 has been a much discussed passage, and has given a false hope to many. It makes for confusion if one attempts to understand it apart from the total context of this letter, and especially in its immediate context.

Another term for "anointing" is unction. The Roman Catholic doctrine of extreme unction is based in this text. "Extreme Unction, [is] A Catholic sacrament; a priest anoints a dying person with oil and prays for salvation."

"Sacrament: A formal religious ceremony conferring a specific grace on those who receive it;..."

The Church of Rome has seven sacraments to which they attach mystical power. Some Protestant churches have retained some of Rome's sacraments as having mystical power, such as the Lord's Supper.

But this verse has nothing to do with any kind of mystical or magical power, nor does it teach that anointing and prayer by the elders will result in physical healing and forgiveness of sins. V. 15.

"Anointing him with oil." To understand this text, we need to go back to the Old Testament rite of "anointing with oil." This anointing was done to the first man in the line of high priests. We also see that kings were anointed, and, in Elisha's case, a prophet was anointed. 1 Kings 19:16 ("And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.")

In all instances, it is clear that the anointing is ordained by God. Lepers who were pronounced clean and whole were anointed on the eighth day, which seems to fit best with the context of vv. 14, 15. (Leviticus 14:1-20, vv. 12, 13 tells us that sin was involved.) At the very least, anointing marked a change of status.

In the New Testament, the Old Testament implication of anointed is fulfilled, as the believer is justified, and made a royal priesthood in Christ. Christians are told in Revelation 1:6, that they have been made "kings and priests unto God and his Father" by Jesus Christ. Revelation reminds the persecuted and martyred Christians of their high calling and status as "kings and priests" in Christ.


First, anointing originated in the consecration into their office and calling of priests, prophets, and kings. Samuel anointed both Saul and then David to be king.

Second, anointing is connected with forgiveness of sin, Leviticus 14.

Third, anointing marks all Christians.
* Psalms 23:5 "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
* 2 Corinthians 2:21"Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;"
* 1 John 2:20, "But ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One and ye know all things." — "all things" that are required of a believer. Not all knowing.

Fourth, anointing is related to Christ's triple functions or offices as priest, prophet, and king.

Fifth, anointing in Christ and under His ministry through us, we share in these three offices, in strict accord with His word.

Sixth, anointing was used by the disciples: Mark 6.13 "And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them." The disciples cured a number of sick people by anointing them with oil. Anointing was clearly associated with healing of some sick people. God can use any means of healing. We commonly hear of supernatural healings where no oil was involved.

Now what do we have?

The generally accepted meaning of "sick" is a physical ailment, but the context of the sickness here is sin:

V. 15, "and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." "He" and "Him," refers to the sick one.

"The sick... Present active articular participle of ..., old verb, to grow weary (Heb 12:3), to be sick (here), only N.T. examples." (Robertson's NT Word Pictures. Online Bible.)

This old verb is only used twice: James 5:14, and

Hebrews 12:3 "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."

"Wearied", grow weary, to be sick. "Faint", weaken, enfeebled, tired out, faint hearted, &c.

("Consider him. When you become faint and discouraged by persecution, consider what Christ suffered from sinners." Peoples New Testament Notes, Online Bible.)

Hebrews 11 & 12 deal with growing weary and faint in the midst of terrible persecution, as James does in vv. 16-20. Both Hebrews and James call on Christians to "endure" as did the saints of old in Hebrews 11. The call is to endure with the patience of Job, and with the fervent prayer of Elias.

James 5:15, the "sick" man is "wearied"; he is exhausted under an unrelenting emotional strain. "Faint"– enfeebled through exhaustion, weak, despond, faint hearted. (Online Bible Greek Lexicon.) Accordingly, the "sick" is not an ordinary physical ailment, but it is associated with sin and the need for forgiveness.

Vv. 14-16

Again, we cannot ignore the historical context of what James is saying. All of the New Testament was written under a very wicked, corrupt and oppressive Roman civil authority, which claimed the authority to authorize the people to worship as they pleased, as did Babylon of Daniel's day. But the early Christians refused to recognize Rome's authority to worship; hence, the conflict between Rome and Christianity.

Caligula 37-41 – At the beginning of his spectacular career, Caligula announced that he was a god, fully equal to Jupiter. He had all the heads of the images of Jupiter replaced with his head.

Pontius Pilate, 36-37. Pilate wanted Jerusalem to be like all the other cities of the Roman empire, so he ordered that images of Caesar be established next to the Temple. The Jews were so incensed that a group of about 7 thousand marched on Pilate, demanding the images be removed. Finally, Pilate grew tired of the mob, and said that if they did not disperse, he would have them executed. The Jews threw themselves on the ground and laid their necks bare. Pilate gave way, and removed the images.

The following is lengthy, but bear with me as we consider the historical context. (I love history as it relates to Scripture, but history wearies most Christians.)

The conflict between Christianity and Rome was exemplified by Polycarp, who had been a disciple of St. John, and was martyred around A.D. 155:

For the devil did indeed invent many things against them; but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all. For the most noble Germanicus strengthened the timidity of others by his own patience, and fought heroically with the wild beasts. For, when the proconsul sought to persuade him, and urged him to take pity upon his age, he attracted the wild beast towards himself, and provoked it, being desirous to escape all the more quickly from an unrighteous and impious world. But upon this the whole multitude, marveling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, "Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!"

Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily [for trial]. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up [to suffering], seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do.

Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavoured to persuade him, saying, "What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?" But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, "I shall not do as you advise me."...


... Upon his confessing that he was (Polycarp, ed.), [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, "have respect to thy old age," and other similar things, according to the custom, [such as], "Swear by the fortune of Ceasar ; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists." (Atheists being those who refused to swear by Ceasar, and worship the gods, ed.) Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ ; Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury ; how then can I now blaspheme my King and my Saviour?".

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

(The Martyrdom of Polycarp, The Anti-Nicene Fathers, vol I, pp. 40, 41. WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1979 Reprint. See also The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs, ibid, pp. 305, 306. "All" the Martyrs they had to do was "offer the sacrifice with one accord to the gods." Then they continue to "worship Jesus".)

James wrote before A.D. 70, when the early church face a deeply entrenched paganism. That entrenched paganism did not disappear when a person was converted. The early church also faced the demand by Rome to worship the Emperor. All they had to do was say "Lord Caesar" and offer a little incense to the Roman gods, and their lives would be spared. They could even worship Jesus Christ, but could they worship Him as the true Lord Jesus Christ?

There is a great deal we could say in the matter of Roman Emperor Worship of the first century: Romans 10:9-13, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" was an extremely important point in that day, for it could easily mean persecution and even death. Peter's and John's words, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."(Acts 4:12) were words of treason in their day when salvation was seen in the Emperor and in Rome's gods. (Remember, Caligula declared himself to be god at this time, and demanded worship as such.)

Rome overlooked their "atheistic" words that denied the Roman gods at the time, thinking the new religion was simply another sect of the Jewish religion. And Rome did not want to add to the fire of war with the Jews that was already burning.

Even before Christianity was separated from Judaism by Rome, (A. D. 70) the Christians were not only put to death under Nero for refusing to worship the emperor, but put to death by the Jews, e.g., Saul. But life by the Jews and by Rome was offered to them, if they would only deny the Lord Christ.

Because of the persecution both from the Jews and from Rome, many members of the early church did defect from the faith—apostatize, e.g., Quintus The Apostate. Then when seriously ill and facing death, many made their peace with God by confessing their sin of apostasy to the elders and to the pastor . With the anointing with oil, they were restored to their status as kings, priests, and prophets in Christ. Leviticus 14 is a good example.

V. 15 Can any other explanation do more than confuse the issue?

In v. 16, James urges all of them to "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Then Elijah is given as an example of prayer in the midst of persecution by his own people.

All believers have this status as priests, kings, and prophets if they will but exercise it in total faithfulness to Christ's word, and in humility. Instead of being used for bitterness against the oppressors, and for criticism of those who defect from the faith, the tongue should be used for prayer for restoration.

Polycarp wrote that the elders in particular should be merciful and work to bring back all who had gone astray. James 2:13 declares: "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment." The goal with regard to those who have strayed is restoration.

The anointing described by James refers to the work of the Spirit Who alone can separate from sin, and bring us into the priesthood of all believers. Anointing reminds the saints of their calling to holiness, faith and patience. Anointing reminds us that we are prophets and kings in Christ. By the act of anointing, the repentant sinner was visibly reminded of his restoration. The anointing described by James was apparently reserved for the sick or dying and the repentant former members of Christ's synagogues.

It would have been a beautiful ceremony of restoration, and an act of the Christian synagogue through the persons of its elders. Faithful members had no need for it, but, for those who strayed from the faith, it was a visible reminder of the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The prayer of faith shall save the sick..." The "sick" person is defined as exhausted, enfeebled, weak and despondent under an unrelenting emotional strain of his apostasy, for the Lord would not let him go. He has been dealt with as a son, and brought low, even to his death bed. He had erred from the truth, and now has confessed his sin of apostasy. The result of anointing and prayer was the restoration of the fallen one to fellowship and to a sound mind, and maybe even to good physical health.

Hebrews 12:7 "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"

A few centuries later, the problem recurred when the Donatists. The primary disagreement between Donatists and the rest of the early Christian Church was over the treatment of those who renounced their faith during the persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian (303-305). The Donatists refused to allow the restoration of any who had apostatized during persecution. The Donatists disappeared after the Arab conquest on the 7th and 8th century.

They were destroyed by their unforgiving spirit of Phariseeism.

Conclusion: We must pray for those who apostaze that they will return to the faith, and be quick to forgive those who do show honest repentance of their sin.