Bible Truth Examiner


Questions Page


Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

Question: Does James 5: 14, 15 prove that a physically sick person will be restored to health if he calls in the elders of the church to offer the prayer of faith over him and anoint him with literal oil?

Answer: James 5: 14, 15: “Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

From the context it seems that James 5: 14, 15 does not refer to physical illness, but to spiritual illness. Many sincere people have literally done all the things here specified in their efforts to obtain recovery from physical ailments, only to suffer disappointment and damage to their faith, wondering why God did not keep His promise that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.”

We are not implying that God never answers a prayer for bodily healing, but James 5: 14, 15 cannot properly be applied to the healing of physical sickness. Sickness of body, losses, troubles, disappointments, and so forth, are covered in James 5: 13: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” – for grace sufficient, for the Lord’s strength, which is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12: 9). But in the following verse a recommendation is made for the spiritually sick, the sin-sick. (It is true that severe sin-sickness can be manifested in physical symptoms. This condition is certainly addressed by the interpretation presented here.)

The Greek word astheneo, here translated “sick,” would be better rendered in this instance, weak, as in the following examples: Romans 4: 19 (Abraham was “not weak in faith”); Romans 8: 3 (the law “was weak through the flesh”); Romans 14: 1 (“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye”); 1 Corinthians 8: 12 (“When ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ”); and 2 Corinthians 11: 21 (“I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak”).

Therefore, if any one of the brethren is sick, let him or her call for the elders – the elected spiritually mature brothers of the church (Galatians 6: 1). Let them pray for the recovery of the spiritually sick one, anointing him with the oil of God’s Word, the Divine Truth (“the golden oil”; Zechariah 4: 11-14) derived from the Old and New Testaments. “And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” Thus, is the sin-sick one healed.