HOW TO LIVE WITH CONFIDERENCE
James 5:1-20 August 30 2009
In this chapter the apostle denounces the judgments of God upon those rich men who oppress the poor, showing them how great their sin and folly are in the sight of God, and how grievous the punishments would be which should fall upon themselves (James 5:1-6). Hereupon, all the faithful are exhorted to patience under their trials and sufferings (James 5:7-11). The sin of swearing is cautioned against (James 5:12). We are directed how to act, both under affliction and in prosperity (James 5:13). Prayer for the sick, and anointing with oil, are prescribed (James 5:14,15). Christians are directed to acknowledge their faults one to another, and to pray one for another, and the efficacy of prayer is proved (James 5:16-18). And, lastly, it is recommended to us to do what we can for bringing back those that stray from the ways of truth.
1. The apostle is here addressing first sinners and then saints. (James 5:1-6)
James 5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 5:2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 5:3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 5:4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5:5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 5:6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
Rich . These (James 2:2,6) are not Christians, for James warns them to repent and weep because of the coming misery. (James 5:1-6) are similar to OT declarations of judgment against pagan nations, interspersed in books otherwise addressed to God’s people (Isa 13-23; Jer 46-51; Eze 25-32; Am 1:3-2:16; Zep 2:4-15). Clothes . One of the main forms of wealth in the ancient world (Acts 20:33). Corrosion. The result of hoarding. It will both testify against and judge the selfish rich. Last days . (Acts 2:17; 1Tim 4:1; 2Ti 3:1; Heb 1:2; 1John 2:18). The Lord Almighty. See comments on “the LORD of hosts” in the Preface to the NIV; ( Gen 17:1; 1Sam 1:3). Luxury and self- indulgence . (Luke 16:19-31). The day of slaughter . The day of judgment. The wicked rich are like cattle that continue to fatten themselves on the very day they are to be slaughtered, totally unaware of coming destruction.
God foretels the judgments of God that should come upon them, (James 5:1-3). they should have miseries come upon them, and such dreadful miseries that the very apprehension of them was enough to make them weep and howl-misery that should arise from the very things in which they placed their happiness, and misery that should be completed by these things witnessing against them at the last, to their utter destruction; and they are now called to reason upon and thoroughly to weigh the matter, and to think how they will stand before God in judgment: Go to now, you rich men.
2. Hereupon ,all the faithful are exhorted to patience under their trials and suffering (James 5:7-11)
James 5:7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 5:8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 5:9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 5:10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 5:11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Then . Refers back to (James 5:1-6). Since the believers are suffering at the hands of the wicked rich, they are to look forward patiently to the Lord’s return. AUTUMN AND SPRING RAINS. In Israel the autumn rain comes in October and November soon after the grain is sown, and the spring rain comes in March and April just prior to harvest (Dt 11:14; Jer 5:24; Hos 6:3; Joel 2:24). Don’t grumble . James calls for patience toward believers as well as unbelievers (James 5:7-8). The judge is standing at the door ! A reference to Christ’s second coming (James 5:7-8) and the judgment associated with it. The NT insistence on imminence (in Romans 13:12; Heb 10:25; 1Peter 4:7; Rev 22:20) arises from the teaching that the “last days” began with the incarnation. We have been living in the “last days” (James 5:3) ever since ( Heb 1:1). The next great event in redemptive history is Christ’s second coming. The NT does not say when it will take place, but its certainty is never questioned and believers are consistently admonished to watch for it. It was in this light that James expected the imminent return of Christ. Job’s perseverance . Not “patience.” Job was not patient (Job 3; 12:1-3; 16:1-3; 21:4), but he persevered (Job 1:20-22; 2:9-10; 13:15). This is the only place in the NT where Job is mentioned, though (Job 5:13 is quoted in 1Co 3:19)
"Be patient-bear your afflictions without murmuring, your injuries without revenge; and, though God should not in any signal manner appear for you immediately, wait for him. The vision is for an appointed time; at the end it will speak, and will not lie; therefore wait for it. It is but a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Let your patience be lengthened out to long suffering;” so the word here used, makrothymeµsate, signifies. When we have done our work, we have need of patience to stay for our reward. This Christian patience is not a mere yielding to necessity, as the moral patience taught by some philosophers was, but it is a humble acquiescence in the wisdom and will of God, with an eye to a future glorious recompense: Be patient to the coming of the Lord. And because this is a lesson Christians must learn, though ever so hard or difficult to the, it is repeated in (James 5:8), Be you also patient.
3. The sin of swearing is cautioned against (James 5:12)
James 5:12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear —not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
Do not swear. James’s words are very close to Christ’s (Matt 5:33-37). James is not condemning the taking of solemn oaths, such as God’s before Abraham (Heb 6:13) or Jesus’ before Caiaphas (Matt 26:63-64) or Paul’s (Romans 1:9; 9:1) or a man’s before the Lord (Ex 22:11). Rather, he is condemning the flippant use of God’s name or a sacred object to guarantee the truth of what is spoken.
This epistle now drawing to a close, the penman goes off very quickly from one thing to another: hence it is that matters so very different are insisted on in these few verses.
4. We are directed how to act, both under affliction and in prosperity (James 5:13
James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
As Christians we are taught to suit ourselves to the dispensations of Providence (James 5:13): Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Our condition in this world is various; and our wisdom is to submit to its being so, and to behave as becomes us both in prosperity and under affliction. Sometimes we are in sadness, sometimes in mirth; God has set these one over against the other that we may the better observe the several duties he enjoins, and that the impressions made on our passions and affections may be rendered serviceable to our devotions. Afflictions should put us upon prayer, and prosperity should make us abound in praise. Not that prayer is to be confined to a time of trouble, nor singing to a time of mirth; but these several duties may be performed with special advantage, and to the happiest purposes, at such seasons.
5. Prayer for the sick, and anointing with oil , are prescribed (James 5:14,15)
James 5:14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 5:15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
Elders . ( 1Tim 3:1; 5:17). Church .( Matt 16:18). oil. One of the best-known ancient medicines (referred to by Philo, Pliny and the physician Galen; ( Isa 1:6; Luke 10:34). Some believe that James may be using the term medicinally in this passage. Others, however, regard its use here as an aid to faith, an outward sign of the healing to be brought about by God in response to “prayer offered in faith” (James 5:15; Mark 6:13).
We have particular directions given as to sick persons, and healing pardoning mercy promised upon the observance of those directions. If any be sick, they are required,
To send for the elders, presbyterous teµs ekkleµsias-the presbyters, pastors or ministers of the church, (James 5:14,15. It lies upon sick people as a duty to send for ministers, and to desire their assistance and their prayers.
It is the duty of ministers to pray over the sick, when thus desired and called for. Let them pray over him; let their prayers be suited to his case, and their intercessions be as becomes those who are affected wit his calamities.
Prayer over the sick must proceed from, and be accompanied with, a lively faith. There must be faith both in the person praying and in the person prayed for. In a time of sickness, it is not the cold and formal prayer that is effectual, but the prayer of faith.
6. Christians are directed to acknowledge their faults one to another ,(James 5:16,17)
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 5:17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 5:18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
ELIJAH. . . PRAYED. That Elijah prayed may be assumed from (1Kings 17:1; 18:41-46). The three and a half years ( Luke 4:25) are probably a round number (half of seven), based on (1Kings 18:1 ; Rev 11:1-6).
The great advantage and efficacy of prayer are declared and proved: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, whether he pray for himself or for others: witness the example of Elias, (James 5:17,18). He who prays must be a righteous man; not righteous in an absolute sense (for this Elias was not, who is here made a pattern to us), but righteous in a gospel sense; not loving nor approving of any iniquity. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer, (Psalms. 66:18. Further, the prayer itself must be a fervent, in-wrought, well-wrought prayer. It must be a pouring out of the heart to God; and it must proceed from a faith unfeigned. Such prayer avails much. It is of great advantage to ourselves, it may be very beneficial to our friends, and we are assured of its being acceptable to God. It is good having those for friends whose prayers are available in the sight of God. The power of prayer is here proved from the success of Elijah. This may be encouraging to us even in common cases, if we consider that Elijah was a man of like passions with us. He was a zealous good man and a very great man, but he had his infirmities, and was subject to disorder in his passions as well as others. In prayer we must not look to the merit of man, but to the grace of God. Only in this we should copy after Elijah, that he prayed earnestly, or, as it is in the original, in prayer he prayed. It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Our thoughts must be fixed, our desires firm and ardent, and our graces in exercise; and, when we thus pray in prayer, we shall speed in prayer. Elijah prayed that it might not rain; and God heard him in his pleading against an idolatrous persecuting country, so that it rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months. Again he prayed, and the heaven gave rain, etc. Thus you see prayer is the key which opens and shuts heaven. To this there is an allusion, Rev. 11:6, where the two witnesses are said to have power to shut heaven, that it rain not. This instance of the extraordinary efficacy of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain. If Elijah by prayer could do such great and wonderful things, surely the prayers of no righteous man shall return void. Where there may not be so much of a miracle in God’s answering our prayers, yet there may be as much of grace.
7. This epistle concludes with an exhortation to do all we can in our places to promote the conversion and salvation of others, (James 5:19,20)
James 5:19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 5:20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Wander from the truth . The wanderer is either a professing Christian, whose faith is not genuine ( Heb 6:4-8; 2Peter 2:20-21), or a sinning Christian, who needs to be restored. For the former, the death spoken of in (James 5:20) is the “second death” (Rev 21:8); for the latter, it is physical death (1Co 11:30; 1John 5:16). Cover over a Multitude of sins . The sins of the wanderer will be forgiven by God.
This epistle concludes with an exhortation to do all we can in our places to promote the conversion and salvation of others, (James19,20). Some interpret these verses as an apology which the apostle is making for himself that he should so plainly and sharply reprove the Jewish Christians for their many faults and errors. And certainly James gives a very good reason why he was so much concerned to reclaim them from their errors, because in thus doing he should save souls, and hide a multitude of sins. But we are not to restrain this place to the apostle’s converting such as erred from the truth; no, nor to other ministerial endeavours of the like nature, since it is said, "If any err, and one convert him, let him be who he will that does so good an office for another, he is therein an instrument of saving a soul from death.” Those whom the apostle here calls brethren, he yet supposes liable to err. It is no mark of a wise or a holy man to boast of his being free from error, or to refuse to acknowledge when he is in an error. But if any do err, be they ever so great, you must not be afraid to show them their error; and, be they ever so weak and little, you must not disdain to make them wiser and better. If they err from the truth, that is, from the gospel (the great rule and standard of truth), whether it be in opinion or practice, you must endeavour to bring them again to the rule. Errors in judgment and in life generally go together.
Those that turn many to righteousness, and those who help to do so, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever Summary:
Let us consider the address to sinners; and here we find James seconding what his great Master had said: Woe unto you that are rich; for you have received your consolation, (Luke. 6:24). The rich people to whom this word of warning was sent were not such as professed the Christian religion, but the worldly and unbelieving Jews, such as are here said to condemn and kill the just, which the Christians had no power to do; and though this epistle was written for the sake of the faithful, and was sent principally to them, yet, by an apostrophe, the infidel Jews may be well supposed here spoken to. They would not hear the word, and therefore it is written, that they might read it. It is observable, in the very first inscription of this epistle, that it is not directed, as Paul’s epistles were, to the brethren in Christ, but, in general, to the twelve tribes; and the salutation is not, grace and peace from Christ, but, in general, greeting, (James1:1). The poor among the Jews received the gospel, and many of them believed; but the generality of the rich rejected Christianity, and were hardened in their unbelief, and hated and persecuted those who believed on Christ. To these oppressing, unbelieving, persecuting, rich people, the apostle addresses himself in the first six verses.