Timeless truths about healing. I want to focus on a different aspect in this passage. It is grossly overlooked and misunderstood. Please refer back to part one for the fuller perspective.
The specific area I want us to focus on is this: “And if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”
What does this mean? Clearly James is not calling for us to set up confessional booths! Keep the context in mind. Some people may be sick because of unconfessed sin. The casual reader of the New Testament will immediately recognize this truth as Paul talks about some who have gotten sick and others have died as a result of sin. The context drives the interpretation. Here a sick person calls for the Elders of the church to anoint him with oil. The gravely ill person is to confess any sin to the Elders. Why? Because this individual has requested that the Elders pray for his healing. If there has been sin that led to the sickness, confession is needed before prayer is offered. Please note the “if.”
We do not practice confession of our sins to others. Scriptures do not encourage this as a normal practice. If a leader in the church sins against the church, he is to confess it to the church. Private sin is to be kept private. In this passage, the Elders listen to the confession because they are participating in the restoration of the individual. Otherwise there would be no instruction for confession.
I think we underestimate the damage of sin. Resentment, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and a host of other sins not only create spiritual problems but emotional and physical problems. Keep short accounts. Confess your sin to the Lord.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:13-16 NASB