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Church in Action

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The Church in Action[1]

James 5: 13-20

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 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. 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. 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.

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. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 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.

The Letter of James has always been controversial.  Famously Luther had no time for it – and down through the ages many have found its intensely practical teaching either awkward or odd.

As the letter closes James touches on at least two difficult issues – the anointing with oil for the sick, and the “covering of a multitude of sins”.  Personally I do not find the idea of anointing difficult – and it seems to me that James closes his letter with encouragement to bringing sinners back to the Lord.

What these closing verses do offer is an interesting picture of the CHURCH IN ACTION.

Clearly James has much to say about PRAYER – so that is a mark of the Church in Action. James also shows us how the spiritual family that is the Church meets the varying needs of its people.

He says nothing explicitly about OUTSIDERS.

We ask two questions:

    Who are the Church?

    What do they do?

And suddenly the letter ends – almost as if the writer were interrupted. There is no benediction or grace – yet it ends with this picture of a great hope, and a great ministry.

Who are the Church?

(a)    Ordinary people – like Elijah

Oh – you say – ordinary – Elijah?  Yes – “Elijah was a man just like us!”

(b)    Righteous people

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”  v16

Not by effort

Not by works

Not by unusual faith

But by the grace of God.

(c)    People with changing situations

 

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick?

 

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,

 

    V 13  in trouble…?

o       Happy?

    V14   sick?

    V19   wandering from the truth

What a range of experiences

In trouble

Happy       (=deeply content)

Weak/sick

Or

Wandering from the truth

His phrase “if one of you…”   goes nicely with  “just like us…”

But there are figures of authority too:

(d)    Elders of the Church

He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

 

So someone is in charge then.

This is a mark of the Church in Action that there are spiritual leaders who exercise a range of ministries

(e)    People who sin

If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 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.

Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.   (v20)

The Church is made up of REAL PEOPLE

People with strengths and weaknesses

People like Elijah

Those in trouble

Those who are happy

Those in physical need

Backsliders

Elders

Those who sin

&

Those who restore…

This is a MIXED BAG – but POWERFUL BY PRAYER.

What do they do?

(a)    They pray

13     He should pray

14     call the elders of the church to pray over him

15     15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well;

16     pray for each other so that you may be healed.

17     Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly

18     18 Again he prayed,

 

(b)    They turn their circumstances into opportunities

In trouble  =      pray

Happy       =      sing songs

Sick          =      call for the elders

TWO of these reactions are personal – one is special

(c)    The elders exercise a special ministry

1.     they are AVAILABLE to be called in                (v14)

2.     they minister in a way that is:-

SYMBOLIC         oil

POWERFUL                prayer

PERSONAL         coming close into the circumstances

Like the Samaritan in Jesus’ story they “come where the man was..

3.     Their ministry is :   IN THE NAME OF THE LORD

(d)    The Church exercises a range of SHARING and CARING MINISTRIES

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.

CONFESS & PRAY

A ministry of SPIRITUAL HEALING AND LISTENING

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 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.

It is interesting that this is not a ministry delegated to the elders.  Out of the general body of the family of believers comes this ministry of inestimable value

Saves from death

Covers a multitude of sins

 

What an illuminating picture of the early Church – and the modern Church

Ordinary people transformed by God’s grace

§        By obedience

§        By sharing

§        By caring

§        By bringing back & turning

And above all                     BY PRAYING

It exercises a RESTORING MINISTRY

    Are these the marks of our individual spirituality?

    Are these the marks of this fellowship of believers?

    Are these the marks of the Church of Today?

The key is PRAYER.


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[1] Possibly alongside a brief resume of the parable of the Samaritan.

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