Calling for the elders of the church refers to the
request by one who is ill, for the church ministers to come anoint them with
oil, and pray for them. "Is anyone among you sick? 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 will save the sick, and the
Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven"
It should be noted that the sick person is the one who
initiates the invitation to the elders. This suggests that while the
afflicted party certainly needs the added strength of the elders prayer and
faith, yet the afflicted must also have faith — at least enough to call for
the church leaders to come and pray. The technology of the telephone has
made it much easier to "call" for the elders than it once was.
Usually the elders will also lay their hands on the
sick during the anointing and prayer. This was a very common act by Jesus
and his Apostles when they prayed for people (Luke 4:40, Acts 14:3), and He
especially exhorted His followers to emulate this procedure when
administering healing. "...they will lay hands on the sick, and they will
recover" (Mark 16:18).
The oil referred to by James has no medicinal effect
or mystical powers, but is only used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Neither
must we necessarily assume that a conductive power flows out from the
elders' hands into the sick body. There are no definite, scientific reasons
for any of these acts, except they are matters of obedience to God's Word —
expressions of faith to which God promises to respond. "...the prayer of
faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up."
The passage in James' epistle also makes another
interesting reference. Besides providing a strong assurance of healing, he
says, "...And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:15).
Throughout the Bible, this unique relationship between "healing" and
"forgiveness" is frequently repeated. Such as with the Psalmist, who refers
to healing as one of the believer's benefits, as well as the forgiveness of
sins. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who
forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases" (Psa. 103:2-3).
Healing has an interwoven relationship with
forgiveness. The word "salvation" so frequently used in the New Testament,
comes from the Greek, SOTERIA, which literally means "wholeness and healing,
both in the physical and spiritual." Furthermore, on one occasion, Jesus
explained that this was one of the great reasons why he cured the sick — so
they would know He also has power to save them. "For which is easier, to
say, Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, Arise and walk? But that you may
know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins; then He said to
the paralytic, Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house" (Matt. 9:5-6).
Healing is considered one of the many attributes which
were appropriated by the atonement of our suffering savior. Jesus not only
purchased the salvation of our soul, but His sufferings also procured our
physical healing. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was
wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the
chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed"
(Isa. 53:4-5). Healing is a gift which was paid for by Christ's
substitutionary act, and is also listed as one of nine spiritual gifts given
to the church (1 Cor. 12:9).
Sometimes people question whether healing is really
God's will. However, a noted physician once said: "I've become convinced
that no one seriously doubts God's will to heal. If they really believed He
wanted them sick, why would they try to evade His will by coming to see me?
And what do you suppose I could do for them if it wasn't His will for them
to get well?"
Perhaps God's will is best revealed by Jesus' earthly
ministry, of which the New Testament records eleven occasions where Jesus
was approached for healing. Not once did He turn anyone away or express that
it was not His will. This is significant since the Bible is designed to show
God's will, and gave us our foundation for faith (Rom. 10:17). In one
instance, a leper came to Jesus inquiring whether it was His will to heal
him. "Lord, if it is your will you can heal me, he said. In response, Jesus
extended his hand and said, it's my will; be healed! And the man's leprosy
vanished" (Matt. 8:2-3).
Finally, one of the most remarkable endorsements of healing is expressed through God's very name. Historically, the names of many people were derived from their trade, occupation or descriptive characteristics. For instance, those named "Smith" came from generations of blacksmiths. It was also a good way for a person to advertise his trade, "I'm Walter the Smith." Similarly, God identifies His own name by what He does. In the Old Testament, He says that His name is JEHOVAH RAHPA, or, "I am the LORD who heals you" (Ex. 15:26). This is a convincing testimony of God's will and nature regarding healing. How could He express His desire more clearly than to identify himself by the name, "I'm The Lord that heals you?" Not only does it convey His will — It's His very name. "Healing" is who He is and what He does.