— 73 —
What does it mean to call for
the elders of the church?

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" (James 5:14-15).

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.

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.