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The Persecuted Church


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Confess your trespasses to one another James 5

James 5:14-16 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. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Sins or a particular sin may have brought on the sickness as a chastisement.   Sin is not always the cause of sickness but in this case it was the cause of his sickness. In James, This person has committed a fault or a trespass and has become sick as a result.  The person’s illness is directly linked to this type of sin that was committed.  God is chastening him to bring him back into fellowship.  This sin is specific, one that involves another person or the church.  The issue here is the person's need to be reconciled to be healed. If the sin is forsaken and confessed, then there is a direct promise of healing.  When it states, “confess your faults one to another,” it refers to reconciliation just as it tells us in Matt. 18:15, where we read: “If a brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault.”

The only type of confession like this mentioned in the Bible where people confess to others is always about being offended personally. This is different, this is bout someone who has become ill. 

The word “confess” (Gr. exomologeo James 5:16) indicates something that is open and public (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, pg. 120);

 “to confess forth freely, openly.  It is used for a public acknowledgment of confession of sins.” This is not in reference to a priest to whom the confession is to be made. The confession referred is to "one another," where one has injured another person, or the church (the elders would not have to be involved unless it was serious).  Neither is this a promotion of "auricular confession" to everyone in the church as some practice.

If one has sinned against another or the Church, they are to confess to the elders, who are to pray over them for their healing.  Where all other sins are confessed privately to God, there are some exceptions.  In verses 14-15, we find this speaking of a person who is sick.  There is a promise linked when he calls to the elders, they anoint him with oil and we find the prayer of faith will heal the one who is sick.  There seems to be a confidence of a result here. This person will be healed because it's based on God's promise, while in other circumstances, God has not promised to heal always.  His healing is related to the sin confessed, vs. 15, and he will be healed by confessing to others he had offended.  The context of this structure James uses bears this out. 

Summarizing it, James uses Elijah as an example and the drought in Israel for three years, verses 17-18.  This was a judgment on Israel because of their sin.  Ahab the king of Israel influenced by his wife Jezebel, became a worshipper of the false God Baal, and led the people into idolatry.  This draught was a direct result of the people back-sliding.  The judgment was lifted after they returned to the Lord.  So to read this Scripture in context, we have elders involved, a physical sickness, anointing with oil, a prayer of faith that will restore the person to health, and a confession of his trespasses.  James 5:16 does not mean this as a general practice, this is not to be used as a normal Christian practice taught for everyday living as some cults use to gain control. We never see anyone practicing it this way in the epistles or even suggesting that everyone must reveal their thoughts or feelings to another.

The last verse seems to sum up the theme

V19-20 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.



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