Question: Are the instructions in James 5. 14 applicable to-day?
E W Rogers, Oxford
Answer . We have to remember that the Epistle of James was written in the very early days of the Church’s history when Christians were few in number and located only in a very restricted area. The Epistle of James, moreover, is written to those who, belonging to the stock of Abraham (1. 1), had put their faith in the Lord Jesus (2.1). The result of this was that these Jews were ostracised from their own fellow nationals and could not go to any of them for medical attention. Nor, on the other hand, could they go to the pagan doctors whose practices were under demoniac control. What, then, were they to do? They were to follow the instructions here given. To-day the position is different. Godly believing men are available who place their skill at the disposal of the Lord’s people in respect of their physical maladies. These “beloved physicians” may be used as doubtless Paul used Luke. Notwithstanding, it must be borne in mind that God always honours faith and the employment of a doctor is no ground for the abandonment of faith. James contemplates, moreover, that sickness sometimes (though not always) is the result of sin. If it is, he indicates what must be done. This answer perhaps affords clues as to the right interpretation of the passage and safeguards against its abuse. It touches upon the whole subject of faith-healing which cannot fully be dealt with in the question column.