“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.”
James now turns to a special case of a believer who fell sick due to protracted sin in his life. He was on the verge of committing the sin unto death (5:20).
Is anyone among you sick?
The word “sick” means to lack strength, to be weak. The idea may be weak from spiritual sickness, a state of incapacity. The New Testament uses “sick” fourteen times to refer to emotional or spiritual powerlessness (Acts 20:35; Ro. 4:19; 8:3; 14:1–2; 1 Co. 8:11–12; 2 Co. 11:21, 29; 12:10; 13:3–4, 9).
Ro. 6:19, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”
The New Testament uses this word of physical sickness only three times (Php. 2:26–27; 2 Ti. 4:20). The word “sick” in the next verse means faint (5:15). Therefore, the term here means weak due to spiritual failure. The people James addresses are those defeated in the spiritual battle and are under God’s discipline of physical sickness. Sin is clearly in view in the next verse (5:15).
James presents the idea that unless a Christian confesses and deals with his sin, God will set him on a course of physical sickness or even death (1:15, 21; 5:20). Physical sickness sometimes comes from long-lasting sinful behavior.
Let him call for the elders of the church,
James encourages the sick to urgently request the elders to help him spiritually. The word “elders” is another term for a leader. A leader in the local church was someone spiritually qualified and with the maturity to lead others in spiritual restoration (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Ph. 1:1; 1 Ti. 5:17; Ti. 1:5).
and let them pray over him,
We find help in our spiritual defeat in spiritually mature leadership.
God delights in restoring fallen believers.
God is in the business of encouraging the discouraged and distressed believer. He does this by spiritual restoration. If a Christian sins, God will forgive him. Sometimes believers need mature Christian leadership to help them with their restoration.
If you are morally defeated and disheartened, God will give you sustaining grace to lift you out of your spiritual quagmire.
Ga 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
God sometimes puts a believer to death because of protracted, unconfessed sin (De 28:22,27; Jn 5:14; 1 Co 11:30).