For the corresponding sermon to this scripture passage, listen here: http://crossview.info/sermons/2014_05_25.mp3
Today’s Scripture Focus: James 5:13-20
There are four men mentioned in the New Testament by the name of James. We believe the book of James could only be identified with James the younger brother of Jesus. Although at first Jesus’ family rejected Him as Messiah and refused to follow Him, James turned to faith in Christ after His death and quickly became a leader in the First Century church. In fact, he was the head of the Church at Jerusalem, and also the head of the Council of all churches throughout the Roman Empire when their leaders met to decide doctrine and settle disputes. James most likely wrote this letter to Jewish believers in the early 60s, shortly before being killed.
James is a sermon for the “Jesus synagogues” that had been forced to flee Jerusalem and settle throughout the Empire. This meant that unlike Paul’s letters, which were written to Gentile and Jewish communities trying to figure out how to get along, James was probably written to Jews only. Therefore, James draws on two literary traditions with which Judeans were most familiar—wisdom literature and the writings of the prophets. For instance, when James advises to seek wisdom by faith in chapter 1, he’s putting a Christian flavor on Proverbs. In the same way, he draws on Isaiah when he warns of the fate of those who trust in riches.
The book of James almost didn’t make it in to our Bible. Other than the greeting, it doesn’t mention Jesus by name. Martin Luther called it “an epistle of straw” because he saw it as contradicting Paul’s teachings on justification by faith. Some early theologians felt the book was written to counteract Greek influence that was overshadowing Jewish tradition in the church. However, James emphasizes faith as well as works. Chapter 1 speaks of seeking wisdom by faith, and perseverance perfecting faith. Paul and James are really two sides of the same coin—faith without works is certainly dead, but works without faith are just as dead.
Today’s scripture focus is the conclusion to the book. The book begins with suffering, then ends with asking sufferers to turn to prayer. “Elders” were the earliest form of pastors. They were to preach, teach, shepherd and administrate churches. James instructs them to take oil, the most common medicine of the day, apply it to the sick, and pray for them. In order for this to be effective, however, James’ readers had to follow the wisdom and preaching in the rest of the book. They had to be patient, to not talk ugly about each other, to show no favoritism to the rich, and to take care of the powerless. Only then would their prayers be effective. Sounds like a great prescription for us today!
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What is the hardest part about waiting to have our prayers answered today? Why do you think it sometimes seems prayers are not answered today?
Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?