The Spirit

 

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Exposition of The Spirit in James
   

James 1:5
"If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" AV.

Problem:

This verse is often strung together with others without regard for context and historical background, in an attempt to prove the theory that the Spirit directly increases our mental power to understand the Bible and/or apply it if we ask God to do so1. It is the subject of many vague and mysterious interpretations, none of which add to our wisdom.

Solution:

  1. Are we to understand that a man’s natural or inherited capabilities, his intelligence, skill, genius and general brain capacity will be increased if he asks this of God? If God does this then the parables of Christ become meaningless, for they teach that every man is rewarded for the use he has made of such talents as he possesses.

  2. To understand what this "wisdom" is that James speaks of, it is only necessary to look at the earlier verses:

    "When you encounter various trials... let endurance have its perfect result ... But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God".

    The wisdom in the case is, then, the ability to discern the working of the Father’s hand while undergoing various trials. The highest form of wisdom is involved in this recognition.

    How can it be said that God "gives" this wisdom liberally to him who asks for it, seeing it is not a miraculous physical gift which operates directly on our brain? Surely by controlling circumstances and directing them so that we perceive the working of God’s hand even under "manifold temptations".

    We do not then pray for wisdom in the sense of asking for a mental gift or endowment. We pray to be helped to know God and to understand that he is working in our lives.

  3. Divine wisdom comes through the channel of the Scriptures, and the man who turns from these, can expect no response to his prayer.

  4. James goes on to caution the petitioner about not being "double minded". The sad thing about so much profession of the present possession of the Spirit is the fact that it is allied with so much doublemindedness2 and so little "speaking the oracles of God".

1 See Section B - "Guidance and Prayer".
2 If this is doubted, then try discussing the subject with a claimant and generally anything but the fruits of the Spirit will be manifest by him.

James 4:5
"Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?"

Since the Greek in this verse is uncertain, it is difficult to be sure what James is saying. However the AV, NEB and MARS have a similar translation - the context makes sense and agrees with Nestle’s Greek text. According to Lightfoot, the singular graphe (scripture) in the N.T. always means a particular passage of Scripture. It is suggested without dogmatism that the verse referred to is Gen. 6:5.

"Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

The spirit (heart) of man (or the whole imagination) is only evil continually.


Out of 10 different N.T. translations, there are 10 ways of translating this verse!
James 5:14-17
"Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

Problem:

"The advice of the Apostle James... is applicable today... and we would encourage its application today... This we believe to be a direct operation of the Healing Power of God in response to faithful prayer from believers, and seeking the assistance of Ecclesial eldership1."

Solution:

  1. When the context is considered, it is evident that the "sickness" is associated with the "sins" the man has committed. The word "if" can also be translated "though".
    1. Examples of how sickness may be inflicted because of sin are to be seen below:
      1. In Corinth (1 Cor. 5) a man in the ecclesia was practising fornication with his father’s wife. So Paul instructs that this person is to be delivered to "Satan for the destruction of the flesh". This was probably the inflicting of a disease by the elders because of the man’s wanton sin.
      2. 1 Cor. 11 -312 gives a much clearer example: "For this cause many are ... sickly and many sleep."
      3. cf. also John 20:22-23; Mark 16:18.

    2. This reference in James appears to deal with another aspect of a similar matter. Here was one who, initially, had sinned grievously and would not "confess his sin", and, consequently, suffered from "sickness". This having produced repentance, he would then "call for the elders of the church", (who had the Holy Spirit) who would "pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."3

  2. It is sometimes argued that the "sick" person was only spiritually sick but this explanation is not without the following problems
    1. When people are spiritually sick generally they do not want a visit from the elders; rather they reject any such visitation.

    2. The language4 used indicates that this sickness was a direct result of a mental outlook on the truth. The actual sickness was physical but the result of spiritual sickness. This seems to be the reason two different Greek words are used5.

    3. It was not the sick person’s6 prayer which caused the saving (as is argued by those who spiritualize this passage) but the prayer of the elders which was instrumental in the saving. I.e. "let them pray over him."

  3. The advice of James is not applicable today because:
    1. there is now no divinely appointed eldership as there was in the first century7.
    2. no human today possesses the gift8 of healing9.

  4. We are not suggesting that prayer for the curing of sickness is of no avail. God can and will do this if it is His will. However as is stated above the reference in James 5 is not to ordinary sickness, but to one divinely imposed for sin.

    The Holy Spirit was never used to heal everyday cases of sickness with no intent to further the gospel. It was used to further the gospel message by confirming it with signs showing the message was from God.


EXPO, P. 458.
1*, (intelligence), June 1971.
2 1 Corinthians, R. Abel, P. 31.
For this cause - Paul is stating a cause and effect relationship between the weakness, sickness and death evident in the ecclesia and their profanation of the Lord’s Supper. Obviously such a connection could only be posited by divine revelation to him. Is this how he knew the truth of the reports of verse 18?

many are weak Grk.: "asthenes", "without strength" (Y). The word is used of bodily infirmities (2 Cor. 10:10; 12:7-9; Gal. 4:14-15).

And many sleep - "and some have died" (RSV)
v.32. But when we are judged the AN. Translation disguises the fact that the judgment of the Corinthian ecclesia was then in progress. The verb is imperfect indicative (being judged (Marshall)) proving the condemnation was a corrective discipline divinely administered and still proceeding.’
3 J. S. Thomas "The Holy Spirit and its Work" Testimony 1955, P. 94.

This explanation is based on the precise significance of the Greek. (For an excellent treatise on this passage see "The Epistle of James" by N. Smart ch. 11, p. 184.)

This is also the explanation of Bro. Thomas who says:

‘A woman "bound together with a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years" is said to have been "bound of Satan" or the adversary, for that time; and here restoration to health is termed "loosing her from her bond" (Luke 13:10-17). Paul also writes . . . commanding them to deliver the incestuous brother "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh"; that is, inflict disease upon him that he may be brought to repentance, "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". Thus he was "judged and chastened of the Lord that he might not be condemned with the world". This had the desired effect; for he was overwhelmed with sorrow. Wherefore, he exhorts the spiritually gifted men of the body to forgive and comfort or restore him to health. (James 5:14)’. (Elpis Israel, p. 100).

4 (a) "save" - is used of healing from sickness and infirmity, in which case it normally appears in the AV as "made whole" (i.e. Matt. 9:21-22).
(b) The proximity of the statement that "the Lord shall raise him up" (the verb is used on several occasions of acts of healing - cf. Matt. 9:5; Mark 5:41) restricts the meaning before us to the healing of the sick man’s physical infirmities.
5 astheneo (v.14) - without strength, weak
kamno = suffer from fatigue.
6 No doubt his faith was important otherwise he would not call the elders.
7 This is evident by comparing Acts 20:17 (RSV), Paul "sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders" (Grk. ‘presbuteros’ (Y)) with Acts 20:28 (RSV) "in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians" (Grk. episkopos (Y)).
At least this shows that the elders at Ephesus were divinely appointed. No one can claim this today.
8 cf. "Spirit Gifts Not Now Available" - Logos.
9 To argue that the "gifts of healing" (being a first century manifestation of the Holy Spirit) is not meant in this context is to miss most of the allusions to this type of language in the New Testament.

  1. The only other "anointing with oil" in the N.T. is in Mark 6:13 where the sickness was healed by the apostles who were doing the healing by the gift of healing.
  2. It would appear that James is using the word "oil" as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. See the following passages where "oil" refers to the Holy Spirit given to Christ.

    "Thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil gladness above thy fellows." Psa. 45:7 cf. Heb. 1:9.
    "With my holy oil have I anointed him." Psa. 89:20.
    "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the LORD hath anointed me." Isa. 61:1.
    "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with Holy Spirit and with power." Acts 10:38.

    Therefore this anointing of James was probably a symbol that the "gift of healing" was to be performed.

  3. We are reminded of the healing of the one born blind (John 9:11) whose eyes Jesus anointed. The clay was only an external symbol of the "gift of healing" which Jesus used to heal the blind man. Then Jesus '…said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam"'(John 9:3,11) (NASB)