1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, then, is 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.
- Divine wisdom comes through the channel of the Scriptures, and the man who turns from these,
can expect no response to his prayer.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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."
- "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."
- 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".
- Examples of how sickness may be inflicted because of sin are to be seen below:
- 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.
- 1 Cor. 11 -312 gives a much clearer example: "For this cause many are ... sickly and many sleep."
- cf. also John 20:22-23; Mark 16:18.
- 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
- It is sometimes argued that the "sick" person was only spiritually sick but this explanation is not without the following problems
- When people are spiritually sick generally they do not want a visit from the elders; rather they reject any such visitation.
- 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.
- 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."
- The advice of James is not applicable today because:
- there is now no divinely appointed eldership as there was in the first century7.
- no human today possesses the gift8 of healing9.
- 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.