Hello Summit Family!
James is quickly nearing the end of his letter and has been spending the most recent verses on prayers offered in faith. It is important to also note those prayers are offered in the name of Jesus Christ. James continues his encouragement to be people who exhibit faithful prayer in verse 16.
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Many of us have those individuals we have identified as our “prayer warriors.” They are the people we contact first when faced with a “trial” or season that generates a call for prayer. In many instances we automatically consider those who serve as prayer warriors to be “godly, righteous” people because of their commitment to prayer. These verses are a reminder of how powerful prayer is. James has already shared that the prayers of the elders will result in the Lord raising up the afflicted and will also result in forgiveness of sins.
The good news James shares in verse 16 is that effective prayer is not limited to the elders or to the bedridden. It is a privilege that is offered to all followers of Christ. It is something we should engage in with each other as we face the trials, sufferings, and challenges of life. The primary subject in verses 14 and 15 was sickness. James now turns his readers’ attention to the topic in verse 16, sin. James views sin as a sickness by referring that one can be “healed” from it.
The phrase “confess your sins to each other” has been certain to cause some uncomfortable moments for many! It is probably there are times when a Christian is burdened by a sin and chooses to seek out a close friend to confide in. We know the value of carrying one another’s burdens and praying for deliverance, cleansing, and healing. But this does not seem to be the message James is sharing.
The term “confess” can carry multiple connotations. It can certainly mean confession of sin. It can also refer to an affirmation of loyalty to God. There are examples of gatherings scheduled for the purposes of having believers tell their sins to one another. Those gatherings often use James 5:16 as their support for such events. However, the passage does not say “Confess your sins to God in each other’s presence” but “confess your sins to one another.”
Here is another possibility: confessing to the person against whom we have sinned, the person we need and, hopefully, desire to receive forgiveness from. That type of confession may also be exhibited in a variety of forms.
There is “secret confession” to God because there are “secret sins.” “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” (Psalm 90:8) There is also a need for private confession when sins are committed against a private individual, or maybe two or more where confession needs to occur to the offended party/parties. There is also an appropriate public confession because some sins are committed against a group, or community, or congregation. In those cases, public confession is appropriate.
The conclusion is that James is encouraging his readers to have a spirit of confession when we have wronged another. The confession is directed to the person/group that has been offended. One can easily read between the lines in respect to this encouragement. An underlining message of James letter has been the goal of fellowship.
The reason we don’t judge each other on outward appearances, the reason we understand our unique position in Christ (whether wealthy or poor), the multitude of verses warning against the use of our tongues, avoiding fights and quarrels are all addressing the topic of “fellowship.” Why do we confess our sins/wrongdoings to each other? The goal is to facilitate reconciliation and fellowship. That has always been God’s primary purpose in sending Christ to become our redeemer.
As a pastor, James understands the importance of unbroken fellowship within his “congregation.” Unfortunately, many of us have experienced the devastation that occurs within the “family” when fellowship is broken through wrongful actions. As James comes to the very end of his letter, it almost appears that he is providing “fatherly” advice to his family of believers. He is encouraging them to employ a process where fellowship within the family can be protected. In this one verse, he identifies three ingredients in achieving fellowship.
The first is having a spirit of penitence. It may be difficult and even costly at times, but he is encouraging this brothers and sisters to be prepared to go to those they have wronged, confess their “sin” and make things right. Jesus addressed the need to confess our sins to each other: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Sometimes the most difficult phrase for some to say is “I am sorry!” But Christ Himself commanded us to have that attitude of humbleness.
Secondly, James is encouraging a spirit of reconciliation. Not only should we have a spirit of confession when we have wronged another, we also need to have a spirit of forgiveness when receiving another’s confession. Verse 16 encourages praying for each other. It is that spirit of mutual concern for each other that results in healing. When there is mutual concern, restoration of fellowship and reconciliation are guaranteed. Within the body of Christ, we should never allow pride or fear prevent us from striving for reconciliation.
Thirdly, James is encouraging a spirit of prayer. The goal is for those who have been separated by “sin” to return to close unity and harmony through prayer. I have found it difficult to harbor animosity towards another brother or sister when I am genuinely praying for them. It is also important to remember that our prayers for each other should be intended for their good not their harm!
Having a spirit of penitence, reconciliation and prayer leads to healing. The “healing” James is referring to is a return to spiritual health confirmed through the resolution of “sin,” reconciliation that results in mutual care and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Can such a lofty goal be reached? James shares an example proving it is possible. We will look at that example in a couple of weeks.
For the next two weeks, our ministerial staff will be sharing the daily devotions. I know God will use the devotions they will be sharing to encourage and challenge you over the next couple of weeks. I am already looking forward to resuming devotions on James the last week in June.
Have a great day!