July 25th, 1965 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-25-65 8:15 a.m.
On radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. In the series of sermons that are presented at these morning hours on the Holy Spirit, we have been following the last few mornings, Lord’s Day mornings, “The Emblem of the Holy Spirit.” And last Sunday morning, the emblem was The Oil of Anointing. And in the presentation of that message, there is one passage concerning healing. And around the subject of divine healing, this message is prepared and preached at this hour. The passage I refer to is in James chapter 5, verses 14 and 15:
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.
This is one of the most unusual passages in all the Holy Scriptures, and says a thing categorically. It is for us to know its meaning and application. We look first at the text: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church” [James 5:14].
There are three words that refer to the same officer in the church, or offices in the church. The first word is presbuteros, translated “elder,” and it refers to the dignity of the office, an elder. The second word is episkopos, translated “bishop”; the actual Greek word means “overseer.” That refers to the duty of the office. The third word is poimēn, “shepherd.” It refers to the loving nature of the office.
And in the New Testament those three words are all used interchangeably of the same office, of the same man. The pastor of the church, the poimēn of the church, is also the episkopos of the church, the overseer of the church. He is also the presbuteros of the church; he is to be held in great reverence and dignity by the church.
Now the church, as it was established in those early days, for the most part was one in a city. We multiply them greatly. We put them on every other street corner and on every other block and in every other section. But for the most part, there was a church at Jerusalem. There was a church at Antioch even though the church at Jerusalem may have had fifty thousand members in it. And John Chrysostom said his church in Antioch had more than one hundred thousand members, yet there was one church in each one of those cities.
There may have been many preaching places, many places where they broke the bread of life to the people in different sections of the city, but there was one church. Now in those churches there was a plurality of elders, of pastors, of bishops just as we have in this great church. There are several ministers of the gospel in this church. The minister of the gospel represents the church, so when this man is sick, and the elders, the bishops, the pastors come and pray, it is as the church praying for this man.
“Is any among you sick? let him call for the pastors of the church, 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” [James 5:14-15]. Now the word “save” there is a Greek way of saying, “heal.” To us the word “save” means to be converted. The word “save” here means and the prayer of faith shall “heal” the sick [James 5:15]. That word is used like that several times in the Bible.
The Lord said to the woman with an issue of blood, “Thy faith had made thee whole”; the Greek is, “Thy faith hath saved thee” [Matthew 9:22]. And the continuing story says, “And she was whole from that hour, she was healed from that hour” [Matthew 9:22]. The actual Greek word is, “And she was saved from that hour.” The same kind of a situation you find in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John: the Lord says to His disciples, “Lazarus is asleep.” He meant he was dead, “Lazarus is asleep” [John 11:11]. And the disciples said, “Well, Lord, if he is asleep, he shall be healed, that is good for him,” translated here, “It shall be well” [John 11:12]. But the word in Greek is “saved,” just as it is here.
So the prayer of faith shall heal the sick [James 5:15], and you know that for a certainty when it says, “and the Lord shall raise him up,” lift him out of his sick bed; “and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15]. Now that is translated here in the King James Version as if it were kai, “and,” the Greek word kai, and, “And if he have committed sins.” The Greek word is kai ean, “even though he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15]. You have many instances of that in the New Testament.
The Lord says in the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that liveth and believeth in Me, even though he were dead, yet shall he live” [John 11:25]. There is that kai ean, kan, contracted in Greek, kan, kan, “even though.” So it is here: “Even though he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” [James 5:15]. Now apparently what the author here, what the pastor James is writing is this, that even though the man’s sins have occasioned his illness, his case is not desperate, it is not hopeless, for the man can be not only healed, but his sins also can be forgiven him [James 5:15].
Now, the heart of this passage is this: “Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick” [James 5:14-15]. What does that refer to when it says “Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil”? [James 5:14]. You never saw such a mixture of commentaries as you will read upon that passage. For example, Ellicott’s commentary says the passage refers to a symbol. Anointing him with oil, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit [Luke 4:18], so praying they anointed the man with oil, typifying the power of the Holy Spirit to heal. That is what Ellicott says. The American Commentary on the New Testament––which is the only commentary our Baptist people ever wrote––the American Commentary on the New Testament says it is medicinal altogether. Anointing him with oil was their way then of applying what medicine they knew two thousand years ago. So the American commentary says just the opposite. Ellicott’s commentary says it is altogether symbolic, representing the power of the Holy Spirit to heal. The American commentary says it is altogether medicinal, referring to what they knew then of the medicine of that day.
Now the Expositor’s Bible on one page says one thing, and on the other page says exactly the opposite. Now I am going to show it to you, going to read it to you. The Expositor’s Bible, which is one of the great publications of all time, volume VI, page 634 says, now listen to it:
It is altogether beside the mark to suggest that the elders were summoned as people who were specially skilled in medicine. Of that there is not only no hint, but the context excludes the idea. If that were in the writer’s mind, why does he not say at once, ‘Let him call for the physicians’? The case is one in which medicine has altogether done all that it can, or in which it can do nothing at all.
So on that page the Expositor’s Bible says that anointing him with oil would be altogether symbolic, altogether symbolic. All right, on the next page in the Expositor’s Bible, on page 635, this is what the author writes:
What purpose was the oil intended to serve? Was it medicinal? The reason oil was selected was that it was believed to have healing properties, that oil was supposed to be efficacious as medicine is plain from numerous passages, both in and outside the Holy Scriptures.
So the Expositor’s Bible on one page says it is altogether symbolic, representing the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, and on the next page, why, the Expositor’s Bible says it is medicinal according to the knowledge of medicine in that day.
Well, what are you going to do about all those things? Let us say just what the Bible says and let us take it just as the Bible says. Do the Scriptures say that the oil, medicinal or otherwise, shall heal him, shall raise him up, or does it say “the prayer of faith shall raise him up?” [James 5:14-15]. What does the Bible say?
Well, the Bible is very plain: “Is any 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: And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” [James 5:14-15]. You don’t have any other choice, in my humble opinion, than to see this word just exactly as it is written.
The anointing oil is: now there are several things you can say about it. One, and I am going to summarize what all of these commentaries say about that anointing oil: it was used as an aid to faith. Many of them emphasize that. Somehow people can believe better; they can have greater hold upon God and greater assurance if there is something tangible used to aid their faith. An illustration of that would be in the life of our Lord. Twice the Lord in opening the eyes of the blind made spittle and anointed the eyes that were blind with clay [John 9:6; Mark 8:23]. And the reason for that was, they say, that spittle was looked upon in that day and time as a healing ointment for blind eyes. So the Lord, in healing the blind, made spittle of the clay in order that the blind might have greater faith and might see. So they say about this, the anointing oil was an aid to faith.”
Now there is no doubt. There is no doubt but that oil was used two thousand years ago as a means of healing. It was medicinal in its purpose. For example, in the first chapter of Isaiah and the sixth verse, in describing the wounds and the sicknesses of Israel, Isaiah says, “They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” [Isaiah 1:6]. They haven’t been anointed with oil, and the wounds have not been ministered to.
You have the same presentation in the story of the good Samaritan, when the Good Samaritan stopped and ministered to that man who had been attacked by robbers. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine [Luke 10:34]. Dio Cassius says that the armies of Linus Gallus were attacked with a great plague, and they made a mixture of oil and wine and applied it internally and externally.
Josephus, in describing the last illness of Herod the Great, said that his physicians bathed him in oil. Celsus says in his book on medicines, Celsus says that oil is to be used, and the patient is to be rubbed with oil, in cases of high fever and other diseases. So there are those presentations for the medicinal use of the anointing oil. But I go back to this first conclusion: it says “The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” [James 5:15].
“Well, pastor, do you believe in divine healing?” I was walking down the corridors of Baylor Hospital late one night in recent times, within the last few weeks, and I was stopped in the corridor by a man, and he asked me that question, “Do you believe in divine healing?” And I said to him, “My brother, is there any other kind? Do you know of any other kind of healing but divine healing?”
The doctor can cut; the surgeon can take a scalpel and open a wound, but the doctor cannot heal. The doctor can prescribe, he can give you medicines, chemicals, but he cannot heal you. It is not in the power of any surgeon or any physician or any doctor who ever lived, who does live, who ever shall live, it is not in the power of humankind to heal. Only God can heal! [Deuteronomy 32:39].
Have we right and expectancy and assurance, according to the Holy Scriptures, that God will heal, that God can heal? Yes, indeed, indeed. We know that from His very name; God heals.
In the Book of Exodus, chapter 15, the Lord says to Israel:
If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and do that which is right in His sight, and keep His commandments. . .I will put none of those diseases upon thee, which I brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee—for I am Jehovah ropheka.
His very name, the name of God, says it: “I am Jehovah ropheka; I am the Lord that healeth” [Exodus 15:26].
That is His name. He is the Great Physician, our Jehovah God. I know that from the atoning ministry of Jesus. A part of the blessings that issue forth from the atoning ministry of our Savior is not only the washing away of our sins [1 John 1:7], but the healing of our bodies: “Surely, surely,” said the prophet in Isaiah 53, “He hath borne our,” and you have it translated “griefs and sorrows” [Isaiah 53:4]. The Hebrew is: “Surely He hath borne our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” [Isaiah 53:4].
Now I want to read to you the Matthew quotation from that passage in Isaiah. “When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying,” and then he has the Septuagint Greek translation of that Isaiah 53:4, “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” [Matthew 8:16-17]. It is a part of the atoning ministry of Jesus; the healing of the sick [Isaiah 53:4].
I have that assurance that God heals the sick from the fact that the Holy Spirit is indwelling our bodily temples. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, He is called the Spirit of life, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:2]. Again in the tenth verse, “The Spirit is life because of righteousness” [Romans 8:10]. And look again, “And if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Jesus from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies,” not your dead bodies, but your mortal bodies, “by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” [Romans 8:11]. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit that lives within the Christian is one of life, one of life, one of quickening life [John 6:63].
I would know that God heals because in the Bible there are so many instances of the healing power of God, even in answer to prayer. Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and Abimelech was healed [Genesis 20:17]. They prayed for Miriam when she became leprous and white as snow, and God healed Miriam [Numbers 12:10-15]. When the Lord said, “Hezekiah shall die,” he prayed to God, and the Lord said, “I have seen your tears, and I have heard your prayers, and I have added unto thy days fifteen years” [Isaiah 38:1-5]. These things are written large on the pages of the sacred Book.
Now the question arises: does God use means in healing? Does He ever use means? The answer is an emphatic, yes! Look again. In the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, when Hezekiah was told by the Lord:
Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sorely before God . . . Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,
Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord . . . I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years
For Isaiah had said—
Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover.
[Isaiah 38:1-5, 21]
God said, “I have seen thy tears, and I have heard thy prayers” [Isaiah 38:5]; but when God healed him, He used means to do it. The prophet said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover” [Isaiah 38:21]—same thing as the Lord Jesus, when He opened the eyes of the blind. Why didn’t He just open the eyes of the blind? He made spittle, and He anointed the eyes with clay, and the blind could see [John 9:6].
I was interested in B. H. Carroll’s interpretation of Paul’s word to Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23]. The great expositor says that Timothy was a teetotaler, he would not touch alcohol of any kind. He would have nothing to do with it at all. So Paul wrote to him, “Now Timothy, to use alcohol for medicinal purposes is good and right, and you take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities.” And if you were to ask a doctor the good purpose of alcohol, he would tell you that the practice of medicine would be almost impossible without it.
So from the Word of God I know that it is right and it is correct for us to use means in order for our healing. We are to look to God in His blessings upon what the doctor is able to do, and what the hospital is able to do, and what the physician is able to do, and what medicines are able to do, and to ask the Lord to bless it for His holy and sanctifying purposes. So that would mean the first thing we ought to do is to admit, is to admit that we are ill. Admit it. There is a whole system of religion that denies it. Isn’t that an amazing thing? “Deny it, and it is not so. Refuse to admit it, and it doesn’t exist.”
I was pastor in a church that had in it a college, a state college. And there was a woman in the church who belonged to this system of religion that denies the fact of illness; it just doesn’t exist. And her mother was a devout Baptist and belonged to our church. She was a professor of voice in the school. And her mother fell down the stairway into the basement, and her mother was a heavy woman. And when she fell all the way down into the basement, it was a pitiful situation. But the daughter ran to her and helped her up and said, “Mother, you are not hurt at all. You are not hurt at all. There is nothing wrong with you at all, not hurt at all.” And when I went out to see her, she was in bed; she was black and blue all over. She was terribly hurt. But this daughter, “Mother, you are not hurt at all, nothing wrong with you.”
Why, I could see there was something wrong with her; she could not walk. I could see there was something wrong with her; she was black and blue all over. So when we are ill, admit it. “I’ve got the bug. I’ve got the gout, I’ve got it. There is something wrong with me.” Sometimes it is terribly wrong. Well, admit it.
All right, then let us search our souls before God. What of this illness that has afflicted me and come upon me? What of that illness? First, is it due to neglect of God’s laws? Is it? Is it? Now you search your life and see. Is this thing that has fallen out to me, has it become because of what I have done in neglecting God’s plain laws of health?
I am now being worked on to take off a little wart on the bottom of my foot. The doctor said to me, “Now you go to that YMCA across the street all the time. Now when you go over there to the “Y,” you get you some little sandals, so you do not walk around barefoot on that floor where ten thousand men walk over it all the time.” Well, I said, “I am not going to do it. First of all, it takes about sixty-nine cents to buy a pair of sandals, and I can save sixty-nine cents. Second of all, it is too much trouble to put sandals on. So I am just not going to do it.”
So I went over there to the “Y” and walked around on that floor, and on those showers, without anything on my feet. So upon a day, the doctor said, “You’ve got a virus on your foot, and the way the virus works, it is a wart, and it is hard to get off. So you come down here to me.” And I tell you, he has been working on that wart on the bottom of my foot for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, and he is still working on it. But you can tell one thing: I bought me sixty-nine cents worth of sandals! I go around with them.
First of all, you find out, is the reason for my illness because I have disobeyed God’s plain, plain injunctions, and there are a lot of things that happen to us on that account; we just don’t listen to what the doctor says.
All right, another thing that happens to us; is it because it is a chastisement from the Lord? Search your soul. Search your life. Search your heart. Am I ill, and has this affliction become, come because it’s a chastisement from the Lord.
Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
If ye endureth chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye illegitimate children, and not real sons.
If you are a child of God, God along the way is going to chasten you. If you don’t know the chastening of the Lord, it is because you don’t belong to Him. And all of us know that chastening of the Lord. And things that happen to God’s children, many times are things that in the permissive will of God correct us as with a rod, the chastening of the Lord. And when the affliction comes, search your soul, and search your heart, and search your life; is this a chastening from God?
Then another thing, illness comes sometimes for the glory of the Lord. “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9:1-2]. Is all sickness and illness a result of sin? Of course, the illness, the affliction that has come into this world, of course, is a matter of sin. The darkness, the sterility, the deserts, the hurt, the tears, all of it ultimately of course is because of sin. But is this particular illness, is this particular illness because of sin? “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? And Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” [John 9:2-3]. Sometimes our illness is for the glory of God. Sometimes we bear up under it for the glory of God.
Like Job. Like Job. God said, “Look at him, look at him. There is not a finer man in the world; there is not a greater Christian in the world, look at him” [Job 1:8, 2:3]. And the devil said, “But he, but he serves You for a price. Man,” said the devil, “it pays him to be a Christian. You have hedged him about [Job 1:10]; You have blessed him ten thousand ways, but You let me take away everything that he has, and You let me touch his body, just put my finger on him, and he will curse You to Your face” [Job 1:11, 2:5].
And the Lord said, “Why, why yes, take away everything that he has, and touch his body, only spare his life. Touch his body, and we will see whether he curses Me to My face” [Job 2:5-6]. And Satan took away everything Job had [Job 1:13-19], and Satan touched his body; and he was afflicted from the top of his head to the bottom of his foot with sore boils [Job 2:7]. And he sat in an ash heap, and cried in his misery and despair before God [Job 2:8].
But he never cursed the Lord. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. And God honored Job because of the great commitment of his life in affliction and in trial [John 42:10-17]. Sometimes the illness is for the glory of God [Job 9:2-3].
So, how shall I, how shall I do when I am sick? Where shall I turn? And how shall I take this illness? This above everything else; when I am sick, let me take myself to God. Let me take myself to God, and let me pray, and may the pastors of the church pray. “And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick” [James 5:15]. First, in God’s will, for we cannot interdict the universal mandate that we shall die. Somewhere, sometime, we shall die. Even the apostles did not have the promiscuous ability to heal the sick. “Trophimus have I left sick at Miletus” [2 Timothy 4:20], said Paul, when he was on his last journey to Rome. Take it to God in prayer. When Moses said, “O God, I have taken these people up to the Jordan River, let me go over. O God, please.” The Lord said, “Moses, come up here, beyond Nebo, come up here on these high plains of Moab, come up here, for thou shalt die, and not live. You are not going into that land, not now. You are going to die” [Deuteronomy 32:48-52].
And though he was in the strength of health, his eye was not dim, nor his physical strength abated, he went up there and died before the Lord [Deuteronomy 34:5-7]; though Moses pled with God, “O God, let me live, let me go into the land with these people” [Deuteronomy 3:25]. Yet God heard the prayer of Hezekiah, and said, “I will give him fifteen more years, fifteen more years” [Isaiah 38:1-5]. It is in the will of God, and we must pray in that will. “O God, in Thy will, if I can be made well, if I can be raised up, O God, please Lord”; ask the Lord. And if God wills, like Hezekiah, you shall be well [Isaiah 38:5]. If God wills, as Moses, “No, no, no,” says the Lord, “you are to die, and you are not to live” [Deuteronomy 3:25-28, 34:4-7].
But what if I linger in illness? What if I linger? Then I am to shine in my faith and my commitment for Jesus, for that is the way we glorify God. An infidel can sing in the daytime, anybody can rejoice in health and affluence, but how do you do when the dark day comes? How is it then? That is when it is to be a Christian; “In Thy will, Lord, in Thy will” [2 Corinthians 12:7-10].
The pastor of this church forty-seven years, George W. Truett, became seriously ill. He had tuberculosis of the bone and suffered immeasurably. For a solid year Dr. Truett lingered and suffered indescribably, God’s great servant. And as a youth, I was at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, and the president of the convention, the president of the convention was Pat Neff, and I shall never forget in the earth the hush over those thousands of people as the president of the convention said, “I have just come from the bedside of Dr. Truett. And I want to tell you what he said.” And Dr. Truett died in July. This was May. And he recounted to that great throng of people the quiet faith and commitment of the great pastor. And I sat there, as ten thousand others, and the tears just rolled off of my face as I listened to Pat Neff, president of Baylor, president of the convention, describe the marvelous Christian assurance and commitment of the great pastor in his terrible and excruciating and agonizing illness.
I was just a young man then; never dreamed that I’d ever be here in this sacred place, but oh, the encouragement and the faith in suffering. That’s God. And that’s God’s will for us, “Lord, if I can be well, O God, thank You for answered prayer. If I must be sick, and tarry in agony, and die in excruciating pain, Lord, give me that grace to bear up under it as a Christian should,” by which we glorify God.
There is so much more to be said. We will say it in other times and in other sermons. Brother Lee Roy, we must sing just one stanza before these people are dismissed. We’ve gone far beyond the time.
If today, to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], if today to put your life in the fellowship of the church, a couple, or a family, or one somebody, if God bids you come, make it now. When you stand up, stand up coming, and come down by me, while we stand and while we sing.