Thursday, March 09, 2006

Anointing with Oil - James 5

James 5:14-15 - "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..."

A quite popular interpretation among Baptists is that the oil here in James 5 refers to using medicine in conjunction with prayer. I see this as a pragmatic and possibly fright-driven interpretation -- because of faith healers and charismatics we flee to the opposite extreme.

I do not believe the oil here is application of medicine because: (1) it would make physicians of the elders; (2) it would recommend oil as a universal remedy for sicknesses; (3) it is the prayer, not the oil, that is credited with healing power; and (4) it is the Lord, not the oil, that raises the sick from his bed.

If so, how would this be practiced? James is not turning the church gathering into a charismatic healing meeting. "Let them call." If a believer calls for the elders, then the elders go and anoint with oil and pray over him/her. The symbolism of oil in the Bible is associated with the Holy Spirit and also setting apart.

What think ye?


Anonymous said...

I think you are quite correct that we tend to fear some practices because the other extremes.

The Plymouth Brethren believed in and practiced the application of oil in anointing the sick. The Origins of the Brethren, Dr. H.H. Rowden.

I used to take a small vial of olive oil for the purpose. Now that may be my Anglican upbringing, but I believe it is efficacious in healing, providing the scripture is followed; the ill person calls the elders.......

Again, you are correct, it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who does the healing. Sometimes I wonder if many of us have become academic in our Christian have not because ye ask not.....



JLS said...

We practice it over here in South MS and Southeast LA.
It can be a touching service. One thing about this that needs to be seen is the fact that the prayer of faith saves the sick....not the faith of the sick person as claimed by the "faith healers."
Another thing is to be seen in the fact that this is often misapplied so as to say that God will always heal when this service is observed. We still must deal with 1Jn 5:14,15 "if we ask anything according to His will, he heareth us" God is not manipulated by us in any way. We cannot demand anything of Him. That being so, there are times that it is not God's will to heal. When we observe this service, we are simply casting our case upon His mercy, grace, and wisdom, trusting Him to dispose of the matter in the way which will bring most glory to HIS NAME.
Jason L. Skipper

David White said...

Some United Baptists practice it, because they know that it is symbolism and a setting apart and some don't.

I have heard this question brought up about it: Do you dap some oil on the forehead or do you "anoint" the person like they anointed young David to be king?

Anonymous said...

You ought to read the article written by Elder Trott.
Hoyt Sparks

R. L. Vaughn said...

Elder Trott's thoughts may be found here:
Remarks on James 5:14-15

Also in Eld. Jeff Weaver's reprint of "History of American Baptists: Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia", there is historical mention of the practice.
Maryland Baptist book preview

In 1788, the Georgia Baptist Association answered the query, "Is that part of Scripture contained in James v. 14,15 a rule of duty to christians in these latter days?", by saying, "About two years ago we answered a Quere of the same import with this, in the affirmative, and we see no reason to recede from our former opinion."
History of the Georgia Baptist Association, p. 128

R. L. Vaughn said...

The Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1431 states: "Therefore, concerning this anointing of the sick, we hold it as an article of faith, and profess sincerely from the heart, that sick persons, when they ask it, may lawfully be anointed with the anointing oil, by one who joins with them in praying that it may be effective to the healing of the body, according to the pattern and end and effect mention by the Apostles: and we profess that such an anointing, performed according to the Apostolic pattern and practice, will be healing and profitable."

"I resolved to take no more physic, but would apply to that holy ordinance of God, appointed by Jesus Christ, the great Physician of value, in James 5:14...and I sent for Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Vavasor Powell, who prayed over me, and anointed me with oil in the name of the Lord. The Lord did hear prayer, and heal me; for there were many godly ministers and gracious saints that prayed day and night for me (WITH SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD), that the Lord would spare my life, and make me more serviceable to His Church, and to His saints, whose prayers God heard; and as an answer to their prayers I was perfectly healed, but remained weak long after." (Hansard Knollys, d. 1691; in "Baptist History," J.M. Cramp)

The Baptist preacher and historian, Morgan Edwards, records some fascinating events among the persecuted Baptists in the early American colonies. They believed James 5. For example: "Mr. Thomas left behind him the following remarkable note: 'I have been called upon three times to anoint the sick with oil for recovery. The effect was surprising in every case; but in none more so than in that of our brother, Rynallt Howell. He was so sore with the bruises of the wagon when he was anointed that he could not bear to be turned in bed otherwise than with the sheet; the next day he was so well that he went to meeting. I have often wondered that this rite is so much neglected, as the precept in so plain and the effects have been so salutary." (M. Edwards, "Materials Towards a History of American Baptists")

"Some years before his death he [pastor Hugh Davis] had a severe pain in his arm, which gradually wasted the limb and made life a burden. After trying many remedies he sent for the elders of the church to anoint him with oil, according to James v:14-17. The effect was a perfect cure, so far that the pain never returned....The present generation of Baptists in Pennsylvania and the several other colonies (German Baptists excepted) have somehow reasoned themselves out of this practice of anointing the sick for recovery, not believing that the same kind of reasoning would lead them to discontinue every positive rite....Our pious [Baptist] forefathers in this province practiced the rite frequently and successfully, as might be shown....The same may be said of the Baptists of Great Britain and Ireland." (M. Edwards, "Materials Towards a History of American Baptists")

Anonymous said...

Is the healing, after anointing with oil, because of the act of anointing with oil, or is it because we dared to believe God, and that's what the Lord was waiting for?

By the way, when I used oil, I simply poured a small amount on the forehead.



Rich said...

The anointing with oil carried a specific significance to the Jewish people. What was anointed had been dedicated/consecrated to the Lord. Thus, it would appear that the prayer to God for healing of those who were sick would carry with it the dedication of this person's life to God and His service. This would provide a legitimate reason to ask God to heal a person from their sickness and thus keep them in this world rather than taking them on to heaven. Within that context, the oil makes perfect sense. I've done it, but not because I believe a prayer "with oil" is more powerful than a prayer "without oil" as many Charismatic and even Baptists seem to believe.