Summary: James teaches Christians that they are to pray and confess their sins and he also gives the promise of an effectual fervent prayer receiving great results.
1. Open your bibles to James 5:16.
2. In this verse James teaches Christians some very important things about sins and prayers.
3. No Christian can live without committing sin on occasions and no Christian should ever go through any day without going to God in prayer.
4. Again, James is teaching Christians about two very important subjects.
5. Let’s begin our study of sin and of prayer.
I. FIRST, JAMES 5:16a, TEACHES THAT CHRISTIANS CAN BE HEALED THROUGH CONFESSION AND PRAYER.
1. Let’s read James 5:16a, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
(1) The word “trespasses” is in the NKJV.
(2) In the KJV it is translated “faults”. It is translated “sins” in the ASV.
2. We have a question. Is the last part of verse 16a referring to the healing of the body, as in verses 14-15? Or is it the healing of the soul? Is it referring to forgiveness of sins?
(1) Our answer: Since the first part of the first phrase of verse sixteen is referring to the confessing of sins; it seems obvious that the second part of the first phrase of verse sixteen is referring to spiritual healing, not to physical healing.
(2) Look at verse 16 closely. The problem being discussed in the first part of v. 16 is the guilt of sin. James is teaching that when the guilty one confesses their sin, then prayer is to be made in his or her behalf relating to that sin, not a prayer relating to them being physically sick .
3. The word translated healed is the Greek word iaomai and means ‘to heal, cure, revive, to recover.’ In some passages the word refers to physical healing, but then in other passages the context bears out that it refers to spiritual healing. The statements in James 5:16 emphasize that it would refer to spiritual healing.
4. Let’s read a couple of passages that use the Greek word in reference to spiritual healing.
(1) Turn and let’s read Matt. 13:15. Here, Jesus quotes Isaiah. In another N. T. passage Paul quotes the same passage from Isaiah and both Jesus and Paul use the word “heal” in reference to spiritual healing. Let’s read Matt. 13:15, “15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” Jesus is referring to spiritual healing.
(2) Turn and let’s read 1 Peter 2:24. Here, Peter uses the word “healed” in reference to spiritual healing that comes through Christ’s death on the cross. “24 who Himself (Christ) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” Peter is referring to spiritual healing.
5. James 5:16a, I believe uses the word “healed” in reference to being forgiven of our sins.
II. SECOND, JAMES 5:16a TEACHES THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD CONFESS THEIR SINS TO OTHER CHRISTIANS AND THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER.
1. Let’s again, read James 5:16a, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
(1) As we said a moment ago, the word “trespasses” is used in the NKJV.
(2) In the KJV the word “faults” is used. In the ASV the word “sins” is used.
2. James is teaching that God has a condition for receiving forgiveness of sins for the child of God that has committed a sin or sins.
(1) Turn to 1 John 1:9. What John says is very much the same as what James says. Let’s read 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(2) When we combine the teaching of James and John we learn that sins ought to be confessed as publicly as the sin is known to others.
(3) God knows about each and every sin, even the secret sins. If God is the only one who knows about a sin that we have committed, then it is only necessary to confess that sin to God.
(4) If people in a general know about a sin or sins that we have committed then we should confess that sin in a public manner. If only two or three know about the sin, then it should only be confessed to that two or three.
(5) If the number who know about the sin or sins is a large number we would not need to necessarily, physically, go to each one personally, but the public confession could be made at the services of the church.