Back to Back Issues Page
Wordwise Insight, Issue #020 -- discipleship, healing, babies in heaven
August 14, 2006

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS. The Cradle and the Cross, Some..., Faithful Sayings, plus a new study introduced on discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles

READER Q & A. An explanation of divine healing in James Chapter 5


NEWS & REVIEWS. Heaven for Those Who Can't Believe


It should continue to fill us with wonder that God the Son humbled Himself to take on our humanity (Jn. 1:14), and that He further allowed Himself to be beaten and crucified by sinful human beings (Jn. 10:17-18). Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Who can be astonished at anything when he has once been astonished at the manger and the cross?” Those two stunning events are the pillars of God’s great work of salvation through His Son. They are brought together in a number of texts. For example:

Gal. 4:4-5. “God sent forth His Son, redeem.”

Phil. 2:7-8. “[Christ Jesus] coming in the likeness of men...became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Ponder these amazing truths, and you will likely come upon one more: What an amazing thing that the Lord would do all this to save me!

In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul refers several times to what “some” are doing. Certain ones were a concern to Paul because they had turned aside from the truth. Timothy is urged to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1:3). For error to creep into the church, it only takes some. Taken together the references yield the SUM of apostasy.

1:6 - “Some having strayed...”

1:19 - Some...concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”

4:1 - “Some will depart from the faith.”

5:15 - “Some have already turned aside after Satan.”

5:24 - “Some men’s sins are clearly evident...those of some men follow after.”

6:10 - “Some have strayed from the faith in their greediness.”

6:21 - “Some have strayed concerning the faith.”

In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul identifies certain statements as “faithful sayings.” Not that the rest of what he said was unreliable! It was a way of marking specific points for special emphasis.

I Tim. 1:15 - Christ came to save sinners

I Tim. 3:1 - Pastoral ministry is good work

I Tim. 4:8-9 - Godliness brings eternal rewards

II Tim. 2:11 - The resurrection is certain

Tit. 3:8 - The believer’s good works are profitable

On the website there is a new article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.

THE DA VINCI CODE is often in the news these days. The novel by Dan Brown claims to be based on fact. Is it? Check out the resources in this newsletter, as well as the following article The Da Vinci Code.


Question: What is the meaning of James’s instruction on healing in James Chapter 5? And is this a practice we can still use today?

Answer: The passage in question says: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone 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 will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5:13-16, NKJV).

These verses have been much debated. That being so, it is amazing how some can be so dogmatic and definite about their meaning. Among the many interpretations and applications:

¤ Some see this as a universal mode of receiving bodily healing that has been given to the church for the entire Church Age, and they continue to make use of the practice today.

¤ Others see it as being addressed to the Jews during the time of transition between the old order and the new. (As such, it would be a continuing fulfilment of God’s ancient covenant with Israel, Exod. 15:26). In support of this view, the epistle likely dates very early in the Christian era, from about 15 years after Pentecost. Perhaps the practice faded into disuse with the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles, and the end of the Apostolic Era around 100 A.D. It is never mentioned again in the New Testament.

¤ The Church of Rome uses this passage to defend Extreme Unction, an anointing given to those who are dangerously ill, with the hope that through the anointing and prayers of the priest, renewed health might be given to the soul and to the body.

¤ Still others see it as applicable only to sickness that is a chastening from the Lord when a Christian sins, with healing available when believing prayer is accompanied by repentance and confession. (Note the references to sin and confession in vs. 15-16.) In favour of this view, the church leaders who are summoned could be there to counsel, and deal with the spiritual need of the individual before praying for healing.

¤ Then there are some who see the oil of vs. 14 as representing medicine. They interpret James as saying we are to use medical means, and prayer, when people are sick. This is certainly a common sense approach, whether or not the passage means that.

¤ Some consider the “sickness” spoken of as soul-sickness and despair, not physical illness. Harry Ironside rendered the phrase “save the sick” as “relieve the exhausted.” (See the Bible Knowledge Commentary for an extensive discussion of this position.)

Several of these views have things to recommend them. What then are we to do with the passage? It is perhaps suggestive that Paul and the other New Testament writers make no mention of this procedure later on. Nor does Paul suggest that the sick call for someone with the gift of healing. Help for the physically ill is downplayed, as is the miraculous, in the epistles. This is in keeping with the limited need for the apostolic sign gifts. With time, the New Testament message and the messengers were thoroughly authenticated (II Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3-4; cf. Acts 2:22).

God can and does act supernaturally to heal from time to time, beyond natural means. But it is surely wrong to demand that He intervene, or to expect that He will always do so. Prayer within the will of God (Jas. 4:15; I Jn. 5:14) is efficacious. But the prayer of faith does not involve twisting the arm of Omnipotence, but abandoning one’s self to sovereign grace. In the area of healing, as in other things, God retains His Lordship. No set formula or pattern will result in a miracle, apart from the will of God. It would save much discouragement if we would accept the fact that there are occasions when God chooses not to heal, for His own wise and loving purpose.

The New Unger’s Bible Handbook states: “The sick believer was to call for the elders [plural] of the assembly, never one elder. The use of oil for anointing the sick was a general Jewish practice, as shown by the Talmud, and a Jewish custom the Lord’s disciples adopted (Mk. 6:13). However, the emphasis is not on the oil, but on the prayer offered in faith which saves the sick. Such a prayer is divinely given and operates when it is God’s will to heal. Chastening, testing, and other factors condition the Lord’s healing of a Christian’s sickness (cf. I Cor. 11:30-32; II Cor. 12:7-9; I Tim. 5:23; I Tim. 4:20).”

This procedure is meant for Christians in a local body of believers, as phrases such as “among you” and “one another” show. And the responsibility is on the sick individual to summon the leaders of the local church to pray for him or her. The implication is that this leads to a private meeting in the home (or hospital), not an event open to the public eye. There is nothing in this passage to justify a "faith healer" coming to town with great fanfare and inviting any and all to come to him for healing.

There are three main means the Lord has provided for the restoration of physical health. 1) When the Lord heals, it is most often through the mechanisms He as our Creator has built into our bodies. With proper rest and nourishment, the body will often heal itself in time. 2) Doctors and medicine are a gift of God to be used when they are needed. It is not lacking in faith to avail ourselves of what God has provided! In 1871, Charles Kingsley wrote a dedication poem for the opening of a new wing in a Birmingham hospital. It has become a hymn which says, “From Thee all skill and science flow, / All pity, care, and love...” 3) There are times when God intervenes to heal beyond natural or medical means. This is usually in answer to believing prayer. But it does not necessarily involve the presence and anointing of the leaders of the local church.

Bottom line: It would seem the summoning of the elders and the use of oil are optional today. We can pray for the sick without this procedure, but on the other hand it can be used by those who desire it without violating Scripture.

BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


This is a simple idea, but it is worth trying. One time we had a family visit our church. They all seemed to enjoy the service, but afterward the daughter said, “This church sings so much they should provide water bottles in the pews!” We all laughed at that, but the comment stuck with me. Recently (in another church) we had a Sunday afternoon Hymn Sing. The weather was hot, but we were prepared for that. I told the story of young Natalie’s observation and said, “Guess what. That’s exactly what we are going to do!” With that, a couple of our men came down the aisle with small chilled bottles of water which were distributed to anyone who wanted one. It brought a laugh, but it also served a good purpose. Perhaps you worship in air conditioned comfort. We do not. A refreshing drink of water was just the thing to add more zest to the singing on that warm afternoon.

2) The best Bible study tool ever! At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

3) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

4) Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


One of the most painful trials for a father and mother is to experience the death of a child. Perhaps it is through illness, or an accident, or someone's evil act, but the end result is that a young life, full of potential, is wrenched from the family circle. But then the question comes: where is the child now? If he or she was not yet old enough to understand the gospel, and receive Christ as Saviour, is the child saved? Christian parents need to be assured that the little one is with the Saviour–not merely by a sentimental wish or maybe, but on firm biblical grounds.

There is an excellent book on this theme called Heaven for Those Who Can’t Believe. The book, written by Dr. Robert Lightner, was published thirty years ago by the Regular Baptist Press. In it he provides a thorough examination of the Scriptures that have a bearing on this theme. He also deals with “related questions” such as: What is the age of accountability? What are infants like in heaven? What about infant baptism? and so on. This 64 page book will give a pastor or concerned friend much valuable information to comfort and encourage those who are sorrowing.

The only problem is, the book is no longer in print. (Those in ministry will recognize this frequent frustration!) At this time there are used copies available through Amazon. And I contacted Regular Baptist Press and they are giving serious consideration to reprinting this valuable work.

If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
Back to Back Issues Page