Bible Study: James 5

James 5 outline notes used for Matt Slick’s Bible Study. The chapter deals with things to avoid.

Introduction to James
James Chapter 1
James Chapter 2
James Chapter 3
James Chapter 4


Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.
Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.
Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

You rich

James is addressing the rich, Jewish unbelievers.
They neglect the truth about their wealth. It comes from God. We ought to use our wealth for His glory (Lev. 1). Wealth is ultimately to help others (Lev. 19:18).
Verses against riches

Luke 6:24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.”
1 Tim. 6:9, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Verses for riches

Genesis 12:2, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;”
Genesis 13:2, “Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold.”

1 Chronicles 29:12, “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”

Are coming upon you

ἐπέρχομαι, epérchomai, present, middle or passive, participle. A present, ongoing action (participle) that is either being brought upon them by themselves or by others (middle, passive).

Riches have rotted

James is pointing out that their riches are filthy before God because they use them for selfish pleasures (vv. 5-6)

Gold and your silver have rusted

Pure gold and silver don’t rust. So, James is speaking of the peoples’ hearts who are idolatrous with their riches and how they have oppressed the weak (v. 4-6).

The last days

The phrase “the last day(s)” occurs 18 times in the Bible in the NASB. Isaiah 2:2; Jer. 23:20; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1; John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 7:37; 11:24; 12:48; Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3.

Jer. 23:20, “The anger of the Lord will not turn back Until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart. In the last days, you will clearly understand it.”
Hosea 3:5, “Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.”
John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 11:24, “Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.””
Acts 2:17, “And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.”
2 Tim. 3:1–5, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”

Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

Has been withheld by you

These wealthy Jews were not obeying the Old Testament law, which commanded that they pay their laborers before the sun sets.

Deut. 24:14–15, “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15 “You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it becomes sin in you.”

Cries out against you

The phrase “cries out” occurs 147 times in the Bible in the NASB.
Here it is used of a witness against the oppressors.
But the phrase occurs in other contexts. The land cries out (Job 31:38). The oppressed cry out (Job 35:9). Oppressors cry out but are not heard (Job 35:12; Micah 3:4). The righteous cry out and are delivered (Psalm 22:5; 107:6). The godly cry out to God in their prayers (Psalm 88:13; Isaiah 15:5; Ezek. 9:8). Wisdom cries out (Prov. 1:21; 8:3). Women cry out in labor pain (Isaiah 26:17). Jonah cried out prophetically (Jonah 3:4). People cried out for help (Matt. 9:27; 15:22). Jesus did not cry out for deliverance (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus cried out and gave up His spirit (Matt. 27:50).

You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

The ungodly rich have fattened themselves like animals. They use their riches for pleasure.
Remember, they are doing this at the expense of the poor (v. 4)

You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

The main thought is about the Jews who were dispersed in the Mediterranean area. These are the ones who are oppressing the poor.
Righteous man

James alludes to the righteous man, Jesus.
To put to death a righteous man whom you know is righteous is murder.
Acts 3:14, “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.”
Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.”

He does not resist you

The patience of the righteous is used by the wicked to their own advantage.
The same occurs today in our society when those who are rich and in power take advantage of the patience of the population and oppress them.

Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.
You, too, be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

The coming of the Lord

This judgment can be immediate or can be eschatological.
James now switches and addresses the righteous. He tells them to be patient, for judgment is coming from the Lord.
Mal. 4:5, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
1 Thess. 4:15, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
1 Thess. 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The coming of the Lord is near

1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
Full Preterism

Full Preterism states that most, if not all, of the prophetic events of Daniel, Matthew 24, and Luke 17 were fulfilled on or before 70 A.D.
Full preterism is refuted by Acts 1:9-11

Partial Preterism

Partial Preterism is the view that many of the things spoken of in Daniel, Matthew 24, and Luke 17 were fulfilled on or before 70 A.D. in a symbolic way. But they will also be fulfilled again at the return of Christ. In other words, they were not fulfilled in totality but will be later.

Strengthen your hearts

Build yourself up in the confidence of knowing God’s judgment is coming. Trust that the righteousness of Christ will prevail.

Do not complain, brethren, against one another so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.


Στενάζω, stenázō, present, active, imperative. It is present tense. Active voice means the subject is performing the action. The imperative is a command. This deals with verbs and what is called ‘mood.’

Indicative is a statement such as “He ate the apple.”
Interrogative is a question such as “Did he eat the apple?”
Imperative is a command such as “Eat!”
Conditional deals with possibilities such as “He might eat the apple,” or “He could eat the apple.”
Subjunctive deals with probabilities such as “If he ate the apple, he would be happy.”


Be wary of the harsh judgments of condemnation that we can weave into our complaints.
Harsh judgments can be murderous in intention.

Matt. 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

We will be judged as we judge others

Matt. 7:2, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

The Judge

Matt. 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
Matt. 25:31–33, “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”
Matt. 28:18, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
John 5:22, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,”

As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Example of suffering prophets

1 Kings 18:13, “Has it not been told to my master what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, that I hid a hundred prophets of the Lord by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water?”
2 Chron. 36:16, “but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy.”
Matt. 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Blessed who endured

It is a blessing to suffer for the sake of the Lord, whether that suffering is by direct persecution or patient endurance.
Matt. 5:10, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
1 Peter 3:14, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,”

Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Full of compassion

πολύσπλαγχνος polúsplagchnos. There is only one occurrence of the word in the N.T. Therefore, it is an hapax legomenon.
“compassion” is σπλαγχνίζομαι splagchnízomai and occurs 11 times in the N.T., only in the synoptic gospels (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:13, etc.)

Exodus 34:6, “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.’” (See also Psalm 103:8)

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

Do not swear by heaven or earth.

This is dealing with oaths and the integrity of our word.
The integrity of our word is related to the integrity of God’s word.
God covenanted within the Trinity for the redemption of mankind (Heb. 13:20; Eph. 1:4). A covenant is a pact or an agreement between two or more parties. It is, essentially, based on one’s word.
God said, “‘let there be light’ and there was light,” (Gen. 1:3).
The word of God became flesh (John 1:1, 14)
Therefore, because of who God is, we must state our hearts’ intentions and commit to yes or no.

With any other oath

What about swearing an oath in the military to uphold the Constitution or when doctors swear an oath to heal and not hurt?

Yes, we can do that.

James is speaking about casual swearing that was often done by the Jews. It is similar to taking the Lord’s name in vain today, where so many speak of Him casually and without meaning.
Matt. 5:36–37, “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.


James switches topics to suffering.
Those suffering physically, emotionally, or through persecution are to pray. We pray for support, comfort, deliverance, and healing. All of these are acts of faith wherein we trust God through our suffering.
Notice the contrast between suffering and being cheerful.

Sing Praises

ψάλλω psállō, to sing. Five occurrences in the N.T.: Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15 (2x); Eph. 5:19; James 5:13. The word for “psalms” is ψαλμός psalmós which occurs 7 times: Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col 3:16.
Praises = NASB, ESV, RSV, LEB, NIV
Psalms = KJV, NKJV
Singing praises generally is not associated with suffering.
However, those of us who are in Christ recognize that our sufferings for His namesake can bring us joy.

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;


ἀσθενέω asthenéō, 34 occurrences in the New Testament and is translated as sick (Matthew 10:8; Luke 4:40; Phil. 2:27, etc.) and weak (Rom. 14:2; 1 Cor. 8:11; 2 Cor 11:21, etc.)

Anointing him with oil

For the priesthood of Jesus (Exodus 29:7; Matt. 3:16; 1 John 2:27)

Exodus 29:7, “Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him.”
Matt. 3:16, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,”
1 John 2:27, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

Anointing of priests (Lev. 4:5; 6:22; 8:30; Num. 35:25), prophets (1 King 19:16), kings (1 Sam. 10:1)a pillar (Gen. 28:18; 31:13), altar (Exodus 29:36; 40:10), the tent of meeting (Exodus 30:26), the tabernacle (Exodus 40:9; Num. 7:1), the laver (Exodus 40:11)

It is not the ceremony that heals, but the thing which the ceremony represents: God’s anointing upon people.

and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

Prayer offered in faith

Faith is only as good as who you put it in.
The healing must be accompanied with faith

Heb. 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Mark 10:52, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.”
Luke 7:50, “And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’


κάμνω kámnō Two occurrences:  12:3 (‘not grow weary’) and James 5:15
This suggests that physical recovery can be hindered by fatigue and weariness of mind.

Sins will be forgiven

The involvement of the elders (v. 14), along with the anointing and the word for sick being kamno which can also deal with weariness, could mean that the afflicted are physically sick due to sin.
Calling the elders implies instruction since elders are to be able to teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:5–9). So, it is possible this is dealing with peoples’ sins that have led to spiritual oppression or physical sickness, either as a consequence of their own actions or as a discipline from God.
Prayer is often the means of healing both the body and the soul.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Confess your sins one to another

James is speaking either of the general practice of reconciliation between people or of confession before God.
This is not a support of auricular confession in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, where a person confesses his or her sins to a priest. Auricular means of the ear, hearing.

Effective prayer of a righteous man

The word ‘effective’ is ἐνεργέω energéō, from which we get ‘energy.’ The word occurs 21 times in the New Testament: work(s)(ed)(ing) (Matt. 14:2; 2 Thess. 2:7), effective (2 Cor. 1:6; James 5:16)
We are righteous in Christ (Rom. 3:28; 4:1-5; 5:1), so our prayers will be heard by God.
However, we must not abide in sin and also expect God to answer our prayers.

1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.


James points out that Elijah, who did miracles, is also a human being just like us.
The context of Elijah’s prayer was destroying the prophets of Baal and the Israelite idolatry.
The denial of rain was a severe punishment since rain is needed to produce crops.
God often disciplines his people by denying rain, food, security, etc.

Three years and six months

1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”
1 Kings 18:1, “Now it happened after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’”

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,

The truth

This refers to God’s establishment and deliverance of the Jewish nation over many centuries, as well as the revelation of the person and work of Jesus in the gospel.

Gal. 2:14, “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Eph. 1:13, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,”

Turns him back

Christians are expected to work with those who stray from the truth, teach them the truth, and pray for them so that they might repent.

let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Save his soul

We are said to save people, though we know it is not us but God in us and through us.
The “salvation” is from the eternal judgment of God in condemnation.
This means that though God is the one who is in control, we are also freely able to affect the people around us through the preaching of the gospel, the council of wisdom, and the prayer of intercession.

Cover a multitude of sins

Some think that the person who leads another to Christ or to repentance will save his own soul through such action. But this is not the case.
“Will save his soul” refers to the sinner to whom the gospel of repentance is preached.

We are instruments in the hand of the Lord and can be used to turn sinners from their error. So, pray that you will be used by God to help others come to know Him.

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