James Chapter 5 Notes – Winterim with Dr. Moo

Here’s my notes on the last chapter of James (chapter 5) from my winterim class with Dr. Douglas Moo. You can download them in pdf format or view them in plain text here on the blog.

pdf_small.gif Download James Chapter 5 notes in PDF format here

Notes from the 2008 Winterim at the Master’s Seminary on James with Dr. Moo
by Nathan Wells

The Letter of


Chapter 5

The Structure of 5:1-6[NRW1] 

     1[NRW2]      Come now, you rich[NRW3] , weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.

     2     Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten.

     3     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 [NRW4] your treasure!

     4     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.

     5     You have lived luxuriously[NRW5]  on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

     6     You have condemned and put to death the righteous man[NRW6] ; he does not resist you.

Structure of 5:7-11[NRW7] 

     7     Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord[NRW8] . The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.

     8     You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

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

     10     As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

     11     We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome[NRW9]  of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

The Structure of 5:12-20[NRW10] 

     12[NRW11]      But above all[NRW12] , my brethren, do not swear[NRW13] , 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.

Sub-Point of 5:13-18

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

     14[NRW14]      Is anyone among you sick[NRW15] ? Then he must call for the elders [NRW16] of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing[NRW17]  him with oil[NRW18]  in the name of the Lord;

     15     and the prayer offered in faith will restore[NRW19]  the one who is sick[NRW20] [NRW21] , and the Lord will raise him up, and if[NRW22]  he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

     16     Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed[NRW23] . The effective prayer of a righteous man [NRW24] can accomplish much.

     17     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.

     18     Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

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

     20     let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death[NRW25]  and will cover a multitude of sins[NRW26] .


 [NRW1]A Christian Perspective on Wealth

Their Sin:

1.       A wrong attitude towards wealth vv. 2-3a

2.       A failure to “discern the times”

a.       “last days” v. 3b

b.       “day of slaughter” v. 5

3.       Withholding wages v. 4

4.       Persecuting “the righteous” / “the righteous one” v. 6

 [NRW2]James 5:1-11 reminds us of Psalm 37.

 [NRW3]It seems that James is speaking of non-Christian rich – because of the “miseries” connection in this verse.  James seems to be imitating the prophets here.

Economic Meaning: “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20


Theological Meaning “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3)

“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse” (Prov. 28:6)


Economic/Theological Meaning – This is Dr. Moo’s view – thinking that Jesus only spoke once and Matthew and Luke took the double meaning.

Calvin had it right: James “has a regard to the faithful, that they, hearing of the miserable end of the rich, might not envy their fortune, and also that knowing that God would be the avenger of the wrongs they suffered, they might with a calm and resigned mind bear them.”

 [NRW4]They [the rich] have saved things that have been of use to no one (rotted, rusted, etc).  And that they did so in “the last days” makes it even worse, for Christ could come back at any moment!  How especially foolish to be hording wealth! (see also: Sirach 29:9-11 and Luke 12:33)

 [NRW5]It seems that James is saying that it is sinful/displeasing to the Lord just to have a great amount of wealth when others around us do not.  Even though we do have Job as an example of a rich righteous man – most of the OT speaks of the rich in a negative light, as well as the fact that we live in the NT age, and things do change.  This is a very personal application – and something we should continue to struggle with in our hearts.

Don’t follow the easy, comfortable route “as long as I give my 10% I can do whatever I want, the rest is mine!”  That is NOT a NT view.

 [NRW6]Who is this?

TNIV “the innocent one”

Probably just a reference to those innocent poor who couldn’t defend themselves, not clearly Christ.


Word Study:

μακροθυμέω – “patience”

ὑπομονή – “endure”

These words in this context have some of the same meaning – there isn’t a reason to really distinguish between them or get some major point out of James’ use of them.

Again this shows the “already, not yet” concept, for while we are saved, we are called to patiently endure until the coming of the Lord.

 [NRW8]Or – “As you look for, as you wait for…” see parallel with v 8 and v 9 (“The coming of the Lord is near” – “the Judge is standing right at the door”) This does not mean that it would come quickly, but rather that the next event is Christ returning – it could happen at any time.  Also James focuses on both the positive and negative sides of Christ’s coming (that we would be rescued, and also that He will judge).

We are to look towards the coming of the Lord with eagerness, that we will be delivered on that day – with confidence, but at the same time, that we must realize that we are going to face Christ who is going to asses you, as far as what you have done with the gifts he has given you etc.


τέλος  “End”

The “end” or “climax” of the Lord’s life

The “end” or “climax” of the Lord’s ministry

The “end” or “outcome” that the Lord brought about (TNIV NASB NKJV)


The “purpose” of the Lord (ESV NRSV)


Consistency in speech v. 12

Community building (positive – prayer for each other vv. 13-18 and negative – restoring the sinful vv. 19-20)

 [NRW11]Maybe the clearest place in James where he is resting on the teaching of Jesus – Matthew 5:33-37

The concern is full truthfulness – again a “wholeness” 

 [NRW12]This is a key transitional phrase.  Dr. Moo, believes this section is the conclusion to the letter.

 [NRW13]Not really a good translation – probably “never take an oath” would be better (NLT)

 [NRW14]Is this spiritual weakness or physical illness?   We have a good sense of James’ background – using words as Jesus did, as well as his Jewish background.  So we should go to the gospels to see how language is used – because that is James’ world of thought.  Which leads to the view that James’ is talking about physical illness.

If all the English versions go one way, be very suspicious of a view that goes another way.

 [NRW15]ἀσθενέωcan also mean “weak” – 13 times “sick,” “ill” in the Gospels (and if spiritual, always “weak in spirit”

It also seems implicitly, seriously ill.

 [NRW16]Good evidence that elders were the norm even in the very early Church.

 [NRW17]Anoint with oil (Mark 6:13 – physical healing)

Note the verb: ἀλείφω

16 times used for physical purpose in OT

Mt. 6:17; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 7:38, 46; Jn. 11:2, 12:3 NT uses of physical purpose.

4 times used for ceremonial purpose in OT

Whereas χρίω  is used 75 times for ceremonial purpose in OT

And Metaphorical purpose in NT Lk. 4:18; Acts 4:27, 10:33

Why? Sacramental, Pastoral, Medicinal, Symbolic

Sacramental reads later tradition into this passage.

Pastoral – they want to show they care for the person (like we might hug someone today), but still it seems to be more than this.

If it were medicinal – why were the elders doing it? 

A doctor would have been called.  As well as the “in the name of the Lord”

Symbolic seems best.  So should we do this? Well, in James’ culture this was the action that signified something (maybe like greet one another with a holy kiss), whereas anointing with oil is not a common practice as it was then (even with non-Christians) but we should be careful here, because some go so far as to say that baptism was a symbol for their time, and what symbol should we use.

NOTE: that anointing with oil is subordinate to the praying, for James continues to speak on prayer – prayer works, not the oil.

 [NRW18]ἔλαιον  As a commodity and  in Healing in the NT

 [NRW19]σῴζω – can also mean “save” 28 times “deliver from physical distress” 28 times “deliver from spiritual distress but in combination with ἀσθενέω we would expect physical deliverance.

 [NRW20]Hebrews 12:3 – but here it explicitly tells us it is spiritual because it uses the word ψυχή

 [NRW21]This seems like a strong promise.  Will it be, that if we have enough faith we will be healed, and if we are not healed, it is because he don’t have enough faith?
It almost seems that this faith is not something we can work up to in James, but that faith is so tied up with the object of faith, that we cannot have this faith unless it is God’s will.

Remember James functions as wisdom literature, where promises are not absolute.

 [NRW22]This is important – “IF” sin has led to this illness then they will be forgiven.

NOT all sickness is because they personally sinned.

 [NRW23]In this discussion we need to recognize that even the best healing will only give us a few more years of life – it isn’t really that big of a deal in the big picture – a few more years down here, one way or another you are doing to die.

 [NRW24]Not necessarily a particularly “saintly” person, but someone that belongs to God, a Christian.  See James’ point in v. 17 “a man with a nature like ours”

 [NRW25]Clearly spiritual death – going to hell.  Sin if unchecked, if allowed to grow up, ultimately leads to death. James 1:15

 [NRW26]Whose sins?  Our sins, or the person we turn?  The text seems to be ambiguous – perhaps it is both.


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