Book Review: Grant Osborne, Luke: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R.  Luke: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 647 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

This commentary by the late Grant Osborne on Luke completes the first additions to the series from Lexham Press. The series has been published simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions.  For reviews of previous volumes, see John, Acts, Romans, Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, Prison Epistles, James, and Revelation.

Osborne Verse-by-Verse Commentary LikeIn the twenty-one page introduction to the commentary Osborne expresses traditional and conservative views with respect to authorship and date of the book. The author is Paul’s companion Luke the physician and he wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. After briefly surveying the options Osborne proposes the gospel was written from Rome A.D. 60-62. He also mentions briefly he will argue for a mid 50s A.D. date for the Gospel of Mark in a forthcoming commentary in this series. The dating is important because Osborne accepts the consensus “four-source hypothesis” for Luke’s sources. Even though he does not think there is evidence the sayings source Q was a written document, he thins the common material between Matthew and Luke represents an oral tradition. Respect to the purpose of the Gospel of Luke, Osborne argues the gospel was written to encourage believers to know they are part of a divine movement that is bringing God’s reign into this world. In addition, Luke wanted to convince unbelievers that Christ is truly the Lord and Savior of this world.

Osborne then offers a few brief comments on the major theological themes of the book. With perspective salvation, Jesus is saving purpose is evident from the very beginning of the gospel in the birth narratives. This theme of salvation is summed up in Luke 24:47, “repentance for forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all the nations.” In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is the son of the most high God and he will inherit David’s throne. For this reason, Luke emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus. As most commentaries on Luke point out, and emphasis on the Holy Spirit connects the Gospel to the Book of Acts. In addition to these theological themes,

Osborne includes a brief section on Luke’s view of the marginalized. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah 61 to show the Spirit anointed Jesus to “proclaim good news to the poor” and liberate the oppressed. For Osborne statement sets up a “pattern of social concern for the entire gospel” (19). Osborne returns to this theme when commenting on Luke’s beatitudes (6:20-23). He explains the eschatological reversal in these sayings concerning the rich and the poor. However, he is also quick to say that Luke does not condemn all of the rich. There are in fact wealthy followers of Jesus like Zacchaeus and Joseph of Arimathea. Osborne suggests that they understand their wealth is a gift from God and they use that wealth to serve God (171).

Osborne includes Luke’s well-known emphasis on women as part of his emphasis on the marginalized. This is illustrated in the story of the woman washing Jesus’s feet and wiping them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Husband points out that she is the example of God’s grace and acceptance, not the male religious leader the Pharisee (210). He comments that “the women had a deep involvement in the ministry and mission team. As patrons they would have had some kind of leadership role, for patrons were at the core of the Roman socioeconomic system” (214). Later in the commentary he suggests that the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection were among the women who followed him in Galilee (541).

With respect to the Olivet discourse, Osborne sees Luke’s version slightly differently than Matthew 24 and Mark 13. In those chapters, Osborne believes that the destruction of Jerusalem is in anticipation of the return of Christ and the great tribulation. “Luke however centers entirely on the former” (485). For Osborne, the apocalyptic discourse in 21:5-38 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Whatever, this is not to say that Osborne does not believe in the return of Jesus. He takes 21:25-28 as referring to the second coming of Jesus.

As with the other commentaries in this series, the commentary is based on the English text, with occasional comments on the underlying Greek. Osborne does not include any footnotes to other commentaries or contemporary literature, and he only rarely enters into exegetical debates with other literature. That is not the purpose of this commentary series. Osborne’s intention in the Verse-by-Verse Commentary series is to serve pastors and teachers who are preparing sermons and Bible Studies on Gospel of Luke. Even though this commentary is over 600 pages, most scholars will find it too brief. Most Bible readers will find this commentary to be an excellent guide as they read Luke’s Gospel.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: Grant Osborne, James: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R.  James: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 204 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press    Link to Logos Version

The latest addition to the series of verse-by-verse commentaries by the late Grant Osborne is the Book of Acts. Lexham Press publishes this series simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions. Eleven commentaries are now published or announced: Luke, John, Romans, Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, Philippians, 1-2 Thessalonians and  Revelation.

James is an unusual book in the New Testament. Although it is one of the most popular book for personal and group Bible Studies, it has not always enjoyed this status. For most Christians today the letter is very clear and practical. But as is well known, Luther called the letter an “epistle of straw” since it lacked a clear Christology and seemed to contradict Paul.

For Osborne, James is the earliest letter in the New Testament, dating to the mid-40s. In the twenty-page introduction to the commentary he argues in favor of the common tradition that James the brother of Jesus wrote the letter. Although James is an example of early Jewish Christianity, James is not a Judaizer nor is there any conflict with Paul’s gospel as presented in Galatians and Romans. By dating the letter so early, Osborne is able to argue James wrote before the Pauline mission to the Gentiles began. It is therefore impossible for him to be addressing a perversion of the Pauline Gospel.

Osborne takes the address of the letter literally, the twelve tribes in diaspora refers to Jewish Christian who are facing oppression from “ungodly land owners.” Some commentaries on James suggest the oppressors are (early) zealots in Galilee, but Osborne does not detect any hint of the rebellion against Rome in the book. He suggests James sent the letter to Jewish Christian synagogues in Syrian Antioch or Asia Minor.

With respect to genre, the book is similar to both wisdom literature and a homily (paraenesis, like a synagogue sermon). He does not spend much time on genre and ultimately does not settle on one form for the book. Writes such as Martin Dibelius argue the book was a loose collection of isolated ethical meditations, others have developed an outline which reflects several topics (suffering, poverty and wealth, speech). These themes are introduced in James 1:2-11 and cycle through the book. Osborne sees the book structured like Matthew, in a series of triads (10). In his short summary of the theology of the letter, Osborne comments on God as the central theme, but also trials, eschatology (future judgment), wealth and poverty, wisdom and practical Christianity, speech and Law and Grace.

This last point is one of the main issues commentators on James must address. Does James’s statement “faith without works is dead” assume Paul’s gospel of salvation apart from the works of the Law? In his comments on James 2:1-17 Osborne dismisses the possibility James is responding to Paul (or as he says, some perversion of Paul’s gospel) primarily on the basis of his argument the letter was written in the mid-40s, before Paul’s mission to the Gentiles began. This assumes Paul did not preach a law-free gospel before Acts 13-14 (the first time Luke describes his gentile mission). However, it is entirely possible Paul did preach to gentiles prior to the late 40s, and it is likely he gentiles the same thing he would later teach the gentiles in Galatia. In addition, James’s words are so close to the later Pauline formulation it is hard to imagine he does not have a Pauline theology in mind. Although I agree with Osborne, the letter of James written before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, it is more likely he has some report of Paul’s law-free Gospel in mind in James 2:14-17. Like most evangelicals who offer a solution to this problem, Osborne suggests James and Paul are looking at two sides of justification: Paul addresses regeneration and James addresses “the Christian life and professing faith” (84).

Although the letter has little Christology, Osborne points out many examples of the use of a Jesus tradition. For example, commenting on James 1:12, Osborne alludes to the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Commenting on promised rewards in 1:12, he alludes to the Sermon on the Mount, especially the “meek shall inherit the earth” (39). The teaching of Jesus is assumed in the letter, even if it is not directly cited as the teaching of Jesus. He frequently draws parallels to the teaching of Jesus in the body of the commentary although there is no discussion of what James’s sources were.

Like other commentaries in this series, Osborne’s exposition is based on the English text with rare comments on specific Greek words when necessary. As the title suggests, he comments on each verse by offering light explanations of the text. He does not interact with other commentaries and scholarly literature, although he is clearly informed by them. This make for a distraction-free the commentary which is enjoyable to read.

Conclusion. As Osborne suggests, “if you can’t preach James, you can’t preach” (20). The same is true for writing a Bible-study oriented commentary on James. This Verse-by-Verse Commentary will serve pastors and teachers as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible, but will also be a guide for laypeople as they read through James.

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Acts 21 – James and the Law

I am still thinking about James, especially as he appears in Acts 21.  While this might seem a bit afield from Acts and Pauline theology, I think that James is a bit of a window into why Paul’s gospel was so radical in the first century, especially his declaration that Gentiles are saved apart from the Law.

James the JustJames seems to represent a Jewish Christianity which continues to keep the Law in a way that fulfills Matthew 5:20.  If one was to be a part of the kingdom of God, then one kept the whole Law.  The idea that the people of God need to be absolutely Holy when the messiah comes is found at Qumran.  The people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls seemed to have lived in a state of Temple Purity all of the time, a state which the priest who was serving in the Temple had to maintain.  Even the Pharisees maintained a higher level of purity than was required by the Law, although this may not have been in anticipation of the kingdom.

It is possible that the emphasis on circumcision and food laws which were so troublesome in the Galatian churches is a result of the Second Temple period emphasis on Works of the Law, boundary markers which defined who was a Jew and who was not.

Using the book of Acts and the letter James wrote, we can see that James was associated with the most Jewish form of Christianity which remained based in Jerusalem.  In Acts 15 James leads a church which includes Pharisees and priests (probably the same people, many priests were also Pharisees).  Like Paul, these men came to understand that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would return soon to judge the world and Israel and establish the Kingdom of God in Jerusalem.

There was a broad range of views on the status of the Gentiles in the coming kingdom in the Second Temple period.  For the most part, the gentiles would either be converted and included in that kingdom, or judged and excluded from that kingdom.  Some Jews thought there would be more or less mass conversions, but on the other end of the extreme, few if any gentiles would be converted (and probably most Jews would be excluded!)

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem in Acts 21, the issue James raises has to do with Paul’s keeping of the Law.  Some in Jerusalem think that Paul has left Judaism and no longer keeps the Law.  So even at this late date, James represents a group in Jerusalem who are Christians, but are keeping the Law.

Was Law a requirement for salvation for the Jewish believers in Jesus?  Probably not, although it is inconceivable to this group that there would be Jews who did not want to keep the Law.  Keeping the Law is the only possible response to the grace which God has given – how could you not demonstrate your justification by doing the things which God requires?  By way of analogy, there are many Baptist churches which would agree that baptism is not a requirement for salvation, but it is inconceivable that anyone who was truly a Christian would not get baptized. It is simply the natural thing to do, if you have become a Christian.  So too the Law, if you were a Jewish believer, you simply did the Law because it was the proper response to God’s grace.

Back to Paul.  I think that Paul would agree with James on Jewish use of the Law.  Where he differed (radically) was that Gentiles did not convert to Judaism in order to be “right with God,” and therefore were not required to do the Law.  James, on the other hand, likely though that Gentiles were in fact converting to Judaism, or at the very least ought to be under the sojourner laws while living in The Land (the point of Acts 15).

Acts 21 – Paul vs. James

Paul and JamesWhen Paul arrives in Jerusalem, he meets with “James and the Elders.”  As it turns out, there are many Jews in Jerusalem who believe Jesus is the Messiah yet are still following the Law (21:20).  This is not unexpected since Jesus said he did not come to destroy the Law nor did Jesus ever teach his disciples to reject the Law or Temple worship. Jesus did reject the traditions of the Pharisees, but he lived as any Jew might have in the first century. It is better to see Jesus calling his disciples to a deeper engagement with the Law. In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Jesus wants his followers to obey not only the letter, but also the spirit of the Law.

James, the Lord’s Brother, has emerged as a leader in the Jerusalem church. When Paul arrives he gives a report (ἐξηγέομαι) of how God is working among the Gentiles. While the elders of the community rejoice and praise God for this, James moves quickly from what God is going among the Gentiles to a potential problem with Paul’s missionary activity. James describes the Jerusalem church as very large, the NIV has “thousands,” translating the Greek “myriads” (μυριάς). While this might seem like hyperbole, several thousand people accepted the apostolic teaching in Acts 2 and 3. It is likely additional converts in the many years that have passed and there are still a large number of Jesus-followers in and around Jerusalem at this time.

There are some among this Jewish Christian community who think that Paul has made a grace error by teaching Jews who have accepted Jesus as Messiah to turn away from the Law (v. 21).  Certainly Paul taught Gentiles they were not under the law. The letter to the Galatians is a strong condemnation of Gentiles trying to keep the Law.

With respect to Jews who are in Christ, there is no specific text which clearly indicates Paul told Jews to continue keeping the law and traditions of Israel. It may or may not be the case that Paul considered ceremonial law and traditions matters of indifference.

Ben Witherington thinks it is at least possible Paul considered traditional Jewish practices as no longer required in the present age. Galatians could be read as a repudiation of the Law, although it seems that Paul only has in mind Gentile converts. But this may be the heart of the problem: the church Paul has created is something new and different.  People are converting to a belief in Jesus as savior apart from Law rather than converting to Judaism or converting to a particular messianic conviction within Judaism (Acts, 648).

If members of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem had read Galatians, they may have wondered if Paul had rejected the Law himself. If rumors of his “all things to all men” ministry model reached Jerusalem, then it is likely there were Jewish Christians who thought Paul has gone too far in his desire to reach the Gentiles.

Luke certainly describes James and the Elders as polite and welcoming, but there are lingering questions about Paul’s ministry method. Luke does not create an artificial unity here, he reports a real tension in the early church over a critically important issue, the status of Gentiles in the church as well as the role of the Law.

To what extent do these two issues continue to be a problem in Acts and Paul’s letters? Is this tension still a problem in the modern church, even after the Reformation?

Acts 12:17 – Where Does Peter Go?

After he is miraculously released from prison, Peter goes to the home of Mary and her son John Mark. This seems to have been a larger home where people have gather to pray for him. While Peter had no problems getting out of the prison, he has some (humorous) trouble getting into the house where Christians are praying for him! (For this story as Greco-Roman Comedy, see J. Albert Harrill, “The Dramatic Function Of The Running Slave Rhoda (Acts 12.13-16) : A Piece Of Greco-Roman Comedy.” New Testament Studies 46.1 (2000): 150-157.)

No, not this one.

No, not this one.

Peter reports to this group what has happened (12:16-17). The scene inside the house is of chaos. Everyone is asking the same question: How did Peter get out of prison? Did he deny the Lord (again)?  He explains to the group how the Lord rescued him. Peter tells the group to report to James what had happened. This request is unexpected at this point in Acts. The reader is not aware that James, the Lord’s brother is a believer. James will, however, become one of the major leaders of the Jerusalem church by Acts 15.

Jesus’ brothers did not believe he was the messiah during his ministry, but after the resurrection at least James and Jude come to understand what Jesus was. Paul reports a tradition 1 Cor 15:3-5 that Jesus appeared his brother James at some point.  This may be a kind of commissioning to ministry since the other two named people on this list (Peter and Paul) are commissioned to a particular ministry. In church history, James has a reputation for being an extremely zealous Jewish believer and a leader among the Pharisees and priests who accepted Jesus (cf. Acts 21:18-25).

After asking for the group to inform James, Peter goes “to another place” (v. 17). This is rather non-specific way to conclude a series of stories about Peter, almost like “riding off into the sunset” at the end of an old movie. There are several possibilities for understanding the phase. First, it might mean Peter simply went to another location in Jerusalem. If he remained in Mary’s home, she could have been in danger for harboring a fugitive. Second, Peter may have left the region, out of Herod Agrippa’s jurisdiction, Keener suggests out of Palestine (2:1952). Third, a traditional view is Peter began travelling as a missionary like Paul will in the next chapter. This might take him as far as Corinth (1 Cor 9:5), Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1) and possibly Rome. This tradition comes from Eusebius (H.E. 2.14.5). But since he is in Jerusalem in Acts 15, he does not seem to have gone far. Perhaps he only returned to the coastal plain and Caesarea, within easy travel of Jerusalem and later made Pauline-like missionary tours.

Fourth, some scholars see this as an indication of a shift in leadership in the Jerusalem community from Peter to James. Luke does have a tendency to briefly introduce characters who will be important later in the story, so there may be simply literary device like foreshadowing. It is fascinating to observe Peter’s absence from the book of Acts after this point, in contrast to James’ importance in chapters 15 and 21. James is not an apostle, but he does seem to be the leader of the Jerusalem community from this point forward.

It is also significant there is no effort to replace James the son of Zebedee after he is killed.  On the one hand, it is at least 13 years after the resurrection, so the pool of individuals who could be witnesses from John the Baptist through the resurrection is diminishing. Even James the brother of Jesus does not qualify as a witness under those requirements!

All this seems to point toward a dramatic shift in the Luke’s story. He is concluding the first major movement of the book and preparing for Paul’s mission to the Gentiles in chapter 13.

Trash

What To Do with the One Who Wanders – James 5:19-20

The final lines of this letter address a Christian who has “wandered from the truth.” Does this mean this brother has completely rejected the Gospel? In English, wandering has the sense of random meandering away from where you are supposed to be, perhaps aimlessness. But the Greek word translated “wander” (πλανάω) can have the connotation of deception. This brother could be misled by another, perhaps even a teacher or elder.

But the verb appears in Matthew 18:12-13, a sheep who wanders away from the sheepfold. It is also used consistently in the Old Testament for the apostasy of the nation of Israel. If the nation are the sheep of God’s pasture, then their persistent sin and rebellion is like a sheep wandering out of the safety of the pasture, putting them in danger from predators.

The truth can refer to doctrine and practice, but it is not specific (i.e., the truth of the Gospel, the truth of Jesus as God, etc.) In a contemporary context, this is more than someone leaving our church and attending another, or shifting from a Calvinist to Arminian view of salvation, or any other doctrine within the larger world of Christianity.

Whatever the truth refers to, it is possible for another to restore the wandering brother to fellowship. James is addressing the responsibility of the one who has not wandered to restore those who have wandered,

If the tensions between Jewish Christians and the wealthy aristocracy are in the background of the letter, then perhaps the “wandering” James has in mind is a return to the synagogue, perhaps even a rejection of Jesus as the messiah. Remember the congregations to which James is writing are small Jewish Christian messianic communities which have not gone very far from the synagogue. It is possible pressure from non-Christians Jews have convinced some to worship in the synagogues and keep their belief in Jesus as Messiah secret.

James is speaking hypothetically, but this kind of defection from the faith was always a possibility for Jewish Christians. The grammar of the passage is a third-class condition. Whatever the case, James does not think any have actually wandered away from the truth, but if that should happen, they can be brought back. James says the one who brings back the wandering sinner “saves his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Does this refer to the wanderer, or the one who restores the wanderer?

The problem for the modern reader is how we treat those who have serious questions about their faith or how they live out their faith in the world. It is very easy to write-off a person who has wandered from their faith, those who appear to have rejected the core doctrines or now participate in behaviors we “insiders” consider sinful.

Perhaps it is best to return to the first of the commands in this paragraph, “If someone has wandered away, pray for them to be restored to fellowship.” But we ought to pray four our own sensitivity and grace toward those who have wandered in order to win them back.

Praying for the Sick – James 5:13-15

James 5:13-18 briefly mentions several kinds of prayers for those who are suffering or rejoicing (5:13). Those who are suffering ought to pray. The verb James used for suffering (κακοπαθέω) is rare in the New Testament. Paul used the word in 1 Tim 2:9 to describe his own suffering, bound in chains like a criminal. In 2 Tim 4:5 it is one of the final commands to Timothy (endure hardship). This is not necessarily that people being oppressed by outsiders (such as the wealthy of the previous section). This word can refer to any sort of affliction (even the sickness in verse 14).

Image result for anoint the sick with oilAlthough the verb is the common word for prayer, James makes a clear parallel with “cheerful singing” in the next line. It is at least possible James wants the one who is suffering to pray a lament Psalms. There are many examples of prayers in the Psalms where the writer is lamenting because of suffering and oppression.

In contrast, the cheerful ought to “sing praise.” The verb “be cheerful” (εὐθυμέω) and the related nouns have the sense of “in good spirits” (BDAG), as in Acts 27:22, 25, 36 where Paul encourages those about to be shipwrecked to “take heart.” This word does not refer to someone who is bubbly and happy, but rather someone who may be suffering but rejoices anyway. In James, the readers all seem to be suffer in some way.

Although there is no organized persecution, there is some harassment at the hands of the wealthy and powerful. Since the verb for singing (ψάλλω) is related to noun for a psalm, perhaps James wants the cheerful to respond to the Lord with thanksgiving or praise drawn from the Psalter. The believer is to respond in worship whether they are enduring some suffering or enjoying a time of relative peace.

A second kind of prayer in this paragraph is prayer for the sick (5:14-15). The elders are to pray over the sick and anoint them with oil. It is important to understand “elders of the church” in the context of James as a very early letter. This is not the office of elder in the fairly structured church of the Pastoral Epistles. Some scholars see this as a distinctively Christian phrase. Sophie Laws, for example, “This is one phrase which gives a specifically Christian colouring to the epistle” (Laws, James, 225).

An elder (πρεσβύτερος) referred to the older, wise men of a community. For Jews, these were the men who were respected in a town and synagogue. As the church developed certain men were appointed to function as official guardians of faith and practice, but in the earliest Jewish communities, the elders were analogous to the older men of the synagogues. By church (ἐκκλησία), James refers to the Jewish Christian communities in the Diaspora, more or less equivalent to a synagogue. This is not the universal church, the body of Christ.

The elders also anoint the sick with oil. Although anointing with oil is used for a variety of things, it is associated with treating wounds. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the Samaritan puts oil on the man’s wounds, for example. But in the ancient world there was nor a clear distinction between a miraculous healing and medical science. “A distinction between remedies based on superstition and remedies based on science would have been foreign even to the practitioners of Greek medicine” (Laws, James, 227).

The elders anoint the sick person “in the name of the Lord.” This could refer to Jesus, or could refer to the father. For the most part Jews would have referred to God as “the name,” so this implies the Lord is Jesus. Although this seems academic, there are so few references to Jesus in James scholars hope to find them wherever they can! Dibelius thought the command to pray “in the name of the Lord” is an allusion to exorcising a demon who was responsible for the sickness. This would reflect the Second Temple view that demons caused illness, but there is little in this text to support an exorcism.

The sick person also confesses their sin. This may reflect the Jewish view that sickness and sin are related. It was common in the Second Temple Period for Jews to connect physical illness and sin. For example, Sirach 18:19-21 and 38:15 makes confession of sin a requirement for healing and good health (Laws, James, 229).

Sirach 18:19–21 (NRSV) Before you speak, learn; and before you fall ill, take care of your health. 20 Before judgment comes, examine yourself; and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness. 21 Before falling ill, humble yourself; and when you have sinned, repent.

Sirach 38:15 (NRSV) He who sins against his Maker, will be defiant toward the physician.

In John 9, Jesus’s disciples ask of a man who was born blind had sinned, or of his parents had sinned; in Mark 2 the Pharisees considered Jesus’s pronouncement that a lame man’s sins were forgiven to the blasphemous since the man was still lame.

It is surprising James makes no reference to laying on of hands, a common practice in healing. This may imply this is not a “traditional healing.” The impression from the two verses is that a person with an unusual illness can call one or two of the community leaders to their bedside and confess their sins. These elders will pray for them and tend to their illness in some real tangible way.

Like the first two commands of this paragraph, the sick person confessing sin is often found in the Psalms.

Psalm 35:13–14 (ESV) But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. 14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning.

Psalm 41:1–3 (ESV)  Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; 2 the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. 3 The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

The prayer of these elders can “save them” and the Lord will raise them up. This appears to refer to healing, although this is not necessarily the sort of miracle Jesus did, nor the apostles in Acts. But regardless of the activity of these elders, it is the Lord who raises the sick person from their sick bed.

By way of application, these two verses are not related to modern healing at all, they reflect Jewish practice in the first century. James is describing a practice which should be as obvious as praying at times of suffering or cheerfulness.