What Is The Purpose Of Anointing With Oil In James 5?

Anointing Oil

Note: Before deciding to transition into a different format site, this was the most searched for issue on the old site.  People are most definitely looking into the Biblical viewpoint about healing, etc. – Bob P.


with many Bible questions, one of the reasons for confusion among sincere readers is that not much is said in the BibleAnointing Oil about the specific question. First, let us look at the passage:

James 5:14-16 Is any sick among you? 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: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

There are many places where the Bible refers to putting oil on a person. For instance, there was a ceremonial anointing of oil, poured on the head of Aaron, mentioned in Ex. 29:7. Jesus implied that Peter should have anointed the Lord’s head with oil when He came into his house, in Luke 7:46. A pleasant result of the application of oil seems to be that it makes the face to shine, as we read in Ps. 104:15. Oil is associated with joy in the scriptures. The Bible speaks of being anointed with the “oil of gladness” in Ps. 45:7.

However in James 5, the oil seems to be directly connected with healing. So, if we want to learn something about the meaning of the passage, we need to find what else the Bible says about oil and healing. Our method of understanding scripture is to depend upon the scriptures for light:

Psalms 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

The charismatics have for a hundred years had their healing lines, in which they put some oil on the foreheads of gullible people, laid hands on them, and pronounced healing. They weren’t able to heal anyone, but putting oil on someone’s forehead, slapping him a good one, and shouting, “Abba-dabba, ubba-budden, Ahdunfooled-anudden,” did make the services seem more exciting.

Some unlearned Christians think that it is a really spiritual thing for a pastor to keep a small bottle of oil under his pulpit, so that he can call for people to come down the aisle for healing.

Some unlearned Baptists even get caught up in this nonsense.

However, the passage in James says nothing about the preacher calling the sick man to come to church and walk the “healing line.” It says that the sick man is to call for the elders of the church, and they come to him!

There are only two other places in scripture that come to mind right now that associate oil with healing. Those are what should be considered in trying to answer the question and interpret Jas. 5:14-16. One of them, Mark 6:13, says that the 12 apostles anointed sick people with oil.

Mark 6:13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

What is the purpose of the oil? What does it have to do with healing?

Well, comparing scripture with scripture, the only other place I recall that connects oil and healing is the story in Luke 10 of the good Samaritan. The traveler was “wounded” and left “half dead.” The Samaritan saw him and had compassion on him:

Luke 10:34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

The oil and wine were poured into the man’s wounds. That is, they were used as medicine. Did you get that? No one in the Bible dabbed a hankie with a spot of oil, touched it to a person’s forehead and declared him to be healed. Oil and wine were two common cure-alls in scripture for wounds, sores, and diseases.

It is a dangerous thing to look to physicians and medicines without looking to the Lord, according to 2 Chr. 16:12, but the Bible recognizes the legitimate place of physicians (Mt. 9:12) and medicine (Prov. 17:22). When a person is sick, he should honor the Lord by applying medicine with faith, prayer, and confession of sin. I believe that is the meaning of the passage in James 5.


God bless… 

Michael D. O’Neal (Prov. 11:30), Pastor
Gospel Light Baptist Church, P.O. Box 3071 (237 Lockett Station Road), Albany, GA 31706
(229) 698-2127 www.brothermike.com
*Scriptures in my notes are from the Authorized Version 1611 -KJV- and are used by permission of the Author – Eph. 6:17*