v. 12. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, lest ye fall into condemnation.
v. 13. Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray, Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.
v. 14. 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;
v. 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.
The apostle introduces a new paragraph, couched, in part, in the words of the Lord's own instruction: But above all, my brethren, do not swear, neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by using any other oath. Let your "yes" be simply "yes," and your "no" simply "no," lest you fall into condemnation. See Mat_5:34. Like the admonitions of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, these words are intended to do away with the frivolous use of the oath, which is certainly as prevalent now as it ever was in the history of the world, and which certainly is crying to heaven. Unless the command of the government or the welfare of their neighbor or the glory of God demand an asseveration in the nature of an oath, a simple assurance of fact or a simple denial on the part of the Christians should be sufficient. The person that continually is ready with an oath causes those that hear him to feel doubts as to his veracity and to discredit even those statements which are made under oath: It is just like proving too much and thus not proving anything. And God condemns such swearing in no uncertain terms.
As to the general behavior of the Christians, the apostle says: Is anyone among you suffering evil? Let him pray. Is anyone in good spirits? Let him sing hymns of praise. Instead of denouncing and cursing those that afflict us and make us suffer evil, it behooves us as Christians to lay our matter into the hands of our heavenly Father for adjustment and for judgment, asking Him, at the same time, for the patience which is necessary to endure the evil. If, on the other hand, any one is in good spirits and feeling happy over some manifestation of God's goodness or mercy, the best way of showing his appreciation is to sing praises to His holy name in hymns of thankfulness. We should think of the Lord not only when we are in trouble, but also in the days when we are enjoying His blessings.
Another instruction concerns the Christian's behavior in case of sickness: Is anyone sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the congregation, 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 one; and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sin, it shall be forgiven him. Note that the apostle does not expect the elders or presbyters to know of the sickness of a parishioner by themselves, but only by being informed of that fact at the instance of the sick person. Provision is here made for the spiritual treatment of a Christian whom the Lord has laid on a bed of sickness. In a case of this kind the elders were to be summoned to the bedside for the purpose of administering pastoral comfort. This was done by prayer, accompanied with the anointing of the sick person with oil, which was a common Jewish usage. If all this was done in the proper manner, and the sick person showed himself repentant and eager for the comfort of the Gospel, then there would be no doubt as to the efficacy of the prayer made at his bedside. Not only would the prayer of faith on the part of this little assembled house congregation be heard by God in granting to the repentant sinner forgiveness of all his sins, but God would also restore him, spiritually at all events, and bodily according to His good pleasure. Note: Of this unction as a sacrament we find no word in Scriptures. The anointing of which James speaks in this passage, See Mar_6:13, was an extraordinary means used in the early Church for the miraculous healing of bodily ailments. This anointing was not done in preparing the sick person for a blessed death, but for the purpose of healing; the forgiveness of sins is not ascribed to the oil, but to the prayer of faith.