Listening to a Sermon by a pastor of someone we know yesterday when a question arose after his sermon went on to strongly advocate for accountability groups. The question was does the Bible really advocate being in a men’s or women’s accountability group.
Reflecting on what I recalled of scripture I mentioned I didn’t really see it pushing for that. Not that some good can’t be found in meeting in small groups. But that it was not really a mandated Biblical concept. Maybe we can look at a few possible Biblical passages.
1) Jesus had 12 primary disciples he choose. Recalling what the Gospels and Acts says about them, it seems there is not much support for a Promise Keepers style accountability group in the text. The emphasis is more on Jesus’ teaching them about the Kingdom of God, and what their role will be in taking the Good News to the world after his death and resurrection.
2) Paul was close to a few people which he refers to or writes to sometimes often like Timothy or Barnabas but I don’t recall him using them as sounding boards to share or confess his sins to. He does often offer teaching or encouragement and works along side them.
3). James 5:16 does mention confession but follow what Old John Gill says in his commentary on that verse.
James 5:16 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.
Confess your faults one to another,…. Which must be understood of sins committed against one another;
which should be acknowledged, and repentance for them declared, in order to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation;
and this is necessary at all times, and especially on beds of affliction, and when death and eternity seem near approaching:
wherefore this makes nothing for auricular confession, used by the Papists; which is of all sins, whereas this is only of such by which men offend one another; that is made to priests,
but this is made by the saints to one another, by the offending party to him that is offended, for reconciliation, whereby a good end is answered; whereas there is none by the other, and very often bad consequences follow.
And pray for one another, that ye may be healed; both corporeally and spiritually:
the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Not any man’s prayer; not the prayer of a profane sinner, for God heareth not sinners; nor of hypocrites and formal professors:
but of the righteous man, who is justified by the righteousness of Christ, and has the truth of grace in him, and lives soberly and righteously; for a righteous man often designs a good man, a gracious man, one that is sincere and upright, as Job, Joseph of Arimathea, and others;
though not without sin, as the person instanced in the following verse shows; “Elias, who was a man of like passions”, but a just man, and his prayer was prevalent:
and not any prayer of a righteous man is of avail, but that which is “effectual, fervent”; that has power, and energy, and life in it; which is with the Spirit, and with the understanding, with the heart, even with a true heart, and in faith; and which is put up with fervency, and not in a cold, lukewarm, lifeless, formal, and customary way:
it is but one word in the original text; and the Vulgate Latin version renders it, “daily”; that prayer which is constant and continual, and without ceasing, and is importunate; this prevails and succeeds, as the parable of the widow and the unjust judge shows.
Some translate the word “inspired”: the Spirit of God breathes into men the breath of spiritual life, and they live, and being quickened by him, they breathe; and prayer is the breath of the spiritual man, and is no other than the reverberation of the Spirit of God in him; and such prayer cannot fail of success: it may be rendered “inwrought”;
true prayer is not what is written in a book, but what is wrought in the heart, by the Spirit of God; who is the enditer of prayer, who impresses the minds of his people with a sense of their wants, and fills their mouths with arguments, and puts strength into them to plead with God, and makes intercession for them according to the will of God;
and such prayer is always heard, and regarded by him: this has great power with God; whatever is asked, believing, is received; God can deny nothing prayed for in this manner; it has great power with Christ, as Jacob had over the angel, when he wrestled with him; and as the woman of Canaan, when she importuned him, on account of her daughter, and would have no denial: such prayer has often been of much avail against Satan, who has been dispossessed by it; even the most stubborn kind of devils have been dislodged by fasting and prayer: it has often been the means of preserving kingdoms and nations, when invaded by enemies, as the instances of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah show; and of removing judgments from a people, as was often done, through the prayers of Moses, as when fire and fiery serpents were sent among them; and of bringing down blessings as rain from heaven by Elijah; and of delivering particular persons from trouble, as Peter was delivered from prison, through the incessant prayer of the church for him:
and this power, and efficacy, and prevalence of prayer, does not arise from any intrinsic worth and merit in it, but from the grace of the Spirit, who influences and endites it, directs to it, and assists in it; and from the powerful mediation, precious blood, and efficacious sacrifice of Christ; and from the promise of God and Christ, who have engaged, that whatever is asked according to the will of God, and in the name of Christ, shall be done. The Jews have had formerly a great notion of prayer: the power of prayer, they say (b), is strong; and extol it above all other services: they say (c), it is better than good works, or than offerings and sacrifices; and particularly, the prayer of righteous men: says R. Eliezar (d).
“to what is תפלתן של צדיקים, “prayer of righteous men” like? it is like a shovel: the sense is, that as the shovel turns the corn on the floor, from one place to another, so prayer turns the holy blessed God from wrath to mercy.”
(b) Zohar in Exod. fol. 100. 1. (c) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 32. 2. (d) T. Bab. Succa, fol. 14. 1. & Yebamot, fol. 64. 1.
It would actually be good to take the time to read the whole of John Gill’s Commentary of the context of James 5 beginning in verse 13 since this section is speaking about prayer.
Jas 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Jas 5:14 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:
Jas 5:15 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.
Jas 5:16 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.
Jas 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
Jas 5:18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Jas 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
Jas 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Gill’s summary of this section is below, but best to look up and read the verse by verse details.
…hence he passes to various exercises of religion; the afflicted he advises to prayer; and those in comfortable circumstances of body and mind to singing of psalms, Jas 5:13, and such that are sick, to send for the elders of the church to pray over them, and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord, whereby not only the sick man would be delivered from his sickness, the Lord raising him up, but even his sins would be declared to be forgiven, Jas 5:14.
And not only it became the elders to pray for sick persons, but also the saints in general, one for another, and to acknowledge their faults to each other, since the fervent prayer of every righteous man is of great avail with God, Jas 5:16 of which an instance is given in Elias, whose prayer, though a man subject to like passions as other men, against, and for rain, was very successful, Jas 5:17. And Christians should not only be concerned for the health of each other’s bodies,
but also for the good of their souls; wherefore, whenever it is observed that any are straying from the path of truth, methods should be taken to restore them, and turn them from the error of their ways; and whoever is the happy instrument of such a restoration is the means of saving a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins, Jas 5:19.
4) One last point in my reading today I was in Job 3. Previously at the end of Job 2 we read that Job did sit down with his 3 friends.
Job 2:13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
When Job finally speaks, his words are hard to take.
Job Laments His Birth
Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
Job 3:2 And Job spake, and said,
Job 3:3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
Job 3:4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
Job 3:5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
Job 3:6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.
Job 3:7 Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.
Job 3:8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.
Job 3:9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:
Job 3:10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.
Job 3:11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
Job 3:12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
Job 3:13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
Job 3:14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
Job 3:15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:
Job 3:16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
Job 3:17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
Job 3:18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
Job 3:19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
Job 3:20 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;
Job 3:21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
Job 3:22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
Job 3:23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?
Job 3:24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
Job 3:25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
Job 3:26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.
I guess on could sort of call this a confession, but it sure looks like outflow of a depressed man. the discussion begin in chapter 4 when his friends speak. I can’t say the whole conversation went well, but the book eventually ends in on a good note, again as John Gill writes:
INTRODUCTION TO JOB 42
This chapter contains Job’s answer to the last speech of the Lord’s, in which he acknowledges his omnipotence, and his certain performance of his purposes and pleasure; owns his own folly and ignorance, and confesses his sins; for which he abhorred himself, and of which he repented, Job 42:1; it also gives an account of the Lord’s decision of the controversy between Job and his friends, blaming them and commending him above them; and ordered them to take sacrifices and go to Job and offer them, who should pray for them and be accepted, which was done, Job 42:7; and it closes with a relation of the great prosperity Job was restored unto, in which he lived and died, Job 42:10.