“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
James 5:19-20 NKJV
Brethren - he’s talking to believers, or at least professing believers
If anyone among you wanders from the truth - we believe in a sovereign God who keeps us but James clearly indicates that on some level there exists the possibility of the believer/professing believer drifting from the truth.
And someone turns him back - maybe the way we reconcile Gods sovereignty with our responsibility is by seeing that within the confines of the fellowship of believers (the church) God uses us to hold each other accountable and encourage one another.
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way - where he started off referring to his audience as brethren and those among you he now refers to as sinner. Now on a grand scale we are all sinners but he’s clearly using this to draw a distinction.
will save a soul from death - I know this flies in the face of many fundamentalists doctrines and creeds but it seems pretty clear here the severity of a believer/professing believer falling into error and sin and the fact that it has the capacity of killing his soul. And lest we try and fixate on that word soul let’s realize that Jesus himself said, fear not the man who can kill the body but fear the one who can destroy the body and soul in hell.
and cover a multitude of sins. - the one who saves the brother from falling away will cover a multitude of sins. I think the way in which he does this is by living out the “love thy brother” part of John’s first epistle.
We just finished a Bible study in James tonight and this verse stuck with me.
We tend to focus on Gods sovereignty almost to the detriment of our own responsibility. Paul talked in Romans 7 about the inner battle that occurs within us once we’re saved. But he then goes on in chapter 8 and says “in light of the fact that you now how the flesh and the spirit, we’re to walk after the spirit” indicating our personal responsibility to do so, and our capacity to not.
In our previous unregenerate state we were predisposed to sin and could not do anything but sin. But in our regenerate state the Spirit is made alive and inner turmoil begins to take place within us. Paul says, choose to walk after the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh.
I think what James is saying is that when we see a brother going the other way, if you love him, save him. Don’t let him fall away. In doing so we’re fulfilling the law of Christ (according to 1 Jn).
The debate will then be: did this one wandering from the truth lose his salvation? Or was it merely revealed that he wasn’t saved to begin with. I think the answer is yes… from the Fathers perspective He knows those who are His and is committed to their sanctification. But from an earthly perspective we won’t know who is and isn’t and thus those who have fallen away appear to have lost it. But the Bible clearly teaches both are true so we must reconcile this by seeing it as a paradox. A seeming contradiction that can be reconciled based on perspective.
So this begs the question. Why do anything? If all of God’s predestined come thru in the end and all the pseudo Christians fall away, why bother reaching out to anyone? Why hold anyone accountable? Why encourage anyone to persevere?
Because doing so says more about us and our hearts than anything. It shows an agape, a seeking of another’s highest good, toward a brother. And of course that says nothing of the fact that we’re plainly told to do so and doing so is a matter of obedience and thus demonstrates our heart toward the Father.
The word pastor is sometimes translated bishop and is defined as an overseer. Literally a shepherd who watches over those is his charge. Peter was told to feed Jesus’ sheep and placed in that role. Paul clearly took on this role as did Timothy and others. Their hearts broke for those in their care much like a shepherd who is wounded over the loss of a sheep from a predator.
While there are some who have the office or calling of overseer, each of us is called to the task within the body in which God places us. We see this in Hebrews 10:24-25, in Gal 6:1-2, and in James 5:19-20.
Encourage one another daily as you see the day approaching…