Today I conclude my study of James. This is Marianne’s favorite book of the Bible and I now understand why…there is just so much good instruction for us as believers in righteous living, exhortation, and admonishment. 43 days of study has been wonderful, and I am now faced with where to go next. I am going to study the super small book of Philemon, nestled between Titus and Hebrews. I’ll start there tomorrow.
19 [My] brethren, if anyone among you strays from the Truth and falls into error and another [person] brings him back [to God],
20 Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert]. James 5:19-20 [AMP]
James does not finish his letter with a typical epistolary ending…no, he finishes with a call to action. That call to action is to intervene on behalf of fellow-Christians who may be having a tough time with the spiritual matters he has been talking about.
Here is a small list of the many problems he has spoken about in his letter:
- sinful speech
- unconcern about others
To James, correct doctrine cannot be separated from correct behavior. What the mind thinks, and the mouth confesses, the body must do; anything less is worldly, sinful ‘double-mindedness’. Brothers and sisters in the community of believers who see one of their own wandering from the truth, should seek with all of their power to bring that person back to the faith from which they strayed.
…Now we get into some Greek ambiguity. Who has been saved from death…and whose sin? The one who has been saved from death is almost certainly the one who has sinned. Only the one who has wandered away is in danger of the judgement. James sees death as the final destination on the path which sinners have determined to take when they are turned back from that journey, they have saved their lives. It is difficult to know whether the sins which are covered are the sinner’s, the converter’s, or both.
The notion that our efforts to bring others to repentance will bring benefit to our own spiritual standing is certainly biblical. The Lord promises Ezekiel that he ‘will save his life’ if he is faithful in warning his people of their danger of judgment (Ezek. 3:21); and Paul tells Timothy that he will ‘save both himself and his hearers’ if he takes heed to himself and his teaching (1 Tim. 4:16). The ‘Blessing’ given to faithful believers must not, of course, be construed as a reward for their efforts. But the idea that God will treat us as we have treated others is inescapable in scripture and explicitly mentioned in James (2:12-13).
A personal reward should not be a driving factor for me to chase a wayward Christian and do my best to confront their sin and implore them to come back into the fold. I should do this out of love for my brother or sister in Christ, knowing the judgement and embarrassment that will come to that person if the Lord should return and find them chasing worldly pursuits. As a born-again Christian, saved by faith, and a recipient of the unmerited grace of God, I should seek to guide wayward Christians back to God through love, truth, and grace. It’s one thing to get up into someone’s grill and rebuke, it’s another to simply use the Word of God to shine a light on the unrepentant sin in one’s life and be there as a waiting accountability partner for that person’s willing road back to the safety of obedience and righteous living.