Ministering to Save
My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
Closing out the book, James urges believers to minister to both saved and unsaved individuals, especially those that claim to have a saving faith, “My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” If someone has made a genuine call of repentance and received Christ as their Lord and Savior, they can never lose their salvation. But, it is possible for a believer to stray away from the Lord. To stray “from the truth,” means that a believer has made a serious lapse in their walk, either doctrinally or in their Christian lives. “Turns him back,” means that someone who has repented of their sin and has returned back to following Christ. So, if you are a believer and you see another believer stumbling in their walk with Christ, James urges you to help guide them back on the path of righteousness.
With verse 20, there is a danger of those who claim to have a saving faith, yet never actually committed to Christ as their Savior. As Thomas Lea writes, “Those who claim to know Christ but live in persistent disobedience show that their claim to know Christ is empty and wrong. They demonstrate that they were never believers at any time.” So, in that regard, when James states that a believer who helps this individual “from the error of his ways will save his soul from death,” that means that the believer is helping that person understand their true nature and can help open their eyes to their need of repenting and following Christ genuinely, which would save them from eternal damnation.
Finally, with verse 20, for genuine believers who have slipped up in their walk, other believers should help them return back to Christ and repent, asking for forgiveness. As Anders writes, “People who successfully encourage straying believers back to commitment to Christ obey God and lead the sinner to forgiveness. Such encouragers do not atone for their own sins by their actions.”
In light of all this, may we apply the many lessons and challenges found throughout the book of James, from seeking God’s wisdom in every situation, putting our faith in action, submitting our tongues to God, following God’s will for our lives even in our day to day, and encouraging fellow believers to walk with the Lord daily while walking with the Lord in your own life.
Isaac De Guzman