The apostle James gave us the duty of all Christians in one form or another. He said, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Jam 5:19,20
Truth Is The Standard of What Is Right
Jesus is its author. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). What Moses taught was true, being from God, but Jesus is the source of the system of truth by which we receive the provisions of God’s grace.
It frees and sanctifies. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). Our Lord, the embodiment of divine truth, prayed on behalf of His followers in this manner: “Sanctify them through thy truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
The apostles were guided into all of it. Jesus promised the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit, and He assured them that the Spirit would guide them “into all truth.” (Jn 16:12-14) Peter afterward affirmed that he and the other apostles had been given “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Since all truth was revealed through the apostles, that left nothing in the way of new truth to come later through false teachers like: Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White, Charles T. Russell, Billy Graham or the Pope.
It imparts life. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (Jas. 1:18). We cannot go to the law of Moses to learn the truth which garners eternal life; Nor do we find that truth in human creeds, the decrees of Popes, the traditions of the fathers, or by doing whatever seems right in our own eyes.
It’s Possible To Err From The Truth
James was concerned about brethren who “err from the truth.” God does not hold men to the truth by some irresistible compulsion (2 Pet. 1:10). In various ways people stray from the truth.
By turning their ears from the truth. Paul warned that men would gather about them teachers who would scratch their itching ears, “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4).
By failing to see the value of the truth. One may walk according to the truth for a time, then decide to leave the truth because he sees no real value in it. What we believe does make a difference. For example, a Baptist preacher who was distraught about the breakup of his marriage killed his estranged wife, and then took his children to McDonalds and killed them before killing himself. In a letter left behind he stated that his wife would live forever in hell because she left him. He believed that he could ask Jesus to forgive himself and thus gain entrance into heaven. He also said he believed little children were winged to heaven in death and that he felt he was doing them a favor by taking them away from such a wicked world. Point being, what we believe, whether right or wrong, reflects what we may or may not do.
By deception. “But evil men and seducers shall Wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Peter warned of men who wrest the scriptures, cautioning his readers not to be led away with the error of the wicked (2 Pet, 3:16,17).
By neglect. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . , .?” (Heb. 2:3). “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).
By falling into sin. Some men and women never renounce the gospel in theory, but in practice they abandon the truth. Many have fallen into sin and are now wallowing in it. (2 Pet 2:21,22) There are two classes of sinners: aliens (people who have never entered into covenant relationship with God) and erring brethren. James was addressing brethren in our text. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him . . . he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul . . . .”
The faithful have an obligation to the erring. Some who have erred will resent our admonitions, but others will profit by them. Our manner of approach is important (Gal. 6:1,2).
We often show eagerness to save our health, our reputation, our business, money for old age, etc. Everyone’s first concern should be the saving of their own soul. Jesus taught that the soul is more valuable than all the world (Matt. 16:26).
Conclusion: Death is eternal separation from God and is the penalty for sin. “For the wages of sin is death. . .” (Rom. 6:23). Some try to make sickness, or mental anguish, or possibly physical death the only punishment for sin. Others suppose that annihilation is the penalty. The Bible describes the punishment for sin as one’s being “cast into the lake of fire” which is “the second death” (Rev. 20:14, 15; 21:8). To save a sinner’s soul from this terrible penalty is the great object of the statements of our text. All will physically die, but the only ones who will be safe from the second death, which is hell and damnation, is for confessed believers to be die to their sins by the means of repentance, and then to be buried with Christ by baptism and raised up again to walk a new life. (Rom 6:3,4) To save an errant brother from hell and damnation, all one needs to do is to turn from their sin via repentance and take up their cross ad follow the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. (2 Jn 9 f; Acts 2:42) Man’s truth kills. God’s truth saves! Hear it, learn it, obey it, and continue in it.