Any Christian who sincerely studies the Bible, knows that the book of James is probably the most challenging of all books in the Bible. James could be considered a “how to book” telling the Christian how they are supposed to live. He challenges the Christian to not only make a commitment to Christ, but also to show their faith to the world by the works they do, primarily through service to others. However it is interesting how he ends this book. The last two verses, James 5:19-20 says. “…if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
These verses seem straightforward, but as you look at them in detail, they are very profound and will make you think. First it talks about wandering from the truth and if you realize he was talking to Christians, he is telling us even though we have experienced God’s forgiving grace, it is still possible to wander from the truth. Every day we make many choices about what we say, how we act and how we treat other people. These choices will either be according to the principles taught by Christ or based on the principles of society and there will be consequences based on these choices we make. As creatures of free will, our life is the sum of the choices we make and the consequences of making the wrong choices is judgment from the Lord.
This leads into the second point of these verses. James does not give us any detail about the sinner he refers to other than he had wondered from the truth and is headed for death. However since he talks about someone wondering from the truth, I believe he is talking about a Christian who has known God’s love and turned from the truth. So I believe it is possible to not only turn from the truth, but it can also lead to eternal judgment and punishment. Yes God is always there to forgive us, but He expects us to do our part as well. Remember the seeds that were sown among the thorns or on the rocky soil? The plant sprang up, but did not produce fruit and Christ explained how they died. It is the same with Christians, even though we experience the loving and saving grace of God, we too will parish if we do not follow what God has outlined as the way we are to live.
Finally, the third point of these verses, at the very end James teaches us that if we help someone back to a Christian way of life, it will cover a multitude of sins. This not only is very comforting, but it also tells us that God holds us accountable for our sins. Bringing someone back from sin or helping a fellow Christian understand the errors of his ways is a glorious victory for Christ and much rejoicing goes on in heaven when this happens. However, for the Christian that helped with that effort, there is a great reward as well. But make no mistake, we are held accountable for the sins that we commit and do not ask forgiveness for.
Now having said this, as harsh as it all may sound, God gives us every opportunity to experience His grace and is waiting to forgive us our sins. God is looking for a commitment from us, but the rewards are tremendous. I would encourage you to read these verses very carefully, pray about them and see if you agree. We are taught that all scripture is God breathed and this is not a lesson you are likely to hear taught in most churches. If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, then you cannot pick and choose what to believe. You must take it in its entirety and this is part of the Bible.
Steve Childers is the author of Catholic or Protestant: What our Churches Should Be Teaching. Visit www.CatholicOrProtestant.com
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