19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. ~ James 5:19-20
Today, we come to the end of this book on faith, wisdom and perseverance. As James closes his letter to those first century Christians who were struggling to walk with God, he ends it with an appeal to his hearers to have a heart for those who continue to have difficulty walking with the Lord.
In Genesis 3, it is implied that the Lord God walked with Adam and Eve during the cool of the day. Suggested is the idea they didn't walk with the Lord on a continual basis. In Genesis 5:24, we are told Enoch walked with God. Noah is also described as "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God" (Genesis 6:9).
Micah 6:8 gives us a glimpse into God’s desire for us: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Walking with God is not an activity reserved for a select few. God desires all believers to walk with Him.
When we walk with someone, we are in close proximity to them. We talk, laugh, listen, and share our hearts. Our attention is focused on this person to the exclusion of almost everything else. Walking with God is like that. When we enter into an intimate heart relationship with God through faith in His Son, He slowly becomes our heart’s greatest desire. Knowing Him, hearing His voice, sharing our hearts with Him, and seeking to please Him become most important to us. Meeting with Him is an everyday activity.
When the Bible speaks of "walking," it often refers to a lifestyle. We can walk in the ways of the world or we can walk in the ways of God. In the New Testament, walking with God is often called "walking in the Spirit." To walk with God means we choose to embrace and be embraced by His culture. In so doing, we seek to eliminate from our lives everything that does not enhance our walk with Him. We seek to live out the message of 1 Corinthians 10:31 which reads, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." God’s ways are reflected in our thoughts, our actions, our motivations, and our life choices because we spend so much time with Him.
In v.19 of our passage for today we read, "My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back."
James turns our attention to believers in Christ who were wandering from the truth. From the word "wander" we get our English word "planet." A planet is literally a wandering star. And, we all wander from the truth. But, for these who were "wandering", their love and commitment to God was waning. James was not saying they had lost their salvation, the Bible is quite clear that cannot happen, but believers can become cold, apathetic, and distant from God. When that happens, we are in need of someone coming along side of us and helping us along.
The word "wander" reveals a form of seduction which happens little by little over time. At one point in his life, the wanderer would have never wandered, but over time the enemy lured him away from God and got him to compromise.
When we wander from the truth in our beliefs, we start to believe things about God, the Lord Jesus, heaven, hell, ourselves and other significant truths that cannot be supported by Scripture. The wanderer wanders from sound teaching.
Wandering from the truth is also seen in how we choose to live our lives. When we start to do things that are not honoring to God, we are not living by the truth. When we wander away from Him and His teachings, we will no longer be on that path of following Him. In this case, we might know the right way to go but we have chosen to be defined by another way. This seduction away from God causes us to become hardened toward prayer, hardened toward worshipping God, hardened toward walking with God.
In v.20 of today's text we read, "...remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
The word "sinner" here in v.20 refers to a Christian who is sinning. This is someone who has received forgiveness from God for their sins, when they die they will go to heaven, they are a believer in Christ, they are born again, but they are not being defined by Him. This is not talking about a believer losing their salvation. The Bible is very clear, that cannot happen. Once we are born again, we cannot become unborn again. Once God adopts us into His family, we can not become un-adopted. But the believer can still sin and in some cases wander away from their walk with God.
The word "turns" in v.20 means to "turn around" or to "turn from." When we reach out to those who have wandered away from God and God uses us to bring them back to the right path we save them from a lot of pain. And, when a believer comes back to God he will apologize and confess his sin. There will not be any justification of sin by the believer who returns to his first love.
James is unlike most other New Testament epistles in that it has no formal conclusion. James ended this letter abruptly because he wanted to leave us with a sense of personal urgency as we consider the critical importance of his final exhortation. As we daily do our best to walk with the Lord Jesus, we discover He gradually gives us His heart, and His heart is for people. In giving us His heart, God gives us the ministry of reconciliation which is the desire to see people right with God. When we turn another believer from error, we play a role in them being saved from the destruction of the the sin they are caressing.
We are all prone to wander. And, no one takes giant steps away from God. No, we wander away from Him through a series of small steps. This is why the Lord has placed us in His family, among believers who love us enough to keep us grounded in our walk with the Lord. In fact, we will wander if we are not in relationship with other believers.