James 5:19-20 ESV
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
Believers Who Wander from the Truth
It is possible for believers in Jesus Christ, at some point, to wander from the truth and to need to be brought back to repentance. This is not the same, though, as those who profess faith in Jesus Christ but who never die with Christ to sin, and who never walk in obedience to his commands, but who deliberately and habitually continue on a sinful path and who do not ever surrender their hearts to Jesus, in truth. Now they may profess repentance and a walk of faith, but they never left their lives of sin behind them.
So, when this talks about the possibility of fellow believers wandering from the truth, the assumption here is that they did, for at least some period of time, walk in the truth and not in sin. They had died with Christ to sin and they were living for him and for his righteousness for some length of time before they wandered from the truth. But now they have wandered, and so they need to be brought back to the truth. They need to repent of their sins and turn back to the Lord to walk in obedience to his commands.
Now, they may come back to the Lord on their own, meaning without other human assistance, but certainly with our Lord drawing them back to himself. And some of them may come back to the Lord despite other people and even other Christians leading them into the sin and not away from the sin. And they may return to the Lord despite all enemy attacks against them trying to defeat them, trying to turn them away from the Lord, and even if some of those attacks against them come from within the church.
For Satan is against us, and he takes pleasure in us wandering from the truth, so he will do everything within his power to try to keep us from returning to the Lord if we wander. And so he may send enemies against us from all different fronts (areas of activity) to try to stop us from returning to our walks of faith in our Lord. And he may “pull out all the stops” (make a very great effort) to achieve his goal of destroying our Christian lives and keeping us at bay (away) from the Lord and from our walks of faith.
So, if you are following the leading of the Spirit in trying to help a wanderer to return to his or her walk of faith in the Lord, please understand that Satan is most likely going to oppose you and attack you and he may even try to lead you into sin. And the person you are trying to help come back to his or her walk of faith may attack and oppose you, too. And this may happen, as well, if you are trying to help anyone trapped in sin, who expresses a desire to be delivered from sin, to then actually be delivered from slavery to sin.
It is good if we care enough about people and other Christians to try to help them out of the pit of sin into the arms of Jesus, or back into the arms of Jesus, but it is wise if we realize what we are up against, potentially, so that we do not get discouraged and give up. Now if the Lord says to let that person go because it is obvious that he or she does not want to return to the Lord, then that is what we must do. But if we really care, that will be a hard thing to do. For it should break our hearts to see people trapped in sin.
Hearts of Compassion for the Wanderers
But you know, those who are truly in Christ, but who got led back into sin, and who are presently wandering from the truth, need people who will care about them enough to try to help them to return to their walks of faith. Sometimes that is all that is needed, just for someone to reach out and care and to take the time to help them. It isn’t that they don’t know the way out, but sometimes the way out can be lined with all sorts of opposition and so they may need people to help hold them up in prayer and to help them.
For you know that is what we as Christians are supposed to do. We are supposed to be engaged daily in encouraging and in exhorting one another so that none of us will be hardened and led astray by sin’s deceitfulness. We are supposed to be watching out for one another and to be speaking the truth in love to one another so that we don’t get caught up in following after false gospels and false doctrines which may coddle us in our sins rather than counsel us to die to sin and live to Jesus Christ.
So, first of all make sure your heart is right with Jesus. Make sure you are not one of the ones wandering from the truth faith who needs to be brought back to repentance before you try to help someone else to do what you have not done yourself. Make sure you are walking in faithful obedience to the Lord and that you are not walking in sin, and sin is not your habit. Then, after you have bathed this in much prayer, in the power of God’s Spirit, speak the truth in love to the wanderer in hopes he will return to God.
Now there is a reason that this states that if you bring someone back to the truth who has wandered from the truth that you will save his soul from death. And this is because the Scriptures do not teach “once saved always saved.” They teach our salvation as progressive. We are saved (past), we are being saved (present active), and we will be saved (future) when Jesus returns and he takes us to be with him for eternity and our salvation is complete, but provided we are not walking in sin but we are walking in obedience to our Lord and we continue in those walks of faith to the end.
[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
Come, Ye Disconsolate
Lyrics by Thomas Moore, 1816
Arr. by Thomas Hastings, 1831
Music by Samuel Webbe, Sr, 1792
Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.”
Here see the bread of life, see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heav’n can remove.
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