The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

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James 5:19-20: the wandered brother

Reading further, let us go to James 5:19-20:

"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."

The phrase "If anyone among you wanders from the truth", makes clear that a brother – and this text refers to brothers: "My brothers, if anyone among you.." – can wander from the truth. What does this mean? He can err in teaching and be led astray – as those Galatians who wanted to follow the law as means of getting justified – or follow after sinful practices. Concerning the latter, we are not speaking here about a sin while we are walking on the right way (see later our discussion on 1 John). Rather we are speaking of somebody who wanders from the truth, wanders from the light and walks now in darkness. So, is it possible that "anyone among us" wanders from the truth? Unfortunately, yes it is.

Now James says that if a brother brings back somebody who wanders from the truth he "will save his soul from death". The passage, speaking about death of that soul, makes clear that if the respective person does not return he will not at the end receive eternal life but the exact opposite of it. And this despite the fact that he was once on the right path. The same truth we find also in other places in the epistles. Here are some:

Romans 8:13
"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Galatians 6:7-8
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

Hebrews 10:26-27
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."

We reap eternal life when we run the race of faith, sowing to the Spirit and to the new nature. Paul is very clear: "the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." This does not mean that we are faultless or sinless. Nobody is. These however are mistakes while on the way. We strive to live a life of righteousness and sometimes we may have some episodes of sin here and there. But they are just that: episodes, not something we are really practicing, living as a way of life. If however, we essentially live a life of sin, we work lawlessness, we live - habitually and as a way of life - according to the flesh, then we will reap what we sowed and from what we read this is "a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire", corruption and death. Now some may ask: "but why? Is it not salvation by faith?" Yes it is, but true faith and living according to the flesh never go together. They are mutually exclusive. We cannot be in both at the same time.

Next section: Some will abandon the faith

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou