Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Believers in Trouble
We began our study in James stating that the goal of faith in the Lord is maturity. But, as James indicated earlier, everyone stumbles in many ways. “In many ways, we offend all”
Previously we looked at the temptation of the churches being written to disrespect the poor and avoid the sick. James writes as if the same temptation exists to leave the wandering believer on their wrong path. Just as the church should:
- Treat the rich and poor the same.
- Pray for healing of the sick.
- We should try to restore the brother in sin.
James’ final words involve a ministry of bringing back, of restoration.
As a believer, we should never condemn. We should see the wayward and try bringing them to effective restoration through the mercy of God.
Believers who Help
James reminds his readers of the purpose of trials at the beginning of his letter. Here in the conclusion, he reminds them of the purpose of restoration. These believers were to help others who had strayed into sin.
As tough as a task like this is, it is one a believer should want reciprocated when roles reversed. We are all subject to Double-Mindedness. We are all subject to self-deception.
Much is at stake in the sinner’s need for restoration. His or her very life “shall save a soul from death”. Believers who wander from the truth have been led into sin by their own evil desires, and the end of this process is death.
Death. What did James mean by this? He may have been thinking about the Lord ending the life of the backslider as a punishment for sin. We don’t like to hear it, but there is such a thing as sin that leads to death. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16-17) All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
When we go about the business of restoration, we don’t always know what we are achieving. We may be saving that person from an early grave! Death. James might have had something else in mind. He might have been suggesting that a backslidden condition is like a spiritual deadness in the heart. In this case, the one who reclaims a backslider is rescuing him or her from that deadness. Whatever James had in mind, it’s apparent that backsliding is a very serious thing indeed. It is also apparent that anyone who helps the backslider is doing a wonderful thing.
Like Elijah, who put himself out there to bring Israel back from their sin, the brother who restores another lays aside self for the sake of the other’s life. If backsliding is turning from the truth, to convert the backslider is to turn them back towards the truth.
Hide a multitude of sins. One author suggests that the word ‘hide/cover’ takes us back to the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat of the Old Testament. The ark was a box in which the Law of Moses was placed. Above the box were stationed cherubim, who represented God himself. If the ark consisted of nothing more, it would have done nothing but give testimony to an awesome reality, namely, God taking note of our disobedience to his holy law.
But there was another part of the ark. Thank God it was there! The mercy seat! The mercy seat was a flat gold plate that sat between the box and the cherubim. When the high priest of Israel made atonement for the sins of the people, he would take the blood of a sacrifice and sprinkle it on the mercy seat. The blood of the mercy seat covered the broken law! It was as if God could not see the sin because of the blood!
All of this was designed, of course, to picture the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus. The blood that he shed on the cross covers the sins of all those who believe in him. But that same blood also covers the sins of Christians who sin.
This same work is accomplished when believers practice biblical restoration and hide a multitude of sins.
Conclusion: This brings us to the end of our study of James. His emphasis has been spiritual maturity. This would be a good time for us to examine our own hearts to see how mature we really are.
Here are a few questions to assist you:
- Am I becoming more and more patient in the testings of life?
- Do I play with temptation or resist it from the start?
- Do I find joy in the Word of God, or do I just study and learn it?
- Are there any prejudices that shackle me?
- Am I able to control my tongue?
- Am I a peacemaker rather than a troublemaker? Do people come to me for spiritual wisdom?
- Am I a friend of God or a friend of the world?
- Do I make plans without considering the will of God?
- Am I selfish with money? Am I unfaithful in the paying of my bills?
- Do I depend on prayer when I find myself in some kind of trouble?
- Am I the kind of person others seek for prayer support?
- What is my attitude toward the wandering brother? Do I criticize and gossip, or do I seek to restore him in love?
Pastor Chance Strickland
Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN