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James 5:19-20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 15, 2019


Our annual Baptism is coming up next week, after 2nd service. If you’ve never been baptized since you’ve come to faith in Jesus, we encourage you to join us and get wet!

Perhaps you were baptized as an infant…

We’d like to commend your parents for having you baptized – we trust their heart was all about you learning to follow God.
But…the Bible doesn’t talk about baptizing babies, it talks about baptizing believers.

Baptism is simply a step of obedience we take in following Jesus. It doesn’t save you, it doesn’t change you, it simply makes a statement to your family and friends that you have chosen to follow Jesus, and that you are learning to know what it means to live as someone who is dead to sin and alive to God.

Our baptisms are celebrations – so we will have a big old-fashioned church potluck, a giant waterslide for the kids, and best of all – watching those who are choosing to follow Jesus.

So join us next Sunday!


The book of James is possibly one of the earliest things written in the New Testament.

It’s thought to have been written around AD 40-50

It was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus.

James’ father was Joseph, while Jesus’ father was God.

Though James didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah until after the resurrection, James would eventually be recognized as the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

James was known in the early church as “James the Just” because of his great devotion to God and purity of life.

Ancient historian Eusebius describes James’ prayer life, that he…

was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people[1]

While the apostle Paul wrote mainly to Gentiles, James is writing to the Jews.

His teachings are going to be very practical (hence our “tools” pic) and will draw much from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as well as the book of Proverbs.

5:19-20 Bring ‘em back

:19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,

:20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

wandersplanao – to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way; to go astray, wander, roam about; metaph. to lead away from the truth, to lead into error, to deceive; to be led into error

aorist passive subjunctive

truthaletheia – objectively; what is true in any matter under consideration; the truth as taught in the Christian religion

turns him back epistrepho – transitively; to turn to; to the worship of the true God; to cause to return, to bring back; to the love and obedience of God

aorist active subjunctive

:19 anyone among you wanders

Who is James referring to when it comes to wandering?

Is he talking about unbelievers outside the church? Could be.
Unbelievers certainly need to find faith in Jesus and turn from their sins. Trusting in Jesus will indeed save their souls.
The “you” here is plural, and would most certainly refer to James’ readers, including all those in the church.

If this is including those in the church, how is it that turning a “sinner from the error of his way” will save that person?

If we are saved by our faith in Jesus, then how does turning a backslidden believer save them if they are already saved?

Keep in mind the content of James’ letter.

(James 2:26 NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

I was talking with someone this week about one of their family members and that they were unsure if this person was saved or not.

They mentioned that the person didn’t have any “fruit” in their life.
The subject came up – how do I know the difference between a saved but backslidden believer, and a non-believer.
The answer is – it’s very hard to tell.

:19 wanders from the truth

wandersπλανάω planao – to go astray, wander, roam about

aorist passive subjunctive

The picture is of a traveler on a path to somewhere getting off of the path and losing their way.


Back in the 1800’s the Tates Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products and, since they already made the cases for pocket watches, decided to market compasses for the pioneers traveling west. It turned out that although their watches were of finest quality, their compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California. This, of course, is the origin of the expression, “He who has a Tates is lost!”


A Scout Master was teaching his boy scouts about survival in the desert. “What are the three most important things you should bring with you in case you get lost in the desert?” he asked. Several hands went up, and many important things were suggested such as food, matches, etc. Then one little boy in the back eagerly raised his hand. “Yes Timmy, what are the three most important things you would bring with you?” asked the Scout Master. Timmy replied: “A compass, a canteen of water, and a deck of cards.” “Why’s that, Timmy?” “Well,” answered Timmy, “the compass is to find the right direction, the water is to prevent dehydration...” “And what about the deck of cards?” asked the Scout Master impatiently. “Well, sir, as soon as you start playing Solitaire, someone is bound to come up behind you and say, ‘Put that red nine on top of that black ten!’”

As bad as it would be to get lost in the woods or accidentally end up in Canada, it’s far worse to get lost on your way to heaven.

Jesus said,

(Matthew 7:13–14 NKJV) —13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

What is that narrow “way”? It does have to do with truth…

(John 14:6 NKJV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

So what does it mean to “wander from the truth”?

It will involve the way a person lives their life.
It certainly involves wandering away from Jesus.

:19 someone turns him back


Two pastors from the local churches are standing by the road, pounding a sign into the ground, that reads:
The End is Near! Turn Yourself Around Now Before It’s Too Late!
As a car sped past them, the driver yelled, “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!” From the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash. One pastor turns to the other and asks, “Do you think the sign should just say ‘Bridge Out’?”

So here’s the big challenge – how do we turn someone back to the truth? (we’ll get back to this in a minute…)

:20 let him know

let him knowginosko – to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel

present active imperative (3rd sing)

The word is in the “imperative”.  This is a command to let the one who turns others from their “error” does something…

:20 he who turns a sinner from the error of his way

turnsepistrepho – transitively; to turn to; to the worship of the true God; to cause to return, to bring back; to the love and obedience of God

aorist active participle
This is the same word translated “turns him back” (v.19)

sinnerhamartolos – devoted to sin, a sinner

errorplane – a wandering, a straying about; metaph. mental straying; error, wrong opinion relative to morals or religion; error which shows itself in action, a wrong mode of acting; error, that which leads into error, deceit or fraud

This is the noun form of “wanders” (v.19)

wayhodos – a way; metaph. a course of conduct; a way (i.e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding

That’s the goal here – the thing we need to think about doing.

The word “error” is the noun form of the word “wanders” (v.19)

turnsἐπιστρέφω epistrepho – to turn to; to cause to return, to bring back

On the day of Pentecost, Peter ended his sermon and said,
(Acts 3:19 NKJV) Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
When Peter healed a man named Aeneas in the city of Lydda,
(Acts 9:35 NKJV) So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Paul reminded the Thessalonians of when they came to believe in Jesus…
(1 Thessalonians 1:9 NKJV) and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
So, instead of heading towards the broken-down bridge, you turn the car around.

:20 will save a soul from death

The Greek is literally, “will save his soul from death”.

This is talking about the soul of the person that has been turned from their sin.
It’s not saying that we save our souls by converting others.

will savesozo – to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue; to save in the technical biblical sense

future active indicative

soulpsuche – breath; the soul

Last week Caleb talked about the importance of praying for one another, even calling for elders to anoint with oil (Jam. 5:14)

Then James wrote,

(James 5:15 NKJV) And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

The word translated “save” (sozo) in both verses is sometimes used to describe physical healing (which fits this passage), but we usually translate and associate this word with our eternal salvation.
The word translated “sick” (kamno) is not the usual word for “sick” (astheneo 36x), but is only translated once as “sick”, and also carries the idea of being “weary”, “tired with exertion” (MCEDONTW), or even “dead” (BDAG).
(Matthew 11:28–30 NKJV) —28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We often take this “raise him up” as speaking of physical healing (which it might), but it may also speak of the resurrection of the dead – eternal life.
Note that it’s the prayer of “faith” that “saves” the sick.
We are “saved” by “faith”, and that’s related to the fact that the Lord will one day “raise us up” with Him in the resurrection.
And… there is forgiveness of sins attached to our salvation.
I’d like to suggest that there’s another layer here than just that of physical healing, but one of eternal salvation.
When we pray for the sick, the current physical condition of the person is important, but even more important is their eternal condition.
If they were to die, would they spend eternity in heaven?
Note: There’s a parallel idea in 1Tim. 2:15 when Paul is talking about women and childbirth.

(1 Timothy 2:15 NKJV) Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

The issue is this – childbirth was a dangerous thing for a woman in ancient times. Not all mothers survived. What would happen is a mother dies at childbirth? She is saved if she’s trusting in Jesus, even if she dies.

Now back to our verse, James uses the same word, “will save” (sozo).

A soul will be saved from death if they turn around.

James writes that a person who has helped a sinner to turn around has just saved a soul from hell.

Turning from sin isn’t the goal, salvation is the goal.

It’s not that we are saved by turning from our sin – we are saved by our faith in Jesus paying for our sins.

But James has already told us that if we have real faith, then our life’s actions will reflect that through good works.
(James 2:26 NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Let me ask you this – if you were to die tonight, would you know where you would spend eternity?

God wants you to know the answer to that question.

When a person dies, their body and soul are separated.

If that person is one who has trusted in Jesus, their soul goes immediately to heaven to be with Jesus.
Paul described it as if a person “departs to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23)

(Philippians 1:23 NKJV) For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

If that person has not believed in Jesus, then they will find themselves facing judgment.
(Hebrews 9:27 NKJV) And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
Most people don’t realize what this entails.  They think they’ll get a “pass” from God if they have done enough good deeds.
The problem is that this isn’t how the judgment will be made.  The question is not how many good deeds you’ve done, but whether or not you have sinned.
And we’ve all sinned.
Jesus came for a specific reason – to be the sacrifice that would pay for our sins, and what we need to do is to turn to Jesus and allow Him to pay for our sins.
(John 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

So what do you think about when you see someone “wandering” from the truth?

Do you think about how much they bother you?  Does their behavior make you mad or uncomfortable?
There are much bigger issues at play here beloved.
Eternity is in the balance, not just our comfort level.

:20 and cover a multitude of sins

coverkalupto – to hide, veil; to hinder the knowledge of a thing

future active indicative

multitudeplethos – a multitude

James ends with a quote from Proverbs:

(Proverbs 10:12 NKJV) Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.
Peter will repeat this:
(1 Peter 4:8 NKJV) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
Solomon is saying that if you love someone, you don’t embarrass them by publicly humiliating them about their sin, you learn to “cover” sin.
This isn’t the same as “enabling” another person to sin because you are “keeping their secret”.
This is about learning to help the other person confront their sin and find forgiveness.

The only way sins are truly “covered” is through the blood of Jesus.

We want to seek to help people to turn from their sin, find forgiveness in Jesus, and in the end find their sins “covered”.
Solomon says we would do this because we “love” them.
Do we truly love a person if we don’t talk to them about Jesus?

:19 someone turns him back

So how can I be a person who “turns” someone back to the truth?

I wish I could give you a sure-fire formula about how to do this, but let me give you six suggestions… (this is not an exhaustive list)

Lesson #1


If we are concerned for someone, we ought to be praying for them.
Pray their hearts would be softened.
Pray their eyes would be opened.
Ruth Bell Graham had a prayer that I find hard to pray, but I wonder at times if I shouldn’t pray it more.
Prayer for the Wayward

For all who knew the shelter of the fold, its warmth and safety and The Shepherd’s care, and bolted;

choosing instead to fare out into the cold, the night;

revolted by guardianship, by Light, lured by the unknown;

eager to be out and on their own;

freed to water where they may, feed where they can, live as they will;

till they are cured, let them be cold, ill;

let them know terror, feed them with thistle, weed, and thorn;

who choose the company of wolves, let them taste the companionship wolves give to helpless strays;

but, oh! let them live – wiser, though torn!

And wherever, how ever far away they roam,

follow and watch and keep Your stupid, wayward, stubborn sheep, and someday bring them Home!

Ruth Bell Graham

I wonder if she prayed this for her son Franklin, who wandered greatly before coming back to Jesus.
In regards to getting people to turn around… Jesus said,
(Matthew 9:37–38 NKJV) —37 …“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
When you are praying for folks to turn to Jesus, remember this old fellow…

There is a story told about a faithful old deacon whose prayer at church was, “O Lord, touch the unsaved with Thy finger.” One prayer meeting night he was leading in prayer when as he intoned this petition, as he so often did, he abruptly stopped praying.  Supposing he had been taken suddenly ill, someone went to him and asked if there was anything wrong, if he were ill. “No,” he replied, “I’m not ill.  But something seemed to say to me, ‘Thou art the finger’.”

When God said to Isaiah, “Who will go for us?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8)
(Isaiah 6:8 NKJV) Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Lesson #2


In the days of Jesus’ ministry, one of the most hated persons in the Jewish community were the tax collectors.  They were Jewish men who collected taxes for the Romans.  They were hated because they demanded more than was necessary and became rich off the backs of the poor.
One day, Jesus met a tax collector named Zacchaeus.
Video:  Jesus Film – Jesus and Zacchaeus
(Luke 19:1–10 NKJV) —1 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

When Luke tells us the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), he doesn’t record a single thing that Jesus said to Zacchaeus other than inviting Himself over for lunch.

The issue was Jesus spending time with a sinner.

A well-known professional golfer was playing in a tournament with President Gerald Ford, fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. After the round was over, one of the other pros on the tour asked, “Hey, what was it like playing with the President and Billy Graham?” The pro said with disgust, “I don’t need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat!”  With that he headed for the practice tee. His friend followed, and after the golfer had pounded out his fury on a bucket of golf balls, he asked, “Was Billy a little rough on you out there?”  The pro sighed and said with embarrassment, “No, he didn’t even mention religion.”
Jesus spent time with sinners to let them know He cared.
Build relationships.  Be willing to risk being known as a “friend of sinners”.

Lesson #3


There are times when indeed we need to speak up.
The Corinthian church was a little too welcoming, even proud to have one of the men in the church in an openly immoral relationship.
When people don’t respond, sometimes there are consequences. Paul had to step in and tell the church they needed to no longer associate with this unrepentant believer (1Cor. 5)
(1 Corinthians 5:4–5 NKJV) —4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Paul’s harsh actions produced change.  The fellow turned away from his sin.  When Paul wrote to the church a second time he said it was time to bring the fellow back into the church and restore him.

(2 Corinthians 2:7 NKJV) so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

Martin Luther wrote about the balance we need when confronting of sin:
“For you have to inflict the wound in a way that you also know how to alleviate and heal it. You have to be severe in such a way as not to forget kindness. Thus God, too, puts lightning into the rain and breaks up gloomy clouds and a dark sky into fruitful showers.”

(Competent Christian Counseling, Clinton & Ohlschlager, pg.40)

Lesson #4


(Galatians 6:1 NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
restoreκαταρτίζω katartizo – complete; to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair; to strengthen, make one what he ought to be
This is the same word used in our blessing from Hebrews:
(Hebrews 13:20–21 NKJV) —20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Art conservators are skilled artists who can take an old painting that’s been covered by years of dirt and soot and restore the painting to its original condition.
Some people “play” at art restoration, and it’s disastrous.

Video:  Worst Art Restoration Fails

Yet when someone is careful and does things the right way, things turn out wonderful.

Video:  How Art Conservators Clean Paintings

Don’t be afraid to take your time and do it well and in a spirit of gentleness.

Lesson #5


Repentance, forgiveness, healing, and restoration all require connection on our part with each other.
(James 5:16 NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We confess our sin to God to find His forgiveness (1Jo. 1:9)

Admitting my failures to others brings healing.

I need the humility (or even embarrassment) that comes from admitting my failures.
Our twelve-step friends are way ahead of us on this.
Some of us mistake God’s forgiveness with the mending of our own brokenness.

We want the forgiveness, but we don’t want to do the hard work that leads to life of purity and holiness.

Lesson #6


Ultimately, you can’t force anyone to do or believe anything.
Humans have a “will”, they make choices, and if the person “won’t” follow Jesus, you can’t force them.
When Paul said his “good-byes” to the Ephesians, he said this:
(Acts 20:26–27 NKJV) —26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

Paul’s point?  He had done his part. 

He had spoken up when God prompted Him.

It was now up to the Ephesians.

For some people, it’s a culmination of all that has been said, the difficulties they encounter, and remembering what they know about God.
It may not even happen while you are there, but when they are off in some distant land.
Jesus told the story of a rebellious young son who decided he wanted to take his share of the inheritance and live the wild life he felt was owed him.

His father gave him his share of the inheritance.

The son travelled to a distant land where he spent all his money on a wild lifestyle.

The day came when he ran out of money, all his friends disappeared, and he ended up working for a pig farmer – even wishing he could feed himself on what the pigs ate.

(Luke 15:17–19 NKJV) —17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

Do you remember the Father’s response? The father had been watching for his son to return, and when he did, the father ran to him, kissed him, and threw a big party for his son who had come home.

My point?
We can only do our part in the process, and ultimately the rest is up to God and the person we’re concerned about.

Are you the person who needs to turn around today?

Are you the person who has never opened their heart to Jesus and found His gift of forgiveness?

Or are you the person who once walked with God, but you have wandered from the path?

Make a choice today to turn around and follow Jesus.






[1] Eusebius of Caesaria. (1890). The Church History of Eusebius. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A. C. McGiffert (Trans.), Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (Vol. 1, p. 125). New York: Christian Literature Company.