James 5:20 “He should know~~ that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
In Scripture, we are commanded to “be continually knowing” (i.e., “come to know, receive a knowledge of”) the facts of reality, and we are to live in the light of this knowledge.
James concludes his epistle with the believers’ responsibilities to each other (James 5:13–18).
In James 5:19, James identifies a group of needy people (“if any among you wanders from the truth”) that at least professed to be saved and were part of the church. We are responsible for those who “wander from the truth” (a passive form meaning “cause to wander, be led astray, cause to err, [or] be seduced into rebellion”).
Jesus uses the same word when he says to the Sadducees, “You are mistaken not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29). Paul also uses this term to describe our foolish unbelief: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived [same word]” (Titus 3:3).
These people strayed “from the truth,” which in general applies to the word of God but more specifically applies to the gospel of salvation (James 1:18). Failing to understand the gospel can lead to a legalistic attempt to be better or to presume upon God’s love while living in sinful habits, eventually giving up any pretense of being a Christian at all.
The wanderer is a “sinner,” unsaved or unregenerate (Rom 5:8; 1 Tim 1:9, 15; 1 Pet 4:18): “The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous” (Ps 1:5).
In every church, there are many who do not understand the gospel and increasingly feel out of place: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us” (1 Jn 2:19). Those who become part of a group of believers but do not understand biblical salvation must be taught the basis of faith.
This ministry will “save [their] soul[s] from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” The believer who knows the horrible destiny of the unsaved has a prime motivation to “turn a sinner from the error of his way.” Take the time to find a wanderer in your church and help him understand the truth of the gospel.
“Lord, I am staggered by the reality that everyone will live somewhere forever, either with You or in a horrible place of torment. Give me the privilege of turning many to Your wonderful salvation.”