Interpreting James 5:19-20

Q. I have a question about James 5:19,20. I have just recently been confronted again by some dear relatives who have the strange idea that I no longer belong to God and they think it is their duty to restore me. When I mentioned Eternal Security they said I couldn’t prove it, so I gave them one of your articles and sent them away to study it.

In the mean time I was searching your site for something on James 5:19,20 and couldn’t find anything or possibly missed it. Do you have anything on this passage? Anything you can teach me on this will be greatly appreciated.

By the way, thank you so much for the Isaiah and Mark series, I have learned a great deal from them.


A. James 5:19-20 says:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

There are many places where the Bible clearly promises eternal security. James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not have contradicted them, so here’s what I think he meant.

Several times I’ve encountered people who said they were Christians only to discover after some discussion that their beliefs were inconsistent with what the Bible teaches. They thought they were believers, but I could tell that they weren’t saved.

John was referring to people like this when he wrote about teachers of gnosticism who had formerly been part of the Christian community. He said, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19)

Someone who rescues another from this kind of confusion helps him secure the eternal life he only thought he had, and covers all the sins of his life, including the sin of false teaching.

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