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Saving Souls

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20, ESV) 

We’ve seen James to be an eminently practical book. Like the book of Proverbs it is rich in specific application. Like our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount it presents a gospel-driven life that reflects the lordship of Jesus Christ and dynamics of Christian community. 

The question is, do we take seriously what James has taught us? Do we buy into the idea faith can be fertile or futile, useful for salvation or useless? Do we believe that we can deceive ourselves with mere presumption of saving faith, professors but not possessors? Do we acknowledge that we need to be discerning regarding wisdom, examining it to see if it derives from above or if it is demonic, seeming right but in actuality leading to death? Do we believe that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ works itself out in allegiance to Him and alignment with His will, as it resists the schemes and snares of the evil one? Do we acknowledge that the gospel of the kingdom is truth and that apart from that truth there are no life and no hope? 

If we do embrace what James has taught us and we exercise the royal law of love, then we will not be surprised by James’ closing words. “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” (James 5:19–20). 

In a sense, James is authenticating all that he said prior. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. Apart from faith in Christ, a person is not saved. A profession of faith apart from works that validate that profession is nothing but presumption. 

James is reminding us of our role in loving one another, rebuking one another, exhorting one another. His charge is not only to the elders in their shepherding role of pursuing the lost and wandering sheep. Rather, his charge is to the “brothers,” all those part of the family of God in respect to others who claim to be part of that family. 

While we cannot force those who have strayed from the faith to return or make them repent, we can reach out to them in pleading love. We can pursue those turning from the Light and edging closer to the gaping mouth of hell. We can plant the word, which is able to save the soul (James 1:21), that by God’s grace it might take root and bear fruit in repentance, faith, and new obedience. 

Something else we can do is pray. James has just highlighted for us the power of prayer in seeking the God who is able to do more than all we ask or could even conceive. Elijah, a man like us, prayed and God moved remarkably. He prayed specifically (for drought and for rain). He prayed fervently, importunately, insistently. 

As we pursue the wanderer for God, we must pursue God for the wanderer. Only He can grant power to the implanted word. Only He can convince, convict, and convert. Only He can give ears to hear that they may come to Christ and not see death but have life everlasting. 

1. Why do you think James uses the word “truth” as he closes his letter?

2. Whom do you know that is wandering and how will you be used of God in pursuit? 

“Here I am, O Lord. May I be used of You to seek and save the lost.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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