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]
as Jesus prayed for his disciples and future disciples in his High Priestly prayer, he asked his Father to “sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth.” [john 17:17] Jesus knew and taught that the way the Father keeps his children in him is through sanctification. he continues to chip away at the pieces of our hearts that don’t reflect his glory, giving us more and more understanding of who he is and more and more awe at the majesty of his character. this sanctification is done through the truth of his word and of his Spirit. it is a promise we cling to that leads Jesus to also say, “while I was with them, i kept them in your name, which you have given me. i have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the scripture might be fulfilled.” [john 17:12] so in keeping us in the truth of his word, we are sanctified, and prepared for eternity with him.
in this passage, we see a mind blowing truth about God’s method of keeping us in the truth. he uses other believers! as we see with adam in the very beginning, God teaches us that “it is not good that the man should be alone; i will make him a helper fit for him.” [gen 2:18] this doesn’t mean that it is wrong for any specific man to remain unmarried, but if God had not created that helper, adam would have lived in isolation forever. so in creating a helper for him, God also provided a community for the purpose of enjoying him together. now he uses that community to carry out the work of sanctification. we keep each other in line with the truth.
we also see the importance of our zeal for this community. “whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” [1 john 2:9] so what does it look like to love your brother? to bring him back to the truth when he wanders from it! you are playing a part in God’s sanctification of your brother and being used as an instrument by God to save your brother’s soul from death! to watch your brother wander from the truth and not seek to “restore him in a spirit of gentleness” [gal 6:1], is sinful, lacking love for that brother, lacking zeal for the body of Christ.
on the receiving end, we can rejoice that God has given us a community to keep us on the path of God’s truth. if we place ourselves in a position of humility and submission to the Spirit, we will be full of thankfulness when a brother/sister points out sin [whether done gently or not, we can still be thankful for the truth in it!] because it is God’s way of keeping us in Christ, restoring us to his truth, sanctifying us to the end. this mercy of conviction, confession, repentance, and restoration is an amazing gift. [heb 12:5]
Father, you are faithful and full of mercy. thank you for your promises. thank you that the covering of Christ’s blood can never be removed from those who believe on his name. thank you for the gift of repentance, and thank you for a body that you use to build me up and point me toward the truth of Jesus Christ. amen.
~ arwen eastman