James 5:19-20 – If Any Err From the Truth

by | Updated August 19th, 2020

James ends his epistle by dealing with those who “err from the truth.” For those who know the truth, it’s incumbent upon them to convert those who are in error regarding the gospel and the doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ. In so doing we “shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

James 5:19-20 – “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the err of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

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Err from the Truth

To err from the truth is a fearful place to be. James warns against straying from the truth and challenges those walking in the truth to make it their business to covert such a one and turn them back again. And thus, he “shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

Three-fold application of the truth:

  1. Jesus is the truth. The Lord Jesus is the source and embodiment of truth. Truth is found in Him and His words alone. To follow Jesus is to pursue truth.

    John 1:1 and 14 – ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

    John 14:6 – “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”

  2. The Word of God is truth. Jesus was and is the incarnate and living Word. The Word of God is the revealed truth to mankind. When you study and read God’s Word truth is made clear to us. When you walk in the Word you are walking in the truth.

    John 8:31-32 – “If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    John 17:17 – “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”

  3. We must speak the truth. We as followers of Christ must speak the truth. When we vocalize the Word we are speaking truth. “Thy Word is truth.” We must speak truth to one another.

    Ephesians 4:25 – “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”

    Ephesians 4:15 – “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

Converting the Sinner

The converting of sinners must be our goal. The turning from sin to a life of following Christ in spirit and truth. What a glorious ambition for every child of God. This must not be the vocation of paid clergy alone but each disciple of Jesus. God help those of the five-fold ministry and laity alike to be in the business of converting sinners to our Lord.

Matthew 18:3 – “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Acts 3:19 – “Repent ye therefore, and be converted (return), that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Three-fold application:

  1. The lost. Those who are without Christ and don’t know Him as their personal Lord and Savior. The lost are in err of the truth. They are not following Christ or His Word. They are separated from God and in need of Jesus.

    The Bible has a lot to say about us winning souls to Christ. This is a part of the great commission and following Christ. Soul winning should be the passion of every born again believer. Their eternal destiny hangs in balance and we could be the deciding factor as to which way the scales tip.

    Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

    Mark 16:15 – “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

    Matthew 4:19 – “And He saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

    Acts 1:8 – “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.”

    John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

    Luke 15:10 – “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.”

    Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

    Luke 5:31-32 – “Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

    This seems to indicate that much of our time should be invested in endeavoring to win those who know they are sinners and not those who think themselves to be righteous and good in themselves. This is because the “so called righteous” don’t think they have need of salvation. Our time is best invested in those who know they are in need. That said, we should be ready and equipped to win all lost individuals to Jesus.

    1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”

    Romans 1:14-16 – “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”

    Acts 3:26 – “Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”

  2. The backslider and wayward. This has to do with those who know the truth but for whatever reason have fallen away and are no longer living for Christ. We are to do what we can to bring them back to Him.

    This may also apply to those who have fallen out of fellowship. They were once active in a local body of believers (church) and for some reason have drifted away. This, of course, could be because they are a backslider. On the other hand, it may be the result of discouragement, despair, and difficulties of life. These must be brought back into the fold.

    Matthew 9:36-38 – “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest.”

    Matthew 18:12 – “How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?”

    Hebrews 5:1-4 – “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”

    This is particularly the duty of the shepherd. Pastors, you must be at the business of going after those who have fallen out of your church. If someone has missed a number of weeks in a row something is inevitably wrong. You don’t know what they may be going through. You must leave the ninety and nine and go after the one that has strayed.

    All too often people have stopped going to church and no one has so much as given them a call to see what’s wrong. This should never be. This has all too frequently been the testimony of those who have stopped going to church. Pastors and church leaders have been derelict of their duties in this area. This must be repented of or God will deal with it.

  3. Those in doctrinal error. This is the most dangerous of them all. Doctrinal error in little areas, may in time, lead to heresy. If at all possible these must be brought back around to the acknowledgment of the truth.

    There are deceptive spirits that seek to lead men astray. Paul constantly warned against deception and wolves in sheep’s clothing. This is particularly true in our day like never before. There’s a lot of teaching and preaching that sounds good on the surface but if you really look at it closely, beneath the surface, you’ll see something is drastically wrong.

    1 Timothy 4:1 – “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

    Deception is best cloaked in truth. Err and deception is hidden when wrapped in just a little bit of truth. An out and out blatant lie is obvious. In order to get people to buy into a lie or falsehood it has to be disguised with an element of truth. God’s Word warns…

    Acts 20:28-30 – “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

    2 Corinthians 11:3-4 – “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”

    2 Corinthians 11:13-15 – “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

    Galatians 1:6-9 – “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

    Galatians 3:1-3 – “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

    2 Timothy 4:2-5 – “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

    1 John 4:1-3 – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

    2 John 7-11 – “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

    If we will consistently teach our people sound doctrine there would be fewer carried away by deception. Paul exhorted both Timothy and Titus to instruct the people in sound doctrine. There’s plenty of good motivational and self-help messages in the church today but little teaching of the Word of God and instructing in sound doctrine. Paul exhorts…

    Hebrews 13:9 – “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.”

    Romans 16:17 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

    Titus 2:1 – “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”

    1 Timothy 4:13 – “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

    Reading has to do with the public reading of scripture (explaining and applying the Word), exhortation has to do with preaching, and then the teaching of doctrine. To leave out any of these three is to fail your people. Many churches today only have Sunday morning services which can make this task difficult.

    The teaching of doctrine is imperative! Without this your people may be easily led astray. I suggest, for those who have limited time, you interject doctrine into your Sunday morning sermons. In most passages you preach from, there are treasures of doctrine to instruct your people in the fundamentals of the faith.

Compel Them

We are not to simply give a polite invitation and leave it with them. We must compel mankind to turn to the truth of the gospel and accept Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Jude 23 – “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Luke 14:23 – “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.”

Ephesians 3:8-9 – “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”

Save a Soul From Death

What a promise and encouragement to go after the wayward, those who have fallen out of church, and those in doctrinal err. We can actually save a soul from death. Glory to God in the highest!

Death is two-fold:

  1. Separation from God. We have the distinct privilege of bringing people back into a relationship with God through the finished work of Christ on Calvary’s cross. Mankind is at enmity with God separated by sin. Through the cross of Christ, His death, and the shedding of His blood for our sins reconciliation was made possible.

    1 Peter 3:18 – “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

    1 John 1:1-3 – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

    Romans 5:9-11 – “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

    2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

  2. The second death – Hell itself. The curse of sin was death and separation from God. It encompasses both physical and spiritual death, ultimately culminating in eternal separation from God in hell. God told Adam,

    Genesis 2:11 – “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eat thereof thou shalt surely die.”

    Ezekiel 18:4 – “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

    Romans 5:12 – “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

    Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death.”

    Matthew 25:41 – “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

    2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”

    Revelation 20:14-15 – “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

    Hebrew 10:27 – “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” without Christ.

    Jesus is man’s only hope! Without Christ we are all doomed to eternal damnation. If you haven’t trusted Jesus and His finished work on the cross for your sins, let me urge you to do so now. Faith in His shed blood on our behalf is the only remedy for our sin and its penalty.

    Hebrews 6:18 – Flee “for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

    Hebrews 10:14 – “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

    Hebrews 13:12-13 – “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.”

    Romans 3:25-26 – “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

    1 Peter 1:18-20 – “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

    Ephesians 1:7 – “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Cover a Multitude of Sins

Believers and followers of Jesus are to be about the business of hiding and covering sins and not exposing them. Too many in the church thrive on exposing. They say, “Hey, look what so and so did! I don’t want to talk but… I’m telling you this so you can pray”…

Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Proverbs 17:9 – “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”

This was exemplified in the life of Noah. After the flood, he planted a vineyard, made wine, got drunk, then passed out naked in his tent.

Genesis 9:22-23 – “Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

Shem and Japheth were blessed by covering his sin while Ham was cursed (Genesis 9:24-27). If we want the blessing of God on our lives, we must follow the example of Shem and Japheth and cover the sins of our brothers and sisters instead of exposing them as Ham.

1 Peter 4:8 – “Above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves: for charity (love) shall cover the multitude of sins.”

That’s what we must do ourselves but when we turn people from err and deception to the truth of the gospel we’re not just covering their sins but wiping them out. Through the forgiveness and cleansing power of the blood of Christ their sins are not just hidden but gone forever. His blood washes away all our sins and makes us white as snow.

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Psalm 103:2 – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.”

Psalm 103:12 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”

Micah 7:19 – “He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

Ephesians 1:7 – “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

1 John 1:7 – “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

1 Peter 1:18-19 – “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling—
Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching—
Watching for you and for me!
Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading—
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies—
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing—
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, death-beds are coming—
Coming for you and for me!

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised—
Promised for you and for me!

Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon—
Pardon for you and for me!


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