It's Time to Come Back!
1. Recognize the Context: Previous context-James 5:17-18 Verse 17 presents Elijah as an example of a righteous person who demonstrated powerful and effective prayer. James reminds the reader that he was a human, as we are. He didn’t have any “super human powers.”
Elijah prayed fervently that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t (1 Kings 17:1). While this seems like an odd prayer to us, God was at work through Elijah to show himself to King Ahab and the nation of Israel, who had rebelled against him (See 1 Kings 16:29-34). After three and a half years, Elijah prayed, and it rained (1 Kings 18:42).
Elijah played a unique role in the story of God with his people Israel. However, James is encouraging his readers to see him as “no one special.” In right relationship with God, all believers who pray earnestly can see their prayers answered as Elijah did. Keeping in mind what James has already written, a person must have the right motives in prayer (4:2-3).
2. Read the Scripture: James 5:19-20
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
3. Reflect on the Scripture: The final two verses of James present a potential scenario in which someone wanders from the faith. Fellow believers are encouraged to bring that person back. James has already indicated there are only two paths to follow. A person can live as a friend of God or a friend of the world (James 4:4).
Although various authors use different terms, the presentation of two distinct directions for life is seen throughout the New Testament. It is also present in early Christian literature. For example, in the Didache, an ancient 2nd-century writing, it states, “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.”
The goal of turning a sinner from the error of their way is restoration, not judgment. However, the person who has gone astray needs to be repentant (Luke 15:21, Luke 17:3-4). This restoration saves a person from spiritual death (Jude 22-23) and brings about a covering of sins (Prov. 10:12, 1 Pet. 4:8).
4. Relate to life:
Now it's time to get specific and respond today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message. To pray:
Today, prayerfully consider your own life. Are you on the path that leads to life?
Today, prayerfully consider if there is someone in your life who has wandered from the truth.
To do: (work produced by faith with the Holy Spirit’s help) Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.
Are there action steps you need to take to help restore a brother or sister?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)