James 5:19
Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
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(19) Brethren.My brethren, it rather ought to be. The last, and, to some, the dearest of the wise Apostle’s remarks, is this on conversion; and it fitly closes his loving and plain-speaking Letter.

If any of you do err . . .—Better thus, If one of you be led away from the truth, and one convert him. It is not the wilful error, so much as the being seduced by others, who draw the unwary from their proper course, till in time they become of themselves “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:13). As the leading away was an act prompted by the devil, so the bringing home is the service of God, and each will have its fit reward. The sinner is riding, as it were, headlong to destruction, when a friend lays hold upon the rein, and literally “converts” him, i.e., turns him round; but, observe, the wanderer is still far from home, and many a weary league must he traverse, even with face turned and kept heavenward, before the end be neared.

James 5:19-20. Brethren — As if he had said, I have now warned you of those things to which you are most liable. And in all these respects watch, not only over yourselves, but every one over his brother also. Labour, in particular, to recover those that are fallen. For if any of you do err from the truth — From the right way in which he ought to walk, if he be seduced by any means from the doctrine and practice of the gospel; and one — Any one; convert him — Be a means of bringing him back into that way from which he had wandered; let him know — Who has been enabled to effect so good a work; that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way — From the false doctrine and bad practice to which he had turned aside, shall produce a much happier effect than any miraculous cure of the body; for he shall save a precious immortal soul from spiritual and eternal death, and shall hide a multitude of sins — Namely, the sins of the persons thus converted, which shall no more, how many soever they are, be remembered to his condemnation. “The covering of sin is a phrase which often occurs in the Old Testament, and always signifies the pardoning of sin. Nor has it any other meaning here. For surely it cannot be the apostle’s intention to tell us, that the turning of a sinner from the error of his way will conceal from the eye of God’s justice a multitude of sins committed by the person who does this charitable office, if he continueth in them. Such a person needs himself to be turned from the error of his way, in order that his own soul may be saved from death. St. Peter has a similar expression, (1 Peter 4:8,) love covereth a multitude of sins; not, however, in the person who is possessed of love, but in the person who is the object of his love.” — Macknight. 5:19,20 It is no mark of a wise or holy man, to boast of being free from error, or to refuse to acknowledge an error. And there is some doctrinal mistake at the bottom of every practical mistake. There is no one habitually bad, but upon some bad principle. This is conversion; to turn a sinner from the error of his ways, not merely from one party to another, or from one notion and way of thinking to another. There is no way effectually and finally to hide sin, but forsaking it. Many sins are hindered in the party converted; many also may be so in others whom he may influence. The salvation of one soul is of infinitely greater importance than preserving the lives of multitudes, or promoting the welfare of a whole people. Let us in our several stations keep these things in mind, sparing no pains in God's service, and the event will prove that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. For six thousand years He has been multiplying pardons, and yet his free grace is not tired nor grown weary. Certainly Divine mercy is an ocean that is ever full and ever flowing. May the Lord give us a part in this abundant mercy, through the blood of Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit.Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth - Either doctrinally and speculatively, by embracing error; or practically, by falling into sinful practices. Either of these may be called "erring from the truth," because they are contrary to what the truth teaches and requires. What is here said does not appear to have any connection with what precedes, but the apostle seems to have supposed that such a case might occur; and, in the conclusion of the Epistle, he called their attention to the importance of endeavoring to save an erring brother, if such an instance should happen. The exhortation would be proper in addressing a letter to any church, or in publicly addressing any congregation.

And one convert him - This does not mean "convert him as a sinner, or regenerate him," but turn him from the error of his way; bring him back from his wanderings; re-establish him in the truth, and in the practice of virtue and religion. So far as the word used here is concerned, ἐπιστρέψῃ epistrepsē he who had erred from the truth, and who was to be converted, may have been a true Christian before. The word means simply to turn, sc., from his way of error. See the notes at Luke 22:32.

19. The blessing of reclaiming an erring sinner by the mutual consent and intercessory prayer just recommended.

do err—more literally, "be led astray."

the truth—the Gospel doctrine and precepts.

one—literally, "any"; as "any" before. Everyone ought to seek the salvation of everyone [Bengel].

The truth; the truth of God revealed in the gospel as the complete rule of faith and life: see the gospel called the truth by way of eminency, Jam 1:18 Galatians 2:5,14 3:1 5:7 Ephesians 1:13 1 Peter 1:22.

And one; any one, minister or private believer, who may be an instrument in the conversion of others; though one acts by way of authority, the other by way of charity, yet both out of duty.

Convert him; viz. ministerially or instrumentally, in subordination to God. The work is his, Ephesians 2:10, but often is ascribed to the instruments acting under him, and using means appointed by him, and by which he works, Acts 26:18. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth,.... Either from Christ, who is the truth, by departing from him, forsaking his ways, worship, and ordinances; or from the Scriptures of truth, not speaking according to them, and embracing notions that are contrary unto them; or from the Gospel, the word of truth, from the doctrine of faith, and from uprightness of life and conversation, after having made a profession of Christianity; for this is to be understood of one who has embraced the Christian religion, become a member of a church, and has walked in the path of truth and holiness, but now fallen into error, either in principle, or in practice, or both:

and one convert him; or turn him from his error, to truth again; for this designs not first conversion, or the turning of a sinner from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, and from the evil of a man's heart and ways and from a dependence on his own righteousness, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to look to him for righteousness, life, and salvation, which is wholly and entirely God's work, and not man's; but conversion after backslidings; for a restoration from a fallen condition is sometimes so called, Psalm 51:1 and which one brother may be an instrument of to another, by showing him, and setting before him, the evil of his errors, whether in principle or practice; and by instructing him in the doctrines of the Gospel, and in the duties of religion; and by reproving him in meekness, and according to the rules of Christ; which means are sometimes blessed for the gaining of such; and which may be called conversion: and also, this is sometimes done by praying for him; and which seems chiefly to be intended here; for from praying for the healing of the diseases of the body, the apostle proceeds to encourage the saints to pray for one another, for the healing of the diseases of the mind; and suggests, that if prayer avails to the one, it may to the other; and which is the most desirable, and the greatest blessing, as follows.

{12} Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one {k} convert him;

(12) The taking away of an objection: all rebukes are not condemned, seeing that on the contrary there is nothing more acceptable to God than to call into the holy way, a brother that was wandering out of the way.

(k) Has called him back from his way.

Jam 5:19-20. To the exhortation to mutual confession and intercession is annexed “the reference to an important matter—the reclaiming of an erring soul” (Wiesinger). Jam 5:19 forms the supposition; this is expressed in two co-ordinate sentences, of which the first is subordinate in thought to the second: “if any convert one who has erred from the truth.”

πλανηθῇ] the passive aorist here, as frequently in the signification of the middle.

ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας] With this is meant not a single practical aberration, but an alienation from the Christian principle of life, an inward apostasy from the λόγος ἀληθείας by which the Christian is begotten (Jam 1:18), disclosing itself in a sinful course of life (so also Wiesinger, Brückner, Lange[248]).

ΚΑῚ ἘΠΙΣΤΡΈΨῌ] sc. ἐπὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν; comp. Luke 1:16-17.

[248] Arbitrarily, Lange defines the aberration more precisely “as an aberration into Judaistic and chiliastic doings and fanatical and seditious lusts.”Jam 5:19. πλανηθῇ: “The passive aorist is used with a middle force in classical writers, as well as in the LXX, Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalm 119:176; Ezekiel 34:4” (Mayor).—ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας: Cf. Mark 12:14, … ἐπʼ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις, this seems to be the way in which ἀληθεία is here used, cf. John 3:21; John 5:33; John 8:32.—ἐπιστρέψῃ: excepting here (and in the next verse) and Luke 1:16-17 this word is always used intransitively in the N.T. (cf. however Acts 26:18).19. if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him …] Better, as the verb is passive, if any of you be led astray. The “truth” here is obviously not the faith which was common to Jews and Christians, but specifically “the truth as it is in Jesus,” the truth which the “brethren,” who held the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ” (ch. James 2:1), had received as their inheritance. To convert one who had so strayed, in thought or will, in belief or act, was to bring him back to the truth.Jam 5:19. Ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) James, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, avoiding a multitude of words, brings the Epistle to an end. I, he says in this Epistle, seek your salvation; let every one face to face [not absent as I] seek the salvation of his neighbour. Comp. Hebrews 13:22.—τὶς, τὶς, any one, any one) Every one ought to seek the salvation of every one.—πλανηθῇ, shall be led aside) through sin.—τὶς, any one) whoever it shall be [that converts him], that [soul so converted] shall be his gain. An appropriate ending of the Epistle.Verse 19. - Final exhortation; introduced, as was the opening one (James 1:2), by the emphatic "my brethren." The Received Text omits μου, but it is found in א, A, B, K, Vulgate.
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