The Truth that Saves Souls (James 5:19-20)

First Baptist Church

“The Truth that Saves Souls”

(James 5:19-20)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 20, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Well, here we are folks, at the end of the James’ letter to the early Jewish Christians.

James has been telling us all along how to live the faith. 

If we’ve been changed by the power of Jesus we must live for Jesus!

This morning’s passage perfectly captures the heart of James’ main concern all throughout his letter: that we really live the faith as sold out, committed, genuine followers of Jesus Christ. 

Let’s see what James has to say. 

Let us then turn to the passage. 

Read the Passage

Read James 5:19-20

19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Let’s pray together.


James gives here his final heartfelt plea to his brothers and sisters in Christ. 

He wants to leave them with this final word. 

Note that there is no final farewell in James’ letter. He simply ends here.

This is sort of a summary of all the teaching that James has shared with the early Christians. 

I want to share with us this morning two declarations from this passage. One which may happen to some of us, and one which all of us should do. 

First, . . .

I. Some of us may stray from the truth (verse 19) [on screen]


How do I know this? Well, James says, “If any among you strays from the truth . . .”

There is no doubt that James believes that some of us can stray from the truth. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us that have studied the book of James. 

He has told us again and again that some who claim to be Christians are in fact not living like Christians.

Some of us may profess the truth, we may have once clung to the truth, but we have now strayed from the truth. 


Illustration: I really enjoy walking in the woods. I love the peace it brings me. Once, I was walking in the woods in Kentucky on a piece of property with which I am very familiar. I can tell you where the roads are, how many creeks there are, where the cabin is, where the neighbors’ properties begin, and all of that. However, one day I got lost. I had strayed from the path and I couldn’t find my way back. I decided to walk until I hit the neighbor’s property. As I did so, I came out on a completely different side of the woods. I was utterly lost because I had strayed from the path. 

In the same way, many of us know all about the faith. We can tell you everything that a good Christian is supposed to know. We know the talk, the walk, and everything.  However, some of us have strayed away. 

We’ve forgotten what it means to love God with all that we have. 

We’ve forgotten how to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

We’ve lost touch with how to forgive someone else. 

We no longer feel the Holy Spirit alive in our hearts. 

We no longer think about telling someone the truth of the gospel. 

We have strayed from the path. 

Some of us may have strayed so far that we no longer resemble a follower of Jesus at all. We are completely off the path. 


We must remember that it is possible for us to stray from the truth. 

We must be careful not to do so. 


Now, what of those that stray from the truth?

Do they lose their relationship with God if stray from the truth?

Here’s what I think James is talking about here:

First, of all, James has made it clear throughout his letter that there are some who profess to be Christians, and may even think that they are Christians, but they, in fact, are not. 

Additionally, throughout his letter, James has been calling all Christians to really consider their relationships with God. Some of us are not living the way that we should. Some of us may stray from the truth. 

So, I think what James is saying can apply to those who know the truth but have never lived it, and to those who once lived it but are no longer living it. 

To further clarify, we do know from elsewhere in the Bible that those who are truly in Christ will never stray away from Him so far that we are lost again. 

Once we are found by God, we will not be lost by God!

But we must be careful that we have truly been found and once we have that we are truly living as one who has been found by God. 

We must be intentional to live for the glory of God, because some of us may stray from the truth. 

Second, . . .

II. All of us must bring people to the truth (verse 20) [on screen]

Let’s read the entire passage again to get the context correct. 

Read James 5:19-20

19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

If someone turns back the person that is straying from the truth, James wants you to know something: you will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. 

We must all be on mission to bring people back to the truth!


Who should we be focused on bringing back?

Well, most specifically here, according to James, those that have wandered away from the teachings of Jesus. 

Do you know someone who was once close to the teachings of Christ but has wandered away? Seek to bring them back!

Do you know someone that used to be in fellowship with God’s people in church but is no longer here? Seek to bring them back!

I believe also that James would say that we should additionally seek to bring to Jesus those who have never been close to Him. 


The overarching message of the book of James is telling us to personally pursue a closer relationship with Jesus and to bring others closer to Jesus along the way. 

We must all bring all people closer to the truth! As many as possible!


Now, some of us may wonder about the wording of what James says here. He says that one who brings someone back to the truth will “save his soul” and “cover a multitude of sins.”

You might think, and rightly so, “Isn’t Jesus the one who saves souls and covers a multitude of sins?”

The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Jesus is the one who saves souls and covers a multitude of sins. 

Well, what’s James talking about, then?

Let me see if I can help explain it with this illustration: Imagine that there was a person in the desert who is deserted, starving, and out of water. They’re baking in the hot sun day after day with no hope of survival. Then, you find them and give them a ride and take them to the hospital. At the hospital, they give the person food, drink, medicine, and rest. The person’s life is saved. After they’ve rested some time they give you a call and thank you for what you’ve done. They say to you, “You saved my life!” Well, technically, you did not save their life. The hospital gave them the food, the drink, the medicine, and the rest. You simply gave them a ride. 

You see, in the same way, Jesus is the one who saves. Jesus is the one who heals. Jesus is the one who makes us right with God. We are to take people to Jesus, and in so doing, we will take part in saving souls. 

So, all of us must bring people to the truth. 

Concluding Thoughts:

It’s imperative that we continue to focus on the truth of the gospel. 

We must be sure that we do not stray from the truth, and we must be thinking about how we can bring others closer to the truth. 

We must stay close to the truth and we must be focused on the mission and vision that God has given us. 

We exist to develop disciples who love God, love the church, and love others. 

One way we develop disciples is to bring people to the truth that saves souls. 

That’s our bottom line this week. 

Bottom Line: Bring people to the truth that saves souls.  [on screen]


Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Let’s point people closer to Jesus and bring them to the truth. 


Now, I know some of you have been seeking to bring specific people closer to the truth for quite some time, and you don’t feel like you’re gaining any ground at all. 

I want to say to you, don’t give up. No one is outside of the reach of God. Continue to make that a priority in your life. 

Share the truth with that person. 

Pray for that person. 

Love that person. 

As we learned last week, know that God can work that miracle in anyone’s life and know that He will do according to His will. 

Let us all bring people to the truth that saves souls. 

Here are three weekly challenges that fit this passage, and the entire book of James. 

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask God to make you a lover of the truth. [on screen]

If we love the truth more, we will be less likely to stray from it. 

Ask God to make you really desire His truth. 

  1. Ask yourself how you line up with the truth.  [on screen]

If any of us are straying from the truth, we need to get back in line quickly.

Open yourself up to God and ask Him to show you how you line up. 

Be vulnerable. Be honest. Be humble before God. 

  1. Identify whom you can bring closer to the truth.  [on screen]

Think this week about whom you can bring closer to the truth. 

Do you know someone who has strayed from the truth? Ask God to give you an opportunity to help bring them back to the truth. 


As we prepare to close, God may have laid on some of your hearts that you are straying away from the truth. Now is the time to get back in line. Now is the time to find the path again. Don’t delay. 

Further, some of you have someone on your heart right now that you know you need to pray for, or speak to, about coming back to Jesus. As God leads, you follow. 

Finally, some of you may have never been close to Jesus. You may have never come to the truth. Right now, God is calling you to Himself. Come to Him. Come find the ultimate Truth. Come find a relationship with your Creator. Become who you were created to be. 

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – I Have Decided to Follow Jesus


Don’t forget to be here tonight for our study at 5:30 called “On Mission Every Day.”  Tonight, we’ll be looking at the practices for the mission. I hope to see you here. 

Also, don’t forget to pick up a baby bottle to help support Options for Women. You can fill those up with money and bring those back by Fathers’ Day. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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