Restoring the Fallen


James concluded his epistle by emphasizing the importance of turning a fallen brother away from sin and back to Christ.

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

There are a few reminders for us in these verses.

Christians Can Fall

James pointed the finger at those to whom he was writing: “If any among you strays from the truth.” We know he was talking to Christians because they would have to be in the truth at one time in order to stray from it. We must be mindful of the real possibility of falling away from the Lord. Some believe this cannot happen. Different denominations teach the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”; but this is not what the Bible teaches. We can fall from grace (cf. Galatians 5:4). Paul warned, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We must guard our hearts and our minds to keep from falling away from the Lord.

We Must Watch for One Another

James talked about restoring a fallen brother as “[turning] a sinner from the error of his way.” In order to do this, we need to be looking out for one another. This is what the Hebrew writer instructed: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). Two things are needed: an interest in our brethren and a willingness to correct them when necessary. If our brother falls away and if we love him as we should, we will do these things to help “save his soul from death.

Sin is Progressive

When we turn a brother from “the error of his way,” one of the things that will happen is that we “cover a multitude of sins.” This looks backward to past sins – after this brother repents, he can receive forgiveness from God. But it also looks forward. If this brother was not corrected, what would he still be doing? He would still be committing the same sins. Therefore, when we turn a brother from sin, we are helping to prevent many other sins from being committed. The Scriptures teach that sin is progressive. Paul told Timothy, “Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). The longer someone remains in bondage to sin, the worse his condition becomes and the harder it is for him to give up his sin. When we restore a brother, we turn him from the sins he has committed that would have compounded into greater and more numerous sins later.


The book of James is full of practical instructions for Christians. He wrote about many ways in which our lives should reflect our faith. This final instruction is a continuation of that theme. Guarding our hearts, helping our brethren, and fighting the battle against sin is necessary in the life of every Christian. We are in this together! Let us serve God faithfully and encourage one another to do the same.

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  1. Larry DeVore says