James 029 – The Power of PrayerJames 5:16b-20 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 26, 2021 • James
The Power of Prayer
Dr. Andy M. Woods
Book of James 5:16 — James, as you know, wrote a book from Jerusalem to his scattered flock in the Diaspora, or the Dispersion. They were already believers, so he is teaching them about practical righteousness, i.e., how to let their practice catch up with their position. The first half of the book, as you know, James 1:1-3:12, is to continue to walk by faith which involves accepting God’s viewpoint on tribulations, obeying His Word, not showing favoritism, doing good works, and controlling the tongue.
From James 3:13 through the end of the book, and Lord willing, we are going to try to finish the book tonight. The second half of the book is about the walk of wisdom, which is knowledge applied. He defines wisdom in James 3:13-18, then he talks about applying that concept to our lives — our spiritual lives in James 4:1-12; our commercial lives in James 4:13-17; the use of wealth in James 5:1-6; waiting for the Lord’s return in James 5:7-12, and as we saw last time, he began to apply it to prayer.
We covered about half of the issues related to prayer, and there are basically two parts here, the types of prayer which we reviewed in James 5:13 through about the first half of 5:16, where James mentions the different kinds of prayers. With prayer, there is not a one-size-fits-all prayer. Different circumstances in life call for different kinds of prayers, and James mentions five types.
That begs the question: Does this prayer stuff really work? He begins in James 5:16-18, and he talks about the power of prayer. There is a saying in Christian circles to paraphrase it, the devil scoffs when we do such and such, but he trembles when we pray. Satan would prefer to have you do anything but pray because prayer has power; power moves God’s hand. Often when we pray, we don’t really believe that there is any real effect because we don’t always see an immediate result happening. That is why when we go back to 5:15 when he talks about praying for the sick, it says, “…and the prayer offered in faith…” It takes faith to pray. The reason that prayer is an exercise in faith is because we don’t see an instantaneous result usually manifest itself right before us. We pray for God to do something that we can’t see.
Perhaps he does give us an instantaneous result at times; for me personally, that is not my typical experience. So, prayer itself requires faith and trust, and when praying the temptation is to ask if it is really effective; working? We can rationalize that there are a multitude of other things we should be doing with our time other than praying because we are so busy. Right? We need to essentially have a reminder regarding the power of prayer. That is what James starts to do in the second half of 5:16; he gives a general statement and then he gives an example. The example is a man named Elijah.
Notice 5:16, after he tells us to prayer for one another that we might be healed, see the second half of the verse, “…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” The prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much. Prayer is far more powerful than what we think about it. When I first came to Sugarland Bible Church about ten years ago when I started, I had basically two priorities, not because I understood everything there is to know about church and God because I don’t, but I do understand two things that God honors. God does not promise to bless a man, a method or a movement, but He does promise to bless, one, His Word, because He has made us a promise that His Word does not return void per Isaiah 55, and two, He promises to bless prayer. One of the things we started with our part-time staff of two secretaries and I is to pray every Friday, which we deemed as staff prayer. As more staff were added, they became involved with it and now staff prayer every Friday is something that I look very forward to with all our full time and part-time staff. It is amazing how much more smoothly things have gone here since we practiced regular prayer than prior to the time we initiated it because God promises to bless prayer.
When the deacons were chosen in the early church where everyone wanted to get the apostles involved in all of these service projects which were good, but the apostles said that they needed to raise up deacons to whom they could turn their service projects over. Why? In Acts 6:4, “So, we will devote ourselves [the apostles] to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” The apostles who were the acting elders at the church at Jerusalem would not get sucked into every single project; they delegated those things out to worthy men. Those to whom they delegated to were required to meet certain qualifications. This is when the deacons were beginning to be initiated. It freed up the apostles to give themselves to God’s priorities which are the ministry of the Word and prayer. Once that happened, the early church began to grow exponentially. Acts 6:7 says that the word of the Lord kept on spreading after they made that decision. I wonder what would have happened to the early church had the apostles had pursued only social projects as good as they can be, at the expense of the ministry of the Word and prayer. Christianity may never have spread as it needed to in Jerusalem back in the first century.
Of note, James, who is writing this letter was the pastor at the Jerusalem church, so no doubt, he was there on the ground floor to see the apostles’ priorities which is why he writes to us in James 5:16, “…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish [availeth] much.” An interesting question: what does he mean by the effective prayer of a righteous man? It does not say that God honors just any prayer. It says that He honors the prayer of a righteous man. What is a righteous man? In one sense, we are all positionally righteous because the righteousness of Jesus has been transferred to us at the point of faith per Phil 3:9 and many other passages. In one sense, it is tempting to read this as the righteous man is just any Christian, but I don’t believe that is what James means because of what James has been arguing through the entire book. He has been arguing not for positional righteousness, his audience already had that; he is arguing for practical righteousness. That is when James says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, I believe that he isn’t just talking about a Christian who is right with God via faith, but about a Christian who is keeping short accounts with God for when he does sin, thereby moving in the direction of growth. I believe that is what James means when he says that the prayer of a righteous man availaeth much. In other words, a Christian who is allowing his practice to catch up with their position is the one whose prayer God honors.
Thus, it is true that our sin cannot cause us to lose our salvation, but unconfessed sin in the life of the Christian can neutralize the effectiveness of our prayer lives. Several scriptures about this: Psalm 66:18 where David is writing, and he was obviously positionally righteous before God by way of faith. David says here, “If I regard wickedness [iniquity] in my heart, The Lord will not hear;…” Even though I am right with God by way of faith, if I am walking in sin, then the Lord will not hear my prayers.
In 1 Peter 3:7 about how a husband is to treat his wife, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” In other words, the man is not supposed to mistreat his wife or to abuse her; he is supposed to honor and respect her as a fellow heir of salvation. What if the husband decides not to do that; if he chooses to be a male chauvinist pig? Does that mean he lost his salvation? No. But it says specifically in 1 Peter 3:7 to the man that he is supposed to honor his wife so that his prayers will not be hindered.
Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness [iniquity] in my heart, The Lord will not hear;….” It is very clear in the scriptures that unconfessed sin in the life of the Christian can damage the effectiveness of their prayers. So, when James says that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective, I think that he is really saying that the believer has a new power in his prayer life when his sins are forgiven; they are positionally right with God, but they are also an obedient Christian. So, if there are just pockets of disobedience in our lives, then we cannot expect our prayers to get any higher than the ceiling since the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. It is tempting to read that and interpret it as it applying to all Christians, but that is not James’ point throughout this book — he isn’t dealing with positional righteousness; he is dealing with practical righteousness. That becomes a great incentive to walk in a clean and holy way before God in daily life, but also because we want to have an effective and powerful prayer life.
That is James’ principle, and he now gives an example. Do we have anyone in the Bible who can serve as an example of a fervent and powerful and effective prayer warrior? We do have such an example in James 5:17,18: Elijah, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” This is a textbook example of what James is demonstrating when talking about the prayer of a righteous man being powerful and effective. It is interesting that James believed that Elijah was a real human being because there are a lot of people who say that Elijah’s story is not literal but that we need to be Elijah-like. James, apparently believed that Elijah was a real person. Going back to 5:11, James also believed that Job was a real person.
In Ezekiel 14:14,20 Ezekiel believed that Noah, Daniel and Job were real people, too. That is how we understand Elijah and every historical character going all the way back to Adam — they were real people. That is how James treats them. He says that Elijah was able to alter the weather with his prayer life — think about that! That happened in 1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” So, Elijah prayed, and it stopped raining in the land of Israel for 3 ½ years. Then he prayed again in 1 Kings 18:42, “…he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees.” In 1 Kings 18:45 it says, “In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.”
Elijah prayed once and there is a drought for 3 ½ years and then prays again and the rain began. So, he is an amazing character because his prayers were able to alter the weather. On my trip to Oklahoma tomorrow, I may have to get some Elijah-like prayers from all of you that the weather won’t be a hindrance as the forecast predicts it might be. Don’t pray only that I arrive there but that I get back because if I don’t return, Brother Jim would have to preach…. Lord willing, I am planning to be back on Sunday.
To reiterate, prayer can even alter the weather according to what the Bible says. Was Elijah some kind of superhuman? No. In James 5:17, it says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.” The only other place in the Bible that I can think of where that expression, ‘a nature like ours’ is found is in Acts 14:15, where Paul is going into southern Galatia on his first missionary journey and those people who were the recipients of his ministry, the pagans and unbelievers, began to bow down and worship Paul. In Acts 14:15, Paul says, “…Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, …” In other words, ‘don’t worship me,’ says Paul, I am just a fellow human being. So, when it says that Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours, it means that he was a person as we are; not superhuman; he walked with God and was positionally right with Him. He was allowing his practice to catch up with his position, but he put on his shoes one foot at a time like we all do. He had a sin nature as we all do; he had the same limitations as we have, he got discouraged as the rest of us do; he became so discouraged that he wanted to die.
In 1 Kings 19:4, “But he [Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” I think he was rather despondent to the point of wanting to die as he asked the Lord to ‘just kill me.’ Elijah was prone to discouragement, limitations, the sin nature just like we are; he was a like nature as ours, yet he could change the weather with his prayer life because God doesn’t promise to bless a man, a method, or a movement but His Word and prayer.
It is interesting what it says here concerning Elijah that he prayed, and it did not rain for three years and six months; a specific timeframe. We get the same timeframe in Luke ’s gospel, Luke 4:25, when Elijah, speaking about his prayer life, “…when the sky was shut up for three years and six months,…” He caused a drought through his prayer life for three years and six months. That is significant because of the book of Revelation 11:3 where there is a big debate out there concerning the identity of the two witnesses in the Great Tribulation period. Rev 11:3, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” That calculates to three years and six months. This is the same amount of time that Elijah shut up the heavens that it wouldn’t rain as he prayed to God. In Rev 11:6, it says concerning the two witnesses, “These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.”
So, during the Tribulation period there are two guys who show up, one of them changes water into blood, reminiscent of Moses in the Old Testament, and the other shuts up the sky so that it cannot rain for 3 ½ years, exactly as Elijah did. There is a lot of debate on the identity of the two witnesses and since they are not named in the Bible, I think that they might be Moses and Elijah. I don’t believe that they are Moses and Enoch as some do, nor do I think they’re symbolical characters or symbols of something, nor are they two guys who show up and did the same kinds of things that Moses and Elijah did. I believe that it may be Moses and Elijah who show up during this Tribulation period because their calling cards are given away in Rev 11. They are supernaturally protected as Moses and Elijah were in the Old Testament. See the slides on the Identity of the Two Witnesses with corresponding verses to look up. They do the exact same activities as Moses and Elijah did; the duration of their ministries was the same, three and a half years. Rev 11:12 says that Elijah was raptured into heaven, which was just what happened to him in the Old Testament; he was taken to heaven in a chariot.
At the Transfiguration when Jesus transfigured Himself in the gospels, Matt 17, who was there with Him? Moses and Elijah were. They are known to make guest appearances when the kingdom is imminent. It is interesting that Moses’ ministry was cut short, that is, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, and Elijah’s ministry was also cut short because he was taken to heaven in a chariot. Thus, it has always made sense to me that God would allow them to come back in the end times to fulfill their ministries.
There is Scripture indicating that Elijah will come back, in Malachi 4:5-6; that is why the orthodox Jews set aside a chair for Elijah at the dinner table. The idea is that he is coming soon, so we need to have a place at the dinner table for him. Some people contend that John the Baptist fulfilled that. No, he did not. John was asked if he was Moses and Elijah. He said, ‘no,’ so these are prophesies yet to be fulfilled. I bring this to your attention because it is a lot of fun to study the Bible; like a jigsaw puzzle; put all the pieces together and it yields a coherent teaching.
I think that Moses and Elijah will come back during the Tribulation. If we are as close to the Tribulation as I think they are, maybe they are in town somewhere; I don’t know. It is a doctrine that you cannot obtain from only one or two scriptures, they need to be pieced together. That is my rudimentary thinking on this topic.
That is a tremendous teaching on prayer; the kinds of prayer in James 5:13-16 and the power of prayer using Elijah as an example in the second half of 5:16 into 5:18. That means that we have only one other topic to tackle before we are finished with the book of James.
James 5:19-20 is practical righteousness in terms of restoring the erring brother. We have the necessity of warning the erring brother in 5:19 and the blessings that come with warning the erring brother in 5:20, that is, there are two blessings. Is it our business when somebody goes astray, and they begin to take on strange beliefs or to adopt an ungodly lifestyle? Or if there is a child or a grandchild in the university system who begin to drift away? Is it really our responsibility to try to right the ship because many will claim that it isn’t their responsibility; they will just hand them over to the Lord. There is a place and time to hand people over to the Lord, but the truth of the matter is that God uses people. God can intervene directly whenever He wants, but He uses people to do His will, so I believe that James is telling us that there is an actual time and place for a Christian to try to right the ship of a fellow Christian who is wandering from the faith.
I see the necessity of warning the erring brother in James 5:19, “My brethren, …” [using brethren, he is talking to the family of Christians. Thus, the person wandering from the faith is a Christian in this hypothetical situation that James is describing. “My brethren, if any among you [in other words, amongst the brethren, fellow Christians] … strays from the truth and one turns him back,…” Notice that James says here that there is a place to get involved in the life of an erring Christian. It is not enough to say that God will teach them because God uses people, and if the Holy Spirit has placed on your heart to try to retrieve someone, chances are that conviction you sense was placed there by God. So, there is a time and place to make an effort.
Let me say this, in doing this is what I would call a very delicate operation. It isn’t something you charge into without prayer, and it is something you handle with an extreme degree of care. Jesus, I think, was talking about this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 7:1-5 where He says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye…”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say here to never get involved with taking the speck out of someone’s eye. He is saying that when you do that, you must make sure that the log is out of your own eye so you can see clearly. In other words, when getting involved in the practice of trying to help others get back onto the right path, we have to be sure that we aren’t walking in hypocrisy. I can’t tell someone that they’re having a problem with profanity if I am having my own problem with profanity. It is okay to tell someone that they are struggling with profanity but be sure that you aren’t committing the same sin(s). This is what he is talking about, and he analogizes this, to taking something out of someone’s eye. We have all been to the optometrist or ophthalmologist, and it is a very delicate procedure…when I was young, up to fifth grade, I had already had five eye surgeries that had I not had them, I would probably be blind today. I have alternating strabismus where I don’t use my eyes together binocular; I use one eye for distance and one eye for close up. That is why when I am handed something, I may not grab it right away because I have little depth perception; they wouldn’t let me on the road without any depth perception, but mine is limited. So, I know something about eye issues and surgeries, and I know that when someone gets into your eye, it is a procedure that must be handled with absolute care. We don’t want a novice or someone who is untested or uncredentialed; it is literally the most delicate procedure that can be done. That is the mindset we are to have when the Holy Spirit places on our hearts to correct a fellow brother or sister in Christ. Take care not to do it abruptly or brashly, but with the skill of an eye surgeon.
Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual [in other words, mature and not walking in the same sin], restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness [don’t grab them by the neck, scream and yell at them or call them names, but do it with great gentleness]; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” In other words, don’t do it hypocritically. The idea of rescuing someone is biblical but doing so in a careless way is not biblical.
If you spent any time as or with a lifeguard, they would tell you that one of the most difficult things to do is to rescue a drowning person because typically, [I was never a lifeguard but my wife was] it is difficult because a drowning person is in such a state of fear with adrenaline flowing that they will literally reach out and pull you down with them. That’s how it is when you are rescuing someone; they may grab you under and into the same sin as theirs.
James 5:19, the necessity of warning the erring brother is something that should be done more frequently in the Body of Christ but with proper precision. Why? Because there are blessings associated with it. In fact, there are two blessings associated with taking someone under God’s grace and turning them around so that they get back on the right path.
The first of the two blessings is that you save them from premature death per 5:20, “…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.” The first blessing associated with rescuing or correcting an erring Christian is that you are saving their soul from premature death. The misinterpretation associated with this is that the erring believer can lose his salvation; that is, that if he isn’t rescued, his soul will not be saved from death and he will go to hell because he lost his salvation. The reason this is wrong is because earlier in this passage it says that they are one of the brethren, “if any among you strays…” so this is wrongly interpreted as if you don’t turn them around, they are going to hell. We reject that interpretation because we believe that the weight of the evidence on the issue of eternal security is once saved, always saved.
One of the key verses regarding this issue of eternal security, of which there are many in our soteriology series, (where we went into the pro and con arguments) is John 10:27-29, where Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ou mē apóllumi; aiōnia]; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” When a person gets saved, they are in both God the Father’s hand and God the Son’s hand concurrently. They are in the double grip of grace. They aren’t just being held by one member of the Trinity but by two members of the Trinity; therefore, no one will be able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. In Greek, see the brackets, it is a double negation, which indicates the strongest negative possible. In other words, can something, you, someone else, satan — snatch you out of the double grip of grace? The double negative is saying that it is an impossibility.
It says that no one can snatch them out of my hand forever. I don’t know why the English translations fail to translate this well. In Greek, you will see the word, aiōnias, which means forever. Nothing can take the true Christian out of the Son’s or the Father’s hands forever.
In Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar, he comments on this construction, and he says the “Emphatic negation is indicated by oú mń plus the aorist subjunctive…This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek… oú mń rules out even the idea as being a possibility: ‘oú mń’is the most decisive way of negating something in the future…As well, a soteriological theme is frequently found in such statements, especially in John: what is negated is the possibility of the loss of salvation.” He is saying here that the Greek construction here makes ‘once saved and then you aren’t saved’ as impossible; it cannot happen.
So, I must interpret James 5:20 in light of the clear passage here that says you cannot be lost once you are a believer in Jesus Christ. Some may ask, ‘But what about if I lose my faith? What if I stop believing? If I stop believing, can’t that take me out of the Father’s hand?’ In 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, [it doesn’t mean unfaithful; it means faithless; what is called alpha privitive; alpha, first letter in the Greek language followed by pistis which means faith, or to believe; agnostic. The a negates knowledge; atheist; the a negates theism; amillennialism a negates the doctrine of the millennium. You are familiar with the alpha privitive, that when you place an a in front of something, such as atypical, the a negates the word that follows. So, it is saying in this verse that if we are without faith, faithless, that would include a situation where someone is not merely unfaithful, but they actually stop believing in Jesus Christ. Understand that what I am teaching is revolting to most of Christendom who is conditioned on the idea of good works keeping us saved. “If we are faithless, [alpha privitive], without faith, He remains faithful, for He can not deny Himself.” Once you have trusted in Christ and you are in that double grip of grace, there is absolutely nothing that can take you out, even your own lack of faith which would be doubt.
Some of you may be picking up stones to throw at me, but hear me out; we will do Q & A shortly. If someone cannot lose their salvation, then what in the world is James 5:20 talking about when it says, “…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death…” If it isn’t talking about how you have to turn someone around, so they don’t lose their salvation, then what in the world is it talking about? What is sin? Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, …” What happens to someone when they go back into sin? Let’s assume that this person has truly trusted in Christ as their Savior, then what happens to them when they go back into sin? They start to face death at a temporal level, not an eternal level because of the doctrine of eternal security, but at a temporal level because the wages of sin is death.
Proverbs 13:15 says, “…but the way of transgressors is hard.” A good example of this is David. My daughter and I were reading in our devotional time in 2 Samuel, and David is on the upward ascent in 2 Samuel 1-10. In 2 Samuel 11 is adultery and murder. In 2 Samuel 12, David is confronted by Nathan the prophet and he is then told that the sword will not depart from his house. The in 2 Samuel 13 to the end of the book, we see David under all kinds of temporal consequences for his sin, not the least of which his own family went to civil war. Did David, when he experienced all those things, lose his salvation? No. He was heaven-bound, but he did experience problem after problem after problem, etc. when he went into that sin. The book of Galatians 6:8, “…For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,…” If you walk away from the things of God and pursue an ungodly lifestyle, loss of salvation is not the issue if you were saved. As the Bible says, you are sowing to the wind, and now you are reaping the whirlwind.
If you go to someone who is a Christian and they are wandering away from the things of God, and under God’s gracious power, as you exercise the same tremendous, delicate care of an eye surgeon, and you turn that person back to the right road, then you have saved them from all of those problems. You have saved them from all the problems such as those that David experienced because of his sin. The word, ‘saved’ in the noun is soteria, the verb is sōzō, and that confuses people because when most people see the word ‘saved’ think that it has to do with heaven or hell, because that is how we evangelicals use the word. For example, ‘So and so got saved so they aren’t going to hell anymore.’ That is generally what the word means in the New Testament, however, much of the time, it has nothing to do with salvation from hell. For example, Paul in Phil 1:19, says, “…for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance [sōzō = deliverance] through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, …” He is not talking about salvation from hell but about being saved from prison; he was in prison and knew that he would soon be released, so he had been saved from a long prison sentence. It is akin to my saying that I drove in early so that I would be saved from a traffic jam. I am not using the word, ‘saved’ as being delivered from hell, although sitting in traffic feels like hell, but I am saved from a temporal problem.
We are studying on Sunday morning Noah’s Ark in Heb 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household,…” What was Noah’s family saved from when they entered the ark? From hell? No. They were saved from the global deluge. Understand that sōzō: verb; soteria: noun — both coming from the same root does not always mean salvation from hell although it can mean that in other contexts, but not always. That is where some get confused that they must turn someone around to save their soul from death; save them from going to hell — that is not how the word, ‘saved’ is being used here. When you turn someone who is a Christian around and back to the things of God, you are saving them from all the David-like temporal consequences that they will experience. If someone is sexually immoral, and you confront them saying that they need to repent of their sexual immorality, think about all the things you will save them from by helping to get them back into a chaste lifestyle. They are saved from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, all the emotional attachments that go along with sexual involvement with someone only to break up with them. That is why as Christians, we should be available to the Holy Spirit for involvement in fellow believers’ lives to help turn them back on the right path. The benefit is that you can save them from temporal death.
One of the things that can happen to them is maximum divine discipline. ‘Whom the Lord loves, the Lord chastens’ per Heb 12:5-13. Sometimes the disciplinary hand of God, not judgment but discipline because discipline is different from judgment. When your child runs out into the middle of the street, and you the parent see it and correct the child through discipline, then the next time they consider running out into the middle of the street without looking, they think about the momentary pain of discipline, and decide not to do it; consequently, they aren’t hit by the oncoming truck. That is what divine discipline is: the application of momentary pain so that we will consider the error of our ways to keep us from going into sin only to reap all of the problems that we never considered were even possible.
God disciplines His children: ‘Whom the Lord loves the Lord chastens.’ I have never disciplined the neighbors’ kids although I have thought about it, but I discipline my own child and you discipline your own. When I was young, behind our house was a telephone poll with spikes, and as a little kid I could pull myself up because I was into climbing. There I was going right to the top when my dad saw me, and said, “Andrew,” now hen he said “Andy,” I knew that things were cool, but when he said, “Andrew,” I knew there was a problem. He told me to come down and when I did, he disciplined me because he knew what was going to happen if I had made it to the top or would one day and touch the live wire. That is discipline. Any parent who loves their children, disciplines them.
If you, the Christian, takes a sinning believer, and turn them around, you have saved them from the pain of divine discipline. Sometimes the discipline of the Lord is so severe that He can actually take Christians and kill them to take them home early because of the destruction that they are bringing to their own lives and to others’ lives. Is that in the Bible? Yes. I wish we had time to read all of the verses, but jot down Acts 5:1-11 where Ananias and Sapphira were slain in the Holy Spirit, not a good thing. In 1 Cor 11:30, ‘For of this reason [drunk and disorderliness at the Lord’s table], many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep [a euphemism for death].” In 1 John 5:16, there is a sin that leads to death, and then see what Jesus does to the church at Thyatira in Rev 2:22-23 where He says “… I will kill her children…” because of the practice of Jezebel that was happening there, all believers experiencing this.
Think about this: you see an erring Christian and through God’s grace you turn them around as you exercise the skill of a surgeon, what have you just spared them? You have spared them from all the consequences of sin; from the prospect of divine discipline which can be very severe even to the point of death. That is what James 5:20 is saying, “…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death…” What kind of death? Maximum divine discipline.
A second benefit associated with restoration of the erring brother, “…you will cover a multitude of sins…” In other words, if you are effective at this ministry and God uses you to turn someone around, then you cut short habitual patterns of sin in their life. Consequently, what is covered is a multitude of sins. Again, make sure that it is done in love because 1 Peter 4:8, “…love covers a multitude of sins.” Sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone is to confront them under God’s grace with the hope that they will heed the warning and turn around; repentance, so they are spared; saved from all these David-like temporal consequences.
James, I think, took that subject on because it is a book about practical righteousness when believers live by faith and walk by wisdom, and there is nothing that requires more wisdom than restoring the erring brother.
That takes us to the end of the book of James. We are never finished with the book of James because there is so much here, but we are finished with covering it on Wednesday nights. To those who just started showing up to this class, the bad news is that we take the summer off, and I used to think when I first came here and that was the practice, that they were a bunch of slackers, but now it is like ‘Praise the Lord, I get some time off.’ It is actually rather therapeutic for the pastors to not have to be teaching all the time. I teach three times a week different lessons in addition to our PPOV show, so it is a healthy thing to take off for the summer.
We will reconvene September 1, 2021 in three months. I have been asked what we will be studying, and I am leaning heavily towards Zechariah, because a lot of people have been asking about it, and we haven’t really taught an Old Testament prophet at Sugarland Bible Church since Daniel. Zechariah is only 12 chapters so it will only take 15 years. You will be surprised that Zechariah said that are happening right now in our news feeds every day.