We come to the end: James 5:19-20:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the way of error will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
The book ends on an unexpected note: wandering, if not apostasy, and the pastoral summons to bring the wandering back.
Here are my observations about this text:
First, wandering happens and the wandering can be restored. James is probably not talking about the same situation as we see in Hebrews 6:4-6. Or at least he approaches it from the pastoral summons to find the wandering and bring them back.
Second, the pastoral task of restoration leads to both covering sins and saving a sinner’s soul/life from death — and death here probably means eternal death.Thus:
James has in mind the specifics of conciliation: forgiveness
promotes personal and community holiness. The word “cover” is used often enough
of “covering sin” that it becomes an alternate form for forgiveness. Thus,
“Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps
We finish as did James: we’re done.
North Park University