Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul (my Greek Contextual Apparatus for the critical text of the Nestle-Aland 27th Addition of the Greek New Testament reads, “his soul”) from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Ezekiel 3:20
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. Ezekiel 18:24
When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. Ezekiel 33:13 & 18
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Let us begin by quoting Charles Spurgeon who said, “If you wish to know God, you must know His Word. If you wish to perceive His power, you must see how He works by His Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word.”
So many try to figure God out with their mind. They try to compare God with natural things. Just the other day when I was ministering to a man, he made the comment that God would not allow one of His own to go to hell, just as we as natural fathers would not allow calamity to befall one of our own children. This is the typical mindset among people, even among God’s own. Dear reader, you cannot compare the spiritual birth to the natural birth at all. Nicodemus attempted to do this very thing to the Lord Himself in John chapter three. And the Lord showed him that the two couldn’t even be compared to one another. They are as far away from one another, as light is from darkness.
The standards we set for ourselves are so low…but yet so convenient. And I have news for you…in the Old Testament a dumb animal was killed and offered for sin. But in the New Testament a Son has been offered for sin. Grace does not lower the standard – it raises the standard. Because grace that forgives but does not demand change in conduct makes God an accomplice to evil.
God’s standard is so much higher than ours. Just take as one example 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Here we have 16 qualifications that a man “must” meet in order to be an elder in the body of Christ. Sixteen!! Many would say that very few can meet all those qualifications. But who cares what they think!! God has set the standard here for an elder; and if he can’t meet all 16 of the qualifications of an elder, then he is disqualified from being such. God is the one who set the standard for an elder. Notice the words “An overseer MUST BE…” There is no room for discussion here, the case is closed. God has set the standard; and you will either abide by it or you will be in direct disobedience to it. So yes, there are many “elders” today who are only elders in name (position) only – but who are not true spiritual elders in God’s definition of the word…and these should step down from their position until they do meet the qualifications set forth in God’s Holy Word.
I’m going somewhere with all of this, so please bear with me. Before any house can be built, the ground has to first be prepared and then the foundation laid – otherwise the house of truth cannot stand and it only becomes a house of cards.
Many years ago I studied out the life of Judas Iscariot, and I came to see something that I had never believed before. I used to believe that Judas had never been saved. But the Lord caused me many years ago to see that he actually was saved at one time. He cast out devils, he healed the sick, he preached that men should repent, he anointed people with oil, etc (see Mark 6:7-13 for proof of this).
But just this morning while meditating on this teaching the Lord opened my eyes even more to see a deeper truth concerning Judas. And before I share this verse with you, let me say that the Lord picked 12 men. Judas was not this way in the very beginning; the Word of God teaches in Luke 6:16 that he “became a traitor.” For in the list of apostles whom He chose (and a side thought here is that Jesus called them “apostles” in Luke 6:13; therefore Judas was an apostle in the beginning and not a wicked man) – Luke 6:16 says, “Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.”
The word “became” denotes a process of time. And the culmination of this process came to a head in Simon the leper’s house in Bethany, see Matthew 26:6 & Mark 14:3 for proof of this, (and you’ll remember that Simon the Leper was Judas’ father – see John 12:4 & 13:2) when one of the deepest spiritual things listed in the New Testament happened with the woman and the alabaster box. This very time was the turning point in Judas’ life.
But I want you to notice something in Acts 1:25 that says, “To take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell.” So then, now we see how Judas “fell”…”by transgression.” Can you see this powerful truth? Let this sink down deep. A person cannot fall unless he is first up high. Do you understand? A king cannot be taken from his seat of authority unless he is first on the seat of authority. Something cannot be taken from a man that he does not possess. You can only take from a man what he first possesses.
Now, let’s consider the first verse mentioned at the outset of this teaching: Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a [his] soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
We can see many things in this verse alone. Who is James writing to? “Brethren.” And who is he addressing concerning wandering from the truth? “if anyone among you wanders from the truth.” Now notice something here…God calls this particular one who has backslid what? “a sinner.” And notice what could happen to this sinner’s soul…it can die the death. Friend, this has nothing to do with natural death, as the Lord would have used the word “body” instead of “soul.” This is the same Greek word used for those who experience the “second death” and are cast into the Lake of Fire. And also notice that the soul can be saved in that verse. How can it be saved, unless it is first unsaved. And again, please notice that the one who has wandered from the truth has “a multitude of sins.”
We are not referencing Christians here who commit a sin and then repent of it. We are referencing Christians here who willfully commit sin and live in it and do not repent of their ways. They have “wandered from the truth.” And if they die in an accident or by some other means, then they will die in their sin (s) and their righteousness which they have done in the past will not be remembered any more.
People are very quick to bring up Jeremiah 3:14 which says, “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” But the whole door hangs on the one hinge of the first word mentioned in the verse…RETURN!!! It is up to us to do the “returning.” A man said to me the other night, “Robert, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ.” And I said to him, “Are you married?” And he said that he was. So I said to him, “Can I or anyone else separate you from your wife?” And he said no. And I said to him, “Who is the only person that can separate you from your wife?” He did not know what to answer. So I told him, “Only you can, only you can leave your wife and choose to not love her anymore.”
Only we can leave God and forsake Him. He said that He would never leave nor forsake us. So then any “leaving” or “forsaking” is done solely on our part alone. I know of a couple right now who are married, yet they have not seen each other in over 10 years. They live in different states. But they are still married…legally speaking. In the same way…legally speaking…God is married to the backslider and wants him/her to “Return” – but He cannot force them back into spiritual relations with Him. They are out there on their own.
God will try and reach them through their circumstances and by placing stumbling blocks in their path to get their attention; but ultimately it is up to that person. God is not willing that any should perish…including the backslider. But if and when the backslider perishes, then according to scripture he will not make it. He will not see the Lord. He will die in his sin(s) and his righteousness (take special note that he had “righteousness” at one time) that he has committed will be remembered no more.
Four times in Ezekiel alone (and I say “alone” because this is just one book of the Bible, out of many, that this truth can be found in) we read that if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity (and he doesn’t repent of it) he shall die in his sin and any righteousness that he has done in the past will not be remembered. He will die in his sin!!
I’m reminded of another group of people whom Jesus told that “you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.” & “you will die in your sins.” John 8:21, 24; respectively. Take special note that in the first verse sin is mentioned in the singular, denoting the principle of sin within them – but in the second verse, sins is mentioned in the plural, denoting the outward acts of transgressions themselves.
My view of this subject was very limited in its scope. I was a fence-rider concerning this topic, and would even avoid it in my fellowship with other people. But one day the Lord opened my eyes and something happened and I was made to see the truth concerning sin(s), and backsliding and backsliders…and in one moment my view was changed. It’s amazing how God can do something in one moment that will change your theology forever!!
Dear reader, we cannot escape this subject. The Lord Jesus had more to say about the wrath of God, and hell, than about His love, grace, mercy, and heaven combined!! If you are reading this today and you are backslidden in your heart, then know that God sees you as “a sinner” and no sinner can enter the kingdom of God. We can make all the excuses we want for our sin, and our condition; we can even fall back on the false interpretation of grace (people were doing the same thing in Paul and John’s day…they were taking advantage of grace, and presuming upon the grace of God). None of it matters!! Here’s the truth (and if anyone tells you different, then they are a false teacher espousing doctrines of demons and you should have nothing to do with such men. They seek after their own glory) if you die in a backslidden condition, then you will split hell wide open and will spend eternity in the regions of the damned, never again to have a second chance. And if you do not forgive your brother/sister in Christ (or anyone else for that matter), then the same fate awaits you. You have been warned by the authority of God’s Word. Return to the Lord, repent of your sin(s), and follow all of His commandments.
Dear reader, remember that the requirements in the New Testament are much greater than those in the Old Testament: “Unless your righteousness exceeds…” It is my prayer that if this teaching can speak to just one person, it will have all been worth it.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. Proverbs 14:14
There are many backsliders mentioned throughout scripture. Some of them didn’t make it in the end. But the ones who repented God restored and blessed them again. Come dear reader…come back into the ark while the door is even now closing; yes, come while there is still time…God is waiting, God is calling. Can you hear Him? The day is almost over…the day of salvation. May Jeremiah 8:20 not be your lot…”The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”