James 5:20, “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
IMMEDIATE CONTEXT: James 5:19, 20 (winning souls)
EXTENDED CONTEXT: James 5:7-20 (in view of the Day of the Lord)
James is a book that on the one hand calls the Christian to action where a key passage for the book could be, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17). On the other hand, it is a book defining true versus fake religion with a key passage being James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Such a religion has an upward view (toward God), and outward reach to the needy (toward orphans and widows), and an inward examination (keeping oneself unspotted). We are designed to live in the world but are not be of the world.
Our recall verse speaks of turning a sinner from the error of his way.
- Who is the sinner in this immediate context? It is one who wandered from the truth or a wayward sheep (5:19). A Christian can wander from the truth and therefore revert back to being a “sinner.”
- What is the status of a Christian who wanders from the truth? By the fact that when he turns back results in the saving of a soul, it is necessarily indicated that he is lost. It is possible for a Christian to sin so as to be lost!
- What is his condition when he turns away from his error? He is forgiven. God is always willing to forgive when we repent. He is willing to forgive even a “multitude” of sins. Such reconciliation with God is conditional and it requires us to “turn” and to “confess” (5:16).
--Steven J. Wallace
“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
This will likely be a memory verse many of you already know. I had other passages to use but recently heard of a controversy about this in my travels to the Northwest and so it spurred me on to use this for the current memory passage.
IMMEDIATE CONTEXT Hebrew 10:19-39
- Not forsaking – a command in the negative to forbid one not to leave behind or desert. This negative command is in connection with three positive orders previously stated: to draw near with a true heart (10:22), to hold fast the confession of our hope (10:23), and to consider one another (10:24). The one who forsakes is not drawing nearer, is not holding fast and is inconsiderate of God and his brethren.
- The assembling of ourselves together – this is the gathering together of the saints of a local church for public worship and study (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:26). It takes in every “assembling of ourselves.”
- As is the manner of some – some were sinning in giving up the assembling times of the saints for other things. This became a “manner” or custom. They were, therefore, habitually neglecting their duties to God, the good confession, and their brethren.
- But exhorting one another – Their actions were not for the better, to exhort, but for the worse. We never exhort others to faithfully serve God by an example of willful neglect of the worship assemblies. We should ask “What kind of activity do my actions encourage?” Let us also remember, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17).
- And so much the more as you see the Day approaching – Some have reasoned that this “Day” is “the first day of the week” and that only Sunday is the day one must attend. They assert that neglecting the mid-week or gospel meeting gatherings is not “forsaking the assembling.” The absurdity of this would be seen in the fact that we are to exhort one another as we see the day approaching. However, assigning the first day of the week definition to Hebrews 10:25 would mean that we would exhort one another leading up to the “Day” but not during “Day.” We would, therefore, be exhorting one another from Monday through Saturday and not on the first day of the week! What would this definition make Sunday worship times out to be? It would make such gatherings void of exhortation! In truth, we exhort each other whenever we come together for worship and Bible study.
Rather than the first day of the week, the Day of Judgment is in view in Hebrews 10:25. Previously written, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:27, 28, emphasis added). The second coming of Christ is Judgment Day and is where our salvation will be fully realized. Forsaking the assembling of ourselves places us in danger of the judgment, rather than in a position to gain the reward and crown of life. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26, 27). And again, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29). And further still the Holy Spirit adds in 10:30, 31, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (emp. added).
Our attendance and participation in such gatherings is an indicator of our love and faithfulness to God and brethren. The context demands us to view Hebrews 10:25 in light of the coming of Christ, which is the day of judgment. Our standing before God is either for salvation or doom. 10:37-39, “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
--Steven J. Wallace
“Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Philem. 1:21).
It is easy to become skeptical and suspicious of men because not everyone has faith and some prove themselves to be unreasonable and wicked (2 Thess. 3:2, 3). However, Paul shows personal belief and confidence in a man named Philemon and of his willingness to obey—even such obedience to do more than he would ask. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who wrongfully ran away and was by chance, converted to Christ by Paul. Yes, the gospel calls the rich and the poor to heaven’s grace. The aged Paul (Philem. 1:9) is sending him back to his master with an appeal that Philemon would forgive him, receive him as a brother, and also send him back to Paul to minister to him.
In Paul’s older years he did not become bitter toward people but found members of the church refreshing to his heart (Philem. 1:20). Can we have such confidence in brethren today? We can when we know that their aim is not to please men but the Lord. Paul penned to the Philippians, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians, “And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you” (2 Thess. 3:4; see also Gal. 5:10; 2 Cor. 2:3; 7:16; 8:22).
For this memory verse, I asked myself, “If Paul were writing a personal letter to me, would he have had the same confidence that he had in Philemon?”
--Steven J. Wallace
Titus 3:10, 11, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”
IMMEDIATE CONTEXT: TITUS 3:8-11
The subject matter of Titus is similar to the letters to Timothy. Our memory passage calls forth the disciplinary procedures for those who cause divisions or are “factionists” (Living Oracles). Paul commanded Titus to avoid certain disputes which were foolish, unprofitable, and useless (3:9). Recall, “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Tim. 2:23).
This by no means charges “all disputes” as unprofitable. But rather, it restricts the kind of disputes we engage in. Those that are foolish, cause strife and prove themselves useless or harmful. As pointless preaching does not negate gospel preaching, neither does foolish disputing negate debating and contending for the faith (see Jude 1:3; Phil. 1:17; Acts 17:2; 18:27, 28; etc.). The dividing line between a “divisive man” and a “gospel defender” is the source from which they draw for their contention. Is its origin of human opinion and a mishandling of the word of God? Is it firmly based and authorized by revealed Scripture? Paul distanced himself from being a part of a sect because he worshiped believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets (Acts 24:14). The factious man does not believe all things which are written.
Our memory verse requires disciplinary measures against those who cause divisions—the schismatic man in particular. He is to be “rejected” after the first and second admonition. Twice such a one should be warned in love and concern for his soul but when the fruit of repentance is not found, he needs to be rejected as warped (inverted) and sinning (having wandered from the path). Such disciplinary action is deeply valuable to the flock by warning the wayward and preserving the purity of the church. As Jesus outlined in His personal ministry of how to deal with personal private offenses/disputes (see Matt. 18:15-18), so He has also instructed how we are to deal with those who cause divisions in the body (Titus 3:9-11; Rom. 16:17; 1 Thess. 3:6ff; etc.).
--Steven J. Wallace
2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
IMMEDIATE CONTEXT: 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
The context can easily extend forward and backward as Paul stresses the need to be true to the word in preaching throughout the book. The reward for those who fight the good fight of faith is in view of the apostle as he looks forward to the return of Christ and gaining the crown of righteousness. To shy away from what is “righteous” is to shy away from such a crown which the Lord will give. God drew the defining line of right and wrong in His word. Timothy must, therefore, be true to preaching it when it is welcomed and when it is not. There are no other means by which God will save a man apart from the written word. He has chosen the method of preaching to save (Lk. 9:60; 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 10:14ff; Col. 1:28; Acts 5:20; etc.).
Because Timothy is charged to “preach it,” we can necessarily infer that the word is available and understandable. Because people can turn from the truth further underscores that it can be understood and that men retain free-will to veer from it. Because Timothy must endure afflictions in the work of an evangelist, it further implies that men will not only reject the truth that is preached but that they can become hostile in opposing it.
Let us value the word of God and give it the respect it deserves. Let’s not only demand that it is preached but also respectfully heed it as it is preached.
--Steven J. Wallace