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Save a Soul from Death

For Christians, nothing is more heartbreaking than the apostasy of a brother or sister in Christ. This is because we know that when a brother or sister turns away from the Lord, he or she has given up the only hope for salvation. The Scriptures testify of this terrible condition in 2Peter 2:20-21:
"For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
Moreover, we also know that such erring brothers and sisters "again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6), and they have "trampled underfoot the Son of God” (Heb. 10:29). Because of this, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” for those who have left a life of faithful obedience to the Lord and returned to a life of sin.
 
In our time, the apostasy of Christians is a far too common event. We live in an age in which the words of Paul have been fulfilled: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2Tim. 4:3-4). Certainly, worldly people have always rejected the truth, but the willingness of some Christians to turn away their ears from the truth of Christ's gospel in favor of worthless, self-indulgent, false messages is an increasing and alarming trend. This trend results mostly from the failure of some Christians to properly guard themselves and their families against the influence of the ungodly, faith-eroding culture.
 
Faithful Christians must not allow their own brethren to fall away from the Lord without making efforts to draw them back. Consider the admonition of James 5:19-20 – "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.” Notice a few points from this passage: (1) A Christian who strays from the truth puts his soul in danger of death. This emphasizes the seriousness of the issue, for apostasy is a matter of spiritual life and death. (2) The only way to save an apostate Christian is to turn him back to the truth and away from the error of his way. There is no way for a person to continue in his error and still be saved. (3) Turning an apostate Christian from the error of his way saves his soul from death because it leads him back to forgiveness through Christ and "covers a multitude of sins.”
 
Such efforts are the product of genuine brotherly love and love for the Lord. Notice again the last phrase in James 5:20, which says that turning back an erring brother "covers a multitude of sins.” Compare this to 1Peter 4:8 – "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Turning an apostate Christian from the error of his way is a true act of brotherly love, and this act of love covers a multitude of sins. Contrarily, leaving an erring Christian in his sins demonstrates a lack of brotherly love, gives up his soul to die, and covers no sins. If we do not love our brethren enough to try to save them, then our love of the Lord must also be called into question, "for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1John 4:20).
 
Of course, efforts to save erring brethren are often resented by those who need to be rescued. Brethren who have turned away from the truth are usually offended by the truth. Paul experienced this reaction from the Christians of Galatia and asked them, "So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). Certainly, some erring brethren will count us as enemies when we point out their self-destructive ways. They will claim that we have no right to judge them and spurn our efforts to save them from death.
 
Nevertheless, we must not be deterred from saving souls from death. Although our erring brethren may never realize it, we must believe the truth expressed in Proverbs 27:5-6:
"Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
The easy thing to do is to let erring Christians go their way and forget about them. However, the right thing to do is to reach out to them and try to turn them back to the truth and save their souls from death. Whether or not they return to the Lord will be their decision, but we must throw out the lifeline.
 
Stacey E. Durham



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