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Conditional Security – James 5:19-20

James 5:19-20

I attend a church that occasionally teaches the eternal security of the Christian.  This mornings service was good.  Don’t get me wrong – it usually is – but the message this morning was in the book of James, and the pastor made some comments that triggered my thinking about the book.

One of those comments was that the book of James has difficult passages in it.  I definitely agree.  As a former eternal security adherent, I was always confused about the passage considered in this post.

Another comment that the pastor made was that James addressed his letter to believers.  This is obvious in many passages, as it is important to remember this in the passage we are considering today.

This also bothered me as a believer when I supported the eternal security teaching.

Lets read the passage before we dig in.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,

20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Security Problems

James is describing a situation where one believer errs from the truth, and another believer converts this sinning brother from his errors.  The problem is that James describes this as “saving a soul from death”

This is a big problem if eternal security is true.  Eternal security teaches that true believers are eternally secure, with no danger of falling away. But James doesn’t seem to know of this security.  He describes one of these brothers – the erring one, as being in the state of death.  The erring brothers conversion is described as his soul being saved from death.

Now of course the word “soul” may be translated as “life”. But that fact isn’t supported by the context of James message. Notice that James does not say that the brother may die, or is in danger of dying, which may support the death as being a physical death.  The experience of the erring brother was one of death.  The physically alive brother was in the state of (spiritual) death.  Therefore, the translation of “soul” makes sense to me and the general teaching of the scriptures in relation to eternal security seems weakened again in my thinking.

What think ye?  Where might I be erring in my thinking here?

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