19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 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 (James 5:19–20, NKJV).
James concluded his exhortation to have a mature faith by challenging the faithful to care for the spiritual well-being of their brethren. The tenor of his instruction is not a self-righteous approach toward the wandering saint but a sincere attempt to turn back the wandering Christian. James describes the wandering Christian as a sinner, in error, and dead in his sins. Yes, Christians can fall and be lost (Gal. 5:4, 7). If not, there would be no need to encourage brethren to turn this person back from the path he has taken. The standard we use to measure whether one is wandering away from the Lord is “the truth,” the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). The wayward Christian has succumbed to the enticements “his own desires” that produce sin (James 1:14-15). Let us be invigorated not to neglect the danger and death faced by faltering brethren. With the mercy and urgency of Christ, let us attempt to pull them out of the fire, looking to ourselves, lest we also be tempted (Jude 21-23; Gal. 6:1-3).
44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need (Acts 2:44–45, NKJV).
A brother in Christ recently wrote, “Being a Christian involves others. It is a ‘together’ religion.” That is indeed the Bible pattern of Christians in the New Testament. Christians were “together” (1) In sharing and meeting physical needs (Acts 2:44-45), (2) In gospel meetings (Acts 10:24-27), (3) In teaching the gospel (Acts 11:25-26), (4) In prayer (Acts 12:12), (5) In delivering and receiving inspired messages (Acts 15:30), (6) In assembled worship (Acts 20:7-8), (7) In eating the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34), and (8) In speaking exhortations “face to face” (3 John 13-14). My friend went on to write, “Being a Christian involves others!” Yea, verily. The church of God is the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15). Just as an isolated family member harms that person and the entire family, isolated Christians cannot fulfill the togetherness of our common salvation. We are “members of one another” and are not to be “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Rom. 12:5-8; Heb. 10:25). But we must not forget verse 24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” That sounds like a together thing. When we are comfortable being isolated from brethren, have we not abandoned the “together” part of our faith to walk by sight instead of by faith (2 Cor. 5:7)? Think on these things, brethren.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you (1 Thessalonians 3:12, NKJV).
Room for more. We may say it after a serving of delicious pie or cake. But do we say it about our brotherly love toward our fellow Christians? “We already love one another,” we might respond. The Thessalonian Christians were taught to love one another, and they were practicing it: “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10). There was room for more. Our capacity for brotherly love has no limit. It grows as we practice it. Later, Paul commended these brethren because “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thess. 1:3). Fraternal affection in the body of Christ is a mark of our mutual purposes, shared salvation, and common faith (1 Pet. 4:8-10; Jude 3; Titus 1:4). The next time you have room for more pie or cake, remember to make room for more brotherly love. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10).
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, NKJV)
From time to time the question arises whether a fallen away Christian is, in fact, still a brother or sister in Christ. Today’s passage helps us understand that fallen Christians are still brethren, albeit, brethren in sin in need of discipline and warnings to try to bring about their repentance. Verse 13 refers to “brethren” who are faithful not to grow weary in doing the good things of God. The “anyone” of verse 14 is any Christian who becomes weary of doing good (being faithful) and “walks disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Normal social contact with that person is to cease in a disciplinary attempt to cause him to be ashamed of his sin and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Verse 15 directly says the wayward Christian is “a brother” whom we continue to warn rather than treat as an enemy. Therefore, we conclude that one who falls from the faith is an erring brother or sister – an erring child of God who needs repentance and prayer to be forgiven by God (James 5:19-20; Acts 8:22).
47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” 48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47–50, NKJV)
Family relations are very important to us, and that is a good thing. But, relations of the flesh do not supersede the spiritual relationship we must have with Jesus Christ. That is the fundamental lesson of this passage. John the apostle introduced his gospel by affirming this truth. He wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Being in the kingdom of God is not based on your fleshly birth and heritage, but on being born again of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5). This enlightens our understanding that being a disciple of Christ demands loving Him more than our own family members (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). This also supports the truth that the church is the Israel of God today, not physical Israel (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:16). Be sure you are doing the will of God and that your loyalties are to Christ before every other fleshly relation (v. 50).
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle John had just described the children of God as those who “practice righteousness,” making an application that loving one’s brother is the epitome of this righteous conduct (1 Jno. 3:10). The brethren of whom he speaks are fellow Christians. One’s passage from spiritual death into spiritual life is assured by practicing love toward fellow Christians. As Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, the Christian who hates a fellow Christian is a murderer. A heart filled with hate has death abiding in it; not eternal life. To detest and disregard our brethren assures that we “abide in death” and will not pass into eternal life. (Oh yes, a Christian can sin and lose his soul!) This is a powerful motive to love each other as He has love us, and by obeying the Lord, abide in His love (Jno. 13:34-35; 15:10).