“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back…”
The wanderer from the truth here is clearly a Christian. This reveals something of the meaning of the previous verses showing that James deals with a Christian out of fellowship and out of phase with God.
James extends a word of encouragement to mature believers who bring fellow Christians back from the brink of spiritual defeat. The word “brethren” connotes a touch of tenderness.
if anyone among you
The word “if” indicates that the possibility of a fellow believer straying from the truth is likely to happen. It is possible for Christians to develop protracted rebellion against God to become susceptible to divine discipline that might include physical death.
Note that the words “among you” refer to the believing community. James has already made the point that Christians develop physical problems due to sin. The person wandering from the truth here is then a Christian.
wanders from the truth,
The wanderer here is someone who defects in some sense from the Word of God and goes into a state of rebellion against it. The context refers to reclaiming a believer in a state of deep spiritual decline by prayer (5:16-18). This believer wanders from a living faith. It is possible to form a “dead faith” (Jas 2:18-26).
The word “wanders” means to go astray. We get our English word “planet” from the root of the word “wanders.” A planet wanders around the sun in the sky. James’ concern is for a believer who does not follow a prescribed course of action for the Christian. He goes astray from the Word of God. This believer wanders from Christian truth, truth for the Christian.
and someone turns him back
James asks his readers to confront those who wander from the truth and attempt to bring them back to the truth. James argued throughout the epistle that there is a danger in forming a dead faith. If a mature believer brings a rebellious believer back to a living faith, he will save his soul from dead faith.
The word “turns him back” means to turn about, turn towards. The idea is to return to a point or area where one has been before, with probable emphasis on turning about. A believer in fellowship who turns another believer back to fellowship will save his spirituality from destruction.
Flaws in judgment and life generally go together.
Love will take the risk of confronting a fellow Christian who gets off track. We need to bring back backslidden believers to fellowship.
Ga 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Deflection from truth will cause deflection in behavior. Flaws in judgment and life generally go together. At the root of every practical failure, there is some biblical distortion. Bad habits build on bad principles. We rescue those who fail in the Christian life by redirecting them to the principles of the Word. True conversion for the Christian rests on truth. The longer we stay out of fellowship, the further we get from the truth.