James 5:20
Parallel Verses
New International Version
remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

King James Bible
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Darby Bible Translation
let him know that he that brings back a sinner from [the] error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins.

World English Bible
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

Young's Literal Translation
let him know that he who did turn back a sinner from the straying of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:20 Parallel
Commentary
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Let him know - Let him duly consider, for his encouragement, that he who is the instrument of converting a sinner shall save a soul from eternal death, and a body from ruin, and shall hide a multitude of sins; for in being the means of his conversion we bring him back to God, who, in his infinite mercy, hides or blots out the numerous sins which he had committed during the time of his backsliding. It is not the man's sins who is the means of his conversion, but the sins of the backslider, which are here said to be hidden. See more below.

1. Many are of opinion that the hiding a multitude of sins is here to be understood of the person who converts the backslider: this is a dangerous doctrine, and what the Holy Spirit never taught to man. Were this true it would lead many a sinner to endeavor the reformation of his neighbor, that himself might continue under the influence of his own beloved sins and conversion to a particular creed would be put in the place of conversion to God, and thus the substance be lost in the shadow. Bishop Atterbury, (Ser. vol. i. p. 46), and Scott, (Christian Life, vol. i. p. 368), contend "that the covering a multitude of sins includes also, that the pious action of which the apostle speaks engages God to look with greater indulgence on the character of the person that performs it, and to be less severe in marking what he has done amiss." See Macknight. This from such authorities may be considered doubly dangerous; it argues however great ignorance of God, of the nature of Divine justice, and of the sinfulness of sin. It is besides completely antievangelical; it teaches in effect that something besides the blood of the covenant will render God propitious to man, and that the performance of a pious action will induce God's justice to show greater indulgence to the person who performs it, and to be less severe in marking what he has done amiss. On the ground of this doctrine we might confide that, had he a certain quantum of pious acts, we might have all the sins of our lives forgiven, independently of the sacrifice of Christ; for if one pious act can procure pardon for a multitude of sins, what may not be expected from many?

2. The Jewish doctrine, to which it is possible St. James may allude, was certainly more sound than that taught by these Christian divines. They allowed that the man who was the means of converting another had done a work highly pleasing to God, and which should be rewarded; but they never insinuate that this would atone for sin. I shall produce a few examples: -

In Synopsis Sohzar, p. 47, n. 17, it is said: Great is his excellence who persuades a sick person to turn from his sins. Ibid, p. 92, n. 18: Great is his reward who brings back the pious into the way of the blessed Lord.

Yoma, fol. 87, 1: By his hands iniquity is not committed, who turns many to righteousness; i.e. God does not permit him to fall into sin. What is the reason? Ans. Lest those should be found in paradise, while their instructer is found in hell.

This doctrine is both innocent and godly in comparison of the other. It holds out a motive to diligence and zeal, but nothing farther. In short, if we allow any thing to cover our sins beside the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, We shall err most dangerously from the truth, and add this moreover to the multitude of Our sins, that we maintained that the gift of God could be purchased by our puny acts of comparative righteousness.

3. As one immortal soul is of more worth than all the material creation of God, every man who knows the worth of his own should labor for the salvation of others. To be the means of depriving hell of her expectation, and adding even one soul to the Church triumphant, is a matter of infinite moment; and he who is such an instrument has much reason to thank God that ever he was born. He who lays out his accounts to do good to the souls of men, will ever have the blessing of God in his own. Besides, God will not suffer him to labor in vain, or spend his strength for naught. At first he may see little fruit; but the bread cast upon the waters shall be found after many days: and if he should never see it in this life, he may take for granted that whatsoever he has done for God, in simplicity and godly sincerity, has been less or more effectual.

After the last word of this epistle ἁμαρτιων, of sins, some versions add his, others theirs; and one MS. and the later Syriac have Amen. But these additions are of no authority.

The subscriptions to this epistle, in the Versions, are the following: The end of the Epistle of James the apostle. - Syriac. The catholic Epistle of James the apostle is ended. - Syriac Philoxenian. The end. - Aethiopic. Praise be to God for ever and ever; and may his mercy be upon us. Amen. - Arabic. The Epistle of James the son of Zebedee, is ended. - Itala, one copy. Nothing. - Coptic. Nothing. - Printed Vulgate. The Epistle of James is ended. - Bib. Vulg. Edit. Eggestein. The Epistle of St. James the apostle is ended. - Complutensian.

In the Manuscripts: Of James. - Codex Vaticanus, B. The Epistle of James. - Codex Alexandrinus. The end of the catholic Epistle of James. - Codex Vaticanus, 1210. The catholic Epistle of James the apostle. - A Vienna MS. The catholic Epistle of the holy Apostle James. - An ancient MS. in the library of the Augustins, at Rome. The end of the Epistle of the holy Apostle James, the brother of God. - One of Petavius's MSS., written in the thirteenth century. The same is found in a Vatican MS. of the eleventh century. The most ancient MSS. have little or no subscription.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

that he.

James 5:19 Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

shall save.

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise.

Romans 11:14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you.

Philemon 1:19 I Paul have written it with my own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to you how you owe to me even your own self besides.

from death.

James 1:15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.

Proverbs 10:2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivers from death.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life...

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power...

hide.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strifes: but love covers all sins.

1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

CONCLUDING REMARKS ON THE EPISTLE OF JAMES.

James, the son of Alphaeus, the brother of Jacob, and the near relation of our Lord, called also James the Less, probably because he was of lower stature, or younger, than the other James, the son of Zebedee, is generally allowed to be the writer of this Epistle; and the few that have doubted this have assigned very slight reasons for their dissent, and advanced very weak arguments on the other side. It is recorded in ecclesiastical history, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles confirms the fact, that he generally resided at Jerusalem, superintending the churches in that city, and in the neighbouring places, to the end of his life, which was terminated by martyrdom about A.D.

62. This epistle appears to have been written but a short time before his death; and it is probable that the sharp rebukes and awful warnings given in it to his countrymen excited that persecuting rage which terminated his life. It is styled Catholic, or General, because it was not addressed to any particular church, but to the Jewish nation throughout their dispersions. Though its genuineness was doubted for a considerable time, yet its insertion in the ancient Syriac version, which was executed at the close of the first, or the beginning of the second century, and the citation of, or allusion to it, by Clement of Rome, Hermas, and Ignatious, and its being quoted by Origen, Jerome, Athanasius, and most of the subsequent ecclesiastical writers, as well as its internal evidence, are amply sufficient to prove the point.

Library
June the Twenty-Ninth Effectual Prayers
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." --JAMES v. 13-20. Or, as Weymouth translates it, "The heartfelt supplication of a righteous man exerts a mighty influence." Prayer may be empty words, with no more power than those empty shells which have been foisted upon the Turks in their war with the Balkan States. Firing empty shells! That is what many professed prayers really are; they have nothing in them, and they accomplish nothing. They are just forged upon the lips, and
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

"Who Will Rise up with Me against the Wicked?"
Ps. 94:16. 1. In all ages, men who neither feared God nor regarded man have combined together, and formed confederacies, to carry on the works of darkness. And herein they have shown themselves wise in their generation; for by this means they more effectually promoted the kingdom of their father the devil, than otherwise they could I have done. On the other hand, men who did fear God, and desire the happiness of their fellow-creatures, have, in every age, found it needful to join together, in order
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

On the Whole, Since Scripture Places the Principal Part of Worship in the Invocation Of...
On the whole, since Scripture places the principal part of worship in the invocation of God (this being the office of piety which he requires of us in preference to all sacrifices), it is manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others. Hence it is said in the psalm: "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god, shall not God search this out?" (Ps. 44:20, 21). Again, since it is only in faith that God desires to be invoked, and he distinctly enjoins us to frame
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith

But Some Seem to be Moved by the Fact...
But some seem to be moved by the fact, that the prayers of saints are often said to have been heard. Why? Because they prayed. "They cried unto thee" (says the Psalmist), "and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded" (Ps. 22:5). Let us also pray after their example, that like them we too may be heard. Those men, on the contrary, absurdly argue that none will be heard but those who have been heard already. How much better does James argue, "Elias was a man subject to like passions
John Calvin—Of Prayer--A Perpetual Exercise of Faith

Cross References
Proverbs 10:12
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Proverbs 11:30
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

Proverbs 17:9
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Romans 11:14
in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.

1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

James 1:21
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 5:15
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

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