May 26, 2024

Convert the Erring Ones

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

James 5:19-20 exhorts us, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 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.” 

This passage urgently compels us to understand the gravity of guiding an erring one into the path of true faith and righteousness. It starts with James urging us not to shy away from correcting a brother or sister who has strayed. He says, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him”. He emphasises the importance of gentle yet courageous intervention to bring such an erring one back from “the error of his way”. This isn’t about judgment or condemnation; it’s about love and concern for that person’s spiritual well-being.

The consequence of neglecting this responsibility is starkly presented in the verse. James warns that the erring believer faces “death”. This death is twofold – physical and spiritual. Spiritual death, often referred to as the “second death”, represents the eternal separation from God that awaits those who remain unrepentant in their sins. In the church, there can be those who have never been saved. Even though they are enthusiastic about doctrines and the Christian way of life, they do not seek Christ and His righteousness. They secretly entertain unbelief and sins in their hearts. 

2 Peter 2:20 speaks of them – “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” This passage highlights the dire consequence of continuing in sin, especially for those who have received knowledge of God’s will. The severity of the punishment aligns with the level of understanding and responsibility. Jesus also warned in Luke 12:47 that those who know God’s Word and yet deliberately walk away from it will be punished more – “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” This is a powerful reminder to respond swiftly with repentance and correction whenever we encounter sin.

James encourages us with a compelling reason to act to restore those who wander away from the Lord. An incredible reward is associated with restoring a brother or sister. James declares, “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.” The act of saving a soul from death isn’t just about rescuing someone from physical harm; it’s about saving him from eternal separation from God and eternal torment in hell! The joy of leading someone back to Christ, His truth, and the path of righteousness, is immeasurable.

Furthermore, James mentions that the restoration of a sinner is tantamount to “hid[ing] a multitude of sins”. James is echoing Proverbs 10:12, which doesn’t imply covering up sin or ignoring the issue. True love requires bringing the sin to light and urging the person towards repentance. “Hiding” signifies God’s love, forgiveness and cleansing power, which become available to the repentant sinner through Christ’s sacrifice.

In conclusion, James 5:20 compels us to take responsibility for our fellow believers. When we see someone straying, we must reach out in love and firmness, not to condemn but to guide him back to God. This act of restoration not only saves them from potential spiritual and physical death, but also brings joy to us and to heaven itself. Let us all be instruments of love and correction, actively participating in restoring our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Remembering Mrs Ivy Tow

(This is Rev. Reggor Galarpe’s recollection of Mrs Tow, published in the Sunday weekly of Gethsemane BPC, Cebu).

Some of you may have met Mrs Ivy Tow in person during the 2nd Missionary Conference that was held here in Cebu City, way back in 2007 when her late husband Rev. Timothy Tow (our principal in FEBC) came for Rev. Ephrem’s and my ordination to the pastoral ministry.

It was just last week that I learned of her condition through Pastor Koshy’s message via WhatsApp: “Good morning! Mrs Tow is critically ill in hospital with advanced lung cancer. Though she has not suffered any pain or serious troubles, she is now suffering from breathlessness. Remember her in your prayers that the Lord mercifully strengthen her and finally guide her home.”

On that same day, I wrote an email to Dr Jeffrey Khoo (FEBC principal and son-in-law): “… I learned from Pastor Koshy about Mrs Tow’s condition. The church here in Cebu is upholding her in prayer. The Lord is merciful and gracious! Likewise, praying for comfort upon the family, especially for you, May Ann and May Lynn. May the Lord sustain Mrs Tow according to His will!” To which a quick reply came: “Thanks Reggor. Just visited her. She is weak, but finding peace in the Lord. God bless!” Then early Saturday morning, I got a message in my email, which I think was sent to all FEBC alumni, informing us that our dearly beloved matron was called home to be with our Lord Jesus Christ on Friday evening.

All of a sudden, I thought about Mrs Tow – her life and labour in the Bible College, and her love and care for the students. I remembered those several occasions long after my studies, when I dropped by FEBC for a visit (whenever I came to Singapore); invariably those visits would surely include seeing Mrs Tow at the kitchen. I further recalled in one Missionary Conference held in 2017 in Kuching, East Malaysia, when Mrs Tow spared some time to have fellowship with us – Filipino alumni of FEBC. I was with Eld. Richard, Eld. Eli, Pr Edsel, and Pastor Donald (together with his wife Sis. Se Jin and son Jesher), and several others. We had a great time with her, especially when she started to ask everyone about the ministry and our respective families. Thanks be unto God for the wonderful memories!

In reply to the email received, I managed to write a short message to Mrs Tow’s granddaughters – May Ann and May Lynn – through Dr Khoo’s email:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). On behalf of Gethsemane BPC, Cebu City, the Philippines, our sincere condolences. We are praying for the Lord’s comfort and strength to be upon you in this most difficult time.”

Like the rest of the FEBC alumni, I do have fond memories of Mrs Tow – not only was she our college matron, she was also a mentor and a mother to everyone. “...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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SingPost Centre
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(next to Paya Lebar MRT station)
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33 Ubi Crescent
Singapore 408584
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