Recently my wife and I have been watching a show about the work of the United States Coast Guard in Alaska. In several of the episodes, a commercial fishing vessel is in trouble and sinking. The captain of the vessel sends out a mayday call and the Coast Guard dispatches a helicopter to the location. They get to the fishing vessel and the only hope for the crew’s survival is the crew of the helicopter. The helicopter lowers a swimmer into the freezing artic waters and he swims to the fishing crew members floating in the water, on the verge of drowning or dying from hypothermia. The rescue swimmer one-by-one has each crew member hoisted to the helicopter. The United States Coast Guard has saved the lives of countless people stranded in the seas.
James, in these closing words, tells us of such a vital rescue mission that every true believer has. However, this rescue mission is not one to save people from the icy seas of the artic. This one is to save people who are drowning in a sea of sin.
In every congregation, there are various types of people. There are those who are genuine believers, born again by the Spirit of God by faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. There are those who are genuinely seeking for answers, for hope. There are also those who profess Christ, but only have an intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel message. Of this latter group, they are in the congregation and openly profess that they agree to the facts of the gospel message. However, they have never experienced true faith in Jesus.
James referred to the seekers and those with mere intellectual assent in this exhortation. These who have never been born-again by the Spirit have a likelihood of wandering from the truth of the gospel. John explains the heart condition of these people who wander from the truth.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19, AV)
John clearly indicated that there are some in congregations who have every appearance of being true believers, yet will often leave the truth. His point is that if they wander from the truth, they have never been truly aligned with those of true faith.
What should our response be to those who wander from the truth? James wanted every true believer to understand the blessing of going on a rescue mission to turn them back from their wandering. When a believer goes on such a mission and the Lord uses that effort to turn one back to the truth, the one who goes can rejoice in seeing the wanderer rescued from eternal death.
The love of Christ motivates believers to embark on such a rescue mission. These types of missions take commitment. They are not easy. They require believers to sacrifice their own interests. But there is great reward in going. Every true believer rejoices when they see a sinner turning from his wanderings in sin and saved from death. Keep your eyes open and be ready for the rescue mission. You have a blessed role in rescuing the perishing.