James 5:17-20 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which convert the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Elijah – Elias’s case is given to show that all men are alike in constitution and to encourage others to pray even for miracles (1Kin. 17:1; 18:1, 41-46).
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth…” here seven facts are given about backsliders: It is possible for brethren or Christians to err from the truth and become unconverted (see Peter as an example in Luke 22:32). An erring Christian can be converted again. An erring Christian becomes a sinner again, if he sins (Rom. 6:14-23). An erring Christian incurs the death penalty again when he sins (Ezek. 18:24; Rom. 8:12-13; Gal. 5:19-21). If the erring Christian is saved from his error, his soul will be saved again from death (1Jn. 1:9; 5:16; Rev. 2:5). If he repents and is saved again from death, his sins will be forgiven and hidden. If he does not repent, he will be lost and will have to pay the penalty for sin (2Tim. 2:12; Heb. 6:4-6,10:26-29, 2Pet. 2:20-21).
Conversion means a change of direction, a new walk with God and is explained in Acts 3:19 “Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord,” thus for us to convert a sinner is to get someone to turn back to God, to change direction, and to walk anew with Him. It is not, however, to save others from their sins, for that is Christ Jesus’ salvation work as our Saviour (Rom. 1:16; Php. 1:28-29; 1Thes. 5:9; Heb. 9:28; 1Pet. 1:10-11).