As in chapters 1-3, there are many great truths taught in today’s chapters. But chapter five, verses 16-18 need a closer look, I think.
Let me read it to you again. “If you see another believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, you should pray that God would give that person life. This is true for those who commit sins that don’t lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I’m not telling you to pray about that. 17 Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, yet there are sins that don’t lead to death.
18 We know that those who have been born from God don’t go on sinning. Rather, the Son of God protects them, and the evil one can’t harm them.”
So what is this sin that leads to death, and the sin that does not lead to death?
I read several commentaries, and as is often the case with these difficult passages, there is some disagreement among scholars. But let me give you my understanding of the passage in a somewhat simplified way. Which works since I’m a simple guy.
To give these verses context, in this passage John is talking about prayer. He’s talking about how God hears the prayers of the believer, and how, if we ask according to His will, He will grant our prayers.
But, then John includes this statement.
So my understanding of what John was saying is this. If we see a Christian brother or sister sinning, we should pray for them, that God would forgive them. A person who is living for Christ, who loves the Lord, will sometimes sin. We all do. But since we *do* love God, the blood of Jesus covers that sin. And the Holy Spirit *will* speak to our heart and we *will* confess that sin to God and ask forgiveness. This is a sin that does not lead to death, because as we read in the last episode, God is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.
However, a person who rejects God, who has no relationship with Jesus, is already condemned to death. His sin is a sin unto death already. John is, in this passage, telling us that we should not pray that God would forgive them, because for God to so would be asking Him to circumvent His justice. Scripture says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Believers are covered by that blood, but those who reject Christ are not, so they cannot be forgiven, and we should not ask God to do so.
We can, however pray that they would soften their hearts and come into relationship with God through Jesus so that *all* of their sins will be forgiven.
Does that make sense?
What do you think?