Have you ever thought, some passages in the Bible are easier to read, and put into practice, in the day to day, than others?
Sometimes, I’ll bump into something that causes me to scratch my head, pray, pull out extra commentaries, and dig deeper for understanding.
I want to carefully listen to hear the Holy Spirit teaching me truth (John 14:26). I truly want to rightly handle the Word (2 Tim 2:15).
I don’t want anything I say, or do, to get in the way of others seeing Jesus for who He truly is.
So, as I read, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:16-17)—
First, I note what I know, it seems that we are able to recognize sin in others. (Yep. The text clearly says this.)
And, when we see sin, we can pray for those involved in the sin.
But here’s a hard truth—there is sin that leads to death. (The text clearly says this, too).
Several commentaries I consulted suggested this is not one particular sin, but a willful sin, of which the person will not confess and repent from.
John Piper says,“ the sin that does not lead to death (that is, eternal death or damnation — which is what I (Piper) think John means) is any sin that we commit that we are, by grace, capable of truly confessing and repenting from.”
Piper seems to believe John uses the word “brother” here in a general sense as to mean “other people” rather than a fellow believer
Piper goes on to say, “It’s not a particular sin, like some particular ugly act, but a particular depth or degree or aggravation or persistence in sin to the point where authentic confession and repentance have become impossible.”
To read more on Piper ‘s explanation see https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-the-sin-not-leading-to-death-in-1-john-5
Now, if John meant the word “brother”, to be a fellow believer, as he has used it elsewhere in the Bible, then, according to The Enduring Word app (Dave Guzik) “it is wrong to see him meaning a sin leading to spiritual death; he probably meant a sin leading to the physical death of the believer. This is a difficult concept, but we have an example of it in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, where Paul says that among the Christians in Corinth, because of their disgraceful conduct at the Lord’s Supper, some had died (many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep). This death came not as a condemning judgment, but as a corrective judgment (But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world [1 Corinthians 11:32]).”
Guzik goes on to say, “Apparently, a believer can sin to the point where God believes it is just best to bring them home, probably because they have in some way compromised their testimony so significantly that they should just come on home to God.”
And that, my friends, is some hard stuff. I’m still wrestling with what I think this passage means.
Clearly two men, who have studied the Word, much more than me, have differing opinions.
But, for now, I can apply what I understand—Sin is dangerous and should be avoided in every area of our lives.
The Bible is clear that we should flee sin and pray for others to flee sin. Sometimes, we should go so far as to confront them about it (Matt 18, James 5:19-20).
John’s letter is clear that God will not leave unrepentant, unconfessed sin unpunished forever. This is also clear when we test this passage with other parts of the Bible.
Remember, if we are going to study the Bible, we need to study it all. Even the more difficult passages.
We need to dig deep. We need to wrestle with it, and pray over it, and test it against itself.
We also need to apply the Word to our lives, walk in truth, and speak truth in order that others may also understand, “there is sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16) for “there is a way that seems right to a man but it’s end is the way of death.” (Prov 14:12)
Oh friends, let’s also remember what John recorded Jesus saying about life—“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)