WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
AUGUST 15, 2022
TOPIC: WHAT IS THE SIN THAT DOES NOT LEAD TO DEATH AND THE SIN THAT LEADS TO DEATH?
BY T. O. BANSO
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16-17 New King James Version).
Not all the verses in the Bible are easy to understand. Even the people who listened to Jesus, including His disciples, did not understand some things that He said during His ministry. His disciples had to ask Him later for the meaning of some things, especially His parables.
When the meaning of some verses in the Bible is not very clear, people often give them different interpretations. Some may be correct while others may be wrong.
One of the passages in the Bible that has generated so much discussion is 1 John 5:16-17 where the Apostle John says, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (New King James Version).
Bible scholars and, indeed Christians, have expressed different opinions on this passage. There are different views on what constitutes a sin that does not lead to death and a sin that leads to death. Some are asking questions about why a sin will not lead to death when the Bible says the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20a) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).
Opinions also differ on what John means by Christians should not pray about sin that leads to death that a brother (Christian) commits and whether the death is spiritual or physical. In addition, some Christians confuse the sin that leads to death with the unforgivable sin that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:10, which is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
What is a sin which does not lead to death and sin which leads to death? First, sin that leads to death is not the same as unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin, which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, is committed when someone deliberately attributes to Satan the miracles clearly done by the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees and the scribes were guilty of this sin when they accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.
However, John, in 1 John 5:16-17, talks about a Christian who is involved in a sin that does not lead to death and another Christian who engages in sin that leads to death. Nevertheless, as verse 17a says, all unrighteousness or wrongdoing is sin whether it is a sin that does not lead to death or sin that leads to death. That John says that if anyone sees his brother sinning a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life is not a licence to sin.
While we must note in 1 John 5:16-17 that a Christian can sin even after giving his life to Jesus, he does not deliberately practise sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (New King James Version). Verse 10 says a similar thing. It says that if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. According to 1 John 5:18a, anyone born of God does not continue to sin.
When a Christian sins unintentionally, he repents, confesses, and asks for forgiveness. And God forgives because He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). By “a sin which does not lead to death”, John probably means any sin that one can repent of except apostasy. John says if anyone sees his brother committing this kind of sin, which does not lead to death, he should pray for the brother and God will give him life.
On the other hand, sin that leads to death is a “willful and obstinate rejection of God’s grace and persistence in unrepented sin” (The Pulpit Commentary). According to William Burkitt, sin that leads to death means “apostasy from the Christian religion unto idolatry” (William Burkitt’s Notes on the New Testament). It is also described as a deliberate sin in defiance of the Word of God, something that other believers can see and recognize as rebellion (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament). Probably that is why John says he does not say that a Christian should pray about that.
John says in the preceding verses, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15 New King James Version). But he goes ahead to say who to pray for and who not to pray for. Some writers have noted that John does not say a Christian cannot pray for such a brother but says, “I do not say that he should pray about that.”
However, the LORD told Jeremiah not to pray for the people of Judah and Jerusalem because of their persistent idolatry. “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you” (Jeremiah 7:16 New King James Version). They went beyond the reach of prayer. Prayer could not help them. Because they broke the terms of the LORD’s covenant with them, He told Jeremiah, “So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14 New King James Version).
Also in Jeremiah 14:11-12, the LORD said to Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (New King James Version). This suggests that these people have exhausted the longsuffering of God. Therefore, praying for them would be ineffective.
A Christian who commits a sin that leads to death has hardened his heart to the Word of God and stubbornly continues to live contrary to the truths he has been taught. Hebrews 3:12-13 warns, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (New King James Version).
Perhaps, John says he does not say Christians should pray about sin that leads to death because the person involved will never repent and, therefore, cannot be forgiven. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6 New King James Version).
However, some are of the view that the sin that leads to death refers to a sin that is punished by physical death as in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) while a sin that does not lead to death is one not punished by death. Indeed, in the Corinthian church, many were weak, sick, and died for eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord at the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
Whichever is the correct interpretation, you should strive to live in obedience to the Word of God. Obey the teachings of Jesus. Keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Continue in the faith. All unrighteousness or wrongdoing is sin. I pray that you will victoriously over sin.
In addition, pray for fellow believers so that they will not fall into temptations and that those who sin will repent and be restored. Also, pray that no child of God will become an apostate. If you have not given your life to Jesus, do so now when there is still room.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me to live victoriously over sin. Deliver me from the temptations that I often yield to. I shall not fall away from the faith in Jesus’ name. Holy Spirit, help me to stand in the faith to the end.
(For over 800 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org)
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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