1 John 5:16-17 are verses which godly believers have wrestled with in order to seek to establish their meaning. The verses read:-
If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
The key phrases here are “sin that does not lead to death” and “sin that leads to death”. I would make the following comments:-
- John is dealing with spiritual death here. The only time John refers to death in 1 John previously is in 3:14 and there it clearly refers to spiritual death.
- As regards to the issue of sin and its relationship to death, we must initially assert that all sin leads to death.
- The only sin that does not lead to death is sin that is repented of.
- So when you see a brother in Christ sin, prayer is made with a view to that sin being repented of.
- The sin that leads to death is unrepented of sin.
- The person who commits a sin leading to death is not referred to as “a brother or sister.”
- There is an uncertainty about praying concerning unrepented of sin because we cannot fully discern someone’s heart. It may be that the person in due course will repent of their sin. There may come a stage when, through sin not being repented of, it is not appropriate to pray.
- It may be then, that you start praying for someone to repent of a sin, but when they over a period of time refuse to repent then you desist from praying concerning that situation.
- We should never forget though that in essence all failure to flow with God’s ways is sin.
- We must rejoice over the fact that there is sin that does not lead to death. This of course should lead us to delight in what Christ has done for us. Were it not for Him then there would be no prospect of sin not leading to death because there would be no chance of sin being forgiven.
May we be thoughtful about our attitude to sin. Let us be quick to repent of sin and so know that such sin is forgiven.