Saturday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 John 5:16-18

The Sin unto Death

Christianity is a mediated religion.  This statement may shock some people who are aware that the Reformation taught us that we need not go before a priest to confess our sins but may go before God without the intervention of another.  This is certainly true; our sins are forgiven us only through the person and work of the Mediator between God and man—Jesus Christ.  But the Reformation also taught us that every believer is a priest, meaning that every believer may intercede for another believer—and not just for physical ailments but even that God would forgive his brother his sins as is plainly taught here: “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.”  We tend to see sin as a matter between a person and his God; that’s because we Americans are rugged individualists.  But we may pray to the Father that He forgive our brother’s sins, especially those which may not be so obvious to our brother.  This is a very loving and kind thing to do for one another.

But then there is that troublesome line: “There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”  We naturally ask: What is this sin leading to death over which a believer might even choose not to intercede on his brother’s behalf?  In light of John’s letter, it would mean: 1) Not believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who came in the flesh; 2) Not following our Lord’s commands; and, 3) Not loving our brothers.  We should not see these three as isolated sins but as naturally connected—the one flowing from the other—and as deliberate and determined.  This person has no intention to repent.  Some call this the sin of apostasy referred to in Hebrews 6:1-8.  Regardless, what we seem to have here is a deliberate turning away from the Lord and determination to live in presumptuous sin (see NICNT, 245-49).  And please note, John does not command believers not to pray for such a one, only that they are not required to do so, leaving to the individual believer to intercede or leave matters in God’s hands.

Although my ESV Bible separates verse eighteen from the foregoing, I believe these verses go together.  “All wrongdoing is sin,” we are told.  But lest some doubt, the faithful are reminded that the one born of God “does not keep on sinning.”  And why is this?  Because “God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”  Those born again have a sure heritage founded not on themselves but on the Keeper of their souls.  Therefore, let us apply to our Lord and Master in temptation; He is our Refuge and Shield.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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