Thrill-packed Ending

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.

1 John 5:16-17

As we move along through this letter, we think we have John all figured out, and then we come to these two verses, so near to the end of the letter. At first, they don’t seem to belong, what is John talking about?  Where did this come from?

So, let’s see if we can follow him… if a brother sins, we are to pray for him, and God will give him life.  OK, I think I get it; God will forgive the sin, and straighten the guy out.  Hold on, that is if the sin isn’t a sin that leads to death; but I thought death was the price of all sin!  John’s making it sound like any sin can be forgiven, except one; and this one sin can be committed by our “brother or sister.”

John could have at least mentioned what that sin is… leaving that little detail out makes this hard to follow, at least for me− I wonder why he would do that.  Maybe he didn’t think he needed to mention it, maybe he thought he’d already covered that somewhere; could that part have been lost over time or something? Let’s think.

What was the letter about? Oh, yes, it was about false teachers, in fact it was about a certain kind of false teacher, Gnostic false teachers, who claimed that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh.  Hold on− John came up with a special word to describe them: Antichrist! Aha! Now this is beginning to make sense, the antichrist is not to be forgiven; you don’t need to pray for this. When your brother stumbles, pray for him, when you stumble ask God and He will forgive.  Stay away from the antichrist.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:18-20

John is winding up the letter now, as he recounts some basic facts of Christian life.  A follower of Jesus is not to continue in the old ways. He or she has been buried with Christ, and arisen again as a new creation, leaving the old behind.  The “One who was born of God” which is to say the Lord Jesus, keeps us safe from the evil one.  This is a pretty important statement for us to keep in mind, especially when we are looking for somebody to blame for our mistakes.  John points out that the whole world is under the control of the evil one, and you will no doubt recall that he has already warned us not to love the world, now you know why.

Now, John drops in a comforting and powerful thought: Jesus has given us understanding so that we may know who is true; it is Jesus who is true.  If we have the understanding to know who is true, we can also discern who is not.  Maybe this is why the arguments and understanding of this world can be so attractive to the world, and appear so idiotic to a follower of Jesus… and vice-versa.  Hmmm, might want to ponder that for a bit.  God is the one who is true, and the giver of eternal life.

Lastly, John reminds us in verse 21 to stay away from idols, and the letter closes.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to Thrill-packed Ending

  1. balaam says:

    Thanks. That was thought-provoking. These are the thoughts it provoked:

    This passage does not come out of nowhere, it’s a booked. The other bookend is near the beginning of the letter.
    “7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[a] sin.

    “8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9 NIV.

    We are told what to do when we sin. Not if, when. We are to confess and be forgiven. That is the first bookend.

    The second bookend is the one you spoke about. What to do when someone else sins. The important thing isn’t that there is a sin that leads to death, but that not all sins do. As we do not know if our brother or sister’s sin will lead to death we are to pray to the God who forgives sin to give him or her life.

    Bookend 1 – If you sin, confess.
    Bookend 2 – If someone else sins, pray for them.

  2. photojaq says:

    Wow… you raised questions that I had not thought to ask… but then you answered them in a clear way. Amazing.
    Thank You, Spirit of God, for using Don Merritt in this ministry!

  3. Filosopete 🇿🇦 says:

    Also read this (again) today, somewhere across the Atlantic pond

  4. Citizen Tom says:

    I had heard an explanation for 1 John 5:16-17 that sort of made sense. That preacher used the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) as his example. They had accepted Christ, but they were causing trouble. So the Lord took them home. I think your explanation is more consistent with the context of the passage. Moreover, John would be more concerned with the second death, not the first.

    So why did Ananias and Sapphira die? I guess Peter’s explanation is as good as we are going to get. It is not enough to go through the motions, to pretend to accept Christ’s offer of salvation. We must believe. So God took their lives to underscore that point.

    Did Ananias and Sapphira suffer the second death as well? Given Matthew 7:21-23, I suppose we ought to assume the worst. It is not our deeds, but our hearts that matter.


    • Don Merritt says:

      I guess that we should just do our best not to find ourselves in their position. As for what ultimately happens to them… I’m sure God will sort it out with His characteristic combination of justice and mercy.

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