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.”  Obviously old John needs to brush up on his Calvinism!

All kidding aside, 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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10 Responses to Thrill-packed Ending

  1. profsloan says:

    Don, regarding the unforgiveable sin, could John be referring to what Jesus told his disciples as recorded in Luke 12:8-10? This would seem to be plausible.

  2. I had always assumed that John was referring to “blasphemy against the spirit” (Matt 12:31) as the sin that leads to death.

    I have more of a problem with: 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.

    Unless John is speaking of Jesus or the Paraclete then that is a heavy burden to place upon mortal man. Everyone, baptized or not, sins, it is unavoidable. The difference is in being able to ask for forgiveness.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I might well be crazy, but it seems to me that John doesn’t take a transactional view of these things (ordinance-violation-consequence) but rather a relational view, looking at the motivation and condition of our hearts, as opposed to simple a technical violation.

      But then, as I said, I might just be crazy.

  3. pipermac5 says:

    There is a less-blatant but even more-insidious form of Gnosticism which is still alive and well in the American church today. We have discussed that form of Gnosticism on previous occasions. It is an old heresy which refuses to die. I wonder why? John has given us the answer to that question in this passage. The father of lies is still at work in our world.



  4. When considering what is in the world, we do have to be mindful of the enemy taking a little truth and using the building blocks of lies to build the house. The point here is that we have to have the Word of God for ourselves with the understanding given by the Holy Spirit. Thanks for sharing this important reminder.

  5. Citizen Tom says:

    I like your explanation for 1 John 5:16-17. I have others, but this one is straightforward. It simply puts the verse in context.

    What is unforgivable is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Unrepentant apostasy? Yep!

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