About Us Services MinistriesSermon Message Bible StudyChurch Calendar Contact Us


Statement of Faith

The Four Most Important Things We Could Ever Tell You

Listen to this week's message!

Map to the Church

Prayer Requests

Enhance your daily reading of God's word. Click here for free, printable Bible Reading and Prayer Journal sheets!

Wednesday AM Bible Study Archives


"Praying for the Sinning Brother"
1 John 5:16-17

Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 8, 2006

Our passage this morning is a call to us from the majestically holy Lord Jesus Christ - issued to us through the apostle John - to make use of the resources He has entrusted to us, and to do our duty to peruse one another's holiness. It's a part of our ongoing study of First John; and it is, in many ways, an exhortation that the whole of John's little letter has been leading up to. It brings all that he has said in this letter thus far - concerning the tests of genuine faith, the assurance of eternal life, and the confidence we enjoy of fellowship with Jesus Christ - together into a single, practical exhortation of the utmost importance to the agenda Jesus Christ has for us.

It can be summed up in three principles:

A. In the original language of John's letter, the matter is emphatic: (literally) "All unrighteousness SIN is . . . "; placing the emphasis on the word "sin".
1. It may have seemed at first as if John was saying that some sins are not as bad as others; but the point he wishes to establish clearly to us is that all sin is - at the most fundamental level - an act of unrighteous rebellion against God.

2. It is defined as "lawlessness" in 1 John 3:4-9. It is an act of rebellion against the Lawgiver.

B. It's wise to remember this. Jesus saves completely, and sets us free from the guilt of sin. But we should never forget that He had to die in our place in order to do so. The wages of sin is always "death" (Rom. 6:23). All unrighteousness is sin; and all sin is lawlessness. It will always be an offense to a holy God.


A. The above principle is worded carefully. It is not meant to say that all sin does not lead to the ultimate consequence of death; because it has. It resulted in death entering the human situation (Romans 5:12ff); and Jesus had to die in our place because of it. But it does not all lead to our experiencing the situation of death personally or ultimately. All unrighteousness is sin; but there is sin (literally) "not toward death".

B. There have been many ways of interpreting this.

1. Some have suggested that John is speaking of sins that result in the literal death of the sinner. We read of such stories in Acts 5:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 11:30. They serve to remind us that sin is serious. But if that were what John was speaking of, we wouldn't be able to know a "sin toward death" until the sinner actually died - and then, it would be too late to say that we shouldn't pray for them.

2. Some have suggested that it is speaking of the unpardonable sin that Jesus taught about (Mark 3:28-29). But this seems to be a matter of resisting the Holy Spirit by attributing the miracles Jesus bodily performed to the devil - a sin that seems to be something that could not be repeated.

3. The best way to interpret this is by looking to the context:

a. The context of this book is an assurance of our fellowship with Christ through the three tests of "obedience" (1:6; 2:3-4; 3:10), "love" (2:9-10; 3:14-15; 4:8, 20); and "belief" (2:23; 4:3-4, 15; 5:10).

b. All sins can be understood in one of these three categories: i.e, open disobedience to God's commands, hatred and resentment toward a brother, or refusal to believe and confess the apostolic testimony about Christ. All three - if held on to with a hard heart and without repentance - will result in ultimate death (2:17; 3:14; 5:12).

c. A sin not leading to death is one in which we are confronted with our sin, and turn from it - confessing it as sin in such a way as to demonstrate that we truly have life (1:8:2-2).


A. Our sinning brother or sister is our responsibility. We are to pursue them (Luke 15:4; James 5:19-20). One of the ways that Christ has ordained that the holiness of His church be brought about and protected is through our ministry to one another.

B. This doesn't mean that we should not pray for those who are sinning in a hardened and unrepentant way. John does not 'forbid' such prayers. He simply says that, in the matter before him, that is not what he is talking about. "There is a sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that." That's a different subject from what he is addressing at the moment. Rather, he is addressing the matter of a sinning brother:

1. We pray for him or her as one professing a faith in Jesus, but trapped in sin.

2. We are so involved in their lives that we can tell when they are sinning.

3. We are to ask; and the Giver of life will give US life for the sinning brother! It's a gift to us for them!

C. We know a sin that is not leading to death by the fact that the brother or sister repents when confronted (Matthew 18:15-20).

Printable Version

Bethany Bible Church, 18245 NW Germantown Road, Portland, OR 97231 / 503.645.1436

Site Map | Privacy Policy | Copyright Information