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View daily reading plan: 1 John 5.16-17

One aspect of prayer is intercession, praying in the interests of others. Here, John anticipates us seeing a brother sinning, “a sin not unto death”. We should pray for him and God will respond. For the men whose false teaching was so pernicious that they were obviously antichrists and apostates there was no way back. Of people like that Scripture declares, “it is impossible...to renew them again unto repentance” (Heb 6.4-6); it is “sin unto death”.

Some may argue that the one who commits the “sin unto death” is called a “brother”. Throughout the epistle, the term “brother” is used to describe those claiming to be in the family. For example, John says earlier, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (3.15). He may claim to be a brother but he does not possess eternal life. Thus, it is consistent with the tenor of the epistle to suggest that the “sin unto death” is committed by an apostate and not a true “brother”. Prayer would not be “according to his will” if we requested the restoration of such.

In general it is our duty  to pray for erring saints. While every act of injustice, dishonesty, untruthfulness, immorality and evil speaking is sin, it is not “unto death” (5.17). Repentance and restoration are possible.

Monday, 20 May, 2024

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