“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” 1 John 4:16
Today’s focus text has caused a fair amount of confusion and questioning among Bible students over the years. The confusion centers around the question about what John meant when he identified some sins as leading to death and some as not leading to death.
Some have suggested that John’s talking about the unpardonable sin but I don’t believe that this is what’s being referred to.
I think it’s best to let John tell us what he meant, if we can, and to this end we have two essential terms: sin and death.
John defines sin very succinctly, in 1 John 3:4, as lawlessness or the breaking of God’s law. If we connect this verse to ur focus text we can then state that, according to John, there’s law breaking that leads to death and there’s law breaking that doesn’t lead to death.
Defining death is a little trickier because John doesn’t make any statements about death that help us define it directly. However, he does take considerable time talking about its opposite,
life, and from this we can indirectly define what he means by death.
1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” From this we know that for John the essential Ingredient for life is a person’s connectedness to Jesus. If you’re connected your alive and if your disconnected you’re not.
So what is a sin that doesn’t lead to death? It’s the breaking of God’s law that’s not part of severing your connection with Him.
We’re all on a journey with the Holy Spirit called sanctification. In the course of this journey we’re going to make mistakes, misunderstand, and even second guess God’s instructions but this doesn’t mean we’re choosing to abandon our relationship with God. It just means that there’s more work to be done before the perfect reflection of Christ is revealed in us.
The apostle John tells us that we can do a lot to help one another as we individually take this journey together. The most important thing we can do is to pray. In fact, this is what we should do before we do anything else. Many times we see other people’s short falls and want to jump in and say something. We need to be careful about this inclination. Many times we can create more harm than good by premature or poorly conceived words and actions. But if we pray and truly listen for God’s leading he’ll guide us to the right response. It may be that the only thing we can do is pray. But that’s ok. Prayer is, after all, a powerful force.