Did you hear the story about a lawyer, a doctor, and a preacher who went hunting together.
When a prize buck ran past they all fired at the exact same time and the buck dropped.
The problem was that there was only one bullet hole and they didn't know which of them shot it.
They decided to take it to the registration center, hoping the agent could figure out who could claim the trophy.
The agent said, “Let me look at the deer.
Sometimes I can figure it out.”
He asked a few questions, examined the deer carefully, and declared, “The preacher is the one who shot this buck!”
Amazed, the other two asked how he could be so certain it was the preacher.
Stooping down, the agent pointed out the wound, “See here.
It went in one ear and out the other.”
So goes the average Sunday with the average churchgoers.
Perhaps this is why the Apostle John felt it so necessary to repeat his ideas and thoughts a few times during his short letter.
In these last 6 verses in first John, He shares with us his final thoughts about our salvation and gives some encouragement, some admonishment and he leaves us with a warning.
You may recall that the last two verses from last week was an assurance of the confidence that we have, as believers, that YHWH hears our prayers.
Now, John moves to a very practical use of this assurance: pray for others!
So now with these final verses, we, as believers, have at least a couple things we might glean from this ending: First is the conviction we fall under when we see sin.
The Conviction in Life (vv.16-17)
John says to pray for your Christian brothers and sisters who sin
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask...” I know many who believe that although Christians can still sin; they, themselves, do not sin.
Well, I have news for you, you do sin, I sin, and they do too.
All of us here would likely agree that we live this life that we have been given safe and secure in our faith and do the best that we can to live a life that honors our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
However, we all mess up—at least some of the time.
Even Pastors or Deacons or spiritual leaders.
John said toward the start of this letter that I’d be a liar if I said that I don’t sin.
Many of us know this already, but then when someone confronts us in sin, we tend to believe that we are above sinning—even if we don’t fess up to it.
John writes that we should pray for our fellow believers who mess up.
But Why would he tell his readers and us this?
Shouldn’t that be the natural thing to do?
They were probably much like us, instead of praying for and helping those that are struggling with sin, many Christians just want to talk to others about what evil thing these struggling brothers/sisters have done and leading into gossip about each other.
And, according to the majority of the commentators I read, gossip is what John has in mind for the historical setting he and the early church found themselves in.
If this is true, then not a whole lot has changed in the past couple thousand years!
What is gossip?
I want to be sure we understand, because if we can define it, we can stay away from it.
Gossip is idle talk which foolishly or maliciously spreads rumours or facts.
The effects of gossiping are divisive and destructive.
--Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes
Harper’s Bible Dictionary says Gossip is closely connected to slander in the Bible, which condemns both.
19:15-16 lumps slander together with legal injustice and even false testimony in a capital case, but Proverbs uses the same word to condemn the talebearer and to warn the wise not to associate with gossips (11:13; 20:19).
The NT also lists both as sins (Rom.
Sometimes People tell me about things that happen with their children in school and how the other children are mistreating.
My response to that is that children can be very cruel to each other.
Guess what, it is not just children.
We Christians can be just as cruel to each other BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE SO! Unchecked gossip, just like any other sins, can have devastating effects even years after it first was perpetuated.
So what is the solution?
“he shall ask”
John writes that we are to stop all of that and lift those sinning up in prayer and God will help them.
“There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”
What in the world is the sin that leads to death?!? What kind of death is John talking about?!?
This involves good exegesis (or proper interpretation) to answer!
Well proper interpretation must be related to the historical setting of I John
Consider the presence of gnostic false teachers in the churches, these false teachers had left the church (1 jn 2:19), but their influence had not!
and then proper interpretation must be related to the literary context of the whole book
Consider I John was written to combat false teaching and assure the true believers through certain testing
These two purposes in testing: doctrinal & practical can be seen in the tests of true believers
Jesus was truly human
Jesus was truly God
humans are sinful and responsible to a holy God
humans are also forgiven and made right with God
a lifestyle of obedience
a lifestyle of love
a lifestyle of Christlikeness (does not sin)
Lifestyle of victory over evil
His word abides in them
They have the Spirit
Proper interpretation must be linked to specific items in the relevant text (cf.
How can the prayers of one Christian restore life to another without the sinner’s personal repentance?
And then, Should we try to link this verse with the “unpardonable” sin of the Gospels
The context of I John does seem parallel to the unpardonable sin of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day (cf.
12:22–37; Mark 3:2–29) as well as the unbelieving Jews of Heb. 6 and 10.
All three groups (Pharisees, unbelieving Jews, and gnostic false teachers) heard the gospel clearly, but refused to trust Jesus Christ.
So now to put together our proper interpretation methods we can answer: “Does this sin unto death refer to physical death or spiritual, eternal death?”
Well, the literary style shows hints of the other scriptures referring to spiritual, eternal death.
He is writing to believers so John’s use of "life/death” in this context seems to imply the contrast refers to eternal death—Which then would make sense that he would clarify the difference—we are not to be praying for the forgiveness of sin for the unbeliever which is only reserved for the regenerate; rather, we ought to be praying for the regeneration of the unbeliever—for their salvation.
This makes sense BUT then isn't it possible that God takes home (physical death) sinning believers also so as this passage to refer to physical death?
The implication of this view is that:
the prayers are from believers for fellow believers and
the personal repentance of the offender combine to restore the believers, but if they continue in a lifestyle that brings reproach on the believing community, then the result may be an “untimely” or early physical departure from this life
This too can make sense, except why then would John command not to pray for a believer’s sin that leads to physical death?
It does not fit well when considering all of scripture
Jesus looks for disciples, not decisions, long term lifestyle faith, not short-term emotional faith.
Christianity is not an isolated past once ago act, but a current, ongoing repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance.
Christianity is not a one-way ticket to heaven, purchased in the past, nor a fire insurance policy taken out to protect one from a lifestyle of selfish, godless living!
“… and God will give him life”
I thought John is talking about believers sinning!
How can YHWH give life after eternal life is already given?
The theological problem here is the meaning of the term “life” (zoā).
Normally in John’s writings this refers to eternal life, but in this context it seems to mean restoration to health or forgiveness (i.e.
much like James’ use of “save” in James 5:13–15).
The person prayed for is called “a brother” which strongly implies a believer (by John’s own use of the term for his readers).
So now, for those who feel is the correct interpretation of death is physical, it would then make sense that YHWH would give him more physical life, but just as well life here could mean a more abundant life free of sin.