I John 5:16, Sin Unto Death

Ichthys 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. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that1 John 5:16 NKJV

This passage is puzzling for many and, again, illustrates the importance of reading verses in context rather than isolating them from the whole which is a particular problem of the Christian habit of ‘proof-texting.’

Our first step, in the study of any of the epistles, should be to read the whole letter through.  As we do that in 1 John, we come to the key clue, which clarifies the context,“They went out from us…”(2:19). See introduction to 1 John 

The most plausible interpretation of this verse is that the “sin unto death” is like the apostasy of those who had been the brethren of these believers to whom John was writing, and who had followed new teaching that rejected the Incarnation.

“In that case, he [John] does not encourage prayer for the restoration of those who, like the teachers of 2. 18-23, had manifested the spirit of the Antichrist and shown where they properly belonged by quitting the fellowship [the Church] in which alone eternal life was to be found. With regard to such men John may have felt much as the writer of Hebrews did in another situation, that it was ‘impossible to renew them to repentance’; renunciation of the apostolic witness to Christ and His saving power was indeed a ‘sin unto death.’”—F. F. Bruce, Epistles…

“The person who consciously and deliberately chooses the way of death shall surely die. Sin that leads to death is deliberate refusal to believe in Jesus Christ, to follow God’s commands, and to love one’s brothers. It leads to death because it includes a deliberate refusal to believe in the One who alone can give life, Jesus Christ the Son of God. By contrast, sins that do not lead to death are those which are committed unwittingly and which do not involve rejection of God and his way of salvation.”—I. Howard Marshall NICNT

We can be distracted by “the sin leading to death” and miss the focus of verse 16, the important point: When we see a fellow Christian struggling with sin, it is urgent that we pray for him.

And we see the power of this as we read this verse in the context of Chapter 5: “. . . Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. . . .”

I John: “God Is Love” vis-a-vis Heresy


“God is love”—A most familiar phrase in

1 John 4

Leon Morris, the noted New Testament scholar, asks, “How do we harmonize the assurance that ‘God is love’ with the assertion that ‘our God is a consuming fire’? Most of us never think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is indistinguishable from that of the world around us.”  (Testaments of Love, emphasis added)

As we have noted in the two previous posts, in First John [as in all Scripture], context is an essential key to right understanding.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God thus loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

First, we see in verse 8 that “God is love” is not only an incomplete verse, but an incomplete sentence, and an incomplete phrase (“because” is omitted).

And in verse 16, “God is love” is part of a compound sentence (the “and” [link] is omitted).

First John presents a few key tests so that those to whom he is writing can be assured that theirs is the true faith in contrast to those who broke fellowship with them and claimed a new knowledge and spiritual superiority.

In the first post, we noted the test of affirming the Incarnation, which was denied by those with their new knowledge.  That is also affirmed here in verse 9, which parallels John 3:16—“For God thus loved the world…he sent his only begotten Son…”   And now, the test of obedience to Jesus’ command to them to “love one another” receives strong attention.  If we do not love our fellow Christians, we do not know God who first loved us.

John drives this point home, using “love” over 40 times in this little letter.  John’s first  use of “love” [But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him….(2:5)] gives us the test of obedience: keeping God’s word, keeping his commandments.  In his commentary, F. F. Bruce writes, “Love and obedience are inextricably interwoven because all the commandments of God are summed up in the law of love.”

[And where there is disobedience, love requires discipline.]

It is the same test and warning which Jesus gives to us in John chapter fourteen.

In our day, many false teachers use “God is love” as a mantra to encourage disobedience to God’s word, to his commands.  For decades “love” has been used to promote abortion and acceptance of unbiblical divorces and marriages in churches.  And, today, the branches from this seed include whole denominations that embrace and promote sodomy.

Unless those who still believe God’s word become salt and light in our day, there is no hope that God, the consuming fire, will lift his judgment on our dying culture.  We must reclaim the basics from the world’s distortions which we, many times, have blindly accepted.  We must go back to the Word.

“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”—1Peter 4:17


Will we have the courage to draw a line, and to do it publicly, between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who have been infiltrated theologically and culturally? If we do not have the courage, we will cut the ground out from under the feet of our children, and we will destroy any hope of being the redeeming salt and light of our dying culture.

–Francis A. Schaeffer

The Great Evangelical Disaster


Read “…an excellent piece…one that many Christians need to hear”R.C. Sproul

Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies, 140 pp.

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Homosexuality, False Contexts, and Perverting Scripture



“‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord…..
22 You  shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Today, many Christians try to defend sodomy by attempting to place the condemnation of Scripture in a false context.  The prime example is Leviticus 18.  A pastor, from one of those denominations that endorses sodomy, explained to college students that the prohibition in Leviticus, chapter 18, was no different from the prohibition against eating pork or frog legs in Leviticus, chapter 11.
Of course, this is absurd. The clear divisions in Leviticus begin with, “And the Lord spoke…,” as in chapter 11 where the context is dietary laws and in chapter 18 which condemns sexual immorality: incest, adultery, and sodomy.
To be consistent with his argument, the pastor would have, also, had to defend these other sexual sins and child sacrifice (v.21).

The clear warning to God’s people at the beginning of chapter 18 is to NOT accept the sins of the nations around them.

The answer to God’s prohibitions against sin is not to defend sin but to acknowledge it and repent.  That is the call to all. We are all sinners. Christ died to deliver us from sin, not to enable us to make excuses for it.
The sad state of our society today is, to a large degree, due to the salt losing its savor. Another sin which is condemned in Leviticus is the failure to give faithful witness by remaining silent.
[See Ch. 4, Sin and Silence, in Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies]


[Be a Disciple=LEARN. Be Salt and Light: Speak Up. Thorough background on the texts of Scripture that prohibit sodomy, including Leviticus, by N.T. Prof. Robert Gagnon, here. ]

[A key resource for those Christians who care to be equipped for being light to those around them in our dying culture Outstanding review of two influential, heterodox books defending sodomite “marriage” Here ]