How to Have Confidence in Prayer, Part 21 (Praying Through the Bible #445)
TEXT: 1 John 5:14-17
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
William Barclay said, “We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It should be just as natural to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away and who is in peril of making shipwreck of his life than to commit him to the grace of God.”
In our last message in this series, we looked at how we can have confidence in prayer because God grants our prayers according to His will. God never says not to requests that are made inside His will. Paul told the Corinthians “For all the promises of God in him (that is Jesus) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” You do not have to wheedle, cajole, strain, or scream for God to fulfil His promises. His answers to requests made within the bounds of His will are “Yes” and “Amen” The Psalmist assures us that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” And Jesus promised in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Have faith, trust, and confidence in God, for any request made according to His will has already been granted.
Third, we must pray for God to give life to those who are in sin not unto death. 1 John 5:16-17 says, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” Theologians have hotly debated what “sin unto death” and “sin not unto death” really mean. But the focus in this passage is on praying within the will of God. These two verses demonstrate how praying for deliverance for a brother who is committing a sin that is not unto death is within God’s will, but praying for deliverance for a brother who is committing a sin unto death is not within God’s will, because God has already decided on His punishment. So what is a sin unto death? Steven Cole and David Allen pointed out that there are four main views in Christian theology about the sin unto death. The first view is that “sin unto death” is an especially terrible sin that can lead to spiritual death, or damnation, because God will not forgive it unless the sinning Christian confesses and repents first. This view became a teaching of the Catholic Church, which divides sins into ‘venial sins’, which only weaken the sinning Christian’s relationship with God, and ‘mortal sins’, which cuts the sinning Christian off from God’s saving grace until they confess and repent. But the Bible makes no such distinction between sins, and while some sins do have a worse effect in the world, all sins are equally an affront to the perfectly holy God. The second view is that the sin unto death is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus warned the Pharisees in Matt. 12:31-32 that this sin could never be forgiven. However, this view would mean that John is using “brothers” to refer to unbelievers, since no true Christian would or could commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is extremely unusual for “brothers” to refer to non-Christians, except in a biological-familial sense. Also, because this second view equates the word “life” in this passage to “eternal life”, it would seem to make this passage guarantee salvation for all unbelievers that you pray for, as long as they haven’t committed the unforgivable sin. The third view is that sin unto death refers to total apostasy from the faith. True Christians cannot lose their salvation, as is taught in John 10:28-29, Romans 8:35-39, 1 John 5:18, and other verses, but the Bible does describe people who make a profession of faith and pretend to be Christians for a while, but eventually they apostatize and show that they were never truly born again. Because this third view equates the word “life” in this passage to “eternal life”, it would seem to make this passage guarantee salvation for everybody you pray for, as long as they haven’t committed total apostasy. The fourth and final view about this passage is that sin unto death is physical death that God inflicts upon true Christians who persist in sin. This view seems to be supported by several Bible passages. In 1 Corinthians 11:30, Paul says that some Christians died because they were partaking of Communion unworthily. In Acts 5:1-11, God struck down Ananias and Saphira for lying to God. Peter said to them that “Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost.” In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said that a man who committed fornication with his father’s wife would be delivered “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” God has called all His children to holiness, so that we might be “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish,” as described in Ephesians 5:27. When we sin, God punishes us. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” In some cases, there comes a point where a Christian continues in unrepentant sin, and God must call Him home. Prayers for such a person to continue in life will not be effective because it is God’s will that the unrepentant Christian die so as to purify the church and punish the sinner. Whichever one of these four views is the correct one, we are given a clear command on what to do when we see a fellow Christian sinning. When we see a brother or sister sinning, we are to pray for them, and God will give them life if their sin is not unto death. John uses the word “shall,” which seems to show that it is certain that God will grant them life. It is therefore not in God’s will that a brother or sister should die if their sin is not unto death. For those whose sin is unto death, John does not command us to pray for them, but neither does he expressly forbid it. We may not know when a person is sinning unto death or not, but when we pray for someone who is sinning unto death, those prayers will not be answered because it is not in God’s will. David Guzik said, “When we see a brother in sin, John tells us the first thing to do is to pray for that person. All too often, prayer is the last thing we do, or the smallest thing we do in regard to our brother having a difficult time. God promised to bless the prayer made on behalf of a brother in sin. Perhaps such prayers have special power before God because they are prayers in fulfillment of the command to love the brethren. Surely, we love each other best when we pray for each other. Because John wrote in the context of a brother, it is wrong to see him meaning a sin leading to spiritual death; he probably meant a sin leading to the physical death of the believer. This is a difficult concept, but we have an example of it in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, where Paul says that among the Christians in Corinth, because of their disgraceful conduct at the Lord’s Supper, some had died (many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep). This death came not as a condemning judgment, but as a corrective judgment (But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world). Apparently, a believer can sin to the point where God believes it is just best to bring them home, probably because they have in some way compromised their testimony so significantly that they should just come home to God. Our lives are in God’s hands, and if He sees fit to bring one of His children home, that is fine. Some believe that brother is used here in a very loose sense, and what John means by the sin leading to death is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is the willful, settled rejection of Jesus Christ. But this would be a curious use of the term brother, especially according to how John has already used brother in his own letter. Apparently, when a Christian is being corrected in regard to a sin leading to death, there is no point in praying for his recovery or restoration – the situation is in God’s hands alone. John takes pains to recognize that not every sin leads to death in the manner he speaks of, though all unrighteousness is sin.” John ends this passage by reminding us that all unrighteousness is sin, but not all sin leads to death. Instead of getting too focused on the specifics of the sin that leads unto death, let’s focus on what we are commanded to pray about, which is those who are committing the sin that does not lead to death. In this case, it is God’s will to forgive sins and give life to those who do not sin unto death. It is also His will that we pray for our brothers and sisters when they fall into sin. When you see a fellow Christian fall into sin that is not unto death, pray for them with confidence, knowing that it is God’s will for them to confess, repent, and have life.
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Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your Salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.