If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.

1 John 5:16 (NIV)

I’ve heard it said that if you think you might be going insane then you probably aren’t. If you’re like me then perhaps you’re wondering why this might be the case. I believe it has to do with being conscious of our mental attitude and how we behave. When we think about the things that we do and their impact on others then we’re taking the time to consider that behavior and the thoughts that led to it. It’s that same consideration that tells us that we are not going insane because someone who was going insane would not have the same consideration for others nor would they think that their behavior was out of the ordinary. The same attitude that shows us that we’re not going insane is the same type of attitude that reveals to us our true thoughts on our sin.

I’m sure many Christians when they’ve read this verse in 1 John 5, have wondered, “What’s this sin that leads to death?” I think it’s a good question that bears answering. After all, if we’re not to pray for a brother or sister who is committing this sin then we should know what it is, right?

Before we get into the sin that the verse is talking about here in 1 John 5 it’s important to review this verse in the context of the entire letter. This letter is believed to have been written by St. John, the writer of the Gospel of John. Unlike the letters of Paul, which were typically written to specific people or churches, this letter by John was written to the Christians of the day.

In John’s time, the belief of Gnosticism was a belief that threatened the early church. It’s not necessary to be versed on what Gnosticism is to receive what John is telling us today. However, if you’re interested in a brief explanation of what it is then you can read about it here. It would behoove you to read up on it because I think it reflects a lot on thoughts that many people may have today. Even if they don’t realize it.

John establishes the fact in the first part of his letter that no one is without sin and if anyone believes that they are without sin then they are calling God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). We are further reminded that, when we do sin, we have Jesus as an advocate for our sin and that He died for all of our sin (1 John 1-2). Since there were Gnostic teachers who were teaching doctrine contrary to Christ, John warns us that those who deny Christian doctrine are antichrists. He exhorts us to not be led astray by these false teachers (1 John 2:18-26). We too, need to be on guard against those who might preach something that appears to be Christ-like when it’s not.

John makes an important statement in 1 John 3:6 that coincides with this verse here in 1 John 5.

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

1 John 3:6 (NIV)

If you’re a Believer then you might be thinking, “But, I sin…” This verse, like 1 John 5:16, is very specific in the message about sin. We’ll get to it in just a moment but first, we need to understand another part of the foundation that John is building here in this letter. In 1 John 5, we see a reaffirmation of who Jesus is along with the continued theme that whoever believes who Jesus also believes God. If you don’t believe who Jesus is then you’re making God out to be a liar (1 John 5:5-10).

When you show an awareness that you sin and you think about it then you are demonstrating a mindset that you care about what you do and the consequences of it. This is more than just a guilty conscience. This is something that reveals your belief that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the Spirit of God that dwells within you and it makes you a Child of God. Those who do not have the Spirit of God within them aren’t the Children of God. When we have the Spirit of God in us our desire is to not sin. Those who don’t have the Spirit have no such desire. Indeed, they deny who Jesus is and they sin willfully and habitually. Like the person who is insane and doesn’t know it, they sin against God without regard for who He is. This is the person that John is speaking of when he refers to the one who keeps on sinning in 1 John 3:6.

Therefore, the sin that leads to death isn’t any specific sin but is a state of mind regarding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you see a brother or sister who willfully and deliberately sins without regard for God then this sin leads to death for that person. This is a sin that involves a conscious decision to forsake the teaching of Jesus and to follow one’s own desire. Hence, the habitual nature of it. The reason we aren’t to pray for these people and this sin has to do with free will.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:15-16 (NIV)

God will not impose His will over our own. Therefore, we cannot ask God to do something that violates His nature because He won’t do it. Sometimes I think that this is one of the largest barriers we have when we pray to God and want a “Yes” answer. We might not know Him as well as we think we do and so we ask Him to do things that He can’t because they would otherwise violate who He is if He did do them.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.