7566 - Intercessory Prayer


Audio transcript

Today, we continue our study in 1 John chapter 5. In our last Bible study we dwelt on assurance of prayers being answered as given by the apostle John in chapter 5, verses 14 and 15.

Today we continue some thoughts about prayer as we look at the following two verses, 16 and 17. Here John talks about intercessory prayer.

Let’s read the verses from the NET Bible, “If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.”

This is a much debated passage without any final agreement. Let’s focus on those explanations which are consistent with other scripture.

God’s original message certainly did not contain error or uncertainty. The difficulty came in translation.

A major point of question is the meaning of the words ‘death’ and ‘life’ in this passage. Do these refer to physical death and life, or to spiritual death and life?

One of the first rules of interpretation of scripture is that within a passage there must be consistency of view — if death refers to physical death, then the word life must refer to physical life; or if death refers to spiritual death then life likewise speaks of spiritual life.

This eliminates, in this passage, the view that the sin unto death is a sin for which bodily death is the punishment.

This is not to say that persistent or dreadful sin in the life of a Christian may not indeed be reason for God to call this person home, in what others may views as an untimely death, as in Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead. But the rule of interpretation would say that doesn’t apply here.

In this 1 John passage, those verses preceding this thought clearly speak of spiritual life — a personal faith in the Son of God, which results in eternal life.

John has just been emphasizing that the purpose of this epistle is that a believer may know for certain that he indeed abides in Christ and possesses eternal life.

So we must view death as spiritual death in this passage to be consistent with the view of life. What then is the sin that leads to death? John does not define the sin of which he writes.

Some view this as total apostasy, but can a Christian reject faith, and fall away from God? The immediate answer is, “No!” John has been teaching that no Christian can persist in sin such as this (3:9,18).

The view which, meets the criterion of consistency, is that the person who commits the sin unto death is not a believer, and has never experienced an abiding, faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

In understanding what act this could be we must look to the greater passage in this epistle. And we find John has already talked about people who have gone out from us, not being of us (2:19). These are called antichrist, people who do not have a faith relationship with Jesus, but are actually enemies of Christ (2:22) who deny the Father and the Son.

These seem to be the people to whom John refers in this verse. They deny in their heart and with their mouth that Jesus is the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. This alone of all the sins possible to mankind, is the sin which has the power to separate a person from the one who is Life itself.

As the confession of Christ with the heart and the mouth is salvation unto eternal life (Rom. 10:9), so denial of Christ with the mouth and in the heart is sin unto death.

But John does say, we should pray for those whose sin is not unto death, and perhaps they will come to life in Christ.