13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
16If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him 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 he should pray about that. 17All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
18We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. ~I John 5:13-21I'm not sure why it's taken me months to get back to writing about the books of 1 and 2 John. Could've just been busy-ness, summer classes and work, family, and church obligations. I think that I may have been unsure of what exactly to write about this part of Chapter 5. I think I may need to break this passage up a little.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
If you go back and read through my other commentaries on 1 John, you'll see that I've tried to make a point of explaining that John was writing to encourage believers and to warn them about false teachings that were cropping up.
What an incredible thing! This is THE creator and ruler of the entire universe that we're talking about here- and we not only have permission, but are invited and encouraged to talk to Him! We can do this with "confidence." Prayer is not something that we should ever be afraid of.
14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Mind you, prayer is as much about God transforming us than it is about getting what we want from Him. He's not going to spoil us like Santa Claus or give us all we dream of like some kind of magic genie. He is a wise and loving parent who knows what's best for us and has plans for us. Thus if we ask anything "according to His will," we know that we as good as already have what we ask of Him.
"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life."I'll be open here, verses 16-17 may have been the stumbling block that kept me from writing on chapter 5 for so long. Does John mean that we shouldn't pray for murderers? Should we not pray for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts? What about addictions or abuse that could eventually lead to death?
Although, I wondered- was John even talking about physical death? Or could he be talking about spiritual death? If that's the case, does he mean sin that makes us callused about sin itself and gradually separates us from God? Could he mean "debauchery," that is influencing or leading others into sin or away from God? Or does he mean absolute and final denying and denouncing of God, blasphemy to the point of completely rejecting God once and for all- no turning back?
Surely God wants us to intercede for everyone in prayer, even our worst enemies.
Well, I'm still not sure I completely get it, but I THINK that John is warning again about the heresies, the false teachings that were going around that claimed that Jesus was just another human and not God's only begotten Son, and some of them taught that anyone could become "godlike" if they just got in touch with their inner light.
A professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary (Baptist) puts it this way,
"Here, having implied that sins committed by believers (sins “not resulting in death”) may be prayed for and forgiven, the author does not want to leave the impression that such sin is insignificant, because this could be viewed as a concession to the views of the opponents (who as moral indifferentists have downplayed the significance of sin in the Christian’s life). Therefore he reminds his readers that all unrighteousness is sin."
Verses 16-17 were hard enough, but I managed to put that on a shelf in my "over-my-head, not necessary to get too hung-up on, ask God about it when I get to Heaven someday" department. But boy that verse 18, that really makes me feel ashamed.
Someone once said that the definition of "death" is "to stop sinning suddenly."
This again, is one of those times when we laymen with we could read Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. It's also one of those times when context rears it's ugly head. Those of us who believe that the Bible is God's inspired Word like to think that all of it is written to all of us, regardless of what time we live in- yet we can't ignore the fact that the specific author had a specific intention of what he was trying to communicate to a specific audience in a specific place and time, facing specific dilemmas.
In this particular case, remember that John has been warning Christians about false teachers. He is saying that if you're really a believer and follower of Jesus, you aren't going to spread the kinds of lies or mislead people the way that these false prophets were.
When in doubt, "test the spirits" like John told us in 1 John 4:1. There are people who want us to think of them as "Christian," but ask them who they say that He is (Mark 8:29). Do they believe that He is true God? Do they believe that He genuinely died? Why did He die? Do they believe that He actually rose from the dead? Do they know why that matters?
Do they deny the doctrine of the Trinity like some Jehovah's Witnesses and 7th Day Adventists? Do they think that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers? Or that is we're good enough, we can all be gods of our own planets, like some Mormons? Do they think He was a great prophet and teacher, like Muslims and Buddhists? Do they think that He achieved some level of enlightenment or figured out how to tap into His inner-light or more effectively use obscure regions of His brain or become one with the energy force of the universe- things that if we're careful or lucky, we could accomplish too?
Verses 16-21 are basically telling us that if you are in Christ, you won't continue propagating the misinformation about Jesus that those who do not truly know Him keep spreading. If you "get" that, then 16-19 won't make you nervous and verses 20-21 will be incredibly encouraging. They might just make you want to shout "AMEN!"