PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER
I John 5:16-19
|“You can impress people at a distance; you can only impact them up close. The general principle is this, the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact.”
“and” (verse 14) introduces a new segment, a postscript, to John’s epistle — the believer’s assurance of their salvation through answered prayer. It is not a section added by a redactor (Bultmann). Such a conjecture is unsupported by historical evidence in the writings of Tertullian (160-215 AD) and Clement of Alexandria (155-220 AD), both of whom quote this passage and identify John by name as its author. Instead, “and” (kai;) indicates something that John desired to add. Lenski remarks, “The fact that John is thinking of the dangers that are besetting his readers becomes evident in what he adds.”
“confidence” (hJ parrhsiva) means boldness. This same word is used 4 times in I John; twice of the believer’s confidence before God’s judgment and twice of the believer’s intercession (3:21,22; 5:14). parrhsiva is also found in Hebrews 4:14-16. The believer’s boldness in prayer is the result of a relationship with God as His child.
Matt. 7:9-11 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
“we have” (e[comen) found in verse 15 is in the present tense. There is no delay of the petitions that we desire of God.
Jn. 14:12-14 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
Jn. 15:7,8,16 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. . . .You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
Jn. 16:24 “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
“If any man see his brother sin . . . he shall ask” (16) – How should we pray for a brother whom we see sinning? What attitude should we have toward them since we all sin (1:8-10)? Do some believers actually die (16,17) as a consequence of their sin? How does the devil “touch” (18b) or affect the life of a sinning saint? Why does John remind his readers that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (19)?
I. WHEN A BELIEVER SINS (16a)
A. THEIR SIN: seen rather than suspected
1. Who must see the sin? Our reaction must be contingent on our personal observance of the sin. Suspicion or hearsay is insufficient grounds for action. In fact, because I love my brother I will not believe an evil report against him and will “think no evil” (I Cor. 13:5).
2. What kinds of sin do you see? Consider the principle of “specks and motes”. The “speck” seen in another’s eye is often the same sin in our own. Because of the sin’s proximity to us it is a “mote”. It is not uncommon for us to be sensitive to the very sins in others which beset us. One who disbelieves the truth and integrity of others often struggles with lying. The adulterer or adulteress thinks everyone else is unfaithful to their spouse. The thief thinks everyone else is ripping him off. I am personally more sensitive to self-righteousness and performance (works)-based acceptance because of my own history.
3. How often must the sin be seen? The aorist tense suggests that the sin needs to be seen but once.
B. OUR RESPONSE
1. What? rather than indifference or inquisition
(1) Moses interceded for Israel (Ex. 32:11-14)
(2) Paul interceded for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-3
(1) Personally and privately
(2) Nathan rebuked David alone (II Sam. 12)
2. When? (Matt. 18:15) immediately rather than later
3. How? (Gal. 6:1,2) with meekness
a. Our Manner: “meekness” (prao?thto”), that is a willingness to be taught, an attitude of submission, yieldedness and humility “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted . . . for if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” It is quite possible that all the pertinent facts are not known to the one who “sees his brother sin”.
E.g., I was pastoring a congregation where a young girl had run away from her home. Many in the congregation were exercised to pray for the young lady and beseech God’s Spirit to convict her and return her to her family. At the time this occurred, however, I was counseling the father who was heavily drinking and abusing his wife and daughter. Unaware of her home life the congregation was praying for her to return to her abuser.
b. Our Motivation: love rather than anger
Prov. 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”
4. Why? (Gal. 6:1,2) for the purpose of restoration rather than to ridicule
Gal. 6:1 “restore” (katartivzete) to repair something to its original condition. Used in describing the mending of nets or setting fractured and broken bones.
Mt. 18:15 “gained (lit. acquisition wealth) him as a brother”
II Thes. 3:13-15 “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”
C. THE EFFECT
I Jn. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . .”
Lev. 16 presents the Day of Atonement and provides an excellent picture of the two aspects of forgiveness: the high priest confessing the sins of the nation on one goat which is sacrificed — hence, the payment for sin and the high priest confessing the sins of the nation on another goat which is taken by a young man into the wilderness for a three-day journey to be left — hence, the promise for sin never to be remembered or brought to mind again.
I Jn. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to . . . cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I Jn. 5:17 “all unrighteousness is sin”
Phil. 3:8,9 “. . . that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Righteousness is the fruit of a life emanating from and controlled by the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.
3. Healing & Life (zwhvn) is physical life.
Jas. 5:14-20 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. . . . Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
II. WHEN A BELIEVER SINS UNTO DEATH (16b-19)
A. THE SIN
1. Is not UNPARDONABLE (Mt. 12:31,32)
Matt. 12:31-32 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Heb. 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
Heb. 10:26 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
2. Is not SPECIFIC. The distinction of mortal and venial sins is taught by the Roman Catholic Church based on this text.
a. The phrase could be better translated, “There is sin unto death” because there is no article in the Greek before the word “sin”, therefore, there is no particular sin in mind.
b. Sin is defined here in verse 17 as “all unrighteousness”. Previously, in 3:4 sin was defined “the transgression of the law”. What is the difference in these two definitions? A transgression is behavioral and outward. Unrighteousness comes from within and an expression of character.
3. Is CONTINUOUS – In most cases there is a habitual pattern of sin, any sin, unchecked, unrepented. However, on rare occasions, the “sin unto death” may occur only once and is judged because of its blatant disobedience to God. Note the examples cited below of “sinning unto death”.
B. THE DEATH
1. Is not SPIRITUAL
I Jn. 5:11-13 “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life . . .”
2. Is PHYSICAL
Psa. 118:17,18 “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”
Ez. 18:20-32 “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live?”
EXAMPLES OF SINNING UNTO DEATH
|Leviticus 10:1-7||NADAB & ABIHU|
|II Samuel 6:1-11||UZZAH|
|Acts 5:1-11||ANANIAS & SAPPHIRA|
|I Corinthians 11:27-32||CARNALITY AT THE LORD’S TABLE|
C. GOD’S PURPOSES
1. TO WARN Lev. 26:14-39
a. Property insurance policies have changed the source of destructive acts from “Acts of God” to “Acts of Nature.” Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are no longer attributed to God but are random, capricious tragedies of nature. Events are therefore without purpose, a stroke of chance or bad luck, rather than by design and for the good of those who submit to God’s purposes. If God has nothing to do with these conditions, then neither is He all-powerful and loving, intimately engaged in people’s lives. Man is without hope.
b. Life’s tragedies are often the basis for repentance. We want to think that we can live without consequences. But, we can’t.
c. Larry Kreider states that “Americans are not really desperate for God” Peter warns the saints that “the time is come that judgment must begin in the house of God” (I Pet. 4:17). Pagan, unbelieving, self-centered, materialistic Americans will not take God seriously if the Church is unholy, uncommitted and unjudged. Why should they?
2. TO PRESERVE – I Cor. 5:5 “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”
a. Satan is the “destroyer” and “death angel”.
b. Luther: “Satan is God’s servant.” God permits “the destroyer” to take the health (e.g. Job) or even life of a believer (e.g. even Christ in fulfillment of Gen. 3:15) in order to accomplish His purposes.
3. TO MOTIVATE – I Tim. 1:20 “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”
D. OUR RESPONSE (I Jn. 5:16b)
1. DO NOT PRAY FOR PHYSICAL HEALING (II Sam. 12:15-23)
2. PRAY THAT GOD’S PURPOSES ARE REALIZED
- To warn against further sinning
a. “we know” (oi[damen) is intuitive rather than acquired knowledge and always used in the plural, therefore, a shared or common knowledge, not as the Gnostics taught of an esoteric knowledge.
b. “whosoever is born” is in the perfect tense, that is, the present condition resulting from an event in the past.
c. “of” (ejk = out of) God”
d. “sinneth not” is in the present tense, that is, a continuous activity of sinning
(1) Unconfessed and unrepented sin is greatest single factor in robbing the believer of the assurance of salvation (1:6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him,. and walk in darkness . . .” cf. also 3:10).
(2) Deliberate and continual sinning, without remorse or repentance, is a clear indication that one has not come into the place of sonship (2:3).
(3) We can bluff our way around others, while within doubts gnaw like little foxes at the fringe of our faith, till we no longer feel that we are one of God’s children.
- To preserve the spirit – that the sinning brother repents and gives evidence of their salvation.
- To motivate to worship God – that God is glorified through their death, e.g. Samson – untimely death, a freak show for the Philistines
3. PRAY THAT SATAN IS RESISTED
- The “whole world lies in wickedness”. There is no hope in the world for resisting sin. No cure for man’s disease can be found in a laboratory or the worlds beyond. God knows we have tried. Man’s most noble efforts have proven futile. Only those yielded to Christ, directed by His Word and empowered by His Spirit can make a difference. Jesus declared at the beginning of His ministry (Mt. 5:14) “ye alone are the light of the world”.
- Believers must be vigilant interceding for one another, watching out for one another, circumspect of our “besetting sins” and safeguarding ourselves from Satan.
Harry L. Morgan