Sin Unto Death

1. Having dealt with the subject of prayer (vs. 14-15), John gives direction in prayer in reference to the sins of others. vs. 16-17.
2. John treats here of a sin not unto death and a sin that is unto death.
3. By definition, a sin unto death is a sin that results in death whereas a sin not unto death does not result in death.
A. Death is the result of sin, any sin. ROM 6:23; JAM 1:15.
B. In general, then, we all die because of sin.
C. This passage is dealing with death that is visited upon us because of a specific sin.
4. Several basic things must be understood before one can understand this passage.
A. As in all education, some things must be learned before other things can be learned.
B. All of God's doctrine is interrelated. Error in one part will spread to other parts.
GAL 5:9; 2TI 2:16-17.
C. This passage does contain some obscurity.
D. A passage such as this one is what UNLEARNED men wrest in order to teach error.
2PE 3:16.
E. Obscure passages must be understood in the light of clear passages; reference texts must be explained with proof texts.
F. In doctrinal disputes, an enemy will often want to concentrate on obscure or minor things to the neglect of the clear things that condemn his position.
G. Get the clear basics down pat and NEVER be moved from them!
5. There are five conditions to which the word "death" is applied in Scripture.
A. It is applied to the death of the body. JAM 2:26 c/w ROM 4:19.
B. It is applied to death in trespasses and sins. EPH 2:1-3.
C. It is applied to the second death which is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. REV 21:8.
D. It is applied to legal death TO sin (ROM 6:2, 11) and mortification of self and the flesh. ROM 8:13; COL 3:5; GAL 5:24; LUK 9:23-24.
E. It is applied to the loss of spirituality / fellowship.
LUK 15:24; EPH 5:14; 1TI 5:6; REV 3:1.
F. Since this passage does not specify which of these deaths is under consideration, we must look elsewhere for clarification.
6. Death TO sin or dying to self (self-mortification) may be eliminated as possibilities here since they are the opposite of sinning UNTO death.
7. It is vital to note that John is speaking of the sin of brethren: "If any man see a BROTHER..."
A. This fact eliminates two deaths as being under consideration in this passage: death in trespasses in sins and the second death.
B. God's children cannot so sin as to lose their eternal salvation. JOH 10:27-28; REV 20:6.
C. However, a child of God may so sin as to be visited with physical death and/or the loss of spirituality/fellowship with God and the church as a result. 1CO 8:11; JAM 5:19-20.
8. While Christ's sacrifice secures the elect from the eternal consequences of all their sins, it does not absolutely secure the elect from the temporal consequences of their sins.
A. God chastens His children for their sins. HEB 12:6-11.
B. In order for the sacrifice of Christ to remove chastening, we must repent of our sins, confess our sins, and obey the Lord.
ACT 3:19; 1CO 11:31-32; 1JO 1:9, 7; PHIL 2:12-15.
9. The following passages give examples of children of God who died physically as a result of sin:
ACT 5:1-11; 1CO 10:1-11; 11:30.
A. Just as we may lengthen our days by righteousness, so we may shorten our days by sin.
PRO 3:1-2; 10:27.
B. We also can sin so as to have to bear it unto death. NUM 14:26-35.
10. The following passages set forth examples of children of God who died to fellowship as a result
of sin: JON 2; 1CO 5; 1TI 5:6; REV 3:1.
11. John tells us that there is a specific thing we ask for a brother who sins not unto death: life.
A. This is not a prayer for eternal life as our prayers have nothing to do with that gift.
B. It is rather a prayer for physical life and fellowship.
C. We are assured this request will be granted.
D. According to the preceding verses on effectual prayer (vs. 14-15), this is obviously a
request according to the will of God.
12. All unrighteousness is sin. John's purpose is not to lessen the sinfulness of any sin.
A. The difference between a sin that is not unto death and a sin that is unto death lies not in the nature of the sin.
B. We have already seen examples of various sins that were unto death.
C. The difference lies in the circumstances of the sin.
13. Obviously any person who sins and dies physically while in that sin has sinned unto death.
A. We do NOT pray for that sin.
B. This opposes the Catholic notion of praying for the dead.
14. Any of the sins for which the N.T. demands church discipline is a sin unto death.
15. Church discipline is to be administered if an excludable offense becomes "commonly reported"
or "named among" the saints. 1CO 5:1; EPH 5:3.
A. God has decreed that the judgment take place regardless of whether the offender is penitent or not.
B. The offense results in death to church fellowship.
C. It is useless to pray that this death be waived.
D. There are two exceptions to this rule.
(1) Heresy is allowed two admonitions before exclusion. TIT 3:10.
(2) Wrath is allowed to be rectified until sundown. EPH 4:26.
16. If the offence can be dealt with by repentance before it is commonly reported or named among the saints, then it need not be dealt with by exclusion. JAM 5:19-20.
A. Note that one (singular) converts the sinner (singular) from the error of his way.
B. Also note in 1JO 5:16 that it is any man (singular) that sees his brother (singular) sin a
sin NOT unto death.
C. This is NOT a public matter.
D. If there is conversion, the death will not take place.
E. In this case, we can ask God and he will give life to the brother.
F. James connects the confession of faults one to another with prayer one for another
JAM 5:16.
(1) Where there is confession of faults we may pray for healing.
(2) ECC 3:3 contrasts the time to heal with the time to kill.
(3) Where healing occurs, there will not be a sin unto death.
G. Hence, we see a sin that is NOT unto death!
(1) In contrast to sin unto death, in this case there is repentance unto life.
ACT 11:18.
(2) 2PE 3:9 contrasts repentance with perishing.
(3) We must not delay repentance lest we pass the space of repentance that God gives
us. REV 2:21; LUK 13:6-9 c/w 2CH 36:16.
H. However, if there is no repentance or conversion, then there is a sin unto death.
LUK 13:1-5; GAL 5:19-21.
(1) We are not to ask for life for a sinning brother who is in a state of impenitence.
(2) We may, however, ask for repentance.
17. A sin not unto death is a sin that is not commonly reported in the church and that is confessed and repented of within the space of repentance. 1CO 11:31; 1JO 1:7, 9.
18. The following are examples of prayer for those who have not sinned unto death.
GEN 20; NUM 12; JOB 42:7-9.
19. JER 14:10-12 is an example of God commanding that no prayer be offered for those who have
sinned unto death.
20. In conclusion, in these two verses John has so taught us that we may have fellowship and that we
sin NOT. 1JO 1:3; 2:1.

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