“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)
Many pastors and other godly leaders have been asked about this verse. Usually, the question is asked from a very personal perspective: “Have I committed this kind of sin?”
This reference does not seem to apply to the famous “unforgivable sin” (Matthew 12:31), since that sin is the final rejection of God’s truth transmitted to all humanity by the Holy Spirit (John 3:19; 16:7-11). In the context of today’s text, John is clearly writing and warning believers that it is possible to commit a sin that is worthy of physical death—a sin so obvious to others that the brethren are not told to “pray for it.”
There are a few such examples in the Scripture.
- The sons of Eli dishonoring the priesthood (1 Samuel 2).
- Korah’s rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16).
- Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5).
- An incestuous church member delivered over to Satan for his destruction (1 Corinthians 5).
- Those who have known the “good things” of God but have withdrawn after having “tasted” them (Hebrews 6:4-6).
- Willful sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth (Hebrews 10:26).
- Returning again to bondage after knowing the freedom in Christ (2 Peter 2:20-22).
All sin produces “death” (James 1:15), and all of us will die because of sin (Genesis 3:19; Hebrews 9:27). But this deadly sin brings about the premature “execution” of a believer when he or she consciously refuses to follow known righteousness and instead chooses open ungodliness. May it never be so among us. HMM III