[CF Devotionals] 2013-03-20 - Commitment to God

The Epistles of John ~ Part 105 ~ 1 John 5

Verses 16-17: What is our responsibility to one another? With salvation comes the blessings of Eternal Life, and access to the throne of God. Also, comes the responsibility to care for one another within the local church. This is what it means to love Biblically. We are to pray for the member of the body that is in sin. Intercessory prayer is one of the responsibilities of a priest, a role which we are all called to. And the prayer of intercession for a brother or sister is always consistent with the will of God. After all, He died for our sins.

It is unclear why John is calling for one member of the body to pray for the sin of another. Any analysis would be speculative. Baker expresses his understanding this way.

"The brother may need to be forgiven through intercessory prayer, as an expression of the community's forgiveness, the need to confess the sin to another and to have received assurance of forgiveness may have had special significance. Also, there might be an allusion here to Jesus' words in the Gospel of John:" 1

"If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (20:23)."

The second half of the verse, is even more difficult to follow. John makes an exception to this call to pray. We do not need to pray for the one who has committed the sin unto death. What on Earth is the sin unto death? Clearly, the readers of John's letter understood what he was referring to. This is obvious, since he doesn't clarify his meaning. Just as clearly, his intent has been lost. Any attempt to identify what he refers to, will lead to non-productive conclusions. The identification of a specific sin as being deserving of death, can also be very destructive, resulting in judgmental behavior. Since we do not know what this sin might be, clearly we should pray for a sinning brother.

We can't even be completely clear on what John means when he speaks of death. Baker believes it is eternal death, but since John is speaking of a brother, and believers can't lose their salvation, I think physical death would be a better understanding his thrust. The point John makes though is that there is a sin that leads to death, and other sins that don't. Maybe we'll get a chance, someday, to get him to clarify what he meant.

  1. Baker, Glenn W., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, "1, 2, 3 John," Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1981, p 355.

To be continued.

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