1 John 5:16-21
1 John 5:16 (KJB)
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.
Here John is building on praying in the will of God concerning a believer and an unbeliever. The first part of this verse deals with a believer who is sinning a sin which is not unto death. The believer has had all their sins forgiven and removed and those sins that they commit have all been paid for, so if the believer is sinning, they will not be subject to eternal damnation. If a believer is committing a sin and I spot that believer doing it, I may pray to the Lord for that believer to be corrected because this would be according to the will of God. God would then deal with that believer and then restore them to the profitable Christian life. When a Christian is sinning, there is normally no spiritual growth but stagnation and that is why Satan would love for all Christians to sin so they would not look beyond their own problems and evangelism and discipleship would come to a stop.
The second part of this verse is John discouraging the prayer for one who has sinned unto death. In the past few verses, we saw how intimately the Holy Spirit is involved in the testimony of Christ and the salvation plan of God. There may have been some who have blasphemed the Holy Spirit concerning the witness of Christ and now cannot receive pardon for their sin. John is not saying donít pray for them but he seems to be stating that since they have committed a sin which will not be forgiven, the prayers for them would be futile. The death in view would be eternal damnation.
1 John 5:17 (KJB)
All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
Unrighteousness - Wickedness, wrongdoing, or injustice
The Roman Catholic Institution has divided sins into two classes: venial and mortal. Venial are the ones that can be pardoned and Mortal are those that cannot be forgiven. The problem with classifying sin is that they are saying that there is such a thing as a sin with less consequences than others. Even one little sin is enough to send a person to hell. The verse teaches that unrighteousness is akin to wickedness and all sin is wicked and all wickedness is sin. There are no levels of sin in the Bible, all are devastating to the one who commits them. If a believer sins, they must quickly recognize that they are sinning and they must repent of it, or else even though there may not be eternal consequences, there could be physical consequences. For example, a believer who plays the lottery will not go to hell because of it but they may find it to be a catalyst for a life of gambling which may demolish their finances and be the cause of much consternation. Now let us talk about an eternal consequence. A Christian who spends thousands of dollars on the lottery, instead, could have bought thousands of bible tracts for evangelism. Lost gambling money is just that, lost and irretrievable.
1 John 5:18 (KJB)
We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
Toucheth - Cling to, adhere to, or fasten to
The first thing that John tells us is that those who are truly born again will not remain in a life of sin but will repent and live the Christian life. We can also say that because of the sinlessness of the redeemed soul, it has been totally cleansed and will not sin against God since the Holy Spirit dwells in that believer. Those who are truly saved will continue to pray that God will watch out for them and protect them and keep them from sin. The believer does not have the insight to know Satanís next method of attack so the Scripture teaches that we keep or guard ourselves by praying that God watches out for us and keeps us from the evil one. Satan can no longer attach himself to the believer because they have been redeemed and the Holy Spirit indwells them and Satan has no authority over the redeemed believer. (John 14:30 KJV) Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. The prince of this world had nothing in Christ and therefore because we are in Christ, he has nothing in us either.
1 John 5:19 (KJB)
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
Lieth - Recline, lie, or establish
The second thing John gives us is the great dichotomy. Those who are truly born again are of God because of both the inward and the outward testimony of righteousness but those who are not born again are in wickedness and that includes every unregenerate person in the world. The word ďlieĒ is interesting because it speaks of a person lying back in a comfortable position. The world has relaxed itself in wickedness and people recline in it thinking they are fine but the wake up call will be on judgment day when those who were comfortable in the ways of the world will give account for their sins.
1 John 5:20 (KJB)
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
An understanding - A thinking through or musing upon
The third truth that John gives us is that only through Christ can we escape the sinful ravages of Satanís kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to die for the Elect of God but in His earthly ministry, as John was witness to, the Lord gave us a much better understanding of who the Father is. (John 14:9 KJV) Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? The Lord Jesus gave us a certainty about our relationship with the Father because as the Scriptures taught here that if we have the Son we have life and that life is eternal given by God. There were many false gods in the time of John and he is enforcing the fact that God the Father is the true God. Through the Lord Jesus Christ we come to know this true God and He knows us through salvation. The believer that is in Christ is also in God. (Col 3:3 KJV) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. It is a great mystery but we take it on faith. Since our lives are hid with Christ in God, we understand that is why Satan cannot cling to us or claim us anymore. We are in God who is the true God and who is the source of eternal life.
1 John 5:21 (KJB)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Keep - Guard against, avoid, or keep safe
John ends his first letter with a stern warning that we are to keep ourselves from idols. This could have been speaking about the Roman gods which were in every city and those false gods that the Gnostic teachers were presenting. John warns his flock to guard against idols and it is a reality that stone idols cannot affect anyone unless they are allowed to penetrate a personís life and mind. This warning is apropos for today as well because we may not have stone idols on every corner but we may have idols of greed or lust in the heart which will affect the actions of a person. What we allow into our life will affect how we act, that is just a plain fact. One of the most lustful idols today is the idol of intellectualism which may war vehemently against the Gospel. Many Christians have adopted the false idol of intellectualism which has caused them to see the gospel in a different manner thus weakening their view of it. (Eccl 12:12 KJV) And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Much study not only wearies the flesh but it can also have an effect on your Christian walk if you are not reading the right materials which are in concert with the Scriptures.