Thursday, July 11, 2024

2024.07.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 John 5:16–17

Read 1 John 5:16–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What might someone see a brother doing (1 John 5:16)? What sort of sin? What can he do for this brother? What will God do? For the person committing which specific sort of sin? What other sort of sin is there? What can’t be done for them? What is every unrighteousness (1 John 5:17)? But what doesn’t necessarily result from every sin?  

What should we do, when we see a brother sinning? 1 John 5:16–17 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we see a brother sin, we should pray to God to give Him life.

There are those who go by the name of brother, but are not actually saved or elect (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11). Such a man’s sin is unto death. Praying for him will not get him life (1 John 5:16). But notice that this scripture does not forbid for praying about it, only that this is not what the apostle is saying that we should pray for. 

The verb form here does not have the full force of an imperative (command), but it is implied that the apostle is giving us a special topic for our prayers: the sins of our brethren.

Coming out of how our assurance of faith (1 John 5:13) gives us confidence that God hears us as we are praying according to His will (1 John 5:14) and answers those prayers (1 John 5:15), God emphasizes something that it is His will for us to pray about. We are to pray for the brother that we see sinning. 

This is not an invitation to make a prayer list of others’ sins. It is an instruction to interact with God in real-time as an intercessor for sanctification. This is the will of God for believers (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3). 

So, a noble, thrilling part of having assurance is joining with God in His work in real-time. Not that we do part of the work, but when His providence gives us to see a brother sinning, it is a call to be praying, while God is sanctifying. We will be praying, and God will be giving the brother life (1 John 5:16) to put that sin to death.

There is a strong warning here against monkeying around with sin. There is sin that is unto death, and all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17a). The text intentionally does not tell us what sin leads to death, or at what point we might know that our sinning is unto death. Certainly those who are grieved over their sin and concerned about their sin have not reached an irretrievable point of hardening. So a right response here is not a vain curiosity about what/when this might be, but rather a resolve against any sin whatsoever in one’s own life. 

And for the one who has this concern, who has this resolve, who is grieved and troubled at the presence of remaining sin, there is this wonderful comfort: remaining sin is not evidence that God has abandoned him. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, there is sin that is not unto death (1 John 5:17b). There is sin for which God has forgiven us in Christ. There is sin from which God is cleansing us. There is sin against which God is giving us life. There is sin about which God tells us to pray, for ourselves and for our brother.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for one another’s forgiveness: “forgive us our debts.” This passage teaches us to pray for one another’s sanctification, when we see a brother sinning. Yes, if we see a brother wandering from the truth, we are to talk to him about it (cf. James 5:19–20). And, when we see the brother sinning, the first thing that we are to do is to talk to God about it, asking Him to give our brother life!

What are some occasions on which you might see a brother sinning? To Whom should you immediately talk about it? What should you be asking Him to do? What is one reason, from this passage, that it is so dangerous to trifle with sin? What encouragement do you have, when you are troubled by your remaining sin?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that it is Your will to sanctify us. Help us to remember this, whenever we see a brother sinning, and whenever we sin. Forgive us for how often we are more concerned with our own vindication than with our brother’s need for life. Forgive us for how often we talk to people about others’ sins, before we even talk to You about them. Help us to remember that there is sin that is unto death. Forgive us for when we have trifled with sin, when it is so offensive to You and so deadly to us. Forgive us, and cleanse us, and give us life, we pray through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH503 “From Depths of Woe, I Raise to Thee”

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