1 John 5 – The World of the Text, Part Two

This week we are going to be looking deeper at 1 John 5.  Today we’ll be looking at verses 13-21:

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.
18 We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. 19 We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Today we’ll look deeper at the conclusion of 1 John.  This passage is one that I really struggle with, because it talks about these sins leading to death, versus the ones that do not lead to death.  Ultimately John does tell us that all wrongdoing is sin, and we know that sin results in death and destruction.  So, let’s not overthink this, all sin drives us from God and all sin is destructive. That is the ultimate truth of all of this.

But within this context, there is a bit more to it. What is this sin that is “mortal” or that leads to death?  I think there are a couple of ways to look at it.  First is the traditional Catholic understanding of venial and mortal sins.  I’m not as familiar with these teachings, and I don’t necessarily believe that is the correct understanding of this passage, but there is something to this.  From my understanding (and please Catholic friends, feel free to contact me if I get this wrong!) there are sins that are “lesser” that are not as destructive as sins that are mortal, mortal sins really endanger your soul.  I think a decent Biblical understanding of what this may look like is how in the Old Testament, there are different punishments for different types of sins, not all sins are “equal” when it comes to the sacrifice that is needed. As I said, I don’t think that is what he is talking about it though based off a couple of things.

So, what do I think John is talking about?  I think he is referencing that sin that is “unforgivable” the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Why do I think that?  Notice how in this text we are told we will not sin if we are of God and that God will protect us from sin.  Obviously, he is not meaning particularly sins, we are told early on in 1 John 1 that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us.  We are also told throughout the book that “sin” in this context is also talking about a breaking of the covenantal relationship, in other words, something huge and big. A turning away from.  A blasphemy. Apostey.  One who walked with God and with God’s people who rejects the work of the spirit. This is one who basically rejects the very working of God and has cut themselves off from the ability to even be forgiven.  This sin results in death.

Here, ultimately is what you need to hear.  Have you committed a sin?  Do you feel about it and want to repent of it?  Then guess what.  You are good.  You are forgiven.  All is well.  I believe that is our biggest takeaway from this. Repent and turn from your sin.  And you will be fine.

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