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The First Letter of John 5:16:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The passage says that there are some sinners you should not pray for for there is no point. But who are those sinners? And why is there no point?

Some say that John means a sinner who is already dead and showed no sign of repentance. They feel the passage is saying that once you are dead, prayers cannot help you get back with God. If the passage meant somebody physically dead then it would read,

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that has not killed them you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not kill them. There is a sin that kills the sinner I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not kill.

The passage says you can judge if a person is committing a sin that will or will not lead them to death. It is talking about people who are physically alive.

The word used for sinning is hamartanein. It is present tense. The passage is not about people who have died yet.

It speaks of a sin - and a sin that you can see. That does not fit the usual interpretation that the text is about a refusal to repent that has been ingrained for a long time. This interpretation implies that rather than a single act of sin the person drifts so far away from God over time that his sin becomes everlasting.

You do not write

All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death
unless you mean that there are some deeds that put you beyond salvation and redemption.

If the sin is impenitence then he would have written,

All wrongdoing is sin, and will lead to death if not repented.

You don't distinguish between wrongdoing that leads to death and does not do so unless

The passage is ignored by Christianity for it wants to imagine that people can convert to God in the last moments of life after being godless profligates all their days.

Will a person repent in time before they die? Some deal with this by thinking there is always a surprise. But for many there is no surprise. And if God can change somebody who is dying why didn't he try harder with Herod or Hitler before they wreaked so much suffering and destruction? The argument is an insult to their victims and really about whitewashing.

The text then forbids you to pray for a brother who is committing a sin that leads to death. The Old Testament God says that you must have no pity for anybody sentenced to death by stoning. By implication, it is a sin to pray for them. John is usually taken to mean the person who is dying and won't repent but it could mean the person who is dying as in waiting for execution too. Spiritual death means you are cut off from God and make yourself dead to him. The only possible interpretation is that the text means physical death for nobody can see if somebody is really opposing God any more. You cannot see into anybody else's heart to judge them as spiritually dead to God.
 
It seems that saying that if somebody commits a sin that does not lead to death then praying that God will give them life makes no sense. Why would you need to pray that way if they are not in danger of dying? Remember, it does not matter if you are talking about spiritual or physical death. Many answer that you have to pray in case their sin though it does not lead to death might soon start doing so.

Believers say that John means that God is taking the sinner's life for he won't repent just like how Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 stated that anybody who takes the bread and cup "without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." But Paul is only speaking generally while John is specific. John is saying you can look at an individual and know that there is no point in praying for him for his sin is killing him.

The text means that if somebody is dying and seems to have never repented of sin you can judge them as past all hope. The text opposes death bed conversions.

Death is certain which means the sinner is up for the death penalty either from God or man. The sinner is blamed for committing the sin that leads to this death.

John makes perfect sense if you see that the Old Testament laws about murdering certain sinners

APPENDIX: To Pray Or Not?

1 John 5:16-17

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.
17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. (1 John. 5:16,17)

Begin your consideration of this passage by concentrating on what is simple, what is obvious. This is about what is visible in the behavior of our brethren. The passage says, "if anyone sees his brother sinning..." We may have heard rumors or we may have suspicions. There may be indirect evidence that leads us to believe some attitudes may need attention, or that growth should occur at a faster rate. Such matters may or may not require some attention. But they do not fall within the teaching of John in this verse. This is about what is visible in the behavior of our brethren: "If anyone
sees..."

A brother may be guilty of sin, and the sin is not visible to us. We cannot detect it; we cannot see it; we have not knowledge of it. Only God has perfect ability to see and know all sin. So whatever this verse is about, it relates only to what is visible: "If anyone sees..."

Two kinds of sin are identified in the verse: (1) sin that does not lead to death, and (2) sin leading to death.

First, consider sin that does not lead to death. Sin that does not lead to death is sin we repent of! John has already written, back in chapter one: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (1 Jno. 1:9). So sin that does not lead to death is sin we confess; sin we forsake and ask God to forgive. When we see a brother commit a sin not unto death (the guilty one repents), our response should be, ask God to give that brother life. God will give life to the penitent brother.

"Sin unto death" would obviously be sin we see that the guilty brother continues in; does not repent of! John says, "I do not say that you should pray about that." Why? Because God will not give life to one who continues in sin. "The prayer of one human being can never cancel another's free-will. If God's will does not override man's will, neither can a fellow-man's prayer. When a human will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our intercession will be of no avail. And this seems to be the meaning of "sin unto death; "willful and obstinate rejection of God's grace and persistence in unrepented sin." (Pulpit Commentary)

Verse 16 functions to illustrate what verses 14 and 15 teach: Asking according to His will. If you ask God to overlook sin a brother continues in, you are not asking according to His will. If you ask God to give spiritual life to one who sins unto death, you are not asking according to His will. We should never ask God to do something we know is against His will.

It is true and John grants that "all unrighteousness is sin," but there is "sin not leading to death." Every form or kind of unrighteousness is sin. John isn't saying there is some unrighteousness that is not sin; it is sin - but if the sinner turns from the sin in repentance, it is sin "not leading to death." Sin is sin, but does not lead to (spiritual) death, when it is dealt with honestly, with repentance, confession and request to God for forgiveness in Christ.

It any confusion or uncertainty remains about the passage in John, refer to the book of Jeremiah.

"Therefore, do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you," (Jer. 7:16). Why? Look back in Jeremiah 7, and find the list of their transgressions in verses 6-11. The people were guilty of oppression, shedding innocent blood, theft, murder, adultery, lying, idolatry and other sins. While practicing all this iniquity they would "come and stand" before God in His house and claim they were permitted to do such things (see verse 10). God spoke to them about their rebellion, but they did not listen or answer (verse 13). God said to them, "I will cast you out of My sight." Thus God said, "do not pray for this people." They were continuing in sin, leading to their own destruction.

Likewise in Jeremiah 11:13,14 - "For according to their number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble." Knowing this, if you had been there - observing the sins of Judah, would you have prayed for God to forgive them? They were setting up altars "to that shameful thing!" {See also, Jeremiah 14:10,11}.

What we ask God should always be in harmony with His will. We should never ask God to compromise; to overlook sin people continue in. We should never ask Him to do something He has said is against His will.

Let us also learn, it is possible for a brother to commit a sin unto death! This possibility should sober every Christian, causing us to keep ourselves, abiding in Christ, growing in Him, testing the spirits and keeping God's commandments.