January 20, 2022 - Pastor's Corner
Dear Church Family,
Last week, we talked about the passage that contains the key verse of 1 John, which is 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” From that verse we derived the main theme of John’s letter, which is Certainty of Faith in Jesus Christ and Our Subsequent Practice. And we have seen this assurance addressed in multiple ways throughout 1 John through contrasts, direct statements, and three specific areas of Christian living—moral (obedience), social (love), and theological (Jesus is the God-man).
This week, we take the assurance of 5:13-15 with us into verses 16-17. For it is comforting to know that God answers prayer. So, take a moment and read afresh 5:16-17, and come back to meditate on the following brief insights:
- Armed with the assurance of the efficacy of prayer, John instructs his readers specifically about prayer concerning two types of people: 1) believers who are observed actively sinning; and 2) unbelievers who are identified as failing the three specific areas of Christian living taught in 1 John.
- It must be noted that there is great debate among scholars concerning the identification of the “sin that leads to death.” A full treatment of this issue is beyond the scope of this reflection, so I will limit my insights to summary form. Driven by the context of 1 John only, this deadly sin is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, apostasy (falling away from the faith) by true believers, nor any of the grievous sins of the Old Testament (e.g., murder, idolatry, adultery, fornication, injustice). Remember, John is writing about believers having assurance of faith because of God’s actions which fuels our subsequent practice.
- John says when we see believers actively sinning, we are to pray that “God will give him/[her] life.” That is, that He will empower them through the Holy Spirit to live the non-sinning lifestyle God saved us to live for Him (e.g., 2:20-27; 3:4-10, 24; 4:13). For true believers will respond to God’s working in them because He lives in them. These prayers spring out of believers because we belong to God.
- Likewise, the apostle instructs his believing readers we are not to pray for those who have proven themselves to be unbelievers, although they may have once claimed to be believers, by their open rejection of Jesus, their hatred of fellow Christians, and their refusal to obey Jesus’ commands. This evidence is seen by their departure from the fellowship of true believers (2:18-19). And to remain in the context of John’s instructions, we don’t pray for God to empower unbelievers to live a righteous lifestyle; we pray for their salvation.
- Finally, John tells us “All wrongdoing is sin,” that is, both believers and unbelievers commit sin. However, only believers are not eternally damned when we sin because “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:1-2). Jesus is the only way to eternal life, which is why we pray for God to save unbelievers.
Finally, as always, I encourage you to read ahead to prepare for our final time in 1 John next week—1 John 5:18-21.
Grace and peace be to you,