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Chuck Smith :: Sermon Notes for 1 John 5:16

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A. John is here going to talk about sin and in so doing will speak of two types of sin. One that is unto death, and the other that is not unto death.
1. This is a very difficult passage to understand fully what John might have been referring to.
2. The Catholics have qualified sins into the mortal and venial. Which I understand to be unto death and not unto death.
3. We can say for certain that the sin of Adam and Eve was unto death. God had warned, that in the day that they ate of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden, they would surely die. They did not physically die in that day, but they spiritually died, and that brought ultimate physical death.
B. There are some scholars who interpret the sin unto death, as a sin that brings physical death, and they do not see this as meaning spiritual death.
1. They will cite the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who died on the spot because of their sin.
2. They will also cite those in Corinth that were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper and thus eating and partaking in an unworthy manner whose sin caused some of them to be sick and others had actually died.
3. I see problems with this interpretation for if hypocrisy is a sin unto death, then more believers would be dead. Especially after singing some of our devotional songs. "All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily life. I surrender all." The third stanza of "Take my life and let it be declares, "Take my silver, and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold."
4. The reference to those who in Corinth who were sick and some died he speaks of their bringing damnation upon themselves because they did not discern the Lord's body.
C. Others see it as sin versus transgression.
1. Sin is missing the mark.
a. This could be through weakness. I might be trying to hit the mark and still miss.
b. It may be through ignorance. I didn't know what the mark was. As Paul said, "I did not know that to covet was a sin until the law said, Thou shalt not covet."
2. Transgression was a deliberate and willful disobedience to the command of God.
a. I knew that it was wrong, and I did it anyhow.
3. I see a problem here also.
a. There are many who are guilty of deliberate sin.
b. That would mean that everyone that told a lie, or got angry, or took something that did not belong to them, or even those who committed adultery which they surely knew to be wrong, would have no chance.
c. Back in chapter three John said,
1JO 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. So that John does not seem to see a difference between sin and transgression.
D. There are others who refer back to Hebrews 6
HEB 6:4 For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
HEB 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
HEB 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an open shame.
1. They interpret the phrase "Once enlightened" as referring to baptism. Their belief was that any sins committed after a person was baptized were unforgivable. For this reason, they waited for baptism until they were dying. Much as those who believe that only in the taking of communion are our current sins forgiven, that is why they deem it so important to receive what is called the last rites of the church.
2. I see problems with this interpretation. The same that I saw in the previous interpretation. It would eliminate all of us.
a. We have all of us sinned after being baptized.
E. It would seem to me that John here is referring to apostasy.
1. Going back to Hebrews 6 the real issue is the meaning of the term, "fall away" which I believe was a reference to actual apostasy.
2. The denial that Jesus was the Messiah is what John in this epistle declared was the antichrist.
3. Jesus said that if you denied Him before men, that He would deny you before the Father.
4. Is it possible for a person who has once claimed Jesus as their Lord could turn away from Him and deny that He is the Messiah?
a. It is unfortunate, but I know personally of some who have.
b. I believe that apostasy, the denying of your faith is a sin unto death.
A. Jesus said that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men.
1. We read that all of us like sheep had gone astray and that God laid on Him, the iniquities of us all.
2. We read that Christ died for the sins of the world.
1JO 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
3. John the baptist testified of Him,
JOH 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
4. John tells us of a meeting of the religious council to try to figure out what to do with Jesus.
JOH 11:47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
JOH 11:48 If we let him thus alone, all [men] will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
JOH 11:49 And one of them, [named] Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
JOH 11:50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
JOH 11:51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
JOH 11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
5. In Hebrews we read,
HEB 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
a. The requirement is that they must come to God by Him.
b. It follows that if they try to come to God any other way they will never make it.
B. The sin unto death would be seeking to come to God apart from Jesus Christ.
1. It is my belief that this also is the sin referred to by Jesus as the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit has come to testify of sin, righteousness, and of the judgment to come.
a. Jesus said, "Of sin because they believe not on Me."
b. Jesus told Nicodemus that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already seeing that he has not believed in the only begotten of the Father.
3. Not to believe in Jesus is the sin unto death.
4. The problem here is that John tells us that there is a sin unto death, I do not say that you should pray for them
a. We know that we are to pray for sinners to come to a faith in Jesus Christ.
b. This is the thrust of so many of our prayers, to bring souls to Jesus.
c. Thus it could not mean not to pray for our loved ones who have not yet come to Christ.
d. It would appear that it is the ultimate rejection of Jesus once a person has come to know Him and has claimed Him as Lord, and then has later turned his back on Jesus and has totally denied the experience that he once had with God. The apostate.
e. I do not know of any prayer that we might offer for such a person.
f. Many have backslidden without becoming apostate. They still believe in Jesus and are many times tender toward Him, but are living in sin.
g. I believe that these are the ones that John is calling on us and encouraging us to pray for.
A. Back in chapter one John told them that if they said that "they had not sinned, they made God a liar, and His word was not in them." He then added these gracious words. "But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
B. There are sins that are not unto death, and I venture to say that we commit these everyday.
1. The word sin literally means to miss the mark, and the mark being perfection, I feel justified in saying that we all miss the mark daily.
2. None of us are perfect. We all need this cleansing.
C. In reality there are many sins that are not unto death, I only know of the two sins that are unto death. Not coming to Christ to be cleansed; and denying Christ once you have come to Him.

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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