1 John 5:16-21

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

June 3, 1998


John has just talked about the confidence we have in prayer –

(1 John 5:14-15 KJV) And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death

seeeido – to see; to perceive with the eyes; to see with the mind's eye, signifies a clear and purely mental perception; understand, to know by understanding. This is often the word translated as "know" (as it is in verses 18,19,20).

sin a sinamartanonta amartian – present participle; "sinning sin"

unto death – ???

What is a "sin unto death"?

1) It is a sin that ends in physical death.

Nadab and Abihu

(Lev 10:1-2 KJV) And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. {2} And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

They offered to God something that He hadn’t asked for. This was serious, seeing that they were the priests!

Nu 18:22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

Ananias and Sapphira

The church was brand new, and people began selling their possessions and giving the money to the church to help the needy. Ananias and Sapphira decided they wanted that kind of noteriety, and sold a piece of property, but rather than give it all to the church, they claimed to give it all, but held back some of the money for themselves.

(Acts 5:3-5 KJV) But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? {4} Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. {5} And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

James talks about the possible relationship between sin and illness. Not all illness is a result of sin, but sometimes it is –

(James 5:14-16 KJV) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: {15} And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. {16} Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

2) It is a sin that ends in spiritual death.

We might call this the "unpardonable sin".

Mt 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the [world] to come. (also Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10)

We believe that this is the constant rejection of the work of the Spirit, who is constantly convicting the world of sin and bearing witness of Jesus, that He is the Savior.

Who has committed the unpardonable sin? Have you done it?

This is a common fear.

But the truth is, if you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, continually rejecting the Holy Spirit, then you don’t care whether or not you’ve committed it. The fact that you do care tells me that you haven’t done it.

Fear – by Gayle Erwin

Fear far exceeds faith in prompting the actions of man. Fear is a favorite and powerful force for the manipulators of this world. No one escapes its bondage. If you want an interesting insight in your own soul, get a group of children talking about what they fear. I can recall a myriad of fears, mostly unfounded, in my childhood that kept me from many of the joys I should have had. Overhearing the talk of my parents during World War II, my greatest fear was that they might take my father away in the draft. I had no idea what the "draft" was, but I knew that it made people disappear. I loved the small forest behind our house and the creek that ran though it; however, it was off-limits to me because a kid six years older than I threatened me. He said he could press a spot on his arm cast and send snakes running to get me if I wandered again into his private domain. Lacking the knowledge to scoff at this statement, I floundered in the irrational world that feeds the fears of childhood. I remember that event as I think of the territorial threats and wars that engulf commerce and nations. Some valid, usable fears, well founded, also shaped my life. I feared the street. The trucks and cars that whizzed by were obviously larger than I. Good fear. Unfortunately, that fear was not strong enough to produce unerring righteousness, but it certainly helped enough to protect the neighborhood from destruction. I also came to fear the shame that my unrighteous action would produce. Being the son or a preacher, I realized by the age of five that I was my father’s richest source of illustrations, often to my embarrassment. Good fear none-the-less.

From well-meaning people I suffered three direct spiritual fears in my younger days. Most of all, I feared missing the Rapture of the Church. No one ever assured me I would make it. Indeed, the question, "Would you want to be doing that when Jesus comes?" served as an effective preventative. Fear of demon possessing formed my second fear. Once again, boiling adolescence fell prey to the manipulation of different speakers. Whatever it was that I had or did must be a demon. I didn’t know all the arguments against it then. Finally, I feared that I might have committed the unpardonable sin. Once again, manipulative questions such as, "Are you closer to Jesus than when you got saved? Do you feel stronger about Him now than when you were first saved?" were used as proof that something terrible muse have happened in my walk with the Lord. My fear of God, until I came to truly know and understand Him, was more like terror, knowing that someday I was going to "get It." Eventually, with greater understanding of God, that terror gave way to respect and love. The statements of Scripture that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind," and "Perfect love casts out fear. Fear has torment. Whoever has fear has not been perfected in love." were statements that created some anxiety in me because of the clash of those statements with my terror. Finally, I truly saw Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. The plug was pulled on terror. It was all so obvious and logical. The upshot of all this is that I, now armed with greater understanding, determined to be as instrument of fearlessness in the lives of others. Now, I realized that the only fear worthwhile was the fear of anything that might weaken or remove my relationship with God. This brings me back to my earliest statement about fear being such a motivator. The fear of a harmed relationship with God is not the greatest motivator of mankind; the fear of man is. Jesus warned us not to fear those who could merely harm the body, but those who could kill the soul. When I see men of faith purposely using fear about our future of livelihood to move people, alarm bells go off in my heart. We "religious conservatives" fall prey to many conspiracy theories, right and left. Fear generates and independent life for any perceived threat. My teenage years coincided with the McCarthy area when we thought communist were coming out of water pipes and lived in out attics. I recall a famous tent evangelist who promised to reveal to us the biggest communist in America, but we had to have tickets for that night, though the were free. He asked that we be discreet in sharing the tickets, Good ploy there. After a forgettable sermon, he finally revealed how he determined to be the biggest communist---Kate Smith, who sang "God Bless America" so beautifully. I went home with a fair share of disgust, but I also realized that the biggest fund raisers at that time on Christian radio were those who effectively made us afraid of communists and who assured us that if we sent them an offering, the (imagine that) would lead the parade in stopping the devilish influx of communism. I wished that someone merely preaching the gospel would be so successful. Further, I have discovered that trend continues to exist. A procession of fearable opponents wait (always) just beyond the horizon to end our way of life. Food grown differently from a horse drawn plows will kill you. Be afraid. Water from your public source will kill you. Be afraid. Cholesterol will kill you. Be Afraid. Lack of cholesterol will kill you. Be Afraid. The Illuminati will kill you. Be afraid. UFOs will kill you. Be afraid. Angel produced giants will kill you. Be afraid. Computers will kill you in the year 2000. Be afraid. How long can this list go? Endlessly. Why do we cherish fear? When the Y2K problem passes, what will be our next fear? Must we keep reinventing our conspiracies? Or perhaps, live in the peace of knowing that God has made arrangements for us? Long ago, I decided that I would no longer dedicate any mind time to such scary theories. I heard clearly the call of Jesus to come to Him and He would give me rest. At least the Saduccees knew that He was afraid of no man. I long ago decide that my work was to obey His call and encourage and train His people. I long ago realized that my job was to be where people are and give them hope of redemption. I invite you to rest in the knowledge of His care. Any current fear is meaningless compared to the glorious opportunity to be His agent among the people. Of all the people in the world, we have the greatest reason to be fearless. Fear is being self-centered. Fear is bondage. Jesus` instructions were to "Go" and "Go unafraid." Let us be wise and prudent and fearless and free.

-Gayle Erwin-

:16 he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.

askaiteo – to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require; denotes a request of the will


Pray for sinners.

It really doesn’t matter how you take this verse, whether it’s talking about physical death or spiritual death. The point is still the same. Pray.

When you see someone caught in a sin, don’t get mad. Pray.

:16 There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

John isn’t forbidding that we pray for a person like this. He’s just saying that he doesn’t command that we should.


There is a time when it’s okay to stop praying.

As we saw last week, we are to pray according to the will of God. (1 John 5:14-15)

There may be a time when God says to "let go" of a person.

God did this with Jeremiah regarding the nation of Israel:

(Jer 7:16 KJV) Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.

This is a difficult thing. How do we know if we should stop? Perhaps if you’re unsure, you shouldn’t.

:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

Earlier John had said that sin was lawlessness, breaking the law:

1Jo 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Now he makes it even broader, it’s all unrighteousness.

unrighteousnessadikia – injustice; unrighteousness of heart and life; a deed violating law and justice, act of unrighteousness

:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not

We knoweido – to see; to perceive with the eyes; to see with the mind's eye, signifies a clear and purely mental perception; to know by way of understanding

John is going to wind up this letter with a series of three "we know" statements.

Keep in mind, one of the things he’s addressing are these "Gnostics", people who claimed special knowledge about God.

sinneth not – present tense, continuous action, "does not keep on sinning"

We’ve seen this before –

(1 John 3:6 KJV) Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

The idea is that of continual sinning as a way of life.

When we’re born again, we’re given a new nature.

:18 but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself

keepethtereo – to attend to carefully, take care of; to guard something that you presently own; present tense

It could refer to us, as those born of God, keeping ourselves from sin, but it most likely refers to Jesus, the One born of God, keeping us. (lit., "He that is begotten of God keeps His"). Remember in 1John 5:1, it was God who begat, and Jesus was the begotten. And so the newer translations –

(1 John 5:18 NASB) We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.

(1 John 5:18 NIV) We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.


You are protected.

Jesus protects you.

(John 10:27-29 KJV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Psa 91:1-7 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. {2} I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. {3} Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. {4} He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. {5} Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; {6} Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. {7} A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

:18 and that wicked one toucheth him not.

wicked oneponeros – bad, of a bad nature or condition; evil wicked; here referring to Satan.

touchethhaptomai – to fasten one's self to, adhere to, cling to; to touch. It is used in –

(John 20:17 KJV) Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father

It means to lay hold of or to grasp rather than a mere superficial touch; here the idea is to touch to harm.


Christians can’t be demon possessed.

The enemy is going to attack us from time to time, but he cannot "cling" to us.

(1 Cor 10:21 KJV) Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

We knoweido – to see; to perceive with the eyes; to see with the mind's eye, signifies a clear and purely mental perception; to know by way of understanding

liethkeimai – to lie; metaph., lies in the power of the evil one, i.e. is held in subjection by the devil

wickednessponeros – bad, of a bad nature or condition; in an ethical sense: evil wicked

This is the same form of the word used in verse 17, "wicked one".

(1 John 5:19 NASB) We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The idea is that everyone who is not born of God, is under the power of the evil one.


Set the captives free.

(2 Tim 2:24-26 NASB) And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, {25} with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, {26} and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Freedom comes not only from prayer, but also in our attitudes and ability to teach others.

:20 And we know that the Son of God is come

We knoweido – to see; to perceive with the eyes; to see with the mind's eye, signifies a clear and purely mental perception; to know by way of understanding

is come – or better, "has come".

:20 and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true

understandingdianoia – the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring; understanding

The Gnostics prided themselves on their knowledge, but John says that our understanding comes from Jesus Christ.

that we may knowginosko – to learn to know; to know by experience.

truealethinos – that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine; true, veracious, sincere

This word is used three times in this verse: We know Him who is true. We are in Him that is true. This is the true God.


The Real Thing.

It’s important to God that we know who He REALLY is.

(John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

It’s not good enough to be satisfied with saying, "All roads lead to God". It’s not good enough to think that all religions are the same.

From Warren Wiersbe –

Shed a tear for Jimmy Brown;

Poor Jimmy is no more.

For what he thought was H2O (Water)

Was H2SO4! (Sulfuric Acid)

:20 and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.

We are "in God" because we are "in Jesus Christ".


Not just knowledge. Relationship.

God doesn’t just want you knowing about Him.

He wants you knowing Him.

:20 This is the true God, and eternal life.

The word "This" should refer back to the closest noun, which is Jesus Christ.

This is a neat little verse that speaks of the deity of Christ. He is "the true God".

:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

little childrenteknion – a little child; in the NT used as a term of kindly address by teachers to their disciples

keep yourselvesphulasso – to guard; to watch, keep watch; it implies an assault from without, and results in tereo (keepeth, vs.18), a watchful care.

idolseidolon – an image, likeness; the image of an heathen god; a false god

An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. It doesn’t have to be carved out of wood. It might be on a movie screen.


Do your part.

In verse 18, we saw that Jesus protects us from the evil one.

But here we see our part. We are being "attacked" from the outside, and we need to guard ourselves.


On one occasion Norman "Kid" McCoy, who was welterweight boxing champion in 1896, was fighting a contender who had the misfortune of being deaf. Once McCoy discovered his opponent's disability, he wasted no time in taking advantage of it. Near the end of the third round McCoy stepped back a pace and pointed to his adversary's corner, indicating that the bell had rung. "Oh, thank you so much," said McCoy's opponent. "Very civil of you." But the bell hadn't rung at all, and as soon as the other boxer dropped his hands and turned away, McCoy immediately knocked him out. Sin will take same cruel advantage of us that Kid McCoy did of his deaf opponent. If we listen to it even for a moment and drop our guard, it can destroy us.

-- Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, by Clifton Fadiman. Little, Brown & Company (Boston, Toronto, London) pp. 376-377

Keep your guard up.