Followers of Christ don’t have to fear they have committed the sin that leads to death. Here’s what should concern them more.
If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.
We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one.
And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5:16-21)
The sin that leads to death would seem to be the same sin that Jesus talks about when the Pharisees claimed Jesus got His power from Satan (Matthew 12:22-32). It is sometimes called the “unpardonable sin”. Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
Because Jesus says this, some sincere followers of Christ allow themselves to panic because they know there is an unforgivable sin out there. They live in anxiety over even the mere possibility of committing this sin.
Are you afraid that you already have, or are close to committing the sin that leads to death? Let’s spend a few moments helping to alleviate that fear. At the same time, we can examine John’s context to see what a more likely danger for authentic followers of Christ is.
Have You Committed the Sin that Leads to Death?
If you are an authentic follower of Christ, and you worry about committing the sin that leads to death, take comfort. Your sensitivity to this possibility says you are not in danger of committing this sin.
One cannot “accidentally” commit the sin that leads to death. And if you love Jesus Christ, you would never think of committing it.
To commit the sin that leads to death you would have to attribute Christ’s power not to God, but to Satan, and profess that to others. A true follower of Christ would not even joke about such a thing. Only someone who was comfortably rejecting Christ, and so reprobate that they engaged in “anti-witnessing”, would think this was a behavior worth engaging in.
Is it any wonder that Christ reserved His most angry moments in the Bible for the Pharisees? Here were the supposed spiritual leaders and guides to the Israelites who were willing to declare good evil.
They didn’t even have the humility to stop and ask how Christ was performing such miraculous acts of goodness. They only saw someone they couldn’t control, so Christ had to be destroyed. First, they attempted to destroy His reputation. Then they destroyed His body – only for Christ to raise it up again.
Do you see the kind of hatred for Christ it requires to commit the sin that leads to death? John says here not to even bother praying for this kind of person. Essentially, they have so made up their mind to oppose Christ that they become His enemy. It is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they are attacking Christ’s very power and authority.
Sin That Doesn’t Lead to Death
John does acknowledge something at the beginning of this passage; believers are capable of sinning, even after they have come to know Christ. It is possible for us to stumble and perform a “wicked action”, as John states it here.
But John tells us something else. He tells us that as believers, sinning is not our practice. How we live and behave as followers of Christ does have meaning. It’s not earning our salvation, but is clearly evidence of it, as John says over and over again in this book.
Sin is a defeated enemy in the life of a believer. We should be able to live in a way where sin does not have power over us. But if we see a fellow believer sinning, what should we do? Pray for them. Prayer works. That is such a trite phrase, but perhaps we need to keep repeating it until we start acting like we really believe it. Our prayers can alter the trajectory of a believer who is headed down a wicked road.
As long as we don’t commit the sin that leads to death, if we walk down a prodigal road, God will welcome us back if we repent. If we went as far as the sin that leads to death, we’d be past repentance. We would be choosing to abandon any desire for it.
It’s one thing to momentarily slip; it’s another to be so ready to abandon the faith that who you once called Christ, you start calling demon-empowered.
Choosing Life Over Death
For the believer, the true warning in this verse is not that authentic Christ followers should worry about the sin that leads to death. Rather, they should exercise extreme caution that they don’t entertain sin in their lives at all. Paul’s final warning in this book is to avoid anything that could “take God’s place in your hearts”.
John understands that one step taken towards our own desires is all it takes to take us off the wonderful path God has for us (1 John 2:15-17). The way to avoid the wrong road is to purposely take the right one.
Here’s how to ensure you never become in danger of committing the sin that leads to death; avoid taking the first step in its direction. Commit to the abiding disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with like-minded believers. Allow Christ to commune with you and dwell with you, and you will be blessed by the fruit of the spirit. You will walk in greater maturity and holiness as you follow Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Live intentionally in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Then you will never, ever commit the sin that leads to death.
More Bible verses warning against sin and attaining victory:
Proverbs 11:9; John 8:34; Romans 6:16; 1 Corinthians 11:29-32; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:7; 1 John 1:8-9