Q. Thank you for your wonderful site. I attempt to lead an adult SS class and there are questions we have about 1 John 5:16,17. When John says that we should pray for those committing a sin that does not lead to death, (what is that sin? – I thought all sin lead to death) and then he is saying that we should not pray for our ‘brother’ who commits the sin that is leading to death – (what is that sin?).
A. John’s letter was a warning against the teachings of gnosticism. Despite his warning it continued to grow and is the basis for the New Age religions of today. Basically gnosticism held (holds) that the way to salvation is not found at the cross, but through the acquisition of secret knowledge.
There was a considerable falling away in the 1st Century by those “brothers” who claimed to be part of the Church but had never really given their hearts to the Lord and were led astray by false teachers like Cerinthus.
Following gnosticism is a sin that leads to death because it rejects the only provision God has made for our sins, the death of His son. Sins that do not lead to death are the sins we commit that are covered by our acceptance of the Lord’s death as payment for them. In effect John told his readers to pray for true believers who sin, but not for those who by following Gnosticism had demonstrated that they weren’t believers after all.