Faithlife Sermons

7-22-2018 This Is It 1 John 5:16-21

1 John Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:20
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Introduction:
Did you hear the story about a lawyer, a doctor, and a preacher who went hunting together. When a prize buck ran past they all fired at the exact same time and the buck dropped. The problem was that there was only one bullet hole and they didn't know which of them shot it. They decided to take it to the registration center, hoping the agent could figure out who could claim the trophy.
The agent said, “Let me look at the deer. Sometimes I can figure it out.” He asked a few questions, examined the deer carefully, and declared, “The preacher is the one who shot this buck!” Amazed, the other two asked how he could be so certain it was the preacher. Stooping down, the agent pointed out the wound, “See here. It went in one ear and out the other.”
So goes the average Sunday with the average churchgoers. Perhaps this is why the Apostle John felt it so necessary to repeat his ideas and thoughts a few times during his short letter.
Transition:
In these last 6 verses in first John, He shares with us his final thoughts about our salvation and gives some encouragement, some admonishment and he leaves us with a warning.
Scripture Reading:
1 John 5:16–21 ESV
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
You may recall that the last two verses from last week was an assurance of the confidence that we have, as believers, that YHWH hears our prayers. Now, John moves to a very practical use of this assurance: pray for others!
Transition:
So now with these final verses, we, as believers, have at least a couple things we might glean from this ending: First is the conviction we fall under when we see sin.

I. The Conviction in Life (vv.16-17)

John says to pray for your Christian brothers and sisters who sin
1 John 5:16 ESV
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask...” I know many who believe that although Christians can still sin; they, themselves, do not sin. Well, I have news for you, you do sin, I sin, and they do too.
All of us here would likely agree that we live this life that we have been given safe and secure in our faith and do the best that we can to live a life that honors our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, we all mess up—at least some of the time. Even Pastors or Deacons or spiritual leaders. John said toward the start of this letter that I’d be a liar if I said that I don’t sin. Many of us know this already, but then when someone confronts us in sin, we tend to believe that we are above sinning—even if we don’t fess up to it. John writes that we should pray for our fellow believers who mess up.
But Why would he tell his readers and us this? Shouldn’t that be the natural thing to do? They were probably much like us, instead of praying for and helping those that are struggling with sin, many Christians just want to talk to others about what evil thing these struggling brothers/sisters have done and leading into gossip about each other.
And, according to the majority of the commentators I read, gossip is what John has in mind for the historical setting he and the early church found themselves in. If this is true, then not a whole lot has changed in the past couple thousand years!
What is gossip? I want to be sure we understand, because if we can define it, we can stay away from it.
Gossip is idle talk which foolishly or maliciously spreads rumours or facts. The effects of gossiping are divisive and destructive. --Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes
Harper’s Bible Dictionary says Gossip is closely connected to slander in the Bible, which condemns both. Lev. 19:15-16 lumps slander together with legal injustice and even false testimony in a capital case, but Proverbs uses the same word to condemn the talebearer and to warn the wise not to associate with gossips (11:13; 20:19). The NT also lists both as sins (Rom. 1:29-30).
Sometimes People tell me about things that happen with their children in school and how the other children are mistreating. My response to that is that children can be very cruel to each other.
Guess what, it is not just children. We Christians can be just as cruel to each other BUT IT SHOULD NOT BE SO! Unchecked gossip, just like any other sins, can have devastating effects even years after it first was perpetuated.
So what is the solution?
1 John 5:16 ESV
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
he shall ask
John writes that we are to stop all of that and lift those sinning up in prayer and God will help them.
1 John 5:16 ESV
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”
What in the world is the sin that leads to death?!? What kind of death is John talking about?!? This involves good exegesis (or proper interpretation) to answer!
Well proper interpretation must be related to the historical setting of I John
Consider the presence of gnostic false teachers in the churches, these false teachers had left the church (1 jn 2:19), but their influence had not!
and then proper interpretation must be related to the literary context of the whole book
Consider I John was written to combat false teaching and assure the true believers through certain testing
These two purposes in testing: doctrinal & practical can be seen in the tests of true believers
Doctrinal
Jesus was truly human
Jesus was truly God
humans are sinful and responsible to a holy God
humans are also forgiven and made right with God
Practical (positive)
a lifestyle of obedience
a lifestyle of love
a lifestyle of Christlikeness (does not sin)
Lifestyle of victory over evil
His word abides in them
They have the Spirit
Proper interpretation must be linked to specific items in the relevant text (cf. 5:16–17)
How can the prayers of one Christian restore life to another without the sinner’s personal repentance?
And then, Should we try to link this verse with the “unpardonable” sin of the Gospels
The context of I John does seem parallel to the unpardonable sin of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day (cf. Matt. 12:22–37; Mark 3:2–29) as well as the unbelieving Jews of Heb. 6 and 10. All three groups (Pharisees, unbelieving Jews, and gnostic false teachers) heard the gospel clearly, but refused to trust Jesus Christ.
So now to put together our proper interpretation methods we can answer: “Does this sin unto death refer to physical death or spiritual, eternal death?” Well, the literary style shows hints of the other scriptures referring to spiritual, eternal death. He is writing to believers so John’s use of "life/death” in this context seems to imply the contrast refers to eternal death—Which then would make sense that he would clarify the difference—we are not to be praying for the forgiveness of sin for the unbeliever which is only reserved for the regenerate; rather, we ought to be praying for the regeneration of the unbeliever—for their salvation.
This makes sense BUT then isn't it possible that God takes home (physical death) sinning believers also so as this passage to refer to physical death? The implication of this view is that:
the prayers are from believers for fellow believers and
the personal repentance of the offender combine to restore the believers, but if they continue in a lifestyle that brings reproach on the believing community, then the result may be an “untimely” or early physical departure from this life
This too can make sense, except why then would John command not to pray for a believer’s sin that leads to physical death? It does not fit well when considering all of scripture
Jesus looks for disciples, not decisions, long term lifestyle faith, not short-term emotional faith. Christianity is not an isolated past once ago act, but a current, ongoing repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance. Christianity is not a one-way ticket to heaven, purchased in the past, nor a fire insurance policy taken out to protect one from a lifestyle of selfish, godless living!
1 John 5:16 ESV
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
“… and God will give him life
Wait!?!?!? I thought John is talking about believers sinning! How can YHWH give life after eternal life is already given?
The theological problem here is the meaning of the term “life” (zoā). Normally in John’s writings this refers to eternal life, but in this context it seems to mean restoration to health or forgiveness (i.e. much like James’ use of “save” in James 5:13–15). The person prayed for is called “a brother” which strongly implies a believer (by John’s own use of the term for his readers). So now, for those who feel is the correct interpretation of death is physical, it would then make sense that YHWH would give him more physical life, but just as well life here could mean a more abundant life free of sin. John tries to clarify a bit for us in the next verse:
1 John 5:17 ESV
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
This serves as an encouragement for Christians to pray for each other, especially regarding sins when they become aware of them. This is a part of the priesthood of the believer (1 Pet 2:5). Just as Jesus intercedes for us as we saw in Chapter 2:2, so too we have the privilege—the responsibility—to go before our Father and intercede for one another.
All sin is serious, but all sin can be forgiven through repentance and faith in Christ except the sin of unbelief! What precedes and follows then is the point of the verse, not every sin is unto death. The take-home from this is not our interpretations of these two difficult verses but really it is more simple than debate: The take-home is that we must be in prayer—especially when a brother or sister is caught in sin.
Transition:
The final verses of this epistle wrap these thoughts up. They compose three summary statements, each beginning with the affirmation, “we know,” using οἴδα rather than γινώσκω. These are truths that transcend personal experience and are based on the revelation of God in His Word. The basic thrust of this paragraph is that healthy fellowship with God produces confidence in our position in Christ within this hostile world. So our second point is:

II. The Confidence in Life (vv.18-20)

We have eternal confidence based on our identity, and our Protector:
1 John 5:18 ESV
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
In each of these three verses (18, 19, 20) “we” could either refer to the apostles or to John and his readers. It seems best to see John including his readers as he summarizes his instructions from the epistle. What he affirms in this first of three statements is that the believer’s security comes from Christ’s preservation and protection from satan.
1 John 5:18 ESV
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
everyone who has been born of God”
This is a person who was born of God and continues as a child of God.
This first part of the statement about the believer’s security is almost identical to what John affirmed in chapter 3:
1 John 3:9 ESV
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
As before, John is not claiming sinless perfection. He has not forgotten what he wrote at the beginning of this epistle and he has just finished writing about seeing a Christian brother in the process of sinning (whether a single sin or repeated sins). Some interpret this to mean a regenerate person does not “continue in sin” or is not “characterized by sin” on the basis that “Jesus protects him from the evil one’s influence.”
1 John 5:18 ESV
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
does not keep on sinning
John Stott interprets this to mean: “Sin and the child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.”
The apostle John implies “ongoing activity.” In the immediate context, he links it back to the “sin that leads to death” in verses 16 and 17, which are “intentional, willful acts against God.” Christians cannot and do not engage in this sort of sustained, willful repudiation of God.”
1 John 5:18 ESV
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”
Have you noticed those mature Christians who, although they may have a lot going wrong in their lives, you’d never know it otherwise because their demeanor never changes. They are not superhuman or they are not putting on an act—they just realize It is Jesus who protects us no matter what satan throws our way!
1 John 5:19 ESV
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
This second affirmation taught in this letter repeats the statement of the previous verse with the same subject of the apostle and his readers, thus building on the first, but with a view to “positive consequences” Also, like the previous sentence, it summarizes another of the teaching points of the epistle.
1 John 5:19 ESV
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Whereas believers find their source in YHWH, the world does not do the same with “the evil one” but rather finds itself his prisoner. Thus humankind finds itself subjected to Satan.
God’s children must keep their eyes wide open because the whole world is from satan’s control. The devil is the god of this age and the prince of darkness. He has blinded millions of people spiritually and has kept them in bondage and he can blind worldly believers as well at least for a time.
1 John 5:20 ESV
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
the Son of God has come” This third statement affirms the incarnation of the divine Son. Deity with a human body was a major problem for the gnostic false teachers who asserted the evilness of matter—including the physical body.
There are only two possible positions offered here between verse 19 & 20. Everyone is either ‘of God’ or ‘under the control of the evil one.’ Neutrality is not possible.” Where the nonbeliever has no choice but to be under satan’s sway, Paul teaches us in Rom 6 that believers have a choice. We can make ourselves slaves of sin or righteousness (Rom 6:16–18). However, even as slaves of sin, we are still free from Satan’s control, having been transferred from his domain into Christ’s kingdom (Col 1:13). However, that being the case, Paul commands us to “consider” ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:11). Believers must choose to obey. They must choose not to sin. It is neither automatic nor guaranteed. Yet there is no return to satan because Jesus keeps us.
1 John 5:20 ESV
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
has given us understanding” Jesus, not the gnostic false teachers, has provided the necessary knowledge and insight into deity. Jesus has fully revealed the Father by means of His life, His teachings, His actions, and His death and His resurrection! He is the living Word of God; no one comes to the Father apart from Him.
It becomes so much easier to know right from wrong the more we study and meditate on God’s Word!

So What? (v.21)

The “so what” is the last verse:
1 John 5:21 ESV
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
What a strange way to conclude the entire epistle!
The term idols (which is used only twice in John’s writings, here and in an OT quote in Rev. 9:20), likely relates to the teachings and lifestyles of the false teachers or, it can be sin in general because the Dead Sea Scrolls use this term in the sense of “sin,” the terms “idol” and “sin” might have been near synonymous.
Nonetheless, the most used meaning for idols still applies! idolatry is sin! The true God is opposed to the false gods, the idols. An idol is anything that is a man’s conception of god. YHWH made man is His image; now men make gods in their own image!
This “keep” refers to the Christians’ active participation in the sanctification—as abrupt as this last verse may be, it is the final warning— this is it, don’t sin!
Conclusion:
In conclusion: instead of talking to others about someone else’s sins, pray for him or her. It is not gossip to talk to God about others’ sins as well as your own. He already knows what has happened. However, also remember, this is a real act of love, to care enough to ask God to show him or her mercy. We will only know how great an impact our prayers for others have had when we get to heaven.
Last, Jesus is not a “god” among many (Hinduism, Mormonism), but the God of the universe. He is not a mere prophet (Islam) or good teacher (Liberal theology, humanism), but the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Evangelical Christians need to be taught this and truly believe it. They need to know why His virgin birth matters, why His death was necessary, and why His resurrection must be a historical reality for our faith to be equally real. Why? As John has made clear, God’s life and love flow through us only to the extent we believe the right things about Jesus. The weaker our Christology—our view of Christ, the weaker our walks are with YHWH. We cannot present Him to the world as its Savior if our members don’t believe He is and don’t live as He is.
Obedience, love, and truth are the key thoughts in this epistle. They are the evidence of salvation and the essentials of fellowship, the secret of true and abiding life.
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