1 John 5:18-21 The conclusion of John's letter

Last week we looked at 1 John 5:16-17 which says, “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. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

We addressed the fact that there are questions that you and I may have concerning that text. For example,

  • What is the sin that leads to death?

  • Is the sin that leads to death a reference to one sin or to a habitual sin that is allowed to continue in heart hardening un-repentance?

  • Is John still addressing a believer in verse 17 concerning the sin that leads to death?

  • Is John speaking about how this sin leads to physical death or is this about spiritual death?

  • How will we know when we should not pray for someone?

Last week we discussed a process through which we could determine the answer to such questions by looking at Proverbs 2:1-15. There we discovered that we can come to know and understand righteousness, justice, equity and every good path when we have been born-again, when we treasure the Word of God in our heart, when we pray, and when we walk in integrity.

There are four observations that we can see in this text that may help us with some of our questions.

  1. Concerning the sin that leads to death there is no definite article before the noun sin. In fact, the word sin in this text is in the ‘anarthrous’ form which specifies that it has no definite article. John does not say, “There is (the) sin that leads to death...”. Therefore, this is not referring to a specific sin but to the character and the quality of a sin. This sin could be one thing for one believer and another sin for another.

  2. The participle ‘sin’ is in the present tense. This is not referring to a momentary sin or an occasion in which one sins. It is referring to a pattern, a habit, a consistent engagement in some sin in which there is no repentance and instead there is a hardening of the conscience towards sin.

  3. In verse 16 we see that the sin is committed by a believer. John says, “If you see a brother committing a sin...”. This is not a false convert, this is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this is not a person who pretends to be a believer, a hypocrite, or someone who merely professes to be a believer. Genuine believers sin but their overall walk is one of sanctification and Christ likeness.

  4. The sin is visible and is understood by the one to sees it to be something that is very serious. We often try to hide sin but there is a blessing that can occur when it becomes visible because it may lead us to repent and turn from it. Recently I watched a documentary about Joe Namath. He was struggling with alcoholism and for a time few people knew about it. But one night during a Monday night football game he had to much to drink and was caught on camera saying some things that embarrassed him and his family. The person he said those things too was gracious and because of that even Joe Namath sought help and overcame his alcohol.

Our text this morning is 1 John 5:18-21,

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. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

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. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Have you ever talked to someone and the conversation went something like this, “Sometimes I feel so far from the LORD. I have a hard time thinking that he cares for me. I know that this sort of thinking is wrong but this is how I feel.

What would you say to that person?

Not only have we heard such a thing from others but we have also felt this way ourselves.

What do you say to yourself when you experience this?

I think this text will offer us some help in these times. This is a text that can help us align our thinking to the reality of our relationship with the Lord.

Four times in these verses John writes about things that a believer ‘knows’ (18,19, and 20). And it is upon this topic that I would like to focus in on today. John says,

  • We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning’ (18) In other words, John is saying that a believers life will not be characterized by ongoing sin. The Lord will not allow them to continue in sin indefinitely.

  • We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one’ (19)

  • And we know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true…’ (20) As we will see, there are two different words that are used in this verse that are translated ‘know’.

There are two words in the Greek that can be translated to ‘know’ in the New Testament. They have similar meanings and are often used interchangeably in the New Testament. However, there is a difference between the two of them.