Yesterday, I preached from 1 John 5:16-18 in our series appropriately titled, “Know.” The passage happens to be the most difficult to interpret in the entire letter from John. However, it’s important to see what John was calling the local churches to do. In one sense, there is a warning about the danger of sin, but then we see a clear duty of prayer explained. By the end of the passage, it becomes clear that John the apostle does not want the Christian community to be content with sloppy Christianity.
Pray for Restoration
John talks about the “sin unto death” which has become controversial to interpret. He makes a distinction between sin that does not lead to death and sin that leads to death. He exhorts his fellow Christians to pray for fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord who are living in sin that does not lead to death. The aim of such prayer is that they will have life—proof of their genuine relationship with the Lord. This reference to life is “eternal life” and the reference to death is the “second death” where rebels die eternally under the wrath of God in hell.
The Interesting part of this passage is centered on the fact that John exhorts believers to pray for brothers, but asks them not to pray for the rebels who are living in sin that leads to death. The point is not that we can’t pray for unbelievers, but that our focus needs to be centered on praying for fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord who are sinning, but are not given over to a reprobate mind and left to walk down a broken road toward the wrath of God. God chastens his children (Hebrews 12:5-8) and brings them back in restoration. John urges his fellow believers to pray for fellow brothers (and sisters) who are living in sin with a goal for restoration.
In verses 17-18, John provides a clear understanding of what happens when we pray for such believers. All people who have been born of God (key language of salvation), will not keep on sinning. They will be brought to a place of repentance and restoration. God will not allow them to stay there. And, John is urging us to pray for such people as we plead for God to restore them.
John goes on to point out that the one begotten by God protects such believers—keeping them from wandering off down the broken road of sin that leads to death. Jesus protects by providing their salvation on the cross and continuing to intercede on their behalf. As the Good Shepherd—Jesus will not lose one of his sheep.
As we consider our present day, we need to come to the place where we are not content with sloppy Christianity. If we’re not satisfied with sloppy football, sloppy airplane pilots or flight attendants, sloppy lawyers, or even sloppy waste management services—we should not be content with sloppy Christianity within our local church. When we see people who profess Christ in our church living in open sin or even harboring sin—we need to spend time praying for their restoration. Sure, we can go to them too as Jesus taught in Matthew 18, but John points to the necessity of prayer. We must pray and ask that such believers would be restored.
Make such times of intentional prayer part of your life in 2018.