“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.” 1 John 5:16-17
This has been a very difficult passage for me to break down. I like answers. Knowing exactly what something means is important to understand what to do with it fully. It is like working on a car and not having the right tool for the job. I like to tinker with working on a car in that if it is not an emergency and something that needs to be done immediately, I enjoy it. Say my main form of transportation breaks down and needs to be done today, I get stressed. You work quickly to get a job done, and when you do not have exactly the right tool, you make it work. I have done this, and so far, it has worked out okay. However, when I have the chance, a stop at Auto Zone is not far away, so I do not find myself in that position in the future.
I have studied commentaries and books looking for the answer to what John is referring to when he talks of a sin leading to death in verse 16. I have ideas, so do many scholars, but no one seems to want to say for sure. This assures me further that we will never be able to fully comprehend the magnitude of who God is and what the Bible says without the help of the Holy Spirit. One day, I will learn.
In the meantime, I will look at this passage for the very clear part of what it says. I will pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ, who everyday struggle with sin. Knowing that, I and we will always fall short of the perfect mark of Jesus. John lays out that we should be praying for those falling into sin. We should not pray in a gossipy prayer circle kind of way when we pray together, but on our knees behind a closed door where no one will see us kind of way. We should be petitioning God on behalf of that person that they are convicted by the Holy Spirit to repentance and restoration.
When was the last time you saw a fellow believer struggling and went home, or right then and there, prayed for them to be delivered from that sin? I believe the honest answer to that question would be sad if we surveyed the entire body of Christ.