Dear brothers and sisters,
The question of whether every sin leads to death (not simply physical death, but instead, eternal separation from God) is one which has very serious implications. Chief among them is the inevitable question of whether a true Christian (someone who is born again) can end up losing the promise of eternal life. Needless to say, this is a hotly debated topic, and it is not the subject of this article. However, it makes it clear that sin is an important subject, and this article seeks to address the specific question of whether any sin leads to eternal death.
We hope that you will join us in our study, by slicing, dicing and examining this article, as we seek answers to some very important questions. We look forward to your comments based on your own study of the scriptures, telling us whether or not we have misinterpreted the verses we are using in this study.
1 John 5:16,17 – If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
The Apostle John seems to be extremely clear on the subject, and his answer is: No, not all sin leads to death. There is a sin that leads to death, but not all sin do. We also believe that the context makes it quite clear that John is indeed referring to the eternal separation from God, not just the physical death we know. Yet, the Apostle James seems to contradict him.
James 1:13-15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God…14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Not only does James attest that all sin, without exception, leads to death, but he also describes the process by which death takes place. Furthermore, it is evident that he is addressing brothers in Christ. Just see, from the very next verse (i.e. verse 16), to whom he is speaking: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren”.
If there is no contradiction, then it may be that the Apostle John is often misunderstood
We believe the Apostle John is often misunderstood when he says “…there is sin not leading to death”. Let us revisit what he says and pay attention to a few key points.
1 John 5:16 – If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.
Here is a question: If there is a sin that does not lead to death, why is John saying that anyone who will petition for that brother who commits such sin will give that brother life, as if he had lost it? Isn’t it a strange statement? Why is there a need to give life to someone if that person never lost it?
It is also noteworthy that, save for the expression…which does not lead to death in 1 John 5:16 above, the Apostle John seems to be in perfect agreement with the Apostle James.
James 5:19,20 – Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
Both John and James appear to convey the same idea that someone who petitions for or brings back a brother who has been living in sin will give that brother life (James says…will save a soul from death). Yet, in stark contrast, when it comes to a brother who has committed that “special” sin (for lack of better word) that leads to death, John goes so far as forbidding us even to pray for him. As a side note, see how both John and James refer to that person living in sin (any sin) as a brother (John says “…brother” while James says “…among you”, both of which meaning the same thing). Both John and James seem to be referring to those living in sin but yet are part of the church.
The evidences appear to suggest that Death (i.e. Eternal separation from God) is a process, not a sudden occurrence
How should you and I respond when we see our brother or sister committing sin? For all sin, we should intervene…we should pray, petition, and confront that brother or sister. But for one specific sin – that “special” sin – we should not do anything, because that brother or sister will absolutely die, be eternally separated from God! This is what John is saying. But what is that “special” sin? We believe that our Lord Jesus spoke specifically about it.
Matthew 12:32 – Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
We believe this is the sin John makes reference to, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. What is the point of petitioning for someone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit if the Lord Jesus-Christ Himself says that such person will never, ever be forgiven? It is pointless to intervene because that person will not repent, and because God will not answer our prayer. John simply says…don’t pray for it! On the other hand, it is important to note that James indicates that eternal separation from God (i.e. death) is a process, not sudden occurrence. He himself gave the steps in the process in James 1:14, 15: First, we get enticed and drawn away by our very own desires. Second, our desire then gives birth to sin. Third, our sin grows. And fourth, when our sin has reached full maturity, death takes place.
The Lord Jesus-Christ Himself appears to confirm the fact that death is indeed a process. Consider Revelation 3:2.
Revelation 3:2 – Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
We believe that Christ was warning the church in Sardis to confront those who were living in sin within the church because their sins were getting close to reaching full maturity…they were indeed ready to die.
Understanding that death is a process and not a sudden occurrence probably explains why both James and John are speaking of giving life to a brother who is sinning. During that process, death is slowly but surely coming. But is only fully realized when sin has reached full maturity. Nevertheless, when you and I – my dear friends – intervene for our sister during that process, confronting her, praying and interceding for her, etc. we effectively block that process and prevent sin from reaching full maturity. Therefore we will be giving life to that sister who was in effect losing it. John says “…he will give him life”, and James “…he will save a soul from death”. These in our opinion, speak of the same thing.
The process of sin leading to death is analogous to a cancer spreading in the body.
Think of cancer, any cancer. The stages through which someone with cancer goes are not very different than the process of death described above. From the very moment someone gets a cancer of any kind, that person is in effect dying, although it may not appear to be so in the beginning. But if that cancer is left unchecked, it will eventually reach full maturity and will absolutely kill that person. That is an absolute certainty. However, the sooner the cancer is detected and addressed, the higher the chance of completely restoring life to that person. But the more advanced the state of the cancer, the more effort is required to undo its effect in the body, even though there is still hope.
As any doctor will tell, there is indeed a point when nothing else can be done, and the person will die. True, that point where nothing else can be done may be much further than any doctor would dare to believe (and many accounts of miracle healing are here to prove it), but the fact remains that such point does indeed exist, especially if nothing is done. Similarly, the point where sin reaches full maturity may be really afar off, all because of the great mercy of our Father, but the Apostle James assures us that full maturity of sin is an absolute reality. This fact truly speaks of the mercy of God: While life is not a process (it is instantaneous), death is a process, it takes time. Death is the process of losing life. One cannot help but realize that God does really have a huge bias toward giving life than letting someone die. Oh, His mercy my people…His Mercy!!!!
Is full maturity of sin equivalent to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit?
We believe the answer is “No”, those two are not equivalent. This is our position because on one hand, John asserts that someone who is born again cannot blaspheme against the Holy Ghost (if we understood his expression…the sin that lead to death…correctly). Yet, on the other, it is evident that James applies the process of sin reaching full maturity to anyone, Christians and non-Christian alike. “Perhaps” this is the reason our Lord alludes to the possibility of forgiveness taking place even after this present age. But that is another topic.
We conclude that every sin does indeed lead to death: “No one” seems to be exempt from that process.
We understand that some may strongly disagree with the conclusions of this article. But from our study, we believe that the Apostles John and James are not contradicting each other. Quite the contrary, they are only confirming what each other said. Sin – any sin – lead to the same result, and that result is death, eternal separation from God. But sin produces that death only when it is fully mature. This fact, if true, does speak loudly about our Father’s bias toward life and not death. Sin absolutely has to be fully mature to be able to kill someone. Not “somewhat” mature or “partly” mature…it has to be “fully” mature! This is the love of God my people.
But while the above is truly comforting, the fact that such death does indeed exist, and apparently for anyone according to both John and James, should really cause us – Christians – to act as spiritual men and women, and no longer as babies. It is our responsibility to cease every singly opportunity to break that death-producing process in ourselves, and in our brother or sister who are sinning. If our understanding is correct, we do not need to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit to meet death. But we only need to reject repentance and continue in our own lust and desires to meet death. Both the tremendous love of God toward us on one hand and the chilling reality of eternal separation from God on the other are captured powerfully in the following verse.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Look how the merciful nature of God, “perishing” (which is that death or eternal separation from God) and “repenting” are tightly interlinked in this verse. The mercy of God exists to give time for people to repent so that they will not end up being eternally separated from God. When someone repents, that persons renounces to live any longer in sin, and it is very reason why repentance is the antidote to death, because sin leads to death.
Are we looking out for our brothers and sisters?
My friends, it is time to wake up, and to step up. It is time to do what James is telling us…to turn our brothers and sisters back from living in sin. This is not about what “they want to do” because it is “their life”. It is about them “losing” their life and you and me “giving them” back their life promised of God. How can we claim to be loving our people, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our children or our friends when we are willing to let them live in sin. Have they blasphemed against the Holy Spirit…chances are…No! So there is still hope! Just like the human body can endure far more of the cancer attack than the doctors are willing to believe, the mercy of our God extend far beyond what we can often imagine. Therefore, instead of counting some people as already lost, we should be those people James and John are calling us to be: Givers of life!
Let’s be honest my friends. How much you and me are praying for our people? How genuinely are we praying for our people that the power of sin be broken in their lives? Do we take that time my people? Do we take that time to intercede for them and confront them? Or are we afraid to look “uncool” because we might be looked at being “too tight” in this life, or minding someone else’s business? As you know, this is not a joke my people. The blood of our Lord has been spilled to save us. How are we treating that blood that once washed us completely clean. Do we return in the mud??? Do we allow our loved ones to return in the mud??? May the Lord be with all of us my people, and may He provoke us to love, that we may mature and be those life giving people He has called us to be.
The unforgivable sin is lack of faith in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul has pointed us in Gal. 5:6 towards the work of faith
“the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love”.
Remembering that God is holy and His love is holy should be the motivation
to turn away from sin and temptation whose goal is to rob God’s
abundant life (john 10:10) from us.
If you are still resting upon your righteousness, let’s talk about the
Good News again for if you have to earn your salvation this truly
isn’t good news.
As usual, much thanks for your insightful comment. Turning away from sin, and resting upon God’s righteousness (not our own) is really what God is expecting of us.
But referring to the unforgivable sin, what you said really got me thinking. I see two options (what is your take?):
1. Is lack of faith the same as speaking against the Holy Spirit?
2. If they are not the same, then consider the following: Not everyone who got preached the gospel accepted it the very first time. In such case, they would have committed the unforgivable sin, as you define it, and therefore they are doomed from that very moment. But if I am not mistaken, some people end up accepting Christ the 2nd or 3rd time around they got preached. At which point, all their past sins were forgiven. So how could lack of faith be the unforgivable sin?
It may help to clarify “the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” by considering the scenario in which that unique usage of words was spoken. They said Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils. Jesus responded and said if I could out devils by the finger of God then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
Since the concept is so unique and only mentioned within that unique scenario – I think it is not only safe, but wise to say that it’s usage reflects the matter at hand.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the accusation that what the spirit of God is doing is in fact a work of the devil.