“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1John 5:16-18)
This Scripture in 1John talks about a true brother that sins, and it is a “sin not unto death.” What exactly is this “sin not unto death”? John goes on to say that whoever is born of God [the born again saint], sins not. He also says emphatically in chapter 3 of the same epistle (1John 3:8,9) that whosoever commits sin is of the devil, and that the child of God does not commit sin, and that the child of God cannot sin. Since the Scriptures cannot contradict themselves, there must be a biblical explanation that rightly divides the Word of Truth and which satisfies both statements, and all statements, made by the beloved Apostle John in his epistle, as well as other Scriptures from the other Apostles, and from Jesus himself, as concerning sin and righteousness. In order to understand what is this “sin not unto death,” we must first understand what is a “sin unto death.”
Firstly, we must establish the fact that “there is a sin unto death.” We cannot assume that all know this and believe this, because there is a large segment of the church that believes that sin does not bring spiritual death. The early Gnostics, for instance, even in the Apostle’s day, believed that one could continue sinning in the body, and it have no effect upon the spirit man. Many in the church still believe this today. This is the same lie that was spoken in the Garden of Eden by the deceiver. The deceiver told Eve that they would “not surely die” if they ate of the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:4) But, God did not and cannot lie. On the day that they committed that ONE act of sin and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they died spiritually (Genesis 2:17), they acquired a sinful nature, they were stripped of God’s glory and were cast into spiritual darkness, and all of nature and creation changed.
God has not changed. He still hates sin in New Testament times. It is his number one enemy. It still brings spiritual death.
“For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation…” (Hebrews 2:2,3)
“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21)
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)
“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Romans 7:5)
“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Romans 7:11)
“And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness…Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin…” (2 Peter 2:13,14)
“But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14,15)
The “sin unto death” is called the “fruit unto death (Romans 7:5),” and “the works of the flesh.” Paul goes on to list some of the “fruit unto death, and “the works of the flesh,” in Galatians 5.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-22)
Paul also lists some “works of the flesh” in Ephesians 5:3-8, followed by a warning and an exhortation:
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not partakers with them.
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
Paul also lists whom the “unrighteous” are in 1Corinthians 6:9-11, and he makes a clear distinction between the “unrighteous,” and the child of God who is washed and sanctified and justified from what they once “were.”
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Note: Notice that some of the “works of the flesh” listed are not actually committed sins, but sins of the heart such as covetousness and hatred. But all the “works of the flesh,” whether an actual committed sin or not, comes from an evil heart, as Jesus taught. In Matthew 15:19, He says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Jesus also taught that if one looks upon another with lust they have already committed adultery in the heart. (Matthew 5:28) John taught that if one hates he is a “murderer,” and “abideth in death,” and that “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1John 3:14,15) Also, John, in 1John 3:14, states, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
Can a child of God commit a sin unto death?
The “sin unto death” is the sin that the child of God “cannot commit.” John says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in Him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1John 3:9) The “sin unto death” is the “fruit unto death (Romans 7:5),” that the child of God “cannot commit,” as long as he “remains” in Christ.
The saint of God is called a “good tree,” in the Scriptures and he produces good fruit only. The good fruit is known as the fruit of the spirit. Right after listing the “works of the flesh,” in the very next verse in Galatians 5:22, Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Also, after listing the corrupt fruit in Ephesians 5:7, he continues, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.”)
For those who repent and believe the gospel, the “corrupt tree” was cut down at Calvary, and a good tree begins to grow. Isaiah prophesies of the “good tree” in Isaiah 61:3, where he calls them “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Paul, in Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
Paul states in Romans 6:6,7:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
Note: The word “freed” should have been translated
“justified.” Paul does use the scriptural term “free from sin,” two other times
in the sixth chapter of Romans however, in verses 18 and 22. The “old man,” and
“body of sin,” and “the body of this death (Romans 7:24),” and “the body of the
sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11),” are all synonymous terms for the sin
nature. That is what was crucified in the cross of Christ. He destroyed the
thing that caused us to sin and freed us from it – freed us from sin – thus
making us dead to sin but alive unto God by Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:11)
Paul states in Romans 6:22:
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
Jesus makes a clear distinction between the two types of trees bearing or producing two different kinds of fruit – either good or corrupt:
“A good man [good tree] out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things [fruit]: and an evil man [corrupt tree] out of the evil treasure in his heart bringeth forth evil things [fruit].” (Matthew 12:35)
“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”
Also, in John 8:34-36, Jesus Christ makes a clear distinction between those who commit sin, and those who are free from sin:
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
A child of God is not a slave to sin; therefore he does not commit sin. A child of God is a slave to God and to righteousness. (Romans 6:18,22)
These Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the “works of the flesh,” is what the corrupt tree commits and the good tree cannot commit, and that the “fruit of the spirit” is what the good tree possesses and the corrupt tree cannot possess.
They also make it abundantly clear that a saint of God:
1.) Is a good tree that can produce good fruit only
2.) Has a good heart that produces good fruit only
3.) Is made free from sin
4.) Is now made a servant unto God and righteousness
5.) Now produces fruit unto holiness
6.) Cannot commit the works of the flesh as long as he remains in Christ
Note: For a fuller study on the differences between the lost and the redeemed, see Are you a Sinner or a Saint?
The Scriptures do teach, however, that one can “fall from grace,” and be eternally lost, unless they repent. The Calvinistic doctrine of the “Perseverance of the saints,” or better known today as “once saved, always saved,” is a false doctrine that is causing many to be eternally lost, because of the false security that it produces.
James 1:14-15 speaks of how the saint of God can sin and fall from grace:
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust is conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Sin brought death and all of creation fell into disorder through Adam’s one transgression. How can “Christians” take sin so lightly and proudly say that all are sinners? Sin also brings death to the saint of God. The very “fruit” that a sinner commits is called “fruit unto death,” as discussed earlier. The saint can also be in danger of losing his salvation through unfruitfulness (Matthew 5:13, 13:22), and through hardening their heart through the deceitfulness of sin and turning from the living God in unbelief. (Hebrews 3:8, 4:12,13)
Do you remember the Corinthian church that had a man committing adultery with his father’s wife? Instead of mourning and purging out the old leaven (1Corinthians 5:7), they were puffed up (vs. 2). They were not dealing properly with a man who was living in open adultery and yet calling himself a Christian, but instead they were proud that they could be open-minded enough to accept him as a “brother.” However, Paul tells them to deliver him to Satan that he might be saved in the day of the Lord (vs. 5). He goes on to tell them in verse 9-11:
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of the world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
“But now have I written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
Notice the difference? We are called to go out into the world and reach the sinners of the world as “ambassadors for Christ.” We reach out to the sinners and invite them to our services. But, when there is one who is called a brother, or in other words, claims salvation, and yet is still openly committing the “works of the flesh,” then we are not to even pray or eat with them. Why? Because if we give him our “fellowship” and accept him as a “brother” even though he is not, we are sending the message that we agree with them. We are sending the message that it is all right for them to continue in sin. We are sending the message that there is really no difference between the sinner and the saint. We are sending the message that a little leaven accepted in the Church doesn’t really matter. Once they come to their senses, and sorrowfully repent and turn back to Jesus Christ, then we are to accept them lovingly back with open arms. (2Corinthians 2:6-8)
Since the Scriptures clearly bear out the six points above, then the “sin not unto death” must be a sin that is not from the “works of the flesh,” or the “fruit unto death,” or an “evil heart,” or “corrupt fruit,” or “evil fruit,” but instead is from the lack of the fruit of the spirit in one’s life, or from some lack in our walk with the Lord. A “sin” is broadly defined in Strong's Concordance as “missing the mark.” A Christian can “miss the mark” in many ways without committing the works of the flesh.
One of the main problems with the modern church is that they lump all sin into one category. A sin like fornication, which includes all types of sexual activity outside of marriage including lusting in the heart, cannot even be remotely compared to not witnessing for Christ, or being too sharp to someone, or showing a lack of love or patience, etc. One is a work of the flesh, and the others are a lack of the fruit of the spirit working in the life. That is in no way excusing the latter, as one must grow in these areas as God shows their shortcomings and gives them the grace to do so, but these things do not come from an impure or unholy or unregenerate heart. Note: For a fuller study see Creation vs. Evolution
Since the modern church lumps all of these things into one category and say "A sin is a sin," no matter how vile or minor, I believe it has resulted in a desensitization to sin, and even a giving up to sin, because, after all, "we are all sinners…we are only human…we sin everyday…no one is perfect…there are none righteous,” so why fight it?
People have told me that getting a speeding ticket is a sin. They believe that not witnessing for Christ is just as bad as committing adultery, because, as they say, “A sin is a sin.” This has also resulted in such carelessness in what God hates the most. If not witnessing is a sin and is comparable to committing adultery or murder or drunkenness, and “all are sinners,” then all anyone has to do is ask for forgiveness and everything is all right, no matter how vile the sin is. They can continually ask for forgiveness for the same sins over and over, and still feel that everything is fine, because, after all, “all are sinners – God understands – we are only human – no one is perfect – no one is righteous.”
The saint of God may have a lack of the fruit of the spirit, and he may lack in many areas. God does prune and chastise his children so that they can bear more fruit. He may miss the perfect will of God in his life, as even the Apostle Paul did at times. In fact, there is not a saint alive, who has not had to repent over certain things, and who has not missed the perfect will of God in many areas. But these things (sins, but not a committed sin unto death) do not proceed out of an impure or unholy heart. The saint needs to constantly abide in Christ, set his affections on things above, and pray often with “all manner of prayers and supplications,” and “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling,” and “grow in grace and in the knowledge of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” and strive to become more Christ-like in their walk.
“If any man see his brother sin a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.” (1John 5:16)
These sins “not unto death” cannot be a “work of the flesh,” because John did not encourage to pray and Paul said that they should not even eat with one who is thought to be a “brother” yet is openly committing the “works of the flesh,” or a “sin unto death.” This “sin not unto death” is what we are to pray and give life to those who confess, so that we can move forward with God and have no hindrance in our growth, and that we would be more fruitful and bear much fruit, and so that we can all grow up unto a “perfect man” – fully grown, mature, and “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
James also says:
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another that ye may be healed.” (James 5:16)
Paul also says:
“Brethern, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1,2)
These “faults” may or may not be a “sin unto death,” however; they are not from an unrepentant “sinner” who continues in sin, as was the case with the Corinthian adulterer.
Also, if there is no difference between the types of sins, then why did Paul, while listing some of the “works of the flesh” in Ephesians 5, say, “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints”?
While writing this, I remembered what the late Keith Green said. I decided to quote him here. It is from his tract, “What’s Wrong With The Gospel, Section 2: The Added Parts.” He wrote:
And if you really want to play “Stretch the Bible” there is that other fabulous excuse that absolutely ends all quests or expectation for holiness: “Christians aren’t perfect…just forgiven!” Ah, how convenient. You might as well say, “Christians aren’t moral, just forgiven!” or what about “Christians aren’t nice, just forgiven!” How about the ultimate? “Christians aren’t saved…just forgiven!” (That may be a little too deep.) What we’re saying by this glorious piece of prose is, “Madam, you cannot trust your teenage daughter with my Christian son, you’d better keep your eye on him…he’s not safe…he’s just forgiven!”
What he wrote may sound far-stretched, but I just heard a nationally respected Calvinistic Minister on television the other day say that there are some people who are not even saved that are living better lives than some Christians, and he said this not as a rebuke, but simply as a matter of fact. What Keith Green said about “Christians aren’t saved…Just forgiven!” is not far-fetched either. This is exactly what some in the modern church believe. They don’t believe that you can be ”saved from sin,” but instead saved “in” your sin. They constantly mention forgiveness, yet seldom, if ever, mention freedom from sin. They say that one can continue in sin and still be in the grace of God. Their Savior does not save from sin; therefore, their Savior really doesn’t save. I have heard a world-known Pentecostal minister say over the radio that a child of God can commit “all types of sexual sins” and still be saved. The heresy continues.
I challenge all to be like the noble Bereans and search the Scriptures. (Acts 17:11) “Rightly divide the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)” “Let no man deceive you.” Be a part of the last day remnant that God is raising up and return to the Holy Scriptures only as the basis for your beliefs, and do not look to the church’s doctrines or deified heroes of the past or present as an end-all, because they may have gotten some of it wrong and they may not have seen all too clearly, especially concerning sin and righteousness. But instead, look to the early apostles and long to see what they saw in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and seek a manifestation of that glory so that we can affect others in our known world, as the early apostles were a manifestation of His glory to their generation.