There have been times in my life where I have felt compelled to pray for fellow believers. Just after John tells us to have confidence to pray in God’s will that He will hear us and answer our prayers (1 Jn 5:14-15), we’re told: “If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.” (1 Jn 5:16-17 NLT)
Many claim that this is a reference to spiritual death often comes from those who argue a person can lose his or her salvation. However, this appears to stand in stark contrast to verse 13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Since God’s Word doesn’t refute Itself, I believe it’s more likely that physical death is in view. Christians are neither immune to sin nor to the consequences of sin. We are still subject to paying the earthly price for our choices, which can range from criminal punishment to social shame to health issues, even physical death. Truly, we need to look no further than what drugs and alcohol can do to a person’s life. All disobedience to God is sin, and some disobedience can result in swift death. This may come by consequence, or by punishment. Ananias and Sapphira are an extreme example of this in action (Acts 5:1–11).
We are explicitly told to pray for our brothers and sisters. This reinforces that prayer is where we battle after putting on our armor. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). Though sin is the ultimate cause of all death (Rom 5:12), not every act of disobedience results in immediate demise. Then again, some sins a person commits with their body or spirit can be fatal: a “sin that leads to death”.
John is also clear that all sin is wrong. His intent here is to make a distinction regarding how a believer should pray for other people. There is a relationship between our sinful actions and physical consequences, even for believers. Eternal life comes to those who believe in Jesus Christ, and no sin can take that salvation away. However, God has designed a world of cause and effect, and our choices still impact our lives as well as the lives of others. A believer can pray, ask forgiveness, and receive restored fellowship with God, but this does not necessarily remove the consequences of sinful actions.
We are told as believers, how to walk so that we do not fall into sin. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:22–25)
By definition, trusting in Christ brings with it a commitment to stop living for the sins our human nature desires (Gal 5:24). However, getting caught off-guard by those desires, failing to follow the Spirit away from them, does not mean we are no longer in Christ. Paul says it means we need help, in part from other Christians. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1)
Paul doesn’t assume we will fight our way out of sin entirely on our own. Instead, he instructs other, spiritually mature Christians to step in and restore us. It’s a delicate job, though. These helpers will need to be spiritually mature, people who are clearly walking by the Spirit themselves. They will need to be gentle, not harsh or condemning. And they will need to be humble to avoid being tempted by sin themselves. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2)
There have been times that I’ve just jumped in, with good intentions, to help someone I see struggling. I don’t recommend that without first humbling yourself in prayer, and seeking God’s path for you to take. There have been times that after much prayer, I’ve been led and given the opportunity to talk with the other person. The difference between the two scenarios is that the Lord is leading the way, and I’m not. Timothy is cautioned, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Tim 2:1)
Being in Christ does not mean we won’t have burdens to carry in this earthly life; we will. One of those burdens is the weightiness of our temptation to give into sin, and the heaviness of trying to get out of it. Paul wants us to share that burden and not battle sin and temptation on our own. The Lord may not lead us to directly approach the subject; He may just want us to pray and share our love. Then through our prayers asking for the Spirit’s intervention, and showing up in love (sometimes without specific words), you never know that person may just bring their burden to you, knowing that you love them. We must stand in the gap in prayer, and be ready with a hand to lift them up, if they are willing to take it.
Father, thank You for Your Word that gives me confidence to approach You boldly. Grant that I may be obedient to it and obey it not only in praying for others but also for myself. Lord, grant me Your counsel in how to pray boldly for others, and share Your love with them. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Source: Praying Boldly