By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CVI) 04/07/23

5:15 He listens to us every time we ask Him. So, we know that He gives us whatever we ask from Him.

As a lover of God’s Word, Peter Pett (1966) says that our knowing Jesus the Anointed One through the Spirit by the Father fills us with boldness. Thus, we see that we can approach Him in prayer and believe He hears us. He is our Father Who gave us spiritual life, and when we come to Him as His children, seeking only His will, we can be sure that, whatever we ask, He will hear and respond so that we can also know that we will receive the petitions we ask.

Prayers for worldly things only displease Him and will rightly be rejected. But prayers concerned with the spread of His Word and the establishing of His Kingly Rule will undoubtedly be heard, and we will have them in the end. The answer may not come as we expect or desire but come it will. This is very much a statement that we can have complete confidence that in the end, the Gospel will prevail through our prayers.[1]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) states that the Apostle John has just cited answered prayer as proof that the Spirit dwells within us, progressively revealing His will, so our prayers are not hit and miss but coincide with His will. But there can still be a residual doubt about whether prayer is being answered as we envisaged and requested. John, therefore, parallels “He hears us” with “obtaining the requests we asked.” Through possessing the Spirit, the Comforter, we have the Lord “doing” things in response to what we ask.[2] But the Lord’s “doing” in response may not be articulated in the terms we expected. The request [literally, “the asking”] will be “done,” but not always as expected.[3]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) says that the verb “hear” suggests that God understands the request and answers prayer. But does God answer every request? Does believing that we are heard magically grant what we ask for? How does confidence that God hears us amount to our having what we ask? One must always submit to God’s perfect and omniscient will in asking. Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prayed, “not as I will, but as You will.[4] Since, in any given situation, we may not know whether what we’re asking is in God’s will, whenever it seems God has not answered, we must receive that in the confidence of knowing we were heard. We have what we ask according to His will, even if His will is “No” or “Not yet.”

One Monday, a man described his Sunday morning golf game to coworkers. He paused and addressed one of his colleagues, known to be a Christian, with the comment, “You probably think I’ll go to hell for playing golf on Sunday morning, don’t you?” The Christian looked calmly at the man and replied, “No, I think you’ll go to hell for not believing in Jesus the Anointed One. So, you might as well play golf on Sunday.” Sin, belief, and the afterlife are connected in religious thought, and for Christians, the link of these topics focuses on the person and work of Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son. These three topics are closely bound together in this final section of John’s letter and, within that context, make sense of John’s last command to keep away from idols.[5]

5:16 Suppose you see your fellow believer sinning (a sin that does not lead to eternal death). You should pray for them. Then God will keep them spiritually alive. However, there is sin that leads to death. So, you shouldn’t bother praying for that kind of sinner.


The Apostle James echoed this same sentiment when he told his congregation that if they were hurting, pray! If they felt great, sing! And if they were sick, call the church elders and have them pray and anoint you with oil in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of the Master. Believing prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you back on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven – healed inside and out.[6] So, now comes the Apostle John’s eighth test, the Test of Sin.

So, what exactly did the Apostle John mean by saying, “sin that leads to eternal death?” In Torah, we find a clue where Moses instructed the people that any person, indigenous or immigrant, who sins defiantly against God’s will, is deliberately blaspheming God. Therefore, they must be separated from His people: They despised God’s Word and violated His command. There is no other choice; they must be expelled from the community of believers.[7] Yet, there is the promise made by the prophet Samuel that if someone mistreats another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?[8] However, I’m sure John would quickly point to Jesus, our mediator.

I find a tantalizing possibility that the phrase “unto death” may not necessarily imply “spiritual death” or “eternal death.” The Greek preposition pros means “toward.” Therefore, it should be distinguished from pro, which means first or in front of. For example, “unto” may describe a motion coming or going toward a place or point in time or an item’s proximity to another thing, place, or point in time. It may describe the length of time a situation endures and even the relative direction of one object relative to another. Especially in later texts, “unto” is used to emphasize location and little on the direction. It leaves the idea that the person sinning intends to do so until they die. For the Apostle John, that could be the reason he recommends that we not waste time interceding for them. This could indeed be a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Yet, as we learn from the prophet Jeremiah, there are times when God seems to have had enough.  For instance, when the LORD told Jeremiah: “Even if Moses and Samuel stood here and made their case, I wouldn’t do a thing to help them. Instead, tell them to get out of here; get lost!”[9] Nevertheless, God would only do so with a heavy heart. His love is still there, but they are not interested in mercy or forgiveness.

Still, Jesus had a similar message when he told His critics that there was nothing done or said that God couldn’t forgive. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God’s Spirit, you repudiate the very One who forgives. If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can convict you. Still, when you dismiss the Holy Spirit, you’re pushing away the lifesaver tossed to you, and you will drown in your perversity, forever refusing any connection you might have with the One who forgives.[10]

The Apostle Paul selected the right approach after what Alexander the coppersmith did to him.[11] He said, “the Lord will judge him for what he did to me.”[12] The writer of Hebrews stated emphatically that there is no use trying to bring a backslider to the Lord again who once understood the Good News and tasted for the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit,  is thoroughly acquainted with what God’s Word says, felt the mighty powers of the world to come,  and then deliberately became hostile against God. They cannot bring themselves to repent, even if they nailed God’s Son to the cross again. They already held Him up to be mocked and experienced public shaming by rejecting Him.[13]

The writer of Hebrews said it very precisely if we quit and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate the Anointed One’s sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment. Remember, those who broke the Mosaic law receive the death sentence. So, think how much worse the punishment will be for those who stomped on the crucified Son of God and treated His blood of the final covenant, which sanctified us as though it were animal blood. They have insulted and outraged the Holy Spirit, who brings God’s mercy to us.[14]

Be careful, says the Apostle Peter. Once a person escapes the garbage dump of sin by experiencing the love and saving grace of our Master and Savior, Jesus the Anointed One, and then slides back into that same old lifestyle is worse than if they had never left and made clean and presentable to God. It would have been better had they not started on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command. There is an old saying that “A dog comes back to eat what he vomited, and after a pig is washed, it goes back and wallows in the mud again.” That is precisely what a person does who turns again to sin’s cesspool.[15]

When it looked like John was finishing his letter, he got a new thought.  It was undoubtedly inspired by things he may have heard that was going on in the church to whom he was writing.  We catch a glimpse of this rule as far back as Abraham.  When he and Sarah moved to the Negev region to live between the provinces of Kadesh and Shur, Abimelech king of Gerar, was struck by Sarah’s beauty.  So, when he courted her, Abraham told him that she was his sister out of fear.  Some might call this a half-lie since she was his half-sister. Thus when Abimelech added Sarah to his harem, he had a dream that warned him of the consequences because Abraham and Sarah were married.

Quickly, Abimelech apologized to God for his mistake.  But God assured him in the dream by telling him, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, so I want to keep you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you to live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.[16] As a result, Abimelech was obedient to God’s warning. Then we read, “Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelech’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife, Sarah.[17]

This provides a precedent for what John was telling his readers. Later, we see Moses exercising the same restraint after he came down off the mountain and found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf.  God informed Moses that He was so displeased that maybe He should get rid of them and start all over by raising a new nation from Moses’ lineage.  But Moses pleads with God not to do so.  To remember the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And what will the Egyptians say after He rescued them so dramatically with signs and wonders, only to destroy them in the wilderness?

The Bible tells us, “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.[18]   We could go on with how Moses saved Miriam from death through leprosy by praying for God’s grace;[19] how Caleb was not kept out of the promised land because of his obedience when all the others rebelled;[20] how Moses recalls God’s mercy after the people molded and worshiped the golden calf;[21] how Hezekiah was able to obtain grace for his people when they ate the Passover lamb before being purified;[22] how Job was able to receive forgiveness for Eliphaz and his two friends for misrepresenting God in their attitudes.[23]

We also read how Moses was praised for standing in the breach to save the people of Israel from their rebellion.[24]  And when Amos saw what punishment God had in store for His people, Amos quickly went to God in prayer and prayed for their forgiveness, and God heard him and held back His hand.[25]  But alas, we read where God did not want to punish His people for their idolatry and blasphemy against Him but ended up saying: “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So, I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down all they have done on their heads, declares the Sovereign Lord.[26]

[1] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] John. 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23-26

[3] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 78-79

[4] Matthew 26:39; cf. Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42

[5] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., pp. 232, 244-245

[6] James 5:14-15 – The Message

[7] Numbers 15:30-31

[8] 1 Samuel 2:25

[9] Jeremiah 15:1-2

[10] Matthew 12:31-32; cf. Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10

[11] John Chrysostom, one of the Early Church Fathers, wrote, in his Homily 10 on Second Timothy, that Paul was referring to his trial when he said Alexander had done him much harm. The next verse relates that he (Alexander) greatly withstood Paul’s words, opposing his message, and the verse after that is clearly about Paul’s trial, saying he had nobody to support him during it. On this view, Alexander was a principal and effective opponent of Paul and probably a witness, and major complainant, against him. He may also have turned others against Paul, perhaps being the cause of the lack of support for him which he mentions here. John Gill’s Exposition suggests Alexander had done great injury to Paul’s character and had reproached and reviled him as a man of bad principles and practices.

[12] 2 Timothy 4:14

[13] Hebrews 6:4-6

[14] Ibid 10:26-29

[15] 2 Peter 2:20-22

[16] Genesis 20:6-7

[17] Ibid. 20:17-18

[18] Exodus 32:14; see 32:31-32; 34:9

[19] Numbers 12:1-5

[20] Ibid. 14:1-25

[21] Deuteronomy 9:7-29

[22] 2 Chronicles 30:15-20

[23] Job 42:7-9

[24] Psalm 106:1-23

[25] Amos 7:1-6

[26] Ezekiel 22:30-31

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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