By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXX) 04/26/23

5:18 We know that those who have been made God’s children do not continue to sin. The Son of God keeps them safe. The Evil One cannot hurt them.

This was how King David looked at it when he went to God in prayer and told Him that, unlike most people, if he broke any of the commandments, he did not do so like those who do it because they are cruel and evil.[1]  This gave David the courage to pledge to God, “I will be careful about what I say. I will not let my tongue get me in trouble. I will keep my mouth closed when I am around wicked people.[2] It is also why the Psalmist could say, “I have avoided every opportunity that would lead to doing something wrong, so I could be in compliance with Your word.[3] And David’s advice to his son Solomon included this gem, “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.”[4]

This is only possible when the believer stays connected to the Vine, as we see in Jesus’ teaching in John 15.  The Apostle Paul preached on this same theme, but he was asked whether or not it made any difference if a converted believer sinned or not.  Absolutely, says Paul; it makes a big difference. There is no such thing as taking advantage of grace. “Why should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?”[5] God desires to move us beyond the point where being disobedient and rebellious crosses our minds, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to accomplish this.

Will we have temptations?  Yes!  But our immediate answer should always be, “No!”  The devil may tempt us to do wrong, but God never entices us to do right.  To commit wrongdoing is not part of our new spiritual nature; doing what’s right is the core of our reborn spiritual nature.  However, when we miss the mark in being and doing God’s will for our lives, it does not result in a quick judgment and being cut off from His presence.  Back in the first chapter, John already said, But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.”[6]

In this Epistle and his Gospel, John is the faithful advocate of the Anointed One’s Sonship.  Although verse seven may be dubious in authenticity to some, the two heavenly personas of Jesus the Son and God the Father are  quite conspicuous.  If this is not so, then Jesus had dual personalities, for only such a one could have prayed the prayer in John 17.  All this gives John the insight to inform the believer by staying connected to the Anointed One.

At some time in your life, you must have heard or studied about our body’s immune system. Medical Journals tell us that the immune system is composed of many interdependent cell types that collectively protect the body from bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral infections and the growth of tumor cells. In addition, many of these cell types have specialized functions. For example, the cells of the immune system can engulf bacteria, kill parasites or tumor cells, or kill viral-infected cells. Often, these cells depend on the T-helper (known as lymphocytes), a subset for activation signals in the form of secretions formally known as cytokines, lymphokines, or interleukins.

The purpose of the immune system is to stop the disease before it can spread and infect the rest of the body.  On the spiritual level, this is how the immune system that the Anointed One brings into our lives works.  Activated by the T-helper (known as the Holy Spirit), we receive activation signals (called convictions) that tell us that sinful ideas have invaded our hearts and minds.  Keeping our spiritual immune system strong is necessary and is done because of our connection to the Vine Jesus, the Anointed One who supplies the nutrients through the Word to make it strong.  No wonder John goes on to say their spiritual immune system is robust in the Anointed One.Of course, it doesn’t mean that the devil won’t try.  But he won’t be successful if Jesus is in charge and control of our lives; if He has first place in our thinking and actions, words and deeds. 

John told us that all unrighteousness is sin. You would think that among the faithful, this ought to be an unquestionable truth, that whatever is contrary to God’s Law is sin, and in its mortal nature; for where there is a transgression of the Law, there is sin and death. But this terrifying truth brings with it a word of encouragement. For if all unrighteousness without exception is sin, it follows that not every sin is deadly to eternal life. It is incredible that anyone would think that the slightest departure from righteousness should involve eternal damnation.

Therefore, the writer of Hebrews warns against committing a sin that has no possibility of repentance.[7] He turned to the First Covenant sacrifice system after realizing that Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice.  There is no possibility of repentance if one operates on First Covenant sacrifices because that prefers the real thing to the prototype.  However, Christians can commit a sin leading to premature physical death.  Prayer will not change this fact.

John does not want to be misunderstood by his statement in the previous verse. He is not saying there is no need to pray for the person who sins deadly to eternal life.  On the other hand, he does not want to minimize the seriousness of violating a holy God or discourage Christians from praying for all carnal Christians. Sin violates God’s objective and absolute standards for life.  “Unrighteousness” is the underlying principle for the commission of sin.  Unrighteousness is injustice – the desire to break out of God’s will, authority, and objective standards for right. Any “unrighteousness” or lawlessness against God’s standards for life is a sin.  There is no exception – “All unrighteous sin” is an occasion for intercessory prayer except for sins deadly to eternal life.

On the other hand, there is a sin “that is not deadly to eternal life.”  Intercessory prayer will change this situation, but not the sin deadly to eternal life of the previous verse.  Spiritual Christians should pray for carnal Christians who have not committed the sin leading to death.  Intercessory prayer is vital to deliver the carnal Christian from divine discipline.  Unconfessed sin always invites discipline. However, there is a limit to God’s tolerance of immorality in daily conduct.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? Since most sins do not lead to physical death, we can pray for most carnal Christians who do not commit sin deadly to eternal life. God makes distinctions in types of sin among His people. There is a classification of sin that leads to physical death, and then there is a class of sin that does not lead to corporal death. For example, Christian teachers have a greater responsibility than non-teachers regarding sin.[8]

Although God is patient and merciful, His tolerance is limited.  God takes responsibility for who and what we are.  He will not let His people get away with what non-Christians practice. He gives us so much rope, and then, like a dog, we reach the end of our rope and jerk up short. God loves us too much to let us get away with spiritual suicide. He will not allow us to play fast and loose with a godless society too long.   


This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.

With great assurance, early ecclesiastical teacher Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) insists that when someone does what is righteous, their overcoming power comes from God. It is also true that righteousness and evil cannot live together. Therefore, it is clear that as long as a person does such things, they are righteous and do not sin. But because this ability comes by grace and is not natural, John adds that the right living person must watch out so that evil will not touch them.[9]

With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) is convinced that anyone born of God does not commit a mortal sin. Fatal wrongdoings are understood to mean unforgiven sins which retain their force right up to the moment of death, and those born of God do not commit that kind of error. King David, for example, confessed to having committed a mortal sin, for how else can we regard such things as adultery and murder? But David was also born of God, and because he belonged to that fellowship, he did not sin up to his day of death because he was regarded worthy of receiving forgiveness after his repentance.[10]

Respected Reformation writer, Matthew Poole (1624-1679) finds in verse eighteen an advantage for the regenerate, who, by the seed remaining in them,[11] are furnished with a self-preserving principle, with the exercise of which they may expect that co-operation of a gracious Divine influence by which they will be kept, so as that wicked one, the great destroyer of souls, will not mortally touch them, to make them sin deadly to eternal life.[12]

A young independent thinking theological sage, Hugh Binning (1627-1653) observes that simple idiots and blind worldlings go on headlong into sin and dread nothing, although they are punished.[13] Most grievous plagues, punishments, and all manner of unhappiness are meant to inhibit their sinful lifestyle. Therefore, those that keep themselves pure and clean assist in saving their soul. They can pray with Job, “I would never follow their advice.”[14]

But, because their “good” is not in their hands, their candle’s flame is often extinguished. And they resolve with Jacob not to join their secret meetings or participate in their evil plans. They have killed people out of anger and crippled animals for fun.[15] And as the Psalmist declares, “Get rid of the proud who laugh at what is right, and trouble will leave with them. All arguments and insults will end. Love a pure heart and kind words, and the king will be your friend. The Lord watches over truth-tellers and opposes those who try to deceive others.”[16] [17]

In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) believes that we all must be in opposition to sin, as the Apostle John implies in verse eighteen. But there must also be love for God’s people.[18] Conscious respect for both duties exist in the new creature created in the Anointed One’s righteousness and holiness.[19] There is perseverance in the ways of God and victory over all temptations, “for whosoever is born of God overcomes a godless society.”[20] [21]

From his viewpoint, William Burkitt (1650-1703) believes we are all assured that sincere Christians, begotten, and born of God, do not commit this sin deadly to eternal life, namely, apostasy from Christianity to the heathen idolatry. Instead, they protect themselves from the contamination of idolatry, by which the devil seduced a significant part of humanity.

It may be added that those born of God are partakers of divine nature and do not sin; that is, they do not allow any sin to have dominion over them but take care to preserve themselves, through the assistance of divine grace, from Satan’s deadly to eternal life wound. As the Apostle John says in verse eighteen, they refuse to let Satan touch them to leave an impression of his devilish spirit upon them.[22]

An Anglican priest opposing the monarchy of Church and State in favor of a constitutional parliamentary system, Thomas Pyle (1674-1756), feels that the Apostle John is establishing a standard for believers to live by when dealing with sins in their lives. John puts it this way: “Every willful offense against God or our neighbor is like breaking the tablets of divine law and deserves death.” But as we know, there were degrees of violations under the Mosaic Law; some were, and others were not, punishable by immediate death, all but those covered by sacrificial atonement.

So likewise, under the Gospel dispensation, as long as there are remains of true principles and dispositions and any hopes of true repentance, there is the hope of recovery and a promise of pardon. But, in the meantime, no faithful Christian is without fault and is subject to falling into a desperate degree of sin or willful backsliding from service to the Anointed One to the slavery of Satan.[23]

A very popular preacher in his time, Leonard Howard (1699-1767), who wrote the commentary in the Royal Bible in 1761, says that by this “sin deadly to eternal life,” we are to understand apostasy from the Christian religion to idolatry, as appears from the caution given in verse twenty-one, “keep yourselves from idols;” which has no manner of connection with what precedes it, unless we understand the “sin deadly to eternal life” in this sense: Or, if with others, we call it the “sin against the Holy Spirit,” it amounts to the very same thing; for what is that sin but a renouncing of Christianity, and denying the truth of the Christian faith, after illumination and conviction by the Holy Spirit, and maliciously persecuting those who profess it.[24]

With all the Apostle John’s themes in mind, John Wesley (1703-1791) says that we are reminded that through faith, we are saved from the power of sin and its guilt. So, the Apostle John declares, “You know that Jesus came to take away people’s sins. There is no sin in the Anointed One.”[25] Again, “Dear children, don’t let anyone lead you the wrong way. The Anointed One always did what was right.”[26] So to be good like the Anointed One, you must do what is right. “Those who are God’s children do not continue to sin because the new life God gave them stays in them. They cannot keep sinning because they have become children of God.”[27]  John again reminds us of this in verse eighteen.[28]

With scholarly meditation, James Macknight (1721-1800) refers to the Apostle John’s Gospel, where Jesus said, “You don’t need to hold on to me! I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But tell my followers this: ‘I am going back to my Father and your Father. I am going back to my God and your God.’”[29] Moreover, to touch signifies “to hurt[30] and even “to destroy.”[31] [32] Skillfully, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) agrees with the Apostle John that every disposition, thought, word, or deed, contrary to that equity prescribed by God’s law, is sinful. Still, every sin is not an unpardonable transgression. Nevertheless, those regenerated by God’s Spirit, on account of the Spirit’s continued indwelling and influence in their soul and the eternal nature of that grace implanted in them, and through their watchfulness against and hearty detestation of sin, have effectual security against being ever seduced into that unpardonable sin.[33]

[1] Psalm 17:4

[2] Ibid. 39:1

[3] Ibid. 119:101

[4] Proverbs 4:23

[5] Romans 6:1

[6] 1 John 1:9

[7] Hebrews 6:6; 10:26-27

[8] James 3:1

[9] Didymus the Blind: Ancient Commentary on the Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.) op cit., Vol XI, p. 227

[10] Bede the Venerable: Ancient Commentary on the Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.) op cit., Vol XI, p. 228

[11] 1 John 3:9

[12] Poole, Matthew: Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[13] 1 John 5:5

[14] Job 21:16-17

[15] Genesis 49:6

[16] Psalm 22:10-11

[17] Binning, Hugh: Case of Conscience, Section V, p. 516

[18] 1 John 4:7

[19] Ephesians 4:24

[20] 1 John 5:4

[21] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., Ch. 25, p. 368

[22] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II., p. 739

[23] Pyle, Thomas: A Paraphrase of the Epistles of the New Testament (1725), op. cit., p. 403

[24] Howard, Leonard: The Royal Bible, Vol. II, op. cit., loc. cit.

[25] 1 John 3:5

[26] Ibid. 3:7

[27] Ibid. 3:9

[28] Wesley, John, The Works of: Vol. 5, Sermon 1, Salvation by Faith, Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, to the Faculty, Staff, and Students, on Sunday, June 18, 1738, p. 69

[29] John 20:17

[30] John 9:19; 2 Samuel 14:10; 1 Chronicles 16:22

[31] Job 1:11

[32] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 124

[33] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N. T., Vol. IV., p. 507

About drbob76

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