Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #276 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading 1 John 5 today and our focus is on What is the Sin That Leads to Death and How Can Christians Overcome The World? Bonus: What’s the Difference Between Belief and Faith? We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in W Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Two quite disparate topics today, so let’s dive in without much of an introduction. First question: How can Christians overcome the world? This is a principle that John is going to teach us today- how to overcome, or conquer, as some translations say, the world. I’ll say first and foremost that I don’t believe that this is a militant passage that is telling Christians to take up arms, somehow, and FORCE by power even person and institution of the world to accept Christ as Lord. I don’t believe that is what we are called to do, and, even if we try, such a mission won’t be successful – it is quite obvious in the book of Revelation, and elsewhere, that the Second Coming will see Jesus faced with great opposition from the armies of the world – opposition that will be taken down by Him almost in the blink of an eye. John is not telling us how to beat the world as one beats an opponent in a boxing match, but how to overcome the temptations and systems of the world and wholeheartedly follow Jesus to the end. Here is the key:
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:3-5
The victory that overcomes the world is not by might, nor by power – it is not by chariots and armies – it is not by political candidates and gaining the upper hand in every world system. No, it is none of those things – the victory that overcomes the world is FAITH – specifically the faith, or belief – that Jesus is the Son of God. This raises an interesting rabbit trail question: We see the word “faith” in vs. 4 and the word “believes” in vs. 5. What is the difference between faith and belief? It turns out that there is very little, if any, difference between these two words in a biblical sense. In fact, the word that is translated as faith in vs. 4 is the Greek noun “pistis,” and the word translated as “believes,” in vs. 5 – as in, “believes that Jesus is the son of God,” is simply the verb form of that same word – pisteuo. Faith and belief are pretty much synonymous – as long as you keep in mind that biblical belief does not mean simply believing something intellectually – it means believing something wholeheartedly – in your mind, and with your actions. This is the same as biblical love – which, as we discussed yesterday, doesn’t merely mean saying, “I love you.” Biblical love is ACTION and WORDS and TRUTH. We overcome the world by wholehearted belief in and following of Jesus, the Son of God, and we “follow” Him by knowing and obeying His teachings. This is how we overcome!
Second topic: What is the sin that leads to death, that John mentions here:
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 1 John 5:16-17
This is one of the more mysterious verses in the Bible, because John doesn’t really explain himself. I’ll give you two pretty strong possibilities as to what the sin leading to death is. We see a sobering happening in the book of Acts – Ananias and his wife Sapphira boldly lie to the apostle Peter about a gift they are making to the church in Jerusalem:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.3 “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. Acts 5:1-5
Please note that Peter didn’t kill Ananias, God did, and moments later, Sapphira tells the same lie, and also dies, after Peter asks her an interesting question, “”Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” We don’t know exactly why Peter asks this question, but that gives us a clue that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira might have well gone beyond simply telling a lie. We don’t know, but what we do know is that they both sinned and both died. Could this be related to sin that lead to death? Similarly, in 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions a group of Christians who DIED from taking communion with a wrong heart/attitude/mindset – something related to extreme selfishness and not having a right understanding of the Body of Christ. One other example also comes from 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, where Paul instructs that a man caught in egregious sin should be, “5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” This does NOT mean that they were to kill this man, but to perhaps make him leave the church, where his sin would somehow lead to his death. All of these instances seem to indicate some sort of sin that leads to death, but – in each case – the sins committed are wildly different, which of these sins are the sin that leads to death? And why would John say NOT to pray about each of these sins – that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Are all of them part of the sin that leads to death? Possibly, but why would John say not to pray for people in situations like those? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and for that reason, I favor the second explanation.
Jesus talks several times about the unforgivable sin, or unpardonable sin, which is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. We have talked about this a few times in past episodes, so such the website if you want more. One thing Jesus says in Mark 3 seems quite possibly related to John’s teaching here:
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for all sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin Mark 3:28
I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus really means to teach that blaspheming – or insulting in an intentional way – the Holy Spirit is absolutely unforgivable – Jesus says it is an eternal sin, and therefore, I think that is what John is referring to here – there is no point in praying for that which Jesus said is unforgivable and eternal. This is the only possibility in light of John’s statement that we should not pray for somebody who commits the sin that leads to death. What do you think? I’d love to hear! Let’s read our passage.
Bible Memory passage for the month of October: 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
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