“If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life…” (1 John 5:16a NLT)
It is obvious from verse 16 that the Apostle John is concerned not only about our own obedience, but also about the obedience of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we love God, John says, “We should love our brother also.” (1 John 4:21) (my paraphrase) In other words, brotherly love should reach across the aisle to those who are struggling with sin in their daily lives.
Prayer is not only a resource to be used in meeting the needs in our own lives, but is also to be directed to God on behalf of our brothers and sisters who’s need may far exceed our own.
Paul encouraged this practice in 1 Timothy 2:1; “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; interceded on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (NLT)
. Eternal death is not the issue in 1 John 5:16. Once a person has believed in Jesus as Savior, he receives the gift of eternal life and his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life with a non-erasable Sharpies indelible ink pen. His position in Christ before a Holy God is eternally secure. Jesus said, “I give eternal life to them (who believe) and they shall never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 [parenthesis mine].
We might better understand the meaning of John’s message if we place the word “premature” in front of each use of the word “death” as suggested by Dr. Constable in his notes on 1 John found on Sonic Light Ministries.
What can you expect to happen if you pray for a situation where the sin is one that does not lead directly to death? John says in verse 16, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to (premature) death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to (premature) death [parenthesis mine]. In other words, our prayers may play a part in God relenting of his judgment and extending the life of the sinning brother. This was the case with king Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. The king was mortally ill and facing death, but he turned and opened his heart in prayer to God. God saw his tears and heard his prayer, and said, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings 20:5b)
Thus prayer and restoration of a sinning brother may secure a prolonging of his physical life.
Praying for a brother or sister entangled in the web of sin is evidence of our love for them.
If you know of a fellow believer, family member, co-worker, or friend entrapped in a sinful lifestyle that is ruining their testimony and bringing shame and reproach on the name of Christ – by all mean pray for them that God will get a hold of their lives and turn them around before it is too late.
Ask God the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction in how you might show the love of Christ to them.