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“There is a sin unto death.”
1 John 5:16
What is John talking about when he says, “There is a sin unto death”? Notice that he says “a sin,” singular, not “sins,” plural. John is here talking about one specific sin. But the language is even more specific in the Greek text. There is no indefinite article in the Greek. So John’s words are literally, “There is sin unto death.” The sin he is talking about is the sin and fall of our father Adam in the garden, and the sin of all our race in him (Romans 5:12).
In Adam we all died spiritually; and because of Adam’s transgression, all shall die physically, both the reprobate and the elect. For the reprobate, death in Adam is unto everlasting death in hell, death from which there is no escape. Esau shall never become Jacob. The seed of the serpent shall never become the seed of the woman. Goats shall never become sheep. The reprobate shall never become elect. Vessels of wrath will never become vessels of mercy.
None of us know who the reprobate are, or who the elect are, until God makes his election known in the mighty operations of his saving grace. But, that said, I do know this: — Cain, and Ham, and Esau, and all other sons of Adam outside the election of grace, whose names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb from the foundation of the world, exist only because they carry and preserve and serve God’s elect seed, Christ’s seed in this world, generation after generation. For them, the Adam fall is sin unto death, everlasting death in hell. — They never shall believe, because, as the Savior puts it, “ye are not of my sheep.”
Sinning a Sin
The reprobate, sinning a sin unto death, continue in wilful unbelief, blaspheming God the Holy Ghost, stopping their ears to the voice of God; and by their wilful sinning a sin unto death, they heap upon themselves wrath against the day of wrath. They will not hear God’s voice in creation, in conscience, in providence, in his acts of judgment, or in the gospel. God calls; but you will not answer. God speaks; but you will not hear. Therefore, you shall eat of the fruit of your own ways, and shall be filled with your own devices(Proverbs 1:23-33).
Concerning this sin unto death, God the Holy Spirit says, “Don’t pray for it.” — “There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” — How often have you tried to pray for someone, only to find that you cannot? You put them on your prayer list, and try to pray. You try to pray for God to save them. But you simply can’t do it. God just won’t let you pray for them. Maybe, I do not say it with certainty because I cannot, but maybe the reason is stated here. — “There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.”
This I know, there are some in this world for whose salvation God will not let his people pray. We may recite their names every day; but God will not hear us; he will not let us pray (Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11; 18:18-21; John 17:9).