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“There is a sin not unto death.”
1 John 5:17
When God’s children sin a sin, it is not unto death. Sinning a sin, no matter what it is, no matter how often it is committed, no matter how grievous it is, no matter how much trouble it causes, no matter how much havoc it stirs, it is not unto death. — God’s promise cannot be broken. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish!” — “They shall not depart from me!” God’s grace is immutable. His purpose cannot be nullified. The blood of Christ cannot miscarry. The seal of the Spirit cannot be broken. There is a sin unto death (v. 16). And all unrighteousness is sin and deserves death, everlasting death in hell (V. 17). But the sinning of God’s saints is not unto death (v. 16).
Sin, not Sins
John was inspired by God the Holy Spirit to use the word “sin,” singular. As in verse 16, he is talking about one sin, just one sin. He is talking about the sin of our father Adam and our sin in him. But in verse 16 he spoke of Adam’s sin as “sin unto death,” because there he was talking about the sin and fall of the reprobate. There sin in Adam was like that of the fallen angels, a irrecoverable fall into death, everlasting death. But here, in verse 17, John is talking about God’s elect and our sin in Adam. He says, concerning our sin in Adam, “There is a sin not unto death!”
Our sin and fall in Adam was not unto death, not really, but unto immortality and life, such as we could never have known and experienced without our Adam fall. Yes, we died spiritually when Adam died. Yes, we were born and lived all our lives dead in trespasses and in sin, just like all other men and women, until God saved us by his grace. Yes, we shall die physically. But, blessed be God, we shall never die (John 11:25-26).
We had life with Christ and in Christ before we sinned in our father Adam; and that life could never be destroyed by anything in time (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-11; Revelation 20:6). As Bro. B. B. Caldwell put it, “We fell up!” God’s elect shall, in the end, suffer no loss, no hurt, no harm, no injury of any kind from sin and Satan and the Adam fall. We shall only benefit from it all (Revelation 21:1-5).
Yes, “there is a sin not unto death.” So pray for that. Pray for the salvation of God’s elect, and be assured that you shall prevail with God in prayer. God shall give them life (1 John 5:14-17).
That is the context in which this word of instruction is found. There is not a hint of danger, concern for our souls, or the possibility of damnation in this passage. It is all comfort and assurance. John is teaching us to pray with confidence. Here God the Holy Spirit assures us that we cannot fail at the Throne of Grace. We cannot fail in prayer. What a blessed word this is from our God. God will save his own.