1 John c5:v16

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New International Version (1984)
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.

New Living Translation (2007)
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. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it.

English Standard Version (2001)
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.

New American Standard Bible (1995)
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

International Standard Version (2008)
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray that God would give him life. This applies to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not telling you to pray about that.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010)
If a man sees his brother who sins a sin that is not worthy of death, let him ask, and Life will be given to him for those who are not sinning unto death; for there is mortal sin; I do not say that a man should pray for this.


Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible

A sin which is not unto death – This is an extremely difficult passage, and has been variously interpreted. What is the sin not unto death, for which we should ask, and life shall be given to him that commits it? And what is the sin unto death, for which we should not pray?

I shall note three of the chief opinions on this subject: –

1. It is supposed that there is here an allusion to a distinction in the Jewish law, where there was ? chattaah lemithah, “a sin unto death;” and ? chattaah lo lemithah, “a sin not unto death;” that is,

1. A sin, or transgression, to which the law had assigned the punishment of death; such as idolatry, incest, blasphemy, breach of the Sabbath, and the like. And

2. A sin not unto death, i.e. transgressions of ignorance, inadvertence, etc., and such is, in their own nature, appear to be comparatively light and trivial. That such distinctions did exist in the Jewish synagogue both Schoettgen and Carpzovius have proved.

2. By the sin not unto death, for which intercession might be made, and unto death, for which prayer might not be made, we are to understand transgressions of the civil law of a particular place, some of which must be punished with death, according to the statutes, the crime admitting of no pardon: others might be punished with death, but the magistrate had the power of commuting the punishments, i.e. of changing death into banishment, etc., for reasons that might appear to him satisfactory, or at the intercession of powerful friends. To intercede in the former case would be useless, because the law would not relax, therefore they need not pray for it; but intercession in the latter case might be prevalent, therefore they might pray; and if they did not, the person might suffer the punishment of death. This opinion, which has been advanced by Rosenmuller, intimates that men should feel for each other’s distresses, and use their influence in behalf of the wretched, nor ever abandon the unfortunate but where the case is utterly hopeless.

3. The sin unto death means a case of transgression, particularly of grievous backsliding from the life and power of godliness, which God determines to punish with temporal death, while at the same time he extends mercy to the penitent soul. The disobedient prophet, 1 Kings 13:1-32, is, on this interpretation, a case in point: many others occur in the history of the Church, and of every religious community. The sin not unto death is any sin which God does not choose thus to punish. This view of the subject is that taken by the late Rev. J. Wesley, in a sermon entitled, A Call to Backsliders. – Works, vol ii. page 239.

I do not think the passage has any thing to do with what is termed the sin against the Holy Ghost; much less with the popish doctrine of purgatory; nor with sins committed before and after baptism, the former pardonable, the latter unpardonable, according to some of the fathers. Either of the last opinions (viz., 2 and 3) make a good sense; and the first (1) is not unlikely: the apostle may allude to some maxim or custom in the Jewish Church which is not now distinctly known. However, this we know, that any penitent may find mercy through Christ Jesus; for through him every kind of sin may be forgiven to man, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; which I have proved no man can now commit. See the note on Matthew 12:31, Matthew 12:39 (note).

Wesley’s Notes

5:16 This extends to things of the greatest importance. If any one see his brother – That is. any man. Sin a sin which is not unto death – That is, any sin but total apostasy from both the power and form of godliness. Let him ask, and God will give him life – Pardon and spiritual life, for that sinner. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for that – That is, let him not pray for it. A sin unto death may likewise mean, one which God has determined to punish with death.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

5:13-17 Upon all this evidence, it is but right that we believe on the name of the Son of God. Believers have eternal life in the covenant of the gospel. Then let us thankfully receive the record of Scripture. Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labour is not in vain in the Lord. The Lord Christ invites us to come to him in all circumstances, with our supplications and requests, notwithstanding the sin that besets us. Our prayers must always be offered in submission to the will of God. In some things they are speedily answered; in others they are granted in the best manner, though not as requested. We ought to pray for others, as well as for ourselves. There are sins that war against spiritual life in the soul, and the life above. We cannot pray that the sins of the impenitent and unbelieving should, while they are such, be forgiven them; or that mercy, which supposes the forgiveness of sins, should be granted to them, while they wilfully continue such. But we may pray for their repentance, for their being enriched with faith in Christ, and thereupon for all other saving mercies. We should pray for others, as well as for ourselves, beseeching the Lord to pardon and recover the fallen, as well as to relieve the tempted and afflicted. And let us be truly thankful that no sin, of which any one truly repents, is unto death.

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