I was reading in I John this morning and came across some verses I just could not understand. I even when to a couple commentaries written by people I trust, to see if I could make sense of it. Here’s what confused me:
John talks about sin that leads to death, and sin that doesn’t lead to death. (chapter 5) Now all of a sudden I’m thinking – are there degrees of sin after all? But don’t all sins come with a death penalty? Isn’t that why Jesus went to the cross?
The answer is, yes! According to what I know to be true from reading Scripture in its entirety, I know that sin is sin is sin. And the wages of sin is death.
But, according to the commentaries I read, it seems John is talking more along the lines of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) who died immediately and physically for lying to the Holy Spirit. Like Herod in Acts 12. Like the examples in the Old Testament of people who were put to a physical death for sins they committed.
The commentators say John is likely talking about the death penalty imposed on law breakers. The physical punishment required of certain crimes, and in this case, of crimes committed against the Holy Spirit. I’m sure John took for granted that everyone reading his letter understood that Jesus died for all sin, that all sin requires eternal, spiritual death. John is urging us to never stop praying about those sins as long as the person we’re praying for has breath, as long as our own hearts beat within this body we are wearing.
But he seems to be saying we probably shouldn’t pray that the murderer on death row avoids the consequence for his crime. Maybe we shouldn’t ask God to remove any consequences of sins against the Holy Spirit, but rather that those consequences would lead the guilty to their Savior before they die.
I am reminded that all of us will face two deaths. One is physical. We can pray that God would let us live forever in this skin. But that’s a request He won’t fulfill. The other death is spiritual. That’s a prayer God will answer every time, when we ask Him to forgive our sins. That’s a prayer worth praying for ourselves, and our loved ones who still have not met Jesus.
This passage is not an indication that that little white lie you told yesterday is less serious than the mass murders committed last week in California. Don’t be fooled. That little white lie drove a nail into the hands of Jesus.
And this passage reminds me that the physical death we will all face is nothing compared to the spiritual death those who reject Jesus will experience when this life is over. I pray that you will avoid that spiritual death by giving your heart to the Lord. I have every confidence that if you humble yourself, repent of sin, and ask God’s forgiveness, you won’t have to experience that awful eternal death separated from the One who loves you so much He died that death for you.
Dear God, I’m not 100% sure that I understand exactly what John meant by the words he wrote in this passage. But I know that you inspired him to write every one. Thank you for speaking to me today through this difficult passage. I pray that I will be quick to ask forgiveness for sins I commit. I pray that those reading this blog, who don’t know you, will come to you with repentant hearts and accept your gift of eternal life. I pray for those experiencing devastating consequences for sin, like broken relationships, some diseases, or abandonment. May they face their circumstances holding on to You through the blood of Your Son. And thank You, Father, for dying that death so I don’t have to. I love you, Lord.