The apostle John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that” (1 John 5:16).
In this verse, John is making a distinction between forms of sin. He is showing two kinds of sins—those in which there is hope for the sinner and those in which there is no hope. In the first kind, prayer can be helpful to salvation; in the second there is no guarantee that prayer will be helpful.
It is generally held that the sin unto death is the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31, 32). Hence, a sin not unto death is any other form of sin in which the sinner does.
While it is true that all sin, if continued in, will lead to death (Eze. 18:4, 24; James 1:15), there is a difference in the degree to which any specific act of sin will bring a person near to death. The sins done by those who are sincerely eager to serve God, but have a weak will and persistent habits, are very different from those sins that are purposely done in determined rebellion attitude against God.
It is more the attitude that decides the difference, than the act of sin itself. Thus, there are differences in sins. The minor sin that is quickly repented of and forgiven, is a sin not unto death. The serious sin, slipped into suddenly by failing to have a daily connection with God, is still not a sin unto death, if followed by genuine repentance; but refusal to repent leads to certain death.
The difference is clearly shown in the experiences of King Saul and King David. The first sinned, and did not repent; the second sinned, but sincerely repented. Saul died, without having the hope of eternal life; David was forgiven and given the assurance of the kingdom of heaven.
In His service,
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