Saturday, 13 June 2020
All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. 1 John 5:17
In the previous verse, John spoke of sin leading to death, and of sin not leading to death. He now notes that “All unrighteousness is sin.” It is a general proposition similar to what he said in 1 John 3:4 –
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Despite what he noted about sin that does not lead to death, John is emphatic that all unrighteousness is sin. The difference is that some sins lead to death and some don’t, but all are an offense to God and cause a rift between us and Him.
John has included this statement to show that those sins which do not lead to death are still in the same category as those that do. We cannot point our fingers at another believer (John is speaking to and about believers, as was noted in the previous verse) and say, “Your sin is greater than my sin.” All unrighteousness is, in fact, sin. The difference in the outcome of committing one sin or another does not change the fact that a state of unrighteousness exists. He notes this because “there is sin not leading to death.”
The statement is obvious, but it was necessary to repeat. Just because people commit unrighteous acts (sin), it does not mean that they will die because of it. A believer may get drunk. It is unrighteousness (Ephesians 5:18). However, it will not necessarily lead to death. On the other hand, a believer may be an alcoholic and – unless he leaves that lifestyle – it will lead to his death. But what John emphasizes is that the one who got drunk has committed unrighteousness, just as the alcoholic commits unrighteousness.
Having noted this, and understanding the ultimate consequences of sin, as well as the redemption from the state of sin (because we are familiar with Paul’s letters which have been placed prior to John’s epistle), John has tremendously good news to repeat to those of us who – with all certainty – commit acts of unrighteousness, and thus commit acts of sin. He will lay out that good news in the next verse.
Life application: When we sin – whether it is sin that could lead to death or not – we are to confess it as such. To act high-handedly against God because of unrepentant sin is an act of defiance and demonstrates that we really don’t appreciate the position we are in (meaning in Christ).
Jesus did more for us at the cross of Calvary than we will ever be able to imagine. The divide between us and God was infinite in its scope. Thus, there was the need for Him to unite with human flesh in order to bridge that gap. Jesus is the finite united with the infinite. In the capacity of His finite humanity, He fulfilled the law which we could never meet. Then He gave His life up in exchange for ours (in which were already condemned as is noted in John 3:18).
God accepted this as a perfectly just exchange – the law was satisfied by Jesus on our behalf. Our salvation places us in Christ, and therefore we are sinless in Him on a positional basis. When God sees us, He is looking at us through the filtering lens of Jesus. Because of this, we can never be condemned again, but this in no way excuses us sinning intentionally or sinning and not confessing it as sin.
When we do these things, we lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we also harm the fellowship with God that we should be enjoying now. How can the Holy Spirit fill us when we are disobedient to Him? He cannot. So, let us attempt to keep from sin, confess sin when it occurs, and pray for others when they sin. All of this is pleasing to God and keeps us in a right relationship with Him.
As always Lord, when we contemplate the great work You wrought on our behalf, it makes our sin seem so utterly vile. Because of this, may we never look at it any other way. Instead, may we see our sin for what it is – rebellion against You and unrighteousness that needs to be dealt with. We love You, Lord, and we desire to be obedient to You always. Amen.