Week 14: Life-Saving Prayers!

(1 John 5:16-17)

Our fourteenth week of daily devotions in the Book of First John center on the John’s discourse on resisting the world. You’re going to need your Bible and I’ve provided the Study Notes on this website that you can either bookmark, or print. Be sure to scroll down to the notes outlining and commenting on the 1 John 5:16-17. Or you may want to download the word document:1jn5.16-17nn. I hope this helps those of you who are committed to journaling this year.

Monday: 1 John 5:16-17: Loving the Prodigal

It’s hard to believe that two little verses could generate so much discussion!

The sentences of First John 5:16-17 are some of the most dissected and scrutinized in Scripture. The phrase in 5:16 variously translated “sin leading to death” (NKJV), “sin that leads to death” (NIV), or “sin unto death” (KJV) is the culprit.

The idea that God actually judges some people with death generates a lot of discussion, disagreement, and speculation.

Are we talking about a Christian or a non-Christian?

What exactly is this “sin unto death?”

How do we know when a death is judgment from God?

How could a loving God do such a thing?

I promise you that this week we will answer many of these questions.

If you can wait just one more day, may I suggest a first priority?

Let’s try to understand these verses in context!

First, the context of the Book they occur in: 1 John is about the joy of fellowship with Christ and His people (1:4). This joy of fellowship is only for those who abide in Christ by keeping His word—especially His foremost commandment to love one another (1:5-2:27). In his extended discourse on the confidence of the believer at Christ’s coming (2:28-4:19) John exhorts his readers to abide in Him by loving God and their fellow Christians with the pure love of God and promised that the maturity of this love would be a key source of confidence on that Day.

Second, the context of the section of John’s little book on the joy of fellowship: In the final segment of his epistle, he links love for one another with love for God. As he makes his point John dedicates three paragraphs to removing every excuse believers offer for not loving one another with the love of Christ (John 4:20-5:17):

Loving the Unlovely

Love every believer in Christ: If they confess Christ, they are your brother or sister, love them because they are His children! (4:20-5:3a)

Love with the power you have already received: If you believed in Christ, you have the power to love, love them because you can! (5:3b-5:15)

Love until God takes them home: If they are sinning, God will decide when to take them out, love them to save their lives! (5:16-17)

Understanding the context answers so many questions we throw at verses.

It seems clear from context that this is speaking to believers about loving other believers, even those who break our heart as they pull away from God and us.

Now, read the verses twice, asking the Father to tell you how to love the prodigal.

Before you ever read a commentary or listen to a sermon you already know the central teaching of this section. On Sunday I put it this way:

Love the prodigal by praying for them until the Father calls them home!

Our Heavenly Father takes sin seriously. Only He knows when one of His children has crossed the line to the discipline that leads to a premature death. Our part in all of this is to pray.

Is there a prodigal in your life?

Do you know a Christian whose lifestyle is so wicked that you find it almost impossible to love him or her?

John’s final words on loving one another tell you precisely what you can do, not matter how revolting their life may be.

Pray for them until it’s too late!

Close your time today praying for the prodigal or prodigals you know. Ask the Lord to use your prayers to bring them back to Him before He has to mercifully bring them home.

It’s a life-saving prayer every believer can pray.

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