I John 5:14-17 Petitioning According To The Word.
John laid down the first principle of true biblical petitioning in prayer-asking only for that which is according to God’s will, and we know from the word that God’s will is found in his word (v. 14). It is nothing short of sacrilege to try and name anything contrary to the word as God’s will, when it only stems from our own desires. It is the same as saying one loves or knows God, when at the same time one does not live according to his commandments. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (2:3). “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (3:21). It is only our commitment to the word in prayer, that we can say that we know God hears us (v. 15). Obviously, to anyone who knows the word, there is a biblical mandate to confront people because of their sin, and when there is repentance and faith, given by God, there is forgiveness (v. 16 Cf. Job 42:8).
Here we find another statement from John which strikes many as being cryptic. What is the sin leading to death, that we are not to pray about? The editors of the ‘New Geneva Study Bible’ give what they believe are two separate options. “Some connect this sin with the unforgivable sin mentioned in Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:8-10. More likely, John is referring to a stubborn refusal to accept the message of the gospel (1:10 note; John 8:24)” (p.1993). With respect to their comment on 1:10 they state the following. “Perhaps the “sin leading to death” mentioned in 5:16 is a stubborn refusal to accept God’s diagnosis of our need and His offer of forgiveness” (p.1987). John tells us what this unforgivable sin is not at verse 17. “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (5:17). John also clearly defined sin and unrighteousness when he stated that, “sin is lawlessness” (3:4).
Again, with respect to the “sin leading to death,” it is not clear to this writer that it can’t refer to both of the options given by the NGBS editors. Jesus made clear that every sin could be forgiven, except for one-“blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Mt. 12:31). Mark expands on what it means to blaspheme against the Spirit when he stated that one is guilty of blasphemy against the Spirit, if one says that Jesus “has an unclean spirit” (3:30). According the scriptural testimony, God cannot contradict himself. If John were referring to something other than the one sin Jesus refers to, it would make one of them a liar. It may be that the editor(s) of I John, in an overemphasis on discovering the “theology of John,” may have lost their mooring to a more primary principle-that the word speaks with one voice. However, even John himself quotes Jesus as stating that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). And we need to care enough to confront sin.