"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that we have eternal life . . . And if WE KNOW that He hears us, whatever we ask, WE KNOW that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him . . . WE KNOW that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. WE KNOW that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And WE KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that WE MAY KNOW Him who is true . . . " (1 John 5:13-21, NKJV)

Devotion 20 of  32


     "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." (1 John 5:16a).

Here is a marvelous promise! A brother in retrogressive motion, falling backward, as it was, by personal sin, can be rescued from that fall by the prayer of a kindred believer. At once we see that sin begins to remove spiritual life from us, so that it must be restored. Further, the sinning brother may be so dull of heart and conscience that he is completely insensitive to his need. He also may not readily hear exhortation or rebuke. But that is not the end of the matter! God will give the brother life for our sake! Hallelujah!

I have declared this to be a virtually untapped resource of spiritual power. Rarely is such a recourse found among professed believers. But that is not a necessary condition, and can be remedied by faith. The Lord was merciful to Job's condemning friends when Job prayed for them (Job 42:8-10). God, you will remember, spared Israel because of Moses' prayer (Ex 32:9-14). The curse brought upon Miriam because of her disdain for her brother Moses, was reversed by his prayer (Num 12:1-14). Israel was also spared because of the effectual prayers of Samuel (1 Sam 12:19-23).

In my judgment, the contemporary church has so diverted the attention of the people from Divine fellowship, that the thought expressed in this text can scarcely enter their minds. An institutional mind-set does not think after this manner. Faith, however, will bring you to the point where you cannot only "see" a brother sin, but "ask" in his behalf.

" . . . he (the one seeing the brother sin) shall ask, and God will for him (because of the one doing the asking) give life to those who commit sin not leading to death" (NASB). I have already mentioned people who were blessed because of the faith and prayer of another. Now our text makes the matter personal. Because of the individual praying, the one needing recovery will be given life! 

Remember, this is the Spirit's exposition of verses 14-15. "If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."

Among other things, we see from this text that sin directly impacts upon spiritual life. Whatever the doctrines of men may conclude about believers, or brethren, sinning, we must pay strict heed to this text. It tells us such people need "life" life from God! Spiritual life cannot be maintained in the midst of personal transgression. Those who object to this simply need to put their hand over their mouth. The text before us affirms that the thing that will be given to the sinning brother, on the behalf of a praying brother, is "life." It should not require a lot of thought to see that sin produced a need for that life.

The gravity of the situation is confirmed by the total absence in Scripture of any hope for those who are dead toward God. Sin, like a gigantic grave, causes men to be swallowed by death. As soon as a person in Christ begins to sin, they begin to die. The life of God cannot be sustained while the individual is sinning. 

There also comes a point where the sinning "brother" is impotent to pray for himself. If he is going to be helped, it will be by the prayers of the godly. Sin dulls the conscience, weakens the soul, and causes the person to think only of himself and this world. I do not believe this is generally known, for sin is altogether too rampant in the professed church, which has absorbed too many of the world's manners.

The phraseology of the passage is salient. He does not say the person seeing his brother sin OUGHT to ask, but that he "WILL ask." Further, the issue is not WHAT he will ask, he "will ask" for LIFE, which will be given. The prayer will also be focused, and not like an aimless cloud floating about in the heavens – it is for a specific sinning brother. It is as though he were prompted to do so by the Spirit moved along in the heavenly places to work together with God. The prayer is more instinctive, or intuitive, than intentional. By that, I mean the pray is a result of walking with God, dwelling in heavenly places, and living by faith. It is a product of New Covenant life.

Who can estimate the joy produced by such an answered prayer– by life being given to a sinning brother! In such a prayer the two cardinal points of First John are lived out. (1) Believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, and (2) Loving the brethren.

JAMES' EXAMPLE. James provides us with an example of this kind of prayer. He refers to it as "the prayer of faith." It is my understanding that this is the kind of prayer being addressed by our text. It is one prayed in confidence, and within the will of God. It cannot be prayed mechanically, or without the involvement of the heart. Further, it is prompted by faith. Of this type of prayer, James writes, "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him"NASB (James 5:16). There, as in our text, life is given because of the prayer of another. The ailing believer was raised from his sickness, and his sins were forgiven. That is life. It would be well for those in Christ Jesus to ponder this text often.

Later in this same passage, James says much the same thing as is stated in our text. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20,  NKJV). As in our First John text, the effective return of an  erring one is traced to a single individual, not to group prayers: i.e.,"any man . . . someone."

How appropriate and challenging are the words preceding the James' text cited above.  The whole passage is a fitting commentary on the text we are considering. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:15b-20,  NKJV). What a marvelous stimulus to faith! May you explore the possibilities here declared.

PRAYER POINT: Father, in the name of Jesus, grant me grace to be an effective intercessor.