I received this question this morning:

Hello, Andy.
This morning I was reading in 1 John 5, where it talks about a “sin that does not lead to death.” What does John mean by that if Romans says that the wages of sin is death?

Here was my response:

Great question! I hope the following answer is helpful.

The immediate context of 1 John 5:15 is concerning eternal things. In verses 6-12 John is writing about those who believe in Jesus and those who do not. Those who believe in Jesus have “the testimony” in themselves. What is this testimony? Eternal life in Christ (v.11). Those who DO NOT believe God (i.e. that Jesus is his Son) call God a liar, and do not have this testimony (v. 10). They have eternal death, not eternal life.

So, the “life” and “death” that John is writing about here are eternal life and eternal death (not merely physical). John refers to this death in the book of Revelation as “the second death” (Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 20:14; 21:8). He is referring to the same thing here.

Indeed, all sin leads to death. In Romans Paul is making the case that we die physically because death reigns in us through sin like a terminal disease. Yes, this is true.

John is not disagreeing with Paul, he is simply talking about something else entirely. What John was specifically addressing here were those people that were saying that they had eternal life too, but did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. John is saying that this is not so (v.13). The Christians John wrote this letter to were unsure how they could know that they indeed had eternal life because they were being confused by those who were worshiping idols and saying that no, THEY actually had eternal life, NOT these Jesus followers. Chapter 5 of 1 John is all about giving the Christians assurance that they have inherited eternal life, NOT these idol worshipers. It is why he tells them in the last sentence of chapter 5 to stay away from idols, because they were probably tempted to turn away from Jesus and follow these other “deities”.

There is a sin which leads to [eternal] death. And that is the sin of calling God a liar. Essentially disbelieving that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If you think about it, this makes all the sense in the world since this is the reason we do evangelism: so that those who do not yet believe might be presented with the truth concerning Jesus Christ and be saved from this [eternal] death and receive in themselves the testimony of eternal life.

Thanks for the question! Have an awesome day!


Oh, I almost forgot!

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.”

Every time you see the word death in this paragraph you should insert the word “eternal” in front of it. There are sins which do not lead to eternal death. These are sins which we commit in our everyday living, and which we seek forgiveness for regularly. We repent from these sins specifically because we know that Jesus is the Son of God and that we are forgiven through his blood. These sins do not lead to eternal death because they are sins for which we receive forgiveness.

A little theological fun first thing in the morning. Might seem mundane to some, but I sorta love it.