John has concluded his letter to believers with a reminder of God’s love, the testimony we have to share with others, and the assurance of our faith. Now, he adds a few personal reminders of how we are to act out our obedience and why.
If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that doesn’t lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the one who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one. We are in the true one—that is, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols.1 John 5:16-21 CSB (Emphasis mine)
Prayer is a powerful tool.
There is nothing in Scripture that shows us that Christians are perfect this side of heaven. We have been made perfect/righteous through faith in Christ, but as long as we continue in this earthly body, there is a war waging between the natural and spiritual man. The outcome of that is sin—even in the Church. Christ gave clear instructions about how to address sin in the church (See Matthew 18:15-19). Here John adds another aspect of the issue, which I think is part and parcel of what Jesus shared. We must pray for our fellow believers who we see committing sin. He’s clear that we don’t have to pray for the one who commits a sin that leads to death, but there are thousands of other sins that we as believers commit that do need prayer.
I need prayer as much as my brother or sister.
The one who knows Christ has been freed from the bondage of sin and is no longer under the control of the evil one, but we need to be praying for each other that we do not hurt our witness by falling prey to Satan’s temptations. We are of God as his children, but continue to live in a world that is “under the sway of the evil one,” as John puts it. Without wearing the full armor of God, we are susceptible to the fiery darts of the devil. Our prayer for one another is to remind each other that we have an armor available to us. We don’t have to be alone in this fight. I love that Paul says the same thing in his letter to the church in Ephesus about the armor when he says:
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.Ephesians 6:18
We must pray for those who are struggling with sin. We should request prayers from others when we are under attack. Prayer is our way of staying alert for each other. That’s the power of intercession.
We KNOW what needs to be known.
John’s emphasis on what we know in these verses ends with our knowledge that we are in the true one. And who is that true one? God’s Son, Jesus Christ—the true God and eternal life. That’s what we need to end our letter: the reminder that none of us are perfect and we need prayer, and that we are in the True One. With that knowledge, John then goes back to his sweet moniker for the believers: little children. Knowing the True One, we should stay away from all idols. There’s no need when we have Christ.
Are you walking in the light of Christ? Walking in his love? Are you confident of your right standing with Christ through faith in him as the true God and eternal life? If you are, then pray for your brothers and sisters in the faith, remain firm in what you know, and stay away from anything that would strive to take the place of Christ in your heart and mind.
Grace and Peace