3. In Due Season

Meditations in Titus: 3 :  In Due Season

Titus 1:3   and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour,

The simple word ‘and’ brings us a continuation but a contrast also, if you like,  from what he has just been saying. He had started out speaking of the way his ministry was expressed, by awakening faith in God’s chosen one (the ones He saw from before the foundation of the world would respond when Hs word came to them), and then of imparking knowledge of the truth to enable the new believers to live godly lives. All of that was based upon the promise of the end product of God’s salvation, eternal life, which God had promised before He even started this material world off, before, in Paul’s words, “the beginning of time.”

So there we have God’s strategy, formulated between the members of the Trinity, outside of time, before time-space history was brought into being by them. Nothing else had happened (to our knowledge at least) but that the strategy had been decided upon. Then they created this world and everything we know of as existence. Time passed by, millions and millions of years if you believe modern scientists (but they might be wrong, time will tell).

Human beings appeared on earth, civilizations formed, a man named Abram found he was being spoken to by an unseen Being. This Being turns out to be the God who created all things. A relationship is formed. Abram has a son called Isaac who has a son called Jacob who is renamed Israel and from his children a nation is formed who find themselves in slavery in Egypt, but are then miraculously delivered by this Creator God. Centuries pass by and this new nation is ruled by judges and then by kings. From the first king, Saul, to the last king, Zedekiah, some five hundred years or so pass during which this Creator God has dealings with kings and princes, priests, prophets and people, and then there are some four hundred years of silence.

Then comes a new prophet called John who baptizes people as a sign of their being washed clean before God and starting a new life. Shortly after John starts his ministry Jesus of Nazareth appears, who claims to be the Son of God and performs signs and wonders to justify his claim. After three of the most wonderful years in human history, he is taken and crucified but on the third day rises from the dead. For a month and a half he remains with his followers, teaching them, and then he ascends in to heaven. A little while later the Holy Spirit is poured out on the believers in Jerusalem and the Church comes into being. A year or so later a zealous young Pharisee named Saul has an encounter with the reigning Lord Jesus from heaven, on the road to Damascus. This young man becomes a major church planter and as he writes to the various churches the fuller understanding of the Gospel is unravelled.

This latter phase is all summarized in our verse above: “at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.” This was the ‘season’ or the time appointed by God for His salvation of mankind through His Son to be fully revealed. At least a dozen times in his other letters the apostle Paul refers to this Gospel being a ‘mystery’ revealed. Yes, it had been there on the heart of God from before the beginning of time and He had been working towards this time throughout history. Now it had come, now the mystery of God’s will was revealed and was no longer a mystery.

To the Romans he spoke of, “my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known.” (Rom 16:25,26). To the Ephesians he spelled it out: “the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 3:2-6) Explaining further aspects of it to the Colossians he said, “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col 1:27) and “the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Col 2:3)

What does this tell us? It says that God is incredibly patient, that He had this strategy on His heart before He created anything and patiently worked with mankind until it became patently clear that sin was so ingrained in humanity that even with God alongside them, they would still fall to its wiles. Only a radical dealing with the root of it, the guilt and shame of it, and by providing a new ‘in-house’ power source, could change be truly brought.

How he must have yearned for centuries to bring this to light, but had to wait until the circumstances on earth were just right for the plan to be fulfilled. One of those circumstances was that people were so desperate to be delivered from their sin that they were ready to follow the deliverer, Jesus Christ, and when they did, they found themselves face to face with this incredible thing, this mystery, this plan of God to bring about reconciliation, and this is what Paul now preached. Hallelujah!

2. A Sure Foundation

Meditations in Titus: 2 :  A Sure Foundation

Titus 1:1,2   Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness– a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.

In the first meditation we saw the apostle Paul explain his ministry as awakening faith and then providing truth to enable God’s chosen people to live godly lives, but as he goes on in his introduction he gives us a foundation on which that faith and knowledge of the truth rests. It is the hope of eternal life. Now if that was all it was, as amazing as that might be, someone would say that it was just Paul’s wishful thinking, but he denies that; it is eternal life which God promised before the beginning of time.

In other words God declared this before He even brought time-space history into being.  Of course with our finite minds we cannot conceive any existence before material time and space came into being. All we can grasp, and that very lightly, is that God has always existed  and being Spirit (Jn 4:24) existed uniquely and independently of anyone or anything else, Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing and communicating together and then at some moment in His existence, He said, “Let there be light.” Yet before that, according to the revelation given in the New Testament, the Trinity considered the possibilities and realised that if they made mankind with free will, at some point that free will would be exercised contrary to the dictates of the godhead and when that happened, it would have a series of consequences, bad consequences, and the godhead would have to take further action to win mankind back but without violating their free will.

The plan was to befriend Abram and then later establish a nation through his grandson, a nation that would reveal God to the rest of the world, and reveal their own inability to break free from that sinful expression of that free will. When that inability was clearly revealed, the Son would leave heaven and come to earth to live within that nation and to reveal the love and goodness of the godhead to mankind through that one life. But there was still the problem of the guilt of mankind’s sin and justice demanded that that needed dealing with. The only way to achieve that was for God Himself, in the form of His Son on earth, to take the punishment due – hence the Cross. When the truth of this became clear it would win many back to God and in being reunited with God they would receive His Holy Spirit, who is also eternal God, and thus brings eternal life.

Now all of this was decreed by the godhead before those incredible words, “Let there be light.” In fact according to the revelation that Paul has, when God declared this before He made anything, His declaration of intent was tantamount to a promise. When God says something is so, He does not lie, He sticks to it and so His declaration of intent before anything else was the equivalent of a promise that it would be so. Thus the promise of the possibility of receiving eternal life was made right back then.

We find references to this decision before the start of the world in all the following verses: Jn 17:24, Eph 1:4, 1 Pet 1:20, Rev 17:8, Rev 13:8, 2 Tim 1:9, Tit 1:2. They all refer back to this decision, this promise, made before anything else.  THIS is the foundation, this is the surety for all else that follows. Thus when Paul, as an apostle, awakens faith in this people, this people that God knew before He made anything else occurred would turn to Him in time-space history, we see that faith is belief in a plan that had its origins way back then. When Paul, as an apostle, goes on to teach new believers how to live godly lives, the design of those lives had its origin in the plan formulated before God made anything else.

The strength of this faith and this knowledge is not in the fact that Paul says it but simply that he is conveying God’s plan decreed before anything else came into existence. The Gospel is not an accident, it is not an add-on, something God had to think up because everything was getting out of control; it was the plan agreed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit before they brought this material world into being. The plan of salvation was as clear cut in the mind of God as His plans to create a material world. The two cannot be separated. The material world was perfect and yet to give mankind free will was almost guaranteed at some point to bring about Sin – which is simply self-centred godlessness.  Without free will love could not exist and as that was the prime characteristic of God, it would be the characteristic of all He made, it is all an expression of His love.

If we are to be able to love, it has to be a free expression by definition. Love is not something forced or imposed. Thus, if we sinful human beings are to be able to love God, it is because our hearts are won by His love. When we comprehend that, we receive it and receive the Spirit of love, and it becomes our expression as well, and the first object of our love becomes God Himself. We couldn’t have dreamed this up, but He did – even before He spoke a word and brought this world into being. How amazing! And now faith and our knowledge of the truth flows out from this truth. Everything flows from it in fact, everything! Hallelujah!

35. Life or Wrath

Short Meditations in John 3:  35. Life or Wrath

Jn 3:36    Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

As we come to the end of this chapter, having passed through a number of verses speaking of Jesus as the unique Son of God who had come down from heaven, now the one true witness because he had come from the Father, we now come to the purpose of that coming: to create believers who can inherit eternal life in harmony with God.

Note how it starts: “whoever believes”. Now this is very important. Life with God starts with belief but it is a belief that has actions. The apostle James understood this when he wrote, You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” (Jas 2:19) Demons believe in God but they don’t have a loving relationship with Him. They know about Him but they don’t interact with Him. No, this ‘believing’ is a believing that creates a response, i.e. creates action.

This believing is of the sort that when it hears of Christ, finds something inside reaching out for more but realises it is in a state of need and so falls before God in surrender and receives His forgiveness and His cleansing and His adoption and His Holy Spirit’s presence to dwell within. This believing creates action than enables God to see our heart is true and reaching out for Him and so He gives us His Spirit and thus He gives us eternal life.

The word ‘believe’ occurs over fifty times in John’s Gospel. It is the Gospel all about believing and John is very candid about that: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:30,31)  This Gospel, says John, should act as a foundation of belief in Jesus and when you see him as he is and believe you will receive a new life as you give yourself over to the Father.

But every coin has two sides and so on this particular one, on one side is belief and eternal life, and on the other unbelief and God’s anger. Please distinguish angers from hostility or revenge. Righteous anger is simply an objective emotion that responds rightly to wrong. Anger is instinctive. Anger is passionate displeasure that rises up in the face of something awful, something wrong. So what is so wrong about unbelief? Well unbelief is always wilful. If we wanted we could respond to that thing within us (see Eccles 3:11) that wants to seek for the truth – but we don’t. The evidence is all there but we either refuse to go looking for it or we refuse to believe it, as obvious as it is. This wilfulness is wrong, stupidly wrong and incurs God’s anger. Rightly!

34. The Father’s Love

Short Meditations in John 3:  34. The Father’s Love

Jn 3:35    The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

The subject of Father and Son comes up a number of times in this Gospel. This verse obviously follows on from the previous one. Jesus speaks the Father’s words, the Son has come from heaven where he had dwelt in eternity with the Father and within that relationship, in respect of the kingdom, the Father has placed all authority on earth in the hands of the Son. The following verse shows us that He has also made him the focus and means of all salvation, the way of receiving eternal life.

In chapter 5 we are shown Jesus’ closeness to the Father: Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (Jn 5:17-20) Such closeness riled the religious Jews for it was clear that he was equating himself with the Father, God. That unity was in the work that Father and Son did.

A few verses on Jesus pushes the point even more: “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him,”(Jn 5:22,23) and then a few verses on adds, “And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (Jn 5:27) Unity, honour, respect and authority are the same for both Father and Son according to Jesus. It is a powerful claim!

In response to the grumbling Jews, Jesus declared, “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.” (Jn 6:43-46) Again this closeness, harmony and unity between Father and Son is displayed.

We find more of this sort of declaration from Jesus about the Father in 8:16-18, 27-29,38, 54, 10:14-18,29,30,37,38, 12:26-28,49, 13:1,3, 14:6-13, 28-31, 15:15,16, 16:26-28,32, 20:17.  Without doubt this Gospel is the Gospel of the Father and Son relationship.

7. John’s Recap

Meditating on Great Themes in John:   7. John’s Recap: Picking up the Threads


John 3:31,32  The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.


The back half of chapter 3 is very much a recap section; it is as if the aged John, being a good teacher, knows that you should go back over the ground again and again to make sure your pupils or disciples have taken it in. The verses that follow the account with Nicodemus, so well known, appear to be Jesus speaking but may be John’s comment: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) How we take these for granted but from this new perspective they again reveal Jesus as the one and only Son of God and as the object of our faith and the bringer of eternal life. Twice previously we have seen Jesus proclaimed as the Son of God (1:34,49) and three times Jesus speaking of himself as that prophetic ‘Son of man’ (1:51,3:13,14).


These verses accentuate the fact of Jesus being the object of our faith: “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life,” (3:15) and “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (3:16) and “Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” (3:18) and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (3:36) Previously we’ve seen Jesus as the Word, the light-bringing-life, the coming one, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the life transformer and it is now as if John is saying, “I’ve said all this so that you know who you are to believe in: HE is the object of your faith, HE is the means of you being forgiven, cleansed and inheriting eternal life.”


But then John picks up a thread from the Prologue where we read, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood (or overcome)  it.” (1:4,5) Now he adds, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (3:19-21) Jesus’ life so stood out that it was like the light, say, of a lighthouse, that drew men to him. His love, his grace, his goodness, his power to transform lives and bring healing, this had people flocking to him, but the truth also was that those who hadn’t come to the end of themselves and preferred to stick with the evil of their own self-centred, godless lives shied away from him, rejected him and even plotted against him. His life did that; it either attracted you or repelled you, and that all depended on the sort of person you were.


So that was one thread from the Prologue but there was another that John now picks up: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” (1:6,7) Of course after the Prologue we saw John’s ministry pointing to Jesus and John the writer reverts to that again now to emphasise John’s testimony. Jesus had also been baptizing people with his disciples (3:22) and John was still baptizing not far off (3:23) and his disciples came to him pointing out that Jesus was also baptizing (3:25,26).


John’s response was, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, `I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.” (3:27,28)  Now this has an echo of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” (3:12,13).  John said, I can only speak what heaven gives me; Jesus says, I have come from heaven. This will be something that is repeated again and again in John’s Gospel. It doesn’t appear in the Synoptics but John remembered it and realised how significant it was.


Previously John had denied that he was the Coming One (1:20,21) and we suggested that the writer was including this to counter the cult of John-followers that was around later in that century. Now John says, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” (3:29,30) He can’t make the implication any clearer: Jesus is the bridegroom and I am merely his friend. He’s the all-important one at the  wedding!


He speaks again of their origins: “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.” (3:31-33) Jesus has come from heaven and so is above all others. I, says the Baptist, am from the earth. He speaks from what he knows of heaven but people don’t understand that but I do and I accept what he says is the truth. Wow! Strong testimony!


The chapter concludes with, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him..” (3:36) Jesus is THE object of our faith and he is the one who enables us to receive eternal life.


So John has picked up the following threads:

  • That Jesus is the focal point for all belief


  • His life stands out like a beacon drawing the hungry and thirsty to him
  • John the Baptist testified to him
  • Jesus has come from heaven and brings a heavenly perspective
  • Believing in him brings eternal life.

These threads or themes are repeated more than once and will come up again in the chapters to come.

23. Righteousness & Holiness

Meditations in Romans : 23:  Righteousness and Holiness

Rom 6:19,20      I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.

I think Paul wins a prize for saying the same thing again and again but in different ways, but here he explains why he is doing it. He’s using this baptism, death, resurrection, life, slavery language because those are concepts that we can understand and he feels we need to have it put in simple terms because, he says, “you are weak in your natural selves.”  Now I don’t think he was having a go at the Romans in particular, but that generally, of our old natural selves, we’re not very clever. When he says they are weak I believe he means weak intellectually.

It’s like he goes on to say, I mean, look, “you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,” which wasn’t a very smart thing to do. Yes, I know the “Just” at the beginning of that verse indicates that that quote is the first half of a logic instruction but coming where it does, it does seem to back up what he’s just said.

Of course to say to the unregenerate person that they aren’t very bright, is very upsetting for them because they pride themselves in their self-centred wisdom, but my interpretation of what he is saying is accurate of the human race. We are pretty stupid!  Come on, anyone who turns their back on God’s incredible love and goodness to live a messed up, self-centred and godless life, has to be pretty stupid, but then Sin blinds and so it is not surprising that we’re like that.

OK, he continues, enough of that old life, now offer your lives “in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” He’s covered the slavery imagery already but he covers it again in a different way: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” (v.20) i.e. you used to be slaves to sin and because they are opposites, righteousness had no place in your lives. What good did that do you? Come on, think about it, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” (v.21a) Look back to how you used to live and yes, I know you are now ashamed of those lives (which is good), but what did living like that do for you? Answer?  “Those things result in death!” (v.21b) Yes, we’ve seen that in his earlier writing, spiritual death and eventually physical death, separation from God and then separation from your human body. That’s all that sort of living brought you.

But, the good news is, things have changed, “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” (v.22a) You have changed masters, and consequently, “the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v.22b) Yes, these new lives develop holiness in you, that unique God quality that is utterly different to anything else, and that will continue to develop throughout your live and on afterwards because it is in fact an eternal life, a life with no end.

OK, he concludes, (implied), have you got the message? “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.23)  That is what this is all about. If you live with Sin as the main motivating force in your life, it will result in death but now God has provided an alternative, the gift of eternal life that comes through the wonderful work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need to recap this chapter before we finish with it. Leading us to think about living out the Christian life Paul started out by asking, “Shall we go on sinning?” (v.1) and answered himself, no we can’t because “We died to sin” (v.2). He then explained what that meant by reference to the picture of baptism: “all of us …were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death,” (v.3) and, to follow the picture through, “as Christ was raised from the dead … we too may live a new life.” (v.4) Later he adds, “anyone who has died has been freed from sin,” (v.7) and following the resurrection picture, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God.” (v.11)

If that is the truth then we have an obligation to “not let sin reign in your mortal body.” (v.12). Then comes a number of comparisons starting with, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God” (v.13) because “you are not under law, but under grace.” (v.14) This was followed by the comparison with slavery: “though you used to be slaves to sin…. you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (v.17,18). The things of the old life “result in death” (v.21) but now in the new life, “the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (v.22) To conclude: ”the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.23). You wonder how to live as a Christian? There’s no doubt – staying away from sin and living righteously. Got it? Got it!

64. Different Sins

Meditations in 1 John : 64 : Different Sins

1 John  5:16-17    If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

There are two primary issues that arise in these verses: that of sin, and that of being accountable for one another. Let’s start by considering the issue of sin. The general principle was stated by Solomon: He who sows wickedness reaps trouble,” (Prov 22:8) and was reiterated by the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life,” (Gal 6:7,8) who also stated, “For the wages of sin is death,” (Rom 6:23)

In our spiritual blindness, caused by the very fact of Sin in us, we so often think we can ‘get away with it’. In fact that was the very lie that Satan put before Eve that led to Sin entering the human race: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.” (Gen 3:4). Yes, Eve, you will, and now we all will. The truth is that sin always has consequences.

But is every sin the same? The Scriptural answer seems to be, no. For instance we find Jesus saying, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments,” (Mt 5:19) and later he chided the Pharisees, “you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness,” (Mt 23;23) indicating variety of significance of both commandments and therefore, by implication, of breaking them. There are differences in sins by the effect they have. Suppose on one occasion I steal a pen from a colleague at work – that is sin. But suppose I commit adultery with his wife.  The ongoing implications are different for the two things, although they are both sin.

Now there is a sense whereby all Sin leads to death as Paul noted in Rom 6:23, which is why we need the work of Christ on the Cross, but when it comes to individual sins, as we’ve just noted, their effects may be different. Indeed John speaks of “a sin that does not lead to death” but he also says, “There is a sin that leads to death.” One part of the church speaks of ‘venial’ and ‘mortal’ sins, sins that can be forgiven and sins that cannot be forgiven, but Scripture seems to indicate that physical death is not necessarily synonymous with loss of salvation. For example, Paul writing to the Corinthians said, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor 11:28-32) In other words, people were dying because of their wrong attitudes, but that did not seem to imply that they lost their salvation, in fact to the contrary they seemed to be taken prematurely to heaven to ensure their salvation and to prevent them slipping further into sin (and also as an example to the rest of the church, and prevent this sin spreading).

It is more probable that the only distinction between sins is, therefore, that in relation to spiritual death. Some sins don’t lead to spiritual death – and are simply dealt with by God’s discipline – while there is a sin that ensures ongoing spiritual death, and that, of course, is the ongoing denial of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. The person who does that is lost and spiritual death is the outcome and involves the loss of eternal life. This ‘death’ involves eternal separation from God which is far worse than the mere passing from this existence into the next, which is what we normally think about when we speak of death.

The second issue raises by these verses is that of us being accountable to one another. John’s opening statement was, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.”  This lays a duty on each member of the body of Christ, the Church, to be there for one another, and at the very least to pray for one another when we see another falling into sin.  Paul taught something similar: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens.” (Gal 6:1,2) God wants us to be there for one another, seeking to restore one another when we see a brother or sister going off the rails. Of course, John added, “There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.”   If we are right in our earlier assessment, if a person is set in their rebellion against God, we shouldn’t pray for that to be forgiven for it can only be so when that person truly repents and comes to Christ. There our praying will be different; it will be for them to be helped to turn to Christ from their unbelief.

He concludes these verses with a simple definition: “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”  All wrongdoing is sin. It is that simple, but in that, as we’ve noted already there are some things that are still sin but they do not lead to death. Now I once remember hearing of a farmer who watched one of his cows trying to get its neck further and further under an electric fence to reach more and more grass without getting a shock. Does this teaching of these verses say we can sin and get away with it? That’s not the point. Stay away from all sin whether it is eternal consequences or simply spoils your walk today with God and with other people. Don’t differentiate: all wrongdoing is sin and so stay away from all wrongdoing!