Boldness In Prayer
Tim Temple

Introduction

I am sure that everybody here has heard the old saying, “There are only two things certain in life—death and taxes,” and many of us have just accepted that as true without giving it very much thought. I would like for you to think with me about that for just a moment because I want to tell you that that is not a true statement. I know as well as you that there are some people who don't pay any taxes. Whether they should or not, they do not. We also know, very clearly taught from the Scripture, that there is a whole generation of people who are going to be alive. The Lord is going to appear in the air and catch them up to be with Himself without going through death, so even death is not certain. Even those two things that we here in the United States and the IRS thinks are certain are not really certain at all. There is a current philosophy alive in our society today that tells us nothing is certain, not just death and taxes, but nothing is certain. There is a whole philosophy that is prevailing our academic world and our philosophical world and working its way down to the grassroots of the American people that there is really no truth, that whatever is true for you is what you go with, that whatever you go with is true.

The Apostle John takes the very opposite approach to that. He reminds us, particularly in this last chapter of his letter, which is really a summary of all that he has been saying throughout the letter, that there certainly is an assurance that can be ours; there certainly is something true. We have been thinking about this chapter for the last couple of weeks, and the basis for our assurance is in verses 1-5—the fact that we are born of God and because we are the children of God and because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we can be sure of all the promises of God. Then in verses 6-12, we talked about the basic facts of assurance, and John tells us that there are really three witnesses. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that the threefold cord is not easily broken. We have the witness of the water, which we saw last week was Jesus' baptism, and water is also used as a picture of the Word of God as well, which is another aspect of that witness. There is the blood of Jesus Christ, which speaks of His death. There is the testimony of the Holy Spirit within us. So there are incontrovertible witnesses to our assurance, and those are the facts on which our assurance is based.

Today we want to begin looking at the bold results of the assurance John talks about in verses 13-21. We want to talk about the fact that because of that assurance that we have, we can have boldness in prayer. Then we want to talk about boldness in perseverance. There will be people who say, “Well, I trusted Christ as my Savior, and I just hope I can live the life;” or there are people who say, “I don't want to trust Christ as my Savior because I would never be able to live the life.” The closing verses of this chapter, verses 17-21, talk about boldness in perseverance.

Basis For Boldness In Prayer

Today we want to talk about boldness in prayer because of the assurance that we have. John begins by telling us the basis for that boldness in verse 13. Notice with me:

I John 5:

13These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Notice the assurance that John speaks with here, which is characteristic of the whole letter: “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” From that verse alone, we would not know it; but if we look ahead, we will realize that John is going to begin to talk about prayer, and so that verse gives us the basis for prayer.

Who would have the audacity to pick up the telephone and try to call the Queen of England person-to-person? Probably all of us realize that no matter how important we may be or how important we think we are, the Queen of England is not going to accept a person-to-person telephone call from us. The President of the United States would not accept a call from any of us. What brashness to think that we could call some world leader and expect them to take time to talk to us. But why would it not be true that we would feel that way about God? If the Queen of England would not talk to us and the President of the United States wouldn't talk to us, why in the world would we think that the God of the universe would talk to us? That is what John says here. He will talk to us because we are His children, because we know that we have eternal life and we know that we are sons and daughters of God. We have believed in Him, and that is His promise to us.

As we talk about prayer, I want you to remember that prayer and boldness in prayer is not because you and I are such tremendously faithful Christians. It is not because you and I are doing everything and are everything we should be spiritually that God will hear our prayers. Hopefully, we are striving to do all of those things. Hopefully, we are desiring and trusting God that our relationship with Him is what it ought to be. Our boldness in prayer does not come because of who we are or what we are or what we have done or what we are trying to do or even what we are hoping to do. Our boldness comes because Jesus Christ died for us. Jesus Christ paid for our sins and imputed to us His righteousness. Therefore, we can come boldly to the throne of God.

Someone has said that there is an instinct for prayer in every human being. Some people cover it up; some people repress it; some people don't want to admit it is there, but when the chips are down, the natural instinct is to pray. You have heard the saying, I am sure, that there are no atheists in foxholes. I read recently about the captain of a ship who was describing a shipwreck and he said, “God heard from a lot of strangers that night.” Our instinct is to pray. We sense as human beings, even nonbelievers sense that there is a need for prayer and that somehow it is all right to pray and somehow maybe God will hear our prayers if we do pray. Yet, many people, even Christians, are puzzled about the fact that we pray. Let's be frank about it. We pray and sometimes we don't get what we ask for. In fact, sometimes we pray and pray and it doesn't seem like God is doing anything. There are many people, unbelievers particularly and I am afraid even many believers, who have decided that prayer is useless and they really don't, in their own particular lives, participate in prayer. They do not practice prayer.

How about you? How long has it been since you have sat down with the Lord and really communicated with him heart-to-heart? I know for many of you that answer is a few hours ago. Some of you have spent time in prayer already this morning and some of you already have in your schedule for later today to spend some time in prayer, but I am not foolish enough to think that in a crowd this size that is true of everybody. There are some of you who love the Lord enough to be in church on Sunday morning as you are, who perhaps have not really spent time personally in prayer with the Lord; and if you dig deep enough into your consciousness, if you are open enough with the Spirit of God, you will have to admit that basically you are just not sure prayer works anyway.

If that is the case, it is very important for you to think very carefully about what John is going to tell us today. I think that when we are disappointed, when we feel that prayer is not very effective or maybe not effective at all, it usually happens because we don't understand prayer. At least, the people who feel that way don't understand prayer, so they experiment with it or they guess at it. There is no reason for us to hope that we are praying in the right way or to experiment with prayer or to just do whatever we think because the Scripture is full of instructions about prayer. This passage that we are looking at today is just one of many passages that tell us how to pray and what the conditions are for prayer.

I don't think any of us would be foolish enough to go to the airport and get into an airplane and think that we could figure out how to fly it even if we could somehow coax the owner into letting us try. There are just certain things that have to be done in a certain sequence and with extreme precision, and you just don't figure something out like that. There are a lot of people who think, “Well, I don't know how to pray, but just let me give it a try.” Let me quickly say that if you are sincere in your desire to pray, the thing for you to do is to talk to God because that is really what prayer is. I am talking about that person who thinks that there is something complicated about it and who just says a few things to God in a formal kind of a way and doesn't see God seeming to work. There are some conditions for prayer; there are some things that God says that we are to be aware of. If a person is sincerely aware of those things, and he sincerely wants to communicate with God, and out of his heart in a humble way he addresses God, God will always hear the prayer of the believer. We have recorded in the Scripture many times His hearing and answering prayers of unbelievers out of His grace and out of His mercy. That unbeliever has no right to expect God to answer his prayer unless his prayer is, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” but there are records of God'S answering prayers even of unbelievers. Certainly God is going to answer the prayer of any sincere believer.

If we have the opportunity to find out some of the things God says about prayer and we choose to ignore those things and try to talk God into doing what we want Him to do, we are going to find ourselves being unsuccessful in prayer. So let's think about these things that John reminds us of in this letter about praying. In the closing verses of this letter, he gives us some basic, general rules about prayer, and then he follows those with specific instruction. Again, it is interesting to notice as John wraps up the letter that he doesn't want to close without reminding us of the importance of prayer and the power of prayer. In fact, there is a sense in which prayer is the badge of our boldness as Christians. We talked about the basis of our boldness in prayer in verse 13. In verses 14-16 he tells us about the badge of our boldness in prayer. Look at verse 14:

The Badge Of Our Boldness

I John 5:

14And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

Notice the confidence with which John speaks in verse 14: “This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Boldness, confidence—that is the keynote of what John speaks about. Many people pray because they don't know what else to do. Probably you have heard and many of you have even said, “Well, I guess we had better pray. There is nothing else left to do. There is nothing we can do but pray now.” Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of people, but John speaks in terms of confidence. In the word confidence , as we have already pointed out, which John uses most of the time in this letter, is a Greek word that is also translated “boldness,” and so John says that we do not have to leave prayer as a last resort. We can come to God the minute we recognize we have a need with boldness and with confidence to Him and pray about it.

Other Scriptures speak of this same kind of boldness. Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16, says:

Hebrews 4:

16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Then Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 19, says:

Hebrews 10:

19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

The Principle Of Hearing Requests

John speaks of knowing and having. That is boldness and confidence. That is the badge of our assurance as Christians that we can pray constantly about whatever needs we have. That kind of certainty comes from the knowledge of two basic principles, the principle of hearing and the principle of having. John talks first about the hearing of requests. First, technically speaking, God always answers prayer. I am speaking about unanswered prayer in the sense that we pray, and God doesn't do what we ask Him to do, so we refer to that as unanswered prayer. That is such a common terminology that I am using it, but technically God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says wait. He doesn't always immediately do what we are asking Him to do, but He always answers, and no and wait are legitimate answers just as every parent here knows. Sometimes we children of God act the same way that our children act. If we don't tell them what they want to hear, they feel like we haven't answered them. But using unanswered prayer in the sense that we pray about something and God doesn't do what we ask Him to do, most of that comes because there are some prayers that God says in advance that He is not going to grant. There are some prayers that He is not going to say yes to, and it is important for us to know that. For example, in Psalm 66, verse 18, the Psalmist says:

Psalm 66:

18If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

In other words, if there is sin in my life and I am not willing to come to grips with that sin and agree with God that it is sin and confess it and have forgiveness, there is no need to expect God to answer my prayers. Isaiah, chapter 59, verse 1, says:

Isaiah 59:

1Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Sin in our lives that is unconfessed and undealt with keep God from hearing our prayers. He tells us in advance that He is not going to hear those prayers. Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 13, tells us:

Proverbs 21:

13Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Insensitivity to the needs of people around us can hinder prayer. That is talking about when we hear about a need and we could do something about it. If we hear about a need and God prompts us to do something about that and we don't do something about that need, God says, “I am not going to listen to your prayers because you are not listening to My instructions.” There are many others like that. Verse 14 says that prayer according to His will is always heard. If we pray according to His will, He hears us and John says that confidently. So, prayer is not a matter of spending time trying to talk God into doing something that we want Him to do. It is not a matter of talking God into doing our will, talking God into doing something that otherwise He would not have done; rather, prayer is the expression of our willingness to see God do His will. A lot of people get the idea that God is some kind of heavenly Aladdin's lamp or bellboy and we just call Him up and say, “I need this or I need that,” and He hustles off to do it.

One of the commentaries that I have been using in this series of messages as I have been studying I John is written by Ray Studman, a pastor out in California who went home to Heaven a few years ago, a great Bible teacher. He found a letter that he thought illustrated this concept very well. Let me share it with you: “Dear God, I can hardly believe my wedding day has come. I know that I haven't been able to spend much time with You lately with all the rush of getting ready for today, and I am sorry. I guess that I feel a little guilty when I pray about all this since Larry still isn't a Christian; but oh Father, I love him so much. What else can I do? I just can't give him up. You must save him some way, somehow. You know how much I have prayed for him and the way we have discussed the gospel together. I have tried not to appear too religious, I know, but that is because I don't want to scare him off. He isn't antagonistic, but I don't understand why he hasn't responded. Oh, if only he was a Christian. Dear Father, please bless our marriage. I don't want to disobey You, but I love him and I want to be his wife more than anything else in this world, so please be with us, and please don't spoil my wedding day.”

Ray Studman goes on to point out that though that prayer may sound very pious and may sound like this girl really loves the Lord, stripped of this pious language, it should read something like this: “Dear Father, I don't want to disobey you, but I must have my own way at all cost. I love You, but I also love what You do not love, and I want what You do not want for me, so please be a good God and deny Yourself and move off Your throne and let me take over. If You don't like all this, then all I ask is that You bite Your tongue and don't say anything or do anything that will spoil my plans. Just let me enjoy myself today.”

If we are honest, that is the way we sometimes pray, isn't it? “God, I want this thing so badly, and I know deep inside that it is really not what You want for me, but God please, won't You give me this?” That is not praying according to God's will. Praying according to His will is not as hard as it seems. His will is revealed all through the Word of God, and for a summary statement about praying according to the will of God, it would be this: Anything that is consistent with what the Word of God teaches, we can expect God to do in answer to our prayers. Another of the hundreds of reasons we need to be familiar with the Word of God is we need to know what it says because then we can know what we can have confidence in prayer about.

I used to travel quite a bit, and one of the things that I enjoyed doing as I traveled would be reading those catalogs that they have on airplanes. They always have catalogs that you don't see anywhere else. My wife and children call me gadget man because I love all those little gadgets that are usually in those kinds of catalogs. If you had the money, you could order all kinds of things out of those catalogs, but think about this: You wouldn't be able to order anything that is not in the catalog. You might, as you see one of those gadgets, wonder if they have one that does this other kind of thing. But it is not in the catalog, so you can't order something that is not in the catalog. Primarily, it is because we do not have the money to order out of there, but with a Christian ordering out of God's catalog, that is not a problem. You can order anything that is in God's catalog. The Word of God is His catalog, and it tells us all of the things that He has available for us. But there is no point in trying to order something that is not in the catalog. That is praying according to God's Word. We can confidently ask God to do what He tells us in His Word that is the parameter of His will for us and what He wants to do for us and what He has done for us already, what we just need to claim.

Since none of us are thoroughly familiar with everything that the Bible has to say, since none of us knows everything that God has revealed to us in His Word yet, what do we do about those things? We want God's will; we want God to do this thing for us and the best we know we think it is His will or at least is consistent with His will—what do we do in a case like that? Well, Jesus prayed that way, not out of ignorance of what God's will was, but on the night before He died on the Cross, He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” There was the sense in which Jesus had a right to pray that way. There was a sense in which that was consistent with the will of God because Christ wasn't dying for His own sins, He was dying for our sins.

One of the things we can waste a lot of time with is speculating—“What if God had done it some other way?” But Jesus prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Then He added these important words: “Not My will, but Thine be done.” You think you are right. You think what you are praying for is in God's will. You've done the best you can to assess that. You pray even about things you are uncertain about with the attitude or the words, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” God knows that is a heart attitude, but He wants to hear it from us, so don't get bogged down in what is legitimate to pray for and what is not. It is important that we know as much as we can about what God's will is and what God's promises are that we can pray about; but if there is an area about which we are not sure, tell the Lord, “This is what I want, but if it is not what You want, then I want what You want—not my will but Thine be done.”

Then there is another wonderful thing about praying according to the will of God. In Romans, chapter 8, verse 26 it says:

Romans 8:

26Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Isn't that true? So many times we don't really know how we ought to be praying about this thing, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. So remember, as we pray, we want to sincerely pray to the extent that it is possible for us to know God's will; but in those areas where we legitimately do not know how to pray, we ask that God's will be done, not ours. Remember always that the Spirit of God does know, and this verse says that He always prays according to the will of God. So remember that the Holy Spirit is praying with us and translating for us to the Father those things that are really at the heart of the desire of this prayer that we are making. That is why we can talk with confidence about God's hearing our prayers. John says that when we pray according to the will of God, we know that He hears us.

The Principle Of Having Requests

The second principle is the having of requests and that is in verse 15. First, the principle of hearing and now, the principle of having. Notice verse 15:

I John 5:

15And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

If we are praying according to His will, John says we know that He hears us and therefore if we know that He hears us, he carries it a step farther in verse 15 and says that we know that we have the petitions that we ask of Him. Hearing and having are inseparably linked.

One question about that having of those requests is the question of timing. It is not a matter of whether or not God will give us what we are asking as we pray within His will; it is a matter of when He is going to do it, and that is a complicated matter if we are praying, for example, for the salvation of a loved one or friend for which some have prayed for years. One of the other principles that God operates on is that He does not ride roughshod over anyone's will. He does not make a robot out of anyone. The reason that He gave us a human will was so we could choose to love Him. We could love Him out of a heart of choice. It is the heart of man that the Spirit of God works on to draw us to Himself, but He never rides roughshod over our will, so when you pray that that loved one will be saved, God goes to work on the circumstances of that person's life and on bringing people into his life to give him or her the gospel. All kinds of other things God works together for good, but they may take some time because God allows that person you are praying for to make his own decision about that. God works those things together to answer our prayers even though it may not be at the time that we wanted.

I know of several people who prayed until their death that God would save a loved one or a friend, and those people went through death without God's seeming to answer that prayer, and later those people became Christians. I have often mentioned a good friend of mine in Wichita Falls. He was financially very successful and a great Christian philanthropist. He gave huge amounts of money to the Lord's work. He was not saved until he was in his mid thirties, and he found out somewhere along the line that his mother-in-law had been praying for him since the very first day she met him. She died before he ever trusted Christ, and yet look what God did with that man in answer to that woman's prayers even though she was in Heaven and got to rejoice with the angels because when they rejoiced over his salvation, she was already in Heaven. Remember God's timing in answer to our prayers, but the promise of God is that as we pray according to His will, He hears us. If we know He hears us, we know that we have the things that we desire of Him and the timing of it is in God's hands.

That is why I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 18, tells us that we should give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Jesus always did that. Sometimes when you are reading in the gospels, pay attention to how many times when Jesus prayed, He began by saying, “Father, I thank You.” “Father, I thank You that You heard me. I thank You for what You are going to do in this situation.” Very often Jesus prayed that way, and we should, too.

Praying According To God's Will

We have talked about the hearing and the having, now verses 15-17 give instructions about God's handling of those requests. What we have here is the illustration of the principles of hearing and having. Look at verse 16:

I John 5:

16If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

Let me point out that the primary purpose of these verses is to give us an illustration about praying according to the will of God, but as God so often does in choosing an illustration, He kills at least two birds with one stone as He illustrates for us the principle of praying according to His will. He also establishes a kind of situation that can take place in a Christian's life. Don't let your curiosity over the sin unto death in this verse keep you from seeing the illustration that John is making here. The principle that applies to all kinds of prayers is the principle of praying according to God's will.

John, writing at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that there is a sin not unto death, and if our brother is sinning, and it is a sin not unto death, we can and should pray for that brother. However, there is also a sin unto death and there is a degree of sinfulness to which God has already chosen to answer no to those prayers and therefore we do not need to pray about those things. The problem is that we don't know where that area of sin that God has already made up His mind what He is going to do about is at. So there comes into play again what we talked about a few minutes ago—praying according to the will of God with the Holy Spirit translating our prayers.

Sin Unto Death

We have to deal now with the sin unto death. It is a very scary topic for a lot of people. Let's think for a few minutes about this sin unto death. There are at least three official views about this verse. First, there is the Catholic view. As far as I know, this verse is the primary scriptural reference that the Catholic Church has for labeling some sins as mortal sins , and some sins as phenial sins . Mortal sins, in the thinking of the Catholic Church, are sins that God is not going to forgive. They are unforgivable sins. Among those are murder, suicide, adultery, and idolatry. They are the biggies; they are the mortal sins. Based on this verse of Scripture, the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church is that there are mortal sins, sin unto death. “I do not say that you should pray for that.”

The problem with that is that it doesn't fit the text. Look very carefully again at verse 16. It says. “There is sin leading to death.” Notice, there is no definite article there. It does not say, “There is a sin leading to death.” It says there is sin leading unto death. The Scripture says that all sin leads to death: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life,” but for those who do not accept the gift of God, all sin leads to death. This is not talking about one particular sin. It is talking about the principle of the fact that sin leads to death.

There is a second view that says that this is talking about the same thing that Jesus was talking about when in Matthew, chapter 12, verse 31, He warned the Pharisees that they were about to commit the unpardonable sin. He talked about a sin that will not be forgiven, and without taking time to go into a lot of detail about that, the sin that He was talking about was sin that they were on the very verge of committing. It was the sin of attributing the work of God that Jesus Christ was doing to Satan, to see something visibly with their own eyes that the Son of God did, undeniable that it was the Son of God Who did it, that it was God working through His Son, then to knowingly attribute that to Satan. God says, “That's blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and that will not be forgiven.”

Think what John is saying here. No believer would be able to commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is within the believer, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit enables a man to say that Jesus is Lord, He is not going to permit that man to say that Jesus is not Lord. Jesus did not do this, but also in order to commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, we would have to be in a situation where we could visibly see that God had done something. There was that one generation of people who could see God on earth doing things. In our day, we see miraculous things. In the last few weeks, Janice and I feel that God has done some miraculous things for us, but we can't prove that it was God Who did it. We are convinced of it. I could tell you the story and you could say, “Well, you know that kind of thing happens. That is just lucky the way that thing came together.” We are limited to that now that Jesus is not here on earth, but we can't commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because we can't know for sure except in our heart whether it was God Who did that thing. The Holy Spirit is not going to lead us to say something that He has already led us not to say, and so the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be committed by a believer. Here in John he is talking about a brother who is sinning sin unto death.

The third view, which in my view is the correct view, is that John is talking about physical death. He has already said, “We are praying for a brother who is sinning and a brother has passed from death into life. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” so he cannot be talking about spiritual death because he is talking about a believer. What he is talking about is that a believer can sin in such a way or to such an extent that God will take him from this life. There are several examples of that in the Scripture. I would remind you of verse 17 as we mention these. Verse 17 says:

I John 5:

17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

There is sin that leads to death, but there is also sin that doesn't always lead to physical death, but sometimes it does. In Numbers, chapter 20, the people are complaining about not having enough water and God said, “Speak to the rock, and it will bring forth water for the people.” Moses took the rod of God and he said, “Do we have to bring water for you again?”, and he struck the rock twice and water came out. That was the rod of God. It had been Moses' rod, but Moses laid it down before God, and it became the rod of God. Moses took credit for what God was doing. “Must we bring forth water?”, and he struck the rock. God sent the water, but He said to Moses, “You are not going to go into the Promised Land. I am going to bring you home, and you are not going to get to see it.”

Later on in Deuteronomy, chapter 3, Moses said, “Lord, can't You please let me go in and see the Promised Land?” God said, “I am going to let you look into the Promised Land, but I am not going to let you go into the land, and don't speak to Me any more about this thing.” There are some things we don't need to pray about because God has already decided what He is going to do. Ananias and Sapphira coveted spiritual prominence. They sold some property, kept part of the money for themselves, gave the rest, but claimed they were giving all of it. Peter said, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit,” and God took them from this life. The Christians in Corinth were in danger of the sin that leads to death and some of them had already committed it. Their sin was taking the Lord's Supper lightly. That is scary, isn't it? Paul said, “Some of you are weak and sickly because of this, and some have already died.”

The key thing about this is that it was a different sin in each case. The sin unto death is not a particular sin that we have got to be very careful we do not commit. These are different kinds of sins, different kinds of situations, different eras of history, but all of them caused God to take those people from life prematurely. Sometimes it came suddenly as with Achan in Joshua, chapter 6. God took Achan because he had taken some things when God told him not to touch anything. Other times, as with Moses, it didn't happen immediately. It happened later. With the Corinthians, it apparently must have happened in stages. “Some are weak and sickly among you and some have died.” So I believe the sin unto death is a sin that a person willfully continually pursues, and God knows that that pursuit is not going to stop. So for the testimony of Himself, He takes that person home. Let me emphasize again that God is the One Who knows when that point comes. Verse 17 says, “There is a sin not leading to death,” but God decides at some point in some cases which person has sinned all that He is going to let him and this is it—when God has decided that there is no need to pray about it.

The illustration of the point is that we pray according to God's will and leave the answer in His hands. We recognize that there are some things that we can pray about, but God has already decided what He is going to do.

Conclusion

We conclude with a story from Harry Ironside, who was the pastor of Moody Memorial Church for many years in Chicago. He told a story about this passage about a mother whose children were quarreling in the backyard and she called the child who had started the quarrel into the house and said, “Stop that quarreling. The neighbors are going to think we are a terrible family. You go back out there and play and stop that quarreling.” The child went back out and for a few minutes everything was all right, but suddenly the quarreling started again so the mother called the child in and said, “If you don't stop that quarreling and picking these fights with your siblings, I am going to make you come in.” The child went back out in the yard and started again after a few minutes. The mother called the child and said, “You're coming in the house. You can't play out there any more because you are giving a false impression to our neighbors of what our family is all about.” The child pleaded and begged, “Oh, please let me go back.” “No, you cannot go back outside because you are ruining our testimony.” Dr. Ironside said that is what God says to His children sometimes. “You are ruining My testimony. You are giving a false impression to the world of what our family is all about, and you must come home. You cannot stay any longer.”

Let me remind you with that how important our testimony is. Whether our sin leads to death or not, sin in our lives has to do with God's reputation, not just ours—a sobering thought with which to conclude our study.


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