Troublesome Topic: 1 John 5 and the Sin That Leads to Death

1 John 5:1


Everyone who believes that JESUS is the CHRIST is born of THEOS.


Everyone who believes that THE SAVIOR is also THE ANOINTED MESSIAH has a special connection with THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS.

1 John 5:4


Everyone who has been born of THEOS is victorious over the world; and this is the victory which is victorious over the word – our faith.


Everyone who has a special connection with THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS lives in victory over the temptations of this world. Here is how we can live in victory over the temptations of this world – we constantly rely on our faith in God.

1 John 5:5


And who is the one who is victorious over the world, if not the one who believes that JESUS is the SON OF GOD?


And who is the one who is victorious over the world, if not the one who believes that THE SAVIOR is GOD?

Context: John’s first epistle centers largely on the questions “Who is Jesus?” and “How can we identify a true follower of Jesus?” In the first 5 verses of chapter 5 Jesus is identified as the Christ (Messiah), and as the Son of God, which means God.

1 John 5:6


This is the one who has come

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by water and blood, JESUS CHRIST, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the one who is testifying because the Spirit is the truth.


He, THE SAVIOR and THE ANOINTED MESSIAH, is the one who has shown who He is by things that can be represented by water and things that can pertain to blood. Water does not stand alone as a representation of who He is for it is not enough by itself; we need the meaning of water and the meaning of blood. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us understand the evidence pointing to who Jesus is and the Holy Spirit always tells the truth.

What’s up with the Water and the Blood?

Ever since John wrote these words, there has been much debate about what was being referred to. It is obvious that he intended water and blood, or what they represent, to be witnesses and evidences that prove who Jesus is. Of this there can be no doubt. However, there is no agreement among scholars about what the water and blood were referring to, especially the water.

My opinion on the matter is that John was using a form of symbolism in that water, and even blood, represent more than just the meaning of each word. Instead of writing out a long list of things that prove who Jesus is, John chose two things by which all of them could be represented.

A Jew of John’s day would likely have thought of several possible meanings of water that could correctly fit this context and all of them seem to be intended by the author. In other words, instead of trying to decide on exactly which meaning is the right one, all we need to do is decide which set of meanings fit, and we can consider all of them to be the intent of the author. Various layers of meaning can include the virgin birth, the confirmation from God during the baptism of Jesus, the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side while on the cross, and possibly the sacraments of baptism (and the eucharist). Water can also represent cleansing. All of these point to who Jesus is.

The blood is the easier of the two to understand. The witness being referred to is most likely the shedding of Jesus’s blood and all that was accomplished thereby.

1 John 5:7


For there are three which bear witness:

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For there are three witnesses which stand as proof that Jesus is God.

1 John 5:8


The Spirit and the water and the blood – and these three are one and the same.

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All the activity of the Holy Spirit, everything represented by water, and everything represented by blood; these three work together in perfect agreement.

1 John 5:9


If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of THEOS is greater because

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this is the testimony of THEOS, that He has testified concerning His Son.


If we are willing to receive the testimony of men, we should be even more accepting of the more reliable witnesses provided by THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS; the reason the things mentioned above are a greater testimony is that they are the proof provided by THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS that His Son, Jesus, is also God.

1 John 5:10


The one who  believes in the SON OF GOD has the testimony in himself. The one who is not believing THEOS,

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has made Him a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that THEOS has testified concerning HIS SON.


The person whose life is characterized by faith in GOD has accepted the proof and holds it deep within him. However, the one who does not trust the evidence provided by THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS, must consider Him a liar because he has heard the evidence provided by THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS indicating that HIS CO-REGENT is Jesus, and he has rejected it.

1 John 5:11


And this is the testimony, that THEOS has given us eternal life and this life is in HIS SON.


Herein lies the authentication of the evidence – THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS has done everything necessary to grant us eternal living-quarters with Him which are made possible by what HIS CO-REGENT, Jesus did.

The Final Evidence Is Our Salvation

The authenticating confirmation that Jesus is who the Bible says He is comes from the transformed lives of God’s followers. We are witnesses to this world of what Jesus can do, which proves who He really is. Not only so, but we are the primary witnesses, nature is a secondary witness. What a high privilege it is to be the primary witnesses and the confirming evidence to the saving power of God!

1 John 5:12


The one who has THE SON [OF GOD] has life; the one who does not have THE SON OF GOD does not have life.


Anyone who has received the rule of GOD over his life has also received the reward of true life and thus knows what living really means; the one who has not received the rule of GOD over his life has not received the reward of true life and has no clue what living really means.

1 John 5:13


I have written these things to those who are believing in the name of the SON OF GOD so that you may know that you have eternal life.


I have put these things in writing for you whose lives are characterized by faith in the reputation of GOD so that you can be confident that you have the kind of life that is eternal, already residing within you.

1 John 5:14


And this is the bold confidence

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we have toward Him, that if we should ask anything according to His will, He hears us.


In this way we can approach Him and speak freely and with bold confidence: if we are inclined to ask Him anything that is within His will, we can be sure that He pays attention to it.

Our Request Must Be According to His Will

We cannot ask for anything we want, but only for things that are within the clearly expressed will of God. God has already said He will do these things, the only things we cannot be sure of are the timing and methodology. If we choose to participate with God through prayer He may decide to do those things in our lifetime and He may choose to include us in the process of implementation. All of this fits the definition of “true prayer” which I explain more fully in my study lesson called What does it mean to pray “in the name of Jesus?”

1 John 5:15


And if we know that He hears us

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if we ask for something, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.


If we can have confidence that He pays attention to what we ask Him, if we choose to ask Him for something (as described above), we can also have confidence that we will receive that which we requested from Him.

1 John 5:16


If someone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give life to those committing a sin which does not lead to death. There is a sin which leads to death; I do not say he should ask about that.


Here is an example: If one of you sees a brother in Christ committing a sin which does not by itself jeopardize his relationship with God (e.g. someone who has a heart for God but slips and yields to temptation), he should ask God to give that person greater spiritual vitality and God will indeed make available to that person what is needed for spiritual vitality so he can live victoriously and be rewarded with eternal life. However, there is a sinful condition which directly jeopardizes one’s relationship with God, [and if it continues,] will produce the consequence of eternal punishment. I will not tell you to invest your time praying for all such cases because there are times when the best thing to do is to send a strong message through excommunication.

1 John 5:17


All unrighteousness is sin, but there is a sin that does not lead to death.


Every time we fall short of God’s holy standard it is sin and should be punished with death, but because of God’s grace, there are ways to fall short of that standard which do not produce eternal punishment.

Sin the Does Lead to Death and Sin that Does Not Lead to Death

1. The context of this passage is similar to the context of the passages in the gospels about the unpardonable sin because all of them deal with acceptance or rejection. Here John is saying that the testimony of Jesus about Himself is true, and it is confirmed by other reliable proofs. If one rejects such testimony, there is no other evidence that will convince that person.

2. John gives this set of two types of sins as an example of how powerful prayer is. If we can pray for God to forgive sins, then we can pray for almost anything. However, this verse also indicates that praying alone does not make something reality, there are other factors, such as the other person’s repentant spirit or rebellious spirit. This statement does not say, “You have the power to do anything you want,” rather it indicates that “prayer is a powerful thing because it connects you to the power of God which is already at work among men.”

3. With the use of the word “brother” early in verse 16 it is obvious that John is giving the example of a fellow believer in Jesus who commits a sin – one who stumbles and gives in to temptation, but not one whose life is constantly characterized by sin.

4. It should be obvious that I have placed in the paraphrase my interpretation of that is meant by this verse. That is one of the disadvantages of a paraphrase by itself, it goes all the way in interpreting the passage, not just reproducing the passage. But a translation and paraphrase side by side allow you to see what the passage says and what I think it means.

5. In the Old Testament, all defiant sin could expect to be punished by death; the sacrificial system of the Law had no sacrifice designed specifically to remove the guilt acquired by defiant sinning. Thus every sin could expect death as punishment. For the Jewish mind, the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus offers forgiveness for all sins was an amazing and refreshing change from the system of the Law. The Law had huge hole in it; Jesus filled that hole and provided a new system that is complete.

6. As with the passages about the unpardonable sin in Matthew, Mark and Luke, this passage is difficult to interpret because it seems to be contrary to the rest of the Bible and especially to the rest of the New Testament. For that reason, I see in these four passages the need to understand that while a person is living in the condition of rebellion or rejection of truth, there is no hope for him. First, he must change the direction he is headed and then there is hope for him. I believe there is always hope because God always accepts the repentance of a penitent heart. Matthew Henry wrote, “No sin, of which any one truly repents, is unto death.”

7. We are told that God can “give life” (5:16) and He allows us to participate in that process through prayer. Meyers says that sin of any kind weakens the “life” (spiritual vitality) within the person who has sinned, but the prayer of someone else can be used by God to infuse new life in the sinner, as long as the sinner is willing to confess his sin and be forgiven and purified, as John already explained in I Jn 1:9.

8. The negative word “not” at the end of verse 16 does not refer to ask, but to “I say.” John is not prohibiting believers from praying about this, but he is refusing to say that we must, as if there are times when the effort in prayer can be used better elsewhere. Meyers says it this way, “John does not want to make a duty of a prayer, to which the certain assurance of being granted is wanting.”


There is indeed a spiritual condition which will obviously and undeniably lead to death if it is not reversed. I believe that condition is to deny, as the Pharisees did, the obvious working of God in their midst.

In the book of Acts we see examples of both types of responses to the obvious work of God. Examples of positive responses are Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, the Jailor at Philippi, Timothy, and others. As examples of negative responses we see the members of the Sanhedrin, Ananias and Sapphira, Festus, Felix, and Agrippa, the Jews who opposed Paul’s message, and others.  

(This is the last lesson in this set of topical lessons about Tough Stuff Jesus Said. Thank you for reading.)



One of the possible meanings of “come” is “to show himself” to be something, i.e. “to demonstrate.” This verse if talking about witnesses that prove who Jesus is, thus they demonstrate or “show” who Jesus is.


The King James Version, and a few others that follow it, have more to this verse. However, it appears that the shorter version is the older, more authentic one and that the longer version of this verse is not to be trusted, but had a part added long after it was written. The part that was added is only found in nine manuscripts, four of which include it in the margin, meaning the copier was in doubt about its authenticity. The oldest manuscript to include it in the text is from the 14th Century, and the rest are from the 16th Century. This means it was added very late. However, it found its way into the set of manuscripts relied on by the translators of the King James Version and that has popularized the longer version of this verse.


The Greek says “are in one.”


This introduces a causal idea, meaning the reason behind what was just said. The testimony of God is greater, not only because He is God, but also because of what He is providing evidence about – the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”


Here the Greek text has a different grammatical form of the name for God but I keep it as Theos because I want the reader to recognize it and not be confused.


The verb used here means “to speak freely and with boldness.”

7: "if we know"

I use an “if” statement in the translation because that is what the Greek uses, but I have chosen to use a “because” statement in the paraphrase since we know the result. The emphasis of the statement is the confidence we can have in this matter.