His peers knew him as a man of God. Some even referred to him as, “A man after God’s own heart.” They had seen him in action, under stress and duress, and his character and integrity had reflected the heart of God. The people greatly admired him. David was the one they looked to as an example of everything that was good and upright.

With public opinion high and the accolades rolling in from every corner of the nation, the Israelites went to war. Instead of taking his place beside his faithful troops, the King stayed home, in his comfortable surroundings. One night he saw a beautiful woman, a married woman who was bathing on her roof. He sent for Bathsheba with every intention of taking advantage of her while her husband was off fighting the battle of the King. The King slept with the woman that night and later found out that she was pregnant with his child. The “noble” King would certainly not acknowledge ignoble deed, so he acted quickly.

His first course of action was to create a cover-up, to cover his tracks and escape “Scott free.” David decided to have Bathsheba’s husband come home from the war for a little “R and R.” He wanted the woman’s husband, Uriah, to go home and enjoy the pleasures of his wife for a night as a reward for his faithful service on the battlefield. Uriah went to his home, but he never stepped foot inside the door – he slept on the ground outside the house to avoid temptation. When he reported back to the King the next day he was questioned as to why he refused to go into his home and sleep with his wife. Uriah demonstrated that he possessed more character and integrity than the King when he said,

11 “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:11 NIV)

The King was not about to give up. He was set on making sure that Uriah spent at least one night with his wife, Bathsheba, so that everyone would believe that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, fathered the baby. The King invited him to spend one more day at home. That very night he invited him to a party where David made sure that Uriah had plenty to drink. When getting Uriah drunk didn’t diminish his loyalty to his fellow soldiers who were out fighting, David had Uriah sent back to the field of battle. As Uriah was getting ready to head back to the battlefield, David said, “Uriah, I have a note I want you to give to Joab, the captain of my army.”

15In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 16So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. (2 Samuel 11:15-17 NIV)

After Uriah had been killed defending his country, the news came back to the townspeople. We read in 2 Samuel 11:26 how Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, mourned for her husband when she found out that he was dead. Samuel writes,

26When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD. (2 Samuel 11:26-27 NIV)

David brought the young widow into his own home and the townspeople stood in awe of their noble King. The heart of their King, the compassion of their King, brought tears to their eyes as they watched him care for the poor widow who was in the throes of grief and sorrow. They didn’t know the whole story. They didn’t have a clue that it was the King who had had Uriah killed to cover up his own sin.

This would surely be the sin that would undo David! Surely God would rip the Kingdom from his hands and reject David forever. How could he ever receive forgiveness for committing adultery, lying when he knew the truth, committing murder in such a bold manner, and allowing the people to think that he was a saint while he was mired in such sin? That is a great question. The question is put forth with even more boldness and conviction when you understand that in the Old Testament there are two kinds of sin. We’ll take a long look at this a little later, but for now it is enough to know that sin committed in ignorance was pardonable. The person, or community, could make an offering at the Temple and God would forgive. Sin that was committed in defiance of God’s command had no prescription for its remedy at the Temple.

David’s sin was definitely in defiance. He knew better. He inquired about Bathsheba before he ever sent for her. He knew she was married. He knew her husband was defending the country. He defied God’s commandments willingly. What could David do to absolve his guilt? How could David ever be freed from his secret sin? What would God do in response to David’s sin?

Those are wonderful questions to set the stage for our study of God’s Word today. If you will turn with me to 1 John 5:16-17 as we continue our study of God’s Word.

Two weeks ago, we spent time in God’s Word taking a look at the facts given by John, “So that we may know.” John wanted us to know that we are saved through Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross to pay for our sins, know that God hears us when we pray according to His will, and know what His will is for our lives. Today we are going to look at another aspect of prayer. Take a look with me at 1 John 5:16-17,

16If 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. 17All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17 NIV)

I want to take a moment to share with you the experience I have had for the past two weeks as I have studied this Scripture. The first time I took a look at it and began to study it, I shuddered at what appeared to me to be a cold, hard-hearted approach to those in sin. I’ve been mired in sin and I’ve had friends mired in sin who needed prayer. To think that John is suggesting that we not pray for those who are mired in sin seems to reduce my prayer list to almost nothing. Most of those I pray for are those who are struggling with sin in some fashion or another. On top of this, I wanted to know what is the sin that leads to death? I surely wanted to avoid it if I could only know what it is.

When I realized that last Sunday was Mother’s Day there was nobody more excited about Mother’s Day than me. I was not prepared to preach on this Scripture even after I had studied it for some time. I just could not understand.

When Monday of this week rolled around I began to study and pray over this passage again…still not understanding. I just could not see how this passage reflected the heart of Jesus in any way. Finally, on Wednesday of this past week, God broke through. I spoke with a couple of friends of mine who are passionate students of God’s Word, I studied further, and God brought clarity to my confusion. I woke up at 5:30 am on Thursday and studied with a heart of praise as I began to write this sermon. As I continued to write I could not wait until I had the opportunity to share what I had learned with you.

I share this experience of mine with you because I know that all of us stumble onto parts of God’s Word that simply do not make any sense to us. When that happens we are so quick to dismiss the passage, comment that this couldn’t apply to today, or try to make it say something that God never intended. My friend, let me share with you what my friend Dr. David Darnell told me long ago. David said, “Mike, when you come to God’s Word you must humble yourself before the text. With your study behind you allow God to speak His truth to you.” I can tell you that some of the most powerful teaching that you will ever gain from God’s Word will be passages that confuse and confound you at first. If you will seek the Lord in your study and prayer God will speak to your heart and you will be blessed.

Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today. John writes,

16If 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. 17All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17 NIV)

John is addressing two very specific situations that we face in life: sin that does not lead to death and sin that does lead to death. It is important to know that John is writing to believers. He is not giving us instructions for our family and friends who are not believers. John instructs us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are involved in sin that does not lead to death. In the very next sentence John wants to make sure that we know that there is sin that leads to death. John writes, “I am not saying that he should pray about that.” If you are like me you are wondering, “What is the sin that leads to death?” I sure want to avoid that sin and I know you do as well. For us to understand what John is writing about we need to understand “sin” and the biblical understanding of this word.

In the Old Testament there are two different kinds of sin as I mentioned earlier when we were speaking about David and his sin in committing adultery, lying, murder, and deceiving the people of God. Let’s take a look at the two different kinds of sin God addresses in the Old Testament.

First, there is the sin of ignorance. The Hebrew word, (bishegagah), means, “to go astray, err, to commit sin of ignorance or inadvertence.” The sin committed in ignorance was completely different than the other kind of sin, the sin that was committed in defiance of God and commands. In the Old Testament, God gave people the hope that their sin committed in ignorance could be forgiven. There was an offering to be made by the community, or by the individual who committed the sin. Once the offering was made then the people could rest in God’s faithful forgiveness extended to them.

In Numbers 15:22-29, we find Moses speaking to the people concerning their sins committed in ignorance when he says,

22″‘Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses-23any of the LORD’S commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come-24and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. 25The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. 26The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. 27″‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. 29One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. (Numbers 15:22-29 NIV)

Forgiveness was extended to all people, both Jew and non-Jew, who committed sins in ignorance, not knowing any better or straying from God’s commands.

There is another kind of sin which God addresses in the Old Testament. This is not a sin committed in ignorance, but sin committed in defiance of God’s commands. These people knew better, they simply chose to go their own way, to defy God. There are two main Hebrew ways to identify this kind of sin. The first is a Hebrew phrase which is used to describe this type of sin — (beyadh ramah). The Hebrew phrase is made up of two words, (yad), which means, “hand, strength, or power.” The second word in the phrase is (ruwm), which means, “to rise, rise up, be lofty or exalted, to be lifted up.” Together, the two words literally mean, “With a high hand.”

After Moses gives the people hope for their sins committed in ignorance in Number 15:22-29, he turns to the sins of defiance. Moses writes,

30″‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. 31Because he has despised the LORD’S word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.'” (Numbers 15:30-31 NIV)

Oh the weight of our sin committed in defiance against what we know to be God’s truth! When we lift our hand in defiance against God then we will reap the harvest of our arrogance and pride.

There is another word that the Hebrews used to describe this defiance of God’s commands and it was the word,(bezadon). The word means, “pride, insolence, presumptuousness, or arrogance.” God uses this very word, when, in Obadiah, He speaks to the people and says,

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ 4 Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD. (Obadiah 1:3-4 NIV)

It is the same word used by God when He spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah and announced the day that He would visit Babylon for their defiance, arrogance, and rebellion against His holy name.

29 “Summon archers against Babylon, all those who draw the bow. Encamp all around her; let no one escape. Repay her for her deeds; do to her as she has done. For she has defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore, her young men will fall in the streets; all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,” declares the LORD. 31 See, I am against you, O arrogant one,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty, “for your day has come, the time for you to be punished. 32 The arrogant one will stumble and fall and no one will help her up; I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her.” (Jeremiah 50:29-32 NIV)

This word of defiance, with fist clenched and held high in the face of God’s righteous commands, had no provision by which it could be taken care of in the Temple of God. There were no offerings designated in the book of Numbers or Leviticus or any other book of God’s Word for that matter.

John has been warning his readers to avoid sin. John knows that sin will destroy us if it is left unchecked. He knows that the followers of Jesus will fall into sin and he wants us to know that if we will have a soft heart, if we will allow God to deal with our sin, and purge us from the hardness of heart that leads us away from God, then God will forgive us. John said, 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

Aren’t those words sweet to our ears? To know that what no person can cleanse us from our holy and righteous God longs to wash us with the forgiving waters of Heaven and set us free from our sin! God is so good!

John doesn’t want us to simply possess the knowledge that we can be forgiven if we will turn to God, but he also wants us to know that we are part of the Body of Christ. When one of us sins the whole Body is affected. We are to pray for our brothers and sisters who fall into sin. John says, 16If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” Through our intercession for one another, God can and will work in a mighty way to lead us back to Himself and out of sin. God hears your prayers for His people who are held captive by sin.

John goes on to speak about sin that leads to death. John wants us to know that he is not demanding that we pray about this sin. When we, or a brother or sister, choose to live in defiance of God’s commands then we are mocking God and we do so jeopardizing our very lives. God loves us so much, He knows sins destructive nature so well, that He is willing to take us home rather than have sin slowly decimate our bodies, minds, and souls. We see illustrations of this in God’s Word where some of His chosen people acted in defiance of God’s holy righteousness and He called them home. There is sin that a Christian can commit which will result in God taking him home in physical death. It is so hard for some of us to understand how God’s taking us home could ever be an act of love on God’s behalf. We have to realize that God cherishes eternity more than this life. We place so much of an emphasis on this life, this life full of sorrow, heartache, sickness, and suffering. God glories in eternity. The Bible tells us that God cherishes the moment when His children come home. David wrote in Psalm 116, 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15 NIV) If, because of sin, God’s child is suffering so greatly in defiance, God will take His child home to relieve their suffering and to end their defiance. Let’s take a look at some examples of where God called His children home.

Moses defied God’s commands while he was leading the children of Israel around the desert on their way to the Promised Land. God has specifically instructed Moses as to what he should do in front of the assembly of the people, but Moses did his own thing. Read along with me in Numbers 20:7-12,

7The LORD said to Moses, 8″Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. 10He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:7-12 NIV)

Many have said, “Man, that is extreme! Because Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it God would take his life before he got to see the Promised Land?” The issue was not speaking or striking the rock, the issue was that Moses didn’t trust in God enough to honor Him before the people. He committed a “high handed sin” of defiance against the holy and righteous God.

In the New Testament, we know of a man and woman named Ananias and Sapphira. In Acts 5 you can read their story of how they brought an offering to give to God. They had sold a piece of property and brought the money to Peter. When Peter asked them if that was what they sold the property for, Ananias said, “That’s it! Every dime!” Then we read,

3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” (Acts 5:3-9 NIV)

Ananias and Sapphira committed sin unto death. They lied to the Holy Spirit in defiance of God’s commands and God took them home.

Each Sunday, as we gather for communion we are told by Ray that we should examine ourselves before we share in the Lord’s Supper. Ray does well in encouraging us to do so because God’s Word instructs us to not take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them that many of them were sick and some had even died because of this very sin. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 11:28-30,

28That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. 29For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. (1 Corinthians 11:28-30 NLT)

What is interesting about these examples that I have shared with you is that they did not commit a common sin that led to the Lord taking them home. For Moses it was striking a rock, for Ananias and Sapphira it was lying to the Holy Spirit, and for the Corinthians it was taking the Lord’s Supper apart from humility and reverence. Ananias and Sapphira died instantly, but Moses didn’t. The point is that the Lord will take us home in His time. He knows when our defiance has reached the point of no return. He knows when our hearts have become so defiant that it is time to bring the defiance to an end.

I don’t know about you, but this causes me great concern because I myself have acted in defiance towards Almighty God. I have raised my clenched fist and said, “I’ll do it my way!” It is only by God’s merciful grace that I stand before you today. I must ask the question, “If there is no offering to be made at the Temple for sins of defiance, then are we, who have acted in this way hopeless?” Here comes the Good News. There is no offering to made at the Temple, but there is hope. Our hope rests in repentance.

When David was confronted with his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah by the Prophet Nathan, David exhibited brokenness for his sin. Take a look at Psalm 51 and read along with me.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:1-12 NIV)

David confessed his hard-heartedness. He confessed his “high handed” sin to the Father and God forgave him for the wrong he had done. David also learned a great lesson: he was a vulnerable man. David knew that if he had done it once he could do it again. We would be blessed to learn the same lesson my friend. We lean only upon the grace of Almighty God to sustain us and keep us from raising hands of defiance towards our holy and righteous God.

I would encourage all of us to commit to heart David’s words found in Psalm 19,

9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:9-13 NIV)

Allow God to continuously search our hearts for “hidden faults” as well as to keep us from “willful sins” that will destroy us. Know this, God takes no pleasure in taking the lives of sinners. God spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel and said,

10″Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”‘ 11Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:10-11 NIV)

The heart full of sin that stretches out it’s hand in defiance of Almighty God, breaks the heart of God. When God’s children turn their faces of stone away from their Father who loves them, and they refuse to their hearts towards home, the Lord can bring them home. Dr. H.A. Ironside tells the story,

“Sometimes you see children playing outside, and when quarreling breaks out the mother says, “If you don’t behave yourself, you will have to come in the house.” Her child says, “Don’t worry, mother, I’ll be good.” But a little while later quarreling breaks out again, and the mother comes out and says, “Now that’s enough. You’ve got to come in. I can’t trust you outside anymore.” The child begs his mother to let him stay out some more. “Oh, mother, I’ll be good. I promise I will.” But she says, “No, I gave you a chance. Now come on inside. I can’t trust you out there any more.”

Oh, my brother or sister, if God has shown you this morning that you are living in defiance of His holy commands then won’t you turn your face towards Heaven in repentance and allow the Father to soften your heart and forgive you of your sin?

Praying For Saints and Sinners
1 John 5:16-17