By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
It is one of those questions we likely know the answer to, yet it is always good to confirm. This is especially true when we come across a passage that appears to contradict another. As we continue to study the word of God this is bound to happen at least once; though it should not be a point of concern. When we find what appears to be a contradiction, we first need to understand the word of God is inerrant and without error. We then need to study and reflect on our conclusions to see where we may have strayed from God’s word.
1 John 5:16 (ESV): If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
When reading 1 John 5:16, it appears the Apostle John is saying there are some sins that do not lead to death. If this was the case, that would mean John does not agree with the Apostle Paul who said the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Paul did not limit or exclude sin in any way; his statement is laying out the consequences of all sin. In similar fashion, Paul says that all have sinned and as a result of our sin we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Separation from God’s glory for eternity is what spiritual death is and Paul states it is the result of sin. We also know God told Adam and Eve if they transgressed by disobeying Him and eating of the tree of knowledge, they would “surely die” (Genesis 3:3).
If the wages of sin is confirmed throughout Scripture as death, then what is John talking about? There are many differing opinions on this topic, but with certainty he is not saying some sins do not cause a Spiritual death. The consensus is John is talking about a physical death. The differing opinions is in regard to which type of event caused the physical death. For example, under the Mosaic Law there were sins like murder that were punishable by execution (Numbers 35:30).
Numbers 35:30 (ESV): Suppose a person kills someone. Then that person must be put to death as a murderer. But do it only when there are witnesses who can tell what happened. Do not put anyone to death if only one witness tells what happened.
Others believe it could be speaking on sins that cause fatal diseases for the sinner.
1 Corinthians 11:29-30 (ESV): For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Whether the physical death was brought by disease or the government; John is not contradicting Paul by saying some sins do not cause Spiritual damnation. Let us be mindful and diligent in our studies as we continue to follow the will of God.