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In considering who can commit sins that lead to death I wonder who the "brother" is in 1 John 5:16:

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.

Does the word 'brother' mean the same as 'believer'?

I've looked at the comments on this verse regarding sin that leads to death but not seen any reference to seeing his brother doing it.

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As the "apostle of love," John typically uses a familial term, brother, instead of another more-neutral term such as anyone or another believer, as did Paul in Galatians 6:1, where he said,

"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted" (NAS, my emphasis).

Notice, however, that Paul also uses a familial term, brothers, in his directive. I draw attention to this, since I'm not playing one apostle against the other in their approaches to dealing with sin in the local assembly of believers. Paul was, like John, a loving apostle!

By the way, James, the brother of our Lord, also used the word anyone in a similar passage:

"Is anyone among you sick? The he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another . . ." (5:14-16a, NASB Updated, my emphasis).

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Yes, brother does mean the same as believer in 1 John. John uses the term brother because of the believers special relationship with God the Father. All believers, according to John, have been born of God. 1 John 5:1 states

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

A brother cannot commit the sin leading to death because the sin leading to death is a lack of love for the brothers. 1 John 3:14-15 says

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

Check out my answer to "What is the Sin that Leads to Death in 1 John 5:16"

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In John 16:7-11, Jesus outlined the work of the Holy Spirit, when he said:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come,he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Thus there is only one sin that can't be forgiven - "... they believe not in me". It can't be forgiven because the perpetrators won't have it, and they won't have it because to their rational mind such an idea is either a stumbling block or foolishness.

Jesus said in John 10:9,

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

The 'brother' in 1 John 5:16 is anyone who has stepped through the door. If he has stepped through the door, then he can be reasoned with in regard to the commandments - God's principles of life for this creation - because they will matter to him. If he hasn't stepped through the door, then he isn't a brother, and your reasoning will be as pearls cast before swine.

What, then, do you do for a non-brother?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

You live the Commandments, which is what the world doesn't do, and why it's in the pickle that it is.

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Yes, "brother" here would mean believers. While "brother" can sometimes refer to fellow Jews in some NT cases, the audience determines its applicability. Since John wrote his letters to the church, "brothers" would certainly indicate the believers.

As for what the "sin that leads to death" is, I believe that is asked elsewhere on the site. How that would apply to believers would be the next step after that.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    While I agree with your conclusion, your answer is devoid of references; could you 'spruce it up' with a reference which would make a compelling argument? Thank you! – Tau Nov 2 '14 at 8:08
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"Brother" has to mean Christian in this case, because the "brother" who sins "NOT unto death" is given life if the sin is prayed for. This would not be said of an unbeliever, unless John teaches that unbelievers are given eternal life if we pray for them when we see them sin.

People usually fail to note that even the sin NOT unto death results in death till it is prayed for. ..."he shall ask,& He shall give him LIFE for them that sin not unto death". Death is still the result if it is not dealt with. The "sin unto death" should not even be prayed for. If you take it to simply mean unbelief, then John is teaching us not to pray for unbelievers. The sin unto death is explained in numbers 15 and in Heb.6:4-6 and in Heb.10:26 etc. willful, presumptuous in, & is only a problem for those who are presently alive spiritually.

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This was an interesting question to research on, thank you!

The answer is: Yes - and no. The term (adelphos) obviously describes a family relationship. What kind of family? Gal 5:10 reads:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

So it might be a "fellow disciple". Jesus Christ explained, that he himself decided who is his brother/sister (Mat 12:50):

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

There are believers that obviously are not in that family. Jam 2:19 reads:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Interestingly it is your own responsability who you name a brother. In Mat 18:15-17 Jesus told his disciples:

15 If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

So in fact it is your personal decision who you name a brother (of your family in faith) - as it was and still is Jesus' personal decision who he names brother. (Mat 7:15-23).

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange. We are glad you stopped by and hope you stay. When you have a chance, be sure to check out the site tour and read how this site is a little different than other sites... Your answer seems to relying on Christian theology, which is fine, but what we are really looking for is what the author had in mind. Thus, you need to explicitly connect these passages to 1 John to show how they influenced John. – ThaddeusB Nov 1 '15 at 22:47
  • There were just 2 previous answers that really answered the question about who John meant with "brother", one of it even without scriptures. So why then is MY answer off-topic and even receives a downvote? John was the disciple that "Jesus loved" (Joh 13:23). And James was Jesus' brother. James and John obviously also worked together as elders in Jerusalem. I'ld say these two sources are vital to understand John. Further more the whole letter of 1 John talks about the distinction of true fellows versus "not belonging to us" - even within the same church. See 1 John 2:19. – ftw Nov 2 '15 at 12:51
  • The other answers are poor too - that is my they have a score of zero - so don't use them as a guide to what a good answer looks like. FYI, two of them have a downvote which was balanced out by an upvote for net zero.... To answer your question directly, the others all state what "brother" means in context - they don't support it well, so they are poor answers, but they do state it. Your answer states what brother is based on theology in general and doesn't even mention a Johnanine passage. The way this site works, we don't assume different authors mean the same thing in their writings. – ThaddeusB Nov 2 '15 at 15:26
  • Well, if this is "how the site works", then you won't have people with different approaches stay here. This is just "I don't LIKE the answer". When there's no explanation in the Johannine Scriptures about the term "brother", then it's obviously the right thing to look into the explanations of friends and fellows. That information was presented. – ftw Nov 2 '15 at 16:34
  • No, it is not "I don't LIKE the answer" as I personally have no problem with the theology/approach. However, the community decided that BH.SE is not about "Bible Study" since it is open to people of all persuasions. As such, I am trying to help you understand what the site wants, not what I personally want. Please see the link I provided in the first post which explains the difference between a religious site and this site. – ThaddeusB Nov 2 '15 at 17:03

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