1 John 5:16 NASB

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” ‭‭

What does it mean for God to give life to the brother who is committing sin when another brother asks God for it? How does God “give life”? What is the connection between a brother praying for his sinning brother? This does not mention that the sinning brother needs to also repent, it seems to focus on the prayer/heart of the brother who sees another in sin.

2 Answers 2


Let us be very clear about what 1 John 5:16 is saying (BLB):

If anyone should see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He will give him life, to those sinning not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he should implore concerning that.

"life" here is ζωή (zóé) which is define in this context a few verses earlier:

1 John 5:11, 12 - And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

This is the most common meaning of ζωή (zóé), namely, "eternal life" as per Matt 19:16, 29, 25:46, Mark 10:17, 25, 30, Luke 18:18, 30, John 3:15, 16, 36, 4:14, 36, 5:24, 39, 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68, 10:28, 12:25, 50, 17:2, 3, Acts 13:46, 48, Rom 2:7, 5:21, 6:22, 23, Gal 6:8, 1 Tim 1:16, 6:12, Titus 1:2, 3:7, 1 John 1:2, 2:25, 3:15, 5:11, 13, 20, Jude 21.

The situation is best described by Benson in his comments on 1 John 5:16 -

1 John 5:16-17. If any man, &c. — As if he had said, Yea, he hears us not only for ourselves, but others also; see his brother — That is, any child of man; sin a sin which is not unto death — That is, any sin but that which is marked out in the awful words of our Lord Jesus Christ as unpardonable, namely, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, of which see on Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29. Or, which may rather be intended, the sin of total apostacy from both the power and form of godliness; he shall ask, and God shall give him life — Repentance unto life, and, in consequence thereof, pardon and salvation for that sinner. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it — That is, let him not pray for it. A sin unto death may likewise mean one which God has determined to punish with temporal death. All unrighteousness is sin — Every deviation from perfect holiness is sin; but all sin is not unpardonable, nor does God determine to punish every sin with temporal death.

That is, when a person sins, the sinners should seek divine pardon. Thus, as Benson correctly points out, most sins are not final, but some sins such as determined apostasy and the unpardonable sin.


It refers to the power of intercessory prayer for salvation, either by prayer alone miraculously, or through complementary works of encouragement to draw someone out from his sin. John suggests not to worry too much about those fallen in grave sins. Cf. Col 1:9-12. The verse does not in any way mean a guaranteed life or salvation, as if a prayer works like a charm, but it is a general statement.

James 5:18-20 NMB

18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruits. 19Brethren, if any of you err from the truth and another converts him, 20let him know that he who turned the sinner from going astray out of his way will save a soul from death, and will hide the multitude of sins. The end of the epistleof Saint James.

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