Another item to add to your prayer list is sinning saints. You can make a difference in their lives.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2)
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (1Jo 5:14-17)
Restore Such an One
We are responsible for one another. God expects us to help a brother who has been overtaken in a fault. When someone is taken by surprise by temptation, and given in. Those who know Christ and see the fault are supposed to help the sinning saint recover from that fault.
One of the most important ways we can help sinning saints is by praying for them. God gave us a wonderful promise in 1 John. He said that we could pray for sinning saints and God would give them life. I understand this to mean that God will draw them back to Himself. His Holy Spirit will convict them and show the wandering sheep the path back home. (I can’t help but wonder, even as I write this, how many saints have wandered off, never to return, because no one cared enough for their soul to pray for them.)
“Wait,” you say, “what about the sin unto death?” I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I’ll tell you what I think based on the Scriptures. I think the sin unto death that John mentions is willful, persistent sin. Paul talked about being overtaken in a fault. Central to this passage is the idea that the sinner has been caught off guard. They have been overtaken through weakness or ignorance. In contrast to that, a sin unto death is one where the sinner looks God in the eye, so to speak, and says, “I know this is wrong, but I don’t care, I’m going to keep doing it anyway.”
It’s the same kind of sin that Paul warned the Corinthians about:
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Co 5:5)
The Old Testemant demonstrates this same idea in several places. It’s a recurring theme in the Book of Jeremiah. Here are two examples:
For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.
Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. (Jer 14:10-11)
Because God’s people were persistently rebellious, despite God’s many pleas and warnings, the opportunity to avoid God’s discipline was over. They had past the point of no return and judgment was on its way. God disciplines rebellious saints very sternly.
What About You?
- Are you involved in persistent sin that might make you the target of God’s discipline?
- Are you praying for sinning saints you know?