Title: All That We Ask
Text: I John 5:14-17
FCF: We often struggle asking God for things in His will.
Prop: Because God’s true children will be given all they ask in His will, we must ask in His will on behalf of ourselves and our fellow Christians.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John 5. As John comes to the end of his letter we see him repeating some themes while adding others. Last week we saw the testimony of God the Father about His Son – how he is the messiah, in flesh, sent through baptism, through death, through ascension. Further, the testimony of God in our hearts is that we have life in His Son. We are alive, which is proof that His Son is all He said He was. We are the proof of Christ’s identity. Because we have been remade.
Now John builds on this knowledge we have, he builds on our knowing we have eternal life to show us a confidence that we now have. It is a confidence he has spoken of before, but now he will present it in a slightly different light, with a different application.
I am in I John 5 starting in verse 14. I’ll be reading from the NET today but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
Maybe a shorter sermon today -but I assure you – it is fairly heavy hitting. So buckle up – it may be bumpy.
I.) In the surety that we have eternal life, God’s true children will be given all they ask in His will, so we must ask in His will. (14-16)
a. [Slide 2] 13 – I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
i. Once again we will include a verse that is not technically part of this thought. John does such a masterful job with his transitions that it is hard to know whether verses go with the previous thought or the next one.
ii. Verse 13 not only finishes everything up that he was saying about the testimony of God about His Son, but it also provides an explanation for the confidence that he will speak of in the following section.
iii. Again, John has written all he has written to confirm in the hearts of those who are believers on the person and work of Christ that they have eternal life in Him.
iv. That confirmation only fuels the confidence he talks about next.
b. [Slide 3] 14 – And this is the confidence that we have before Him:
i. John again leaves us wondering what “this” means.
ii. However, because of how he has used this expression throughout his letter, particularly in the words that follow, it makes most sense that it is what follows that is the confidence we have before God.
iii. So for those who know that they have eternal life because they are believing ones in the name of His Son…. They have a certain confidence as they approach God’s presence. What is it?
c. [Slide 4] That whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
i. We are unique. We are sons and daughters.
ii. We are privileged. We are accepted.
iii. If you have gotten to this point in I John and realized that you are fathered of God. His child. You have growing faith, enduring selfless love, and progressive obedience. If you have arrived here seeing the life that springs from what once was dead, sight from what once was blind, freedom from the slavery of sin and to righteousness. If you are surely His child…
iv. You can approach Him, know His will, ask within it, and be guaranteed that He. Will. Hear. You.
d. [Slide 5] 15 – And if we know that He hears us in regard to whatever we ask
i. So this next phrase builds upon what he just said.
ii. So we, His children, do ask in His will, and when we do, He hears us.
iii. Knowing that He hears us, what should that lead us to?
e. [Slide 6] then we know that we have the requests we have asked from Him.
i. God will grant to His children, who ask in His will, what they ask.
ii. To some this may seem a silly point to make. If God wants us to have something, and we ask for it – of course he will give it to us.
iii. But what of Zeus? What of Allah? What of Molech? What of Thor? What of all the false gods, demons over the course of history? Can they make this claim with exclusivity?
iv. No. Most of these gods were subject to the whims of other gods. They could no more guarantee anything to a mortal than one mortal to another.
v. But Yahweh – He deals differently with His worshippers. If He wants them to have something, and they ask for it, They will have it! Why? For they are His children.
vi. If we, being evil, can give good gifts to our children – how much more so can God who is Holy give good gifts to His children.
f. [Slide 7] Passage Truth: John’s teaching to his readers is something that he has specified before. Before he spoke of confidence to approach the throne of God when they were obedient to His law. Now he speaks of the same confidence flowing from knowing they have eternal life in His Son. That confidence is that God will give His true children what they ask for in His will.
g. Passage Application: John’s point here is that since he has already assured his readers that they are God’s true children, that they should continue to ask in the will of God, knowing that He will give them all they ask.
h. [Slide 8] Broader Biblical Truth: Although this truth does not mean that all that we ask of God will be given to us. It certainly means that all that we ask for that God wants us to have, will be given to us. Zooming out from I John we see this throughout the scriptures and even throughout church history. We see God providentially answer the prayers of His people to do things that would be unimaginable. From Jacob wrestling with God for a blessing, to Peter being freed from prison, to George Mueller sitting down to ask for a blessing on the food that they did not have and minutes later receiving through the front door of his orphanage enough bread and milk for 300 orphans. God answers the prayers of His children, when they pray in His will. And it isn’t always miraculous – but then again – maybe it is.
i. Broader Biblical Application: What then ought to be our application? But to pray. To earnestly seek from God all that we need. To ask of Him – couching every request with the words of our Savior – not my will but yours. And sit back and watch Him give good gifts to His children. Unless of course – you are not His child. You cannot receive such gifts from Him…no… because you cannot begin to fathom His will. In fact, what you do know of His will, you do not follow. No – such a promise is not for you. But for His children… it is a promise of beauty unending.
[Slide 9] But what would be a specific illustration of this point? It is one thing to say that all we ask for in God’s will will be granted to His true children… but what does that look like? John answers that question with a vivid illustration.
II.) In the surety that we have eternal life, God’s true children will be given all they ask in His will, so we must intercede on behalf of our sinning brothers and sisters (16-18)
a. [Slide 10] 16 – If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death
i. With such a confidence, with such a guarantee, we might think, selfishly that we stand to gain a great deal from making requests before our God.
ii. Which of course, is still true. We gain everything given to the Son, because we are in Him.
iii. However, John moves to apply this confidence in love toward our fellow Christians.
iv. But what is meant by this phrase “a sin not resulting in death”?
v. Perhaps we just let that simmer for a second, because this is not the first time he will mention it.
vi. Maybe we can deduce what it means from what he continues to say.
vii. What we can know for sure is that we see a fellow Christian committing a sin. What does that mean in light of being able to ask God anything in His will and He will grant it to us?
b. [Slide 11] He should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death.
i. It does get a little tricky in here when it comes to pronouns.
ii. Literally this would read “he will ask, and he will grant life to him committing a sin not to death”
iii. So who is asking, who is granting, and who is getting life?
iv. Based on the context and grammar it seems that the one asking is the one who saw another commit a sin.
v. Based on the context, it would make most sense that the one being asked is God, and is therefore the one who grants life.
vi. And the life would then go to the one who committed the sin.
vii. The future tense here “he will ask” indicates either a command, or more likely, a future certainty. In other words, if you are a genuine Christian, when you see your brother committing sin, you will petition God on his behalf, so long as the sin he is committing is a sin not unto death. And if it is not, God will grant life to them.
viii. Still this leaves us with a perplexing question. What is the sin unto death? What is life? Are we speaking of life and death physically – or spiritual and eternal?
ix. We should continue on to see.
c. [Slide 12] There is a sin resulting in death.
i. Now John addresses the opposite. He has discussed a sin not unto death.
ii. Now he will talk about a sin unto death.
iii. If we are to intercede for a Christian we see in a sin NOT unto death… what are we to do for someone we see committing a sin unto death?
d. [Slide 13] I do not say that he should ask about that.
i. Literally “There is a sin to death. Concerning this, I do not say ask that”
ii. Do not ask God to give them life.
iii. What John says seems heartless
iv. What could a sin unto death be when John refuses to advise his readers to intercede for them for God to bring them to life?
v. Again – let’s let it all simmer just a little longer and then we will bring it together.
e. [Slide 14] 17 – All unrighteousness is sin,
i. All unrighteousness is sin.
ii. All lawlessness is evil and wicked before God.
iii. John doesn’t want his readers to take his statements too far.
iv. Although there is a sin unto death – all sins are lawlessness and egregious before God.
f. [Slide 15] But there is sin not resulting in death.
i. There is such a thing as a sin that does not result in death.
ii. By that he seems to conclude that sin leading to death is normal. It is in considering that there is some sin that does not lead to death, that John feels he must assure his readers.
iii. As much as we really want to decipher in this text what the sin unto death is – in reality – the most perplexing thing John is saying is not that there is a sin unto death -but really that there is a sin that is not unto death. That is the crazy thing he says.
iv. [Slide 16] So how do we interpret this passage? How can we craft our interpretation so that sin unto death is a common thing – and something that John doesn’t actually advise Christians to intercede in prayer for? Furthermore, how do we paint the sin not unto death in the light of it being remarkable or even unthinkable?
v. First, we must understand that John is giving a real life example of the concepts he conveyed to us in verses 14-15. What did we learn there?
vi. We learned that for God’s children, they can approach His throne boldly, ask in His will, and receive from him all that they ask in His will. God’s children get what they ask for, if it is His will to give it to them.
vii. So in application of that, John says to ask for life to be given to a fellow Christian who is not sinning to death – and God will give the one not sinning to death, life. So John is saying that the will of God is to grant life to a person who is not sinning unto death.
viii. However, there is a sin unto death. John says not to even ask. Why? I think it is right to assume that John is saying that it is not God’s will that they would be given life. Why? Because they sin unto death.
ix. With that backdrop… what sin is God not willing to give life to? What sin is God unwilling to answer intercession for? What sin IS God willing to give life for?
x. There are many interpretations on this ranging from the Roman Catholic perspective of mortal vs. venial sins all the way to the view that these are sins that actually lead to the physical death of a person. Rather than going through each and every view associated here, I will instead focus on what I can see as the only real possibility.
xi. If you would like to talk about all the various theories on this, there is probably another time we can discuss - perhaps at our Wednesday night bible study.
xii. To put this simply – when is it God’s will to intervene in someone’s life and when is it not God’s will to intervene to the point that we ought not concern ourselves with interceding for them.
xiii. Very broadly, Those whom Christ is intercessor for, is one whom God will continue to intervene on their behalf. His Children. John has already spoken of our advocate when we sin. That is the main point of this passage, and indeed the entire book. Yet we must still address the other side.
xiv. We might assume that it is those whom Christ is not intercessor for. But there are two problems if we take this broadly to mean those who are not elect – first, we don’t know who the elect are and aren’t. Secondly, we are to pray for the salvation of all men because we don’t know who the elect are.
xv. So we must ask - has scripture revealed any group of people who God is not willing to grant life to in their sin? A group that we can recognize and therefore, not pray for?
xvi. The only real solution there is, is that John is referring to the group that he has been defending his flock from this entire time. Apostates. False Teachers. Those who preach a different gospel. Those who are opposing the work of God.
xvii. Really all those who are actively advancing a gospel that is not the gospel, having been a part of us and yet abandoning the truth, and now advocate another gospel – these are not people whom we should pray should be given life. It is not God’s will that they be given life.
xviii. Paul says this in Galatians 1:8-9 – let them be accursed. Let them be condemned to hell.
xix. While the line a person must cross is fairly grey, the fact of the matter is that there is a certain level of spiritual illumination possible for some to come to that if they reach that point and reject the truth – they cannot return.
xx. We saw this with the unforgiveable sin that the Pharisees committed. Blasphemy against the Spirit. Which essentially was a belief that the Spirit was actually the power behind what was being done, yet fighting against that for selfish reasons. For such a person – there is no hope for forgiveness. There is no hope for life. They have seen the truth and rejected it. Demons believe and tremble, Judas knew He was the Son of God, but they still did not bow to Him.
xxi. And so for those who commit a sin unto death – meaning a willful and rebellious rejection of the truth and opposition to it – is to commit a sin for which no life will be granted. And therefore, John doesn’t expect his readers to pray for it.
xxii. But God’s will IS that His children receive life, ongoing and eternal life from Him. So that even in a sin that should bring death because all sin brings death – God will grant life. And that is the shocking part that John wants to hit home. That all sin is not unto death. God will give life to His children, even through their deadly sin.
g. [Slide 17] Passage Truth: So John’s main teaching actually repeats in this section, although it is harder to see. Everything that God’s people ask in His will, He will freely give them.
h. Passage Application: But John specifically applies this to the church. He gets practical in a way that they can truly love their fellow believers. And that is by praying that God would give them life and victory over sin.
i. [Slide 18] Broader Biblical Truth: This truth is throughout all the scriptures as we’ve seen. God honors the intercession of His people for one another.
j. Broader Biblical Application: So what ought our response be to such teachings? That God would continue to pour life, love, and grace into the hearts of believers overtaken in sin to conquer and correct their sinning ways. To be given victory and righteousness through the Son. For those who are apostates, heretics, false teachers – no, not to those – but to brothers? Pray earnestly, diligently, that as Jude says we may yet snatch them from the fire. This is not what SHOULD happen – but what WILL happen in the heart of God’s children. They seek the purity of other believers, not self-righteously, but in meekness and love.
[Slide 19(end)] Having seen this truth put into action, how then shall we live?
Do we really believe that God will give to us all that we ask when we ask in His will? I don’t think we do. And I see two potential problems there.
1.) There are things we don’t ask for, either because we do not believe that God truly wants us to have them, or because we actually don’t want them.
2.) There are things we do ask for and do not receive, and rather than admitting that perhaps God does not will it to be so, we instead conclude that God has not heard us.
This is a stretching teaching from John. All that we ask for in God’s will, will be granted to us. What does that mean if you don’t get what you ask for? There are only two possible conclusions. Either 1 – God is unwilling to give you what you ask for, at this time, or perhaps ever. Or 2 – You are not His child.
That is the negative side. But let’s talk about the positive side. Shall we?
How many things do you and I neglect to ask the Lord for on a daily basis? How many things do we take for granted that He will give, or do? How many things do we honestly think we can do for ourselves?
Child of God – listen…. He will give you all that you ask for in His will. What does that mean? We ought to be pursuing first – God’s will – and second - God’s throne. Access to both is through Christ and His Spirit.
And getting down to the point that John specifically mentions… we ought to be praying for our sinning brothers. Not wincing at their sin, or saying – I’m gonna have to have a talk with them… we ought to first be in prayer that God would grant them life.
But we don’t do that do we. No we think… honestly… that what we say will be the thing that turns the tide. Friends… we are so brazen to steal what God says is His gift to give. We ought first to pray and diligently intercede on behalf of our fellow Christian, overtaken in sin, so as to seek form the only one who can give it… life for them. Obviously that does not mean that we never go to them… but it does mean that we go in meekness… knowing full well two things. 1.) God gives victory not my words of correction and 2.) I am just like they are – and tomorrow it could very well be me.
Do you see who continues to get glory for sin’s defeat? Is it not God? Is it not His Son? Is it not His Spirit? When we intercede on behalf of our fellow Christians who are in sin, and they repent and get victory – who gets glory for that? Always God. Always.
But so often we do not care that some are in sin, or we assume it is not our place to tell them to stop. Friend it is God’s will that they live free of sin. So pray for them and go to them, trusting that when you ask in His will, you will receive what you ask for.
Is this level of love present in our hearts toward one another? Do we have the caliber of love for each other that we regularly do intercede on behalf of our fellow Christians for sin they have been overtaken by?
We ought to. We ought to.