Can you explain I John 5:16?


Afternoon bro Lesley. Hopefully you are doing well today. Please what is your take on 1 John 5:16? I want a good explanation on the asking if a brother commits sin. Is the asking from the brother or asking in prayer for him who saw him committing the sin? Or is the asking applicable both ways? Thanks.


I John 5:16 reads: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.”

The Greek word for “ask” in this verse is aiteo (G154) and it means “to request, petition, demand.” It is not the same word translated “ask” in I Corinthians 14:35 (“…let them ask their husbands at home…”) The word translated “ask” in I Corinthians 14:35 is “eperotao” (G1905) and it means “to interrogate, to question, demand of.” So in I John 5:16, John is not saying that the one who sees another in sin should interrogate him, rather, it refers to asking in prayer for the one who commits the sin.

However, from other passages of the scriptures, it is commanded that we restore an erring brother from sin such as in Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

So, if a brother is in sin, it is okay for another brother who sees him to try to talk to him and bring him back. It is okay to ask the brother in sin and encourage him to return. So, both telling the brother about his sin and paying for him are taught in the scriptures. 

But based on the context of I John 5:16, the “asking” there refers to praying for him. You would notice the next statement says God will give him life. This life comes as a result of the asking which is the prayer offered. Also, the last statement in the verse (“I do not say that you should pray about that”) shows that prayer is what is in reference in the first statement.

Answer Provided By: Osamagbe Lesley Egharevba

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