SIN ISSUING IN DEATH
Notice that 1 John 5:16-17 speaks of a sin not unto death and of a sin unto death. Sin of course always results in death, but some sins do not bring in death right away. Death in some cases comes later. The children of Israel during their wilderness wandering provide us with illustrations of both types of sin. When Korah and his company rebelled against Moses (Num. 16), they died at once. Theirs was a sin unto death. Within a day of their sin they died. Miriam, in contrast, did not die immediately after sinning against Moses (Num. 12). That sin, however, caused both her and Aaron to die in the wilderness before the children of Israel entered the good land (Num. 20:1, 28). Sin, then, always issues in death; sometimes it is immediate and other times delayed.
It is good to avoid sin. We cannot by ourselves overcome it, however. Only life can. First John 5:18 says, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” Life overcomes sin. By overcoming sin, life also overcomes death. Life deals with the source or root of death, which is sin. By overcoming sin, it overcomes death. Every sin we commit kills us a little. Even losing our temper kills us. It not only kills our spirit; it even brings death to our physical body. There is nothing good about sin, but nonetheless we cannot overcome it. We must put our trust in that life which is God, even the Son of God Himself. Trust in life. Since life overcomes sin, it rescues us from death.
THE WORLD, THE WICKED ONE, AND IDOLS
Sin is also closely related to the world. We can neither separate the world from sin, nor can we separate sin from the world. If we go shopping and purchase some things we do not need, we are being worldly. At the moment what we have done may not be sin, but it is close to sin. The world is close to sin. In the concluding verses of 1 John there is a cluster of negative things: sin, death, the world, the evil one, and idols. “The whole world lieth in the wicked one.” When we buy something unnecessary from the world, what we get is from within the evil one. We may think of them simply as purchases from the department store, but those worldly things are from within Satan. The whole world, including modern things and fashionable styles, lies in the evil one.
John says, “The whole world lieth in the wicked one.” He does not use the word Devil or Satan, but rather “wicked one.” Actually in Greek the word is wicked, but it is clear that wicked denotes the wicked one. The whole world is lying in evil, or in the evil one. If you get an unnecessary article from the world, you are getting something out of the evil one. In the eyes of God, that thing is an idol.
The last verse says, “Children, keep yourselves from idols.” From the context we can see that idols are those things of the world which we love. We may choose to purchase a necktie, for example, because we think it is the latest style. To take pleasure in that necktie is to like something from within the evil one. A pair of shoes may be an idol. A car may be an idol. It may be an essential for transportation in our society, but if we go beyond fulfilling that need and love its style, it becomes an idol. Keep yourselves from idols.
This is not to say that we should be sloppy in our dress. But it is one thing to dress carefully and another to care for fashions and select our clothing on the basis of what is in style. To choose our clothes according to the fashion of this age is a sign that we are short of life. Fashionable clothes are then an idol to us.
Read over these concluding verses carefully. Pray-read them. Notice how interrelated sin, death, the world, and the wicked one are. Sin issues in death. Sin comes in because we are close to the world. The world is lying in the wicked one. What we choose to take out of it is an idol in the eyes of God. We must overcome sin and the world, and we must keep ourselves from idols.
When we sin, we not only need life ministered to us; we also need to realize that we are born of God. We have a part within us which has been born of God. In our prayers we must put our trust in these two things: the life which is God Himself and the part within us which has been born of Him. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (v. 18). Our spirit and the life which is the Lord Jesus Himself ministered to us as a life supply will overcome sin, death, the world, and the evil one. Then, since we are no longer under those things, our idols will be gone. As long as we are under sin, death, the world, and the evil one, we shall have many idols.
Your experience will confirm this. When you live in the world, you are under sin, under death, under Satan, and you have many things which are idols. How are you delivered out of these five negative things? To be brought out of them you must grow with life into God. Then you will be in the three positive things: God, the Son of God Jesus Christ, and life. You will mature.
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)