What Is The Sin Unto Death?

Dan Corner Examines, What Is The Sin Unto Death?

Robert P. Lightner wrote:

Death is the most severe form of God dealing with Christians who refuse to forsake their sin. We sometimes speak of such sin as “sin unto death.” John wrote of this in his first epistle (1 John 5:13-17). There are other texts of Scripture which seem to refer to the same thing (i.e., 1 Cor. 5:5; 11:29, 30; Heb. 6; John 15:6). Nowhere in Scripture is the “sin unto death,” or the sin which results in God’s judgment in physical death, defined. Evidently it could be any sin which the believer refuses to confess and forsake. This judgment by physical death means that God removes the individual from the earthly scene because his life and testimony are no longer productive for Him. Moses’ sin became the sin unto death. God took his life and did not permit him to enter the Promised Land. (Sin, the Savior, and Salvation, pp. 268, 269)

Moses’ sin was he disobeyed God’s command to honor him as holy before the eyes of people (Num. 27:13). After he sinned, did he still live a productive life for God? Yes! The Biblical record shows he laid his hands on Joshua as God commanded (Num. 27:18-25). Furthermore, he took vengeance on the Midianites, as directed by the Lord (Num. 31:1,2).

How could this be if his sin and subsequent death is an example of the sin unto death which comes because a person’s life and testimony is no longer productive to God, as the Once Saved Always Saved teachers say?

Zane Hodges and John MacArthur both refer to physical death as being the judgment on a Christian:

A Christian who lives after the flesh is certainly in danger of death, but he is not in danger of hell. (Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, p. 12)

Believers are kept from being consigned to hell, not only by divine decree, but by divine intervention. The Lord chastens to drive His people back to righteous behavior and even sends death to some in the church (v. 30) to remove them before they could be condemned (cf. Jude 24). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1746)

Such a sin could be any premeditated and unconfessed sin that causes the Lord to determine to end a believer’s life. (Ibid., p. 1974)

By teaching like this, they both are proclaiming a license for immorality for the unrepentant who once believed, since they will have a quicker trip to a paradise Heaven for their steadfast rebellion through the Once Saved Always Saved interpretation of the sin unto death.

An example of one who lived after the flesh was the Prodigal. Not only didn’t he die physically, but he did die spiritually through sin (Lk. 15:24,32). This is the exact opposite of what Zane Hodges and John MacArthur teach. Furthermore, the Prodigal was in danger of hell at the time he was both spiritually dead and lost.

The Apostle Paul reiterates the Prodigal’s experience with Rom. 8:13. He candidly taught Christians:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The death here can only be spiritual. Gal. 6:8,9 elaborates in more detail about sowing to please the sinful nature and contrasts that to living to please the Spirit to reap everlasting life:

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Finally, Robert Lightner cited 1 Cor. 5:5 which he says seems to refer also to the sin unto death. But Dave Hunt contradicts that by saying the unnamed man of 1 Cor. 5 was restored in 2 Cor. 2:4-11.

The man who had “his father’s wife”—a terrible sin—didn’t lose his salvation thereby but as a brother in Christ was cut off from fellowship in discipline (1 Cor 5:1-13); then later he was restored (2 Cor 2:4-11). (Dave Hunt, The Berean Call, July 1996, p. 3)

Which Once Saved Always Saved teacher is wrong about the sin unto death and 1 Cor. 5:5, Robert Lightner or Dave Hunt?

By the way, John Calvin also taught a license for immorality by interpreting 1 Cor. 5:5 the way he did:

Again, when he says that he had delivered the Corinthian to Satan, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. v. 5); that is, as I interpret it, he gave him over to temporal condemnation, that he might be made safe for eternity. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.12.5)

Copyright, Dan Corner. For much more information exposing and refuting once saved always saved, please consult the massive volume by Dan Corner entitled, The Believer’s Conditional Security.