In 1 John 5:16-17, the author writes that there are some sins that lead to death and others that do not. I have always believed that all sin - any sin - is enough to separate us from God. This passage confuses me.

Thank you for admitting that you are confused about the passage. (Don't worry, you aren't alone!) "A sin that leads to death" is, I believe, singular, not plural. There are not some sins that lead to death and others that are okay. As I understand things (and wrote in The Letters of James, Peter, John, Jude, available in the Book and Audio section of this website), the sin leading to death is the sin that one refuses to repent of (Proverbs 28:13). Others, sensitive to the Gnostic background of the false teachers troubling John's churches, say his sin is rejecting Jesus. (And refusing to back down from a heretical position about who Christ is; the heretics were denying that Jesus even had a physical body!)

Yes, all sin leads to death, but that is a process. James 1:13-15 does not say that when you give in to temptation you are 'dead.' That comes about only when sin is "full grown."

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