“All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.”
All unrighteousness is sin,
Hebrews warns against committing a sin that has no possibility of repentance (He 6:6; 10:26-27). The sin in Hebrews was the return to using Old Testament sacrifices after a full realization that the sacrifice had come – Jesus’ death on the cross. There is no possibility of repentance as long as one operates on Old Testament sacrifices because that prefers the type to the antitype. Christians can commit a sin leading to premature physical death. Prayer will not change this fact (5:16).
John does not want to be misunderstood by his statement in the previous verse that there is no need to pray for the Christian who commits the sin unto death. He does not want to minimize the seriousness of violating a holy God or discourage Christians from praying for all carnal Christians.
Sin violates God’s objective and absolute standards for life. “Unrighteousness” is the underlying principle for the commission of sin. Unrighteousness is injustice – it is the desire to break out of God’s will, authority, and objective standards for right.
Any “unrighteousness” or lawlessness against the authority of God’s standards for life is sin. There is no exception to this – “all.”
“All unrighteousness” is an occasion for intercessory prayer except for the sin unto death (5:16).
and there is sin not leading to death
On the other hand, there is a sin “not leading to death.” Intercessory prayer will change this situation, but not the sin unto death of the previous verse. Spiritual Christians should definitely pray for carnal Christians having not committed the sin leading to death. Intercessory prayer is important to deliver the carnal Christian from divine discipline. Unconfessed sin always invites discipline.
There is a limit to God’s tolerance of sin in our lives.
Most sin does not lead to corporal death; therefore, we can pray for most carnal Christians who do not commit the sin unto death (5:16). It is obvious that God makes distinctions in types of sin among His people. There is a classification of sin that leads to physical death, and then there is a class of sin that does not lead to corporal death. For example, Christian teachers have a greater responsibility than non-teachers regarding sin.
Jas 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
God is long-suffering and merciful, but there is a limit to His tolerance. God takes responsibility for who and what we are. He will not let His people get away with what non-Christians practice. He gives us so much rope, and then, like a dog, we reach the end of our rope and jerk up short. God loves us too much to let us get away with bloody murder. He will not let us play fast and loose with the world too long.