1 John 5:16New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
I believe it means that for lesser sins we can intercede for a brother or sister and God will give them life, which to me means this. The wages of sin is death, but if you intercede for someone commiting one of these sins, God will give them life, mercy to cover the naturally incurred penalty, forgiveness, healing, etc.
A sin unto death(generally, imo) is any of the sins for which death was the penalty in OT. Murder, adultery, witchcraft, etc.- eggregious sins for which there can be no deliverance from the consequence without repentance, and sometimes even then, after repentance, there are still naturally incurring penalties that cannot be avoided, even tho God has forgiven a truly repentant offender.
I think some sins are worse than others, under both the old and new testament. Paul sort of showed this in his response to the situation where a man had his father's wife and was delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.
In 1 Tim 1:20 Paul delivered Hymeneus and Philetus, false teachers, over to Satan that they might "learn not to blaspheme". In Acts Ananias and Saphira were slain for "lying to the Holy Ghost" in the midst of a massive move of the Spirit.
There is more mercy in the New testament, in that we may repent even grievous sins and be forgiven and released from condemnation and restored to fellowship, where under the OT judgment was irrevocable even after repentence, like Achan in Joshua 7, who confessed and(I believe) repented but was executed anyway, and gave glory to God for it. But there are still occasions where certain levels of sin will bring a swift response from God.
I pesonally see it like this.
Maybe you see a brother or sister who has a drinking problem, a problem with their temper, a jealousy problem, gossip, or a pride issue, a bad habit. Havent we all struggled with such things, and don't we all still struggle with something?? As James says, "We all stumbe in many ways".
So we pray for one another. God will hear our prayer and give life to those we pray for, even to the point of remedying the problem. I have seen this at work over the years, and seen God answer such prayers, sometimes surprisingly quickly, sometimes over time. We never know when a brother or sister is just stuck, or if they are in a valley of decision concerning a fault, stuck in a character flaw, or what- so we pray, we intercede, and God who knows the hearts answers accordingly.
The Lord Jesus said, "if your brother sins against you 7 x 7, and repent forgive him."
Paul also said, "if you find a brother in a fault, let those who are spiritual among you restore such a one, in a spirit of meekness"...
This is the spirit in which I hear John speaking. This is, imo, the measure in the balance which John is revealing.
I see seven levels(you know, sorta, not hard-line) of response/judgment, all beginning with US, ALL requiring discernment
1 If you see a brother committing a sin not unto death, pray for him".... the discernment leads to a secret response of intercessionary prayer.
2 "If you find a brother in a fault, let those who are spiritual among you restore such a one in a spirit of meekness "considering your own selves"..... the discernment leads to "come let us reason together"- counsel and restoration
3 "If a brother sins against you go, in private, to him and speak with him, and if he repents you, you have won your brother".....the discernment leads to an appeal
4 "If he does not hear you, go with another (you may find your compaint is not properly founded, or you may find that it is)..... the discernemt leads to a stronger appeal with a consequence of exposure.
5 "If he does not hear you with another witness take him before the assembly(know you not you shall judge the world? know you not you will judge angels? can you not resolve disputes among yourselves?)..... the discernemnt leads to an appeal with exposure and a potential consequence of stern discipline
6 "If he does not hear the church, let him be as a sinner and a publican" ......the discernment leads to a tribunal and possible sentencing of judgment.
7 "I have decided to deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the Day" (Jannes &Jambres, Hymenias & Philetus, the man who had his father's wife, Annanias and Sephira)..... the discernment leads to judgment and sentencing without appeal.
Notice that in ALL of these there is care for the offender. The first two maintain the strictest confidence and discretion(in the closet, not before men). The second two are still in the nature of an appeal to "reason together, tho your sins be as scarlet I will make them white as snow". The fifth is a tribunal, where the offender is brought out in the open almost as in an earthly grand jury- but still holds the opportunity to repent and be restored to fellowship, forgiveness and right standing.. The sixth is stern discipline, a sentence passed- but only until such a one should repent and return- STILL to be reconciled upon humbling himself......
2 Cor 3 6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him..
The seventh is a sentence passed, sometimes without remediation in this life, referred to the grand tribunal at the Great White Throne- but STILL remedial("That they may learn not to blaspheme"..."That his spirit may be saved in the Day")
Behold the goodness of the Lord whose judgment is swallowed up in mercy and whose righteousness and peace are kissing one another!
I would add, that in the light of the clear demonstration that God's ultimate intention is restoration in evry one of these levels of discernment/judgement, Why should it surprise anyone that the 8th level of judgment and beyond(after the second resurrection)- whatever that is(I am not drawing hard lines here LOL, I see these things in principle flowing in and out of one another) would be for the ultimate purpose of restoration also- the discernment/judgment of the wicked is also remedial. Glory to God, I just love it