The Certainty of Answered Prayer

by Mike Ratliff

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

I do not receive Tweets from Mark Driscoll, but I have friends who do. I received the following from one of those friends today: “Done preaching in Africa & managed to not punch the guy who was sleeping w/5 women & claiming to be a XN as a competition for him but bewildered why I was in his face with my finger in his chest. Unreal.” Was what is “unreal” the fact that Mark was able to restrain himself or that this fellow was sleeping with 5 women and claiming to be an XN (tweet shorthand for Christian) as a competition for him or that the fellow was bewildered why Mark, “was in his face with my finger in his chest”? I meditated and prayed about how or even if I should respond to this. My initial response was to view both Mark and “the guy” from a pastoral perspective. However, this post-modern world is clueless about morality and personal holiness. In fact, its mindset is against all who attempt to point out sin or error in anyone. Their first response seems to be something along the lines of, “nobody is perfect!” I have even been condemned for doing this and the reason “I was being straightened out” was that everyone could be wrong so how can any of us judge anyone else? 

Actually, the biblical answer to this is neither tolerance nor condemnation. We are not to allow professing Christians “a pass” just because they claim to be a XN. However, neither are we to become violent with them with a finger in their chests. As the passage above says, “everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” This also tells us that no one who practices unrighteousness has been born of him. Here is v29 in Greek.

29εαν ειδητε οτι δικαιος εστιν γινωσκετε οτι πας ο ποιων την δικαιοσυνην εξ αυτου γεγεννηται (1 John 2:29 WHNU)

If (εαν) you know (ειδητε) that (οτι) right (δικαιος) he is (εστιν), you know (γινωσκετε) that (οτι) all (πας) the (ο) one doing (ποιων) the (την) rightness (δικαιοσυνην) from (εξ) him (αυτου) has been born (γεγεννηται). (1 John 2:29 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

“Everyone who practices” in the ESV is πας ο ποιων in the Greek. Ποιων in v29 is a present, active participle. This is describing continuous or repeated action, in other words, the way one lives or walks day in and day out. Since this is a participle, it is relative to the main verb, which in this case is γεγεννηται, which, in this context, is a perfect, indicative passive verb. Think of John telling us that when a believer is truly born of Christ it is a finished, completely done, work by the Saviour, not by the one who is born again. It is a work of Christ. This work is complete; therefore, the believer is a new creation and will not live a lifestyle that reflects the ways of the flesh nor enslavement to this world and its ways.

As we meditate on these truths and think of Mark Driscoll encountering the man who claimed to be a XN, but lived as the world lives, according to the flesh, we should see clearly that he should have known just from that that he was dealing with an unregenerate, false believer. Therefore, he should have dealt with him along those lines instead of from physical anger. Let us say that Mark was still convinced that this man was a true Christian brother. What should his reaction have been? Let’s look at 1 John 5:14-18. We will start with v14.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:14 ESV)

14και αυτη εστιν η παρρησια ην εχομεν προς αυτον οτι εαν τι αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα αυτου ακουει ημων (1 John 5:14 WHNU)

And (και) this (αυτη) is (εστιν) the (η) boldness (παρρησια) which (ην) we have (εχομεν) toward (προς) him (αυτον) that (οτι) if (εαν) what (τι) we might ask (αιτωμεθα) by (κατα) the (το) will (θελημα) of him (αυτου) he hears (ακουει) us (ακουει). (1 John 5:14 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

This statement is meant to be an encouragement to us to pray, however, many have turned this around to say that it is a total waste of time to pray about anything unless you know what God’s will is and then pray that. Is that what John meant here? No, this is telling us to ask according to what the Bible teaches about God’s will for His people. If we pray this way, we are praying according to His will (Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 5:17).

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:15 ESV)

15και εαν οιδαμεν οτι ακουει ημων ο εαν αιτωμεθα οιδαμεν οτι εχομεν τα αιτηματα α ητηκαμεν απ αυτου (1 John 5:15 WHNU)

And (και) if (εαν) we know (οιδαμεν) that (οτι) he hears (ακουει) us (ημων) what (ο) if (εαν) we might ask (αιτωμεθα), we know (οιδαμεν) that (οτι) we have (εχομεν) the (τα) requests (αιτηματα) which (α) we have asked (ητηκαμεν) from (απ) him (αυτου). (1 John 5:15 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

What a blessing it is to know that God hears our prayers! The goal of prayer is to be in communion with God. God is not a vending machine and we must not approach prayer with that mentality. Instead, we should pray continually, seeking His will, that is, to line our will up with His. A quick reading of v15 would make it appear that Christians get everything from God that they ask for in prayer. Is that what John is teaching? We have already seen in v14 that we must pray according to God’s will not ours. Other passages in God’s Word give us more insight. Not only must pray according to God’s will, we must pray in faith (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6), with patience (Luke 18:1-8), in obedience (Psalm 66:18; 1 Peter 3:12), and in submission to God’s greater wisdom (Luke 22:42; Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 4:19). In other words, we must put a passage like this into the context of what the Word of God teaches us throughout about how to pray correctly.

Now we come to the pertinent passage to Mark Driscoll’s encounter with the man sleeping with 5 women while professing to be a XN as if it was some sort of competition.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1 John 5:16 ESV)

16εαν τις ιδη τον αδελφον αυτου αμαρτανοντα αμαρτιαν μη προς θανατον αιτησει και δωσει αυτω ζωην τοις αμαρτανουσιν μη προς θανατον εστιν αμαρτια προς θανατον ου περι εκεινης λεγω ινα ερωτηση (1 John 5:16 WHNU)

If (εαν) some (τις) might see (ιδη) the (τον) brother (αδελφον) of him (αυτου) sinning (αμαρτανοντα) sin (αμαρτιαν) not (μη) to (προς) death (θανατον), he will ask (αιτησει) and (και) he will give (δωσει) to him (αυτω) life (ζωην), to the ones (τοις) sinning (αμαρτανουσιν) not (μη) to (προς) death (θανατον). There is (εστιν) sin (αμαρτια) to (προς) death (θανατον); not (ου) about (περι) that (εκεινης) I say (λεγω) that (ινα) he might ask (ερωτηση). (1 John 5:16 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The only way to understand this correctly is to keep it in context. We have already seen that we must pray according to God’s will in the  way He has specified. But, what is this “sin leading to death” stuff? The following is an excerpt from the MacArthur Bible Commentary for v16.

Such a sin could be any premeditated and unconfessed sin that causes the Lord to end a believer’s life. It is not one particular sin, like homosexuality or lying, but whatever sin is the final one in the tolerance of God. Failure to repent of and forsake sin may eventually lead to physical death as a judgment of God (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 5:5; 11:30). No intercessory prayer will be effective for those who have committed such deliberate high-handed sin, i.e., God’s discipline with physical death is inevitable in such cases as He seeks to preserve the purity of His Church… The contrast to the phrase “there is sin leading to death” with “there is sin not leading to death” signifies that the writer distinguishes between sins that may lead to physical death and those that do not. That is not to identify a certain kind of mortal or non-mortal sin, but to say not all sins are so judged by God.

What should Mark Driscoll have done when he encountered the unrepentant man who professed to be a XN, but was fornicating with 5 different women as some sort of competition? Whatever it was, he should have begun with prayer. He should pray for the man’s repentance and then show him why what he was doing was sin all from the perspective that this man is probably not a genuine believer for God will not allow His people to continue to do this.

All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:17-18 ESV)

Instead of pushing his finger into the man’s chest about his sin, he should have sought the Lord’s will first. He should know about these passages and that the will of God is for His people to not live this way, but to repent. However, he should also know that a person who can live this way and not experience the conviction of God for doing so is not of God. This is why I would have prayed for the man’s salvation then given Him the real Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Trying to rebuke unbelievers for their sin is a total waste of time outside of the context of giving them the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

22 thoughts on “The Certainty of Answered Prayer

  1. Praying this man would come to repentant faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

    There verses came to mind when reading this:

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, *gentleness*, goodness, faith, *meekness*,* temperance*: against such there is no law And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, *let us also walk in the Spirit.* Gal. 5:22-25

    JESUS ENCOUNTERS SINNERS- quite a contrast in approach:

    Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: *sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.* John 5:14

    She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: *go, and sin no more.* John 8:11


  2. This raises an interesting question:
    Is the refusal to witness to the lost, and testify of Christ continuing in sin, therefore evidence that the person who “will not/ does not” cannot be truely saved?


  3. Kathy,

    Well, at least it shows that the one who is refusing to witness to the lost is not walking or ministering according to the will of God.


    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  4. Hey Mike,
    Ye he should pray for his salvation and we should pray without ceasing. Here is something Spurgeon preached on Praying without ceasing. here is a quote from what he shared.
    “Pray without ceasing,” is, if I read it aright, a most sweet and precious permit to the believer to pour out his heart at all times before the Lord. I hear its still small voice saying, “Come to the mercy seat, O my child, whenever thou wilt; come to the treasury of grace whenever thou desirest—
    “The happy gates of gospel grace
    Stand open night and day.”



  5. We all have thought things that are not of the Spirit. But when a pastor claims to have desired to punch someone, and then tweets it so everyone can see his maco image and also to give an excuse for others to be in the flesh, I thought of this verse:

    “A fool utters his whole heart”.

    God deliver us from such “pastors”.


  6. I just wonder how often in “Mark’s church”, 1 fornication is excusable? This just seems like some sort of false show of discust in order to appease. It is always easier to call out the most grievious rather than the ‘lifestyle’ many so-called christians live in inside the so-called visible church.
    I have seen many sinful aspects of the ‘church’ never addressed because of the ‘everyone does it mentality’. Now, after years of dealing with the ‘broad way’ christianity, when I and my family fellowship with beleivers it is out of knowing them, rather than some sort of ‘church’ gathering. This way when someone enters my house or I theirs, any of us can be pretty sure we are not eating with fornicators, adulterers, railers, drunkards etc. If any of those sins were to manifest themselves in one of us, we would sure be able to address it right away rather than whole cloth acceptance of this ‘christian culture’ as normal and reasonable.


  7. Mike, this really hits a nerve! It seems to me that there are people (and I personally know of three men) who right now are claiming to be Christians and attend church, but who are living in sin. The sins go from hateful,angry outbursts toward the man’s wife, drunkenness, covetousness that has led to financial ruin twice, immorality, etc. The churches which these men attend have not done church discipline with them. Mainly because the men have been in and out of church for many years and are faithful attenders most of the time. Their pastors either have no idea of their lifestyles, or they do know but have thrown up their hands. These men know how to fly just under the radar in order not to raise any red flags. They do not get close to other Christians, or if they do the sins (if mentioned) are glossed over. No one follows up to find out if this is ongoing, or if repentence (if offered) was real. these men know how to play the system. So many in the church do not know how to practice church discipline according to the Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18. Not only that but people are not willing to get their hands dirty to come alongside and provide discipline within the body. Two of the wives have lived with this for over 15 years. One was told by an older woman in the church to do what the word says for wives and let God handle it. Yes God will handle it, but the Lord very often uses means (people) to do His will. We as a body are so afraid of people and politically correct that we don’t follow the Lord’s instructions. We are so busy agonizing over the sin outside the church (which the Lord did not tell us to concentrate on) but we do not want to deal with the sin inside the church!


  8. Thanks for sharing that Julie. I was involved once i n Church discipline. The fellow’s we voted out of the church was public and egregious. On the other hand, no one else was ever dealt with that way and I know that there were others in that church who should have been disciplined. We we voted that fellow out of the church for not repenting, I shared that with some believers with which I worked. They were appalled that we would do such a thing. I was baffled about their response. Their point was that the church should never do anything that might offend or keep people away from the church NO MATTER WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. This is the mentality of the church in our time and we see the same thing with tolerance for error. I often wonder how big the true church really is…


  9. Here is the verse that tells how big the true church is…

    “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and THOSE WHO FIND IT ARE FEW.” -Matt. 7:13-14

    the funny thing is Christ then begins warning of false prophets, judging a tree by its fruit and the people declaring “Lord, Lord…” Wow, how fitting…


  10. Amen Heather! Yes, that is a funny thing, but also fitting. It can be quite painful to contend against these people, but God has called us to do that very thing…


  11. Perhaps Driscoll’s response is much easier to explain? The man wasn’t listening to DRISCOLL’S message (not the gospel) and his ego couldn’t abide it.

    I know Mark Driscoll seems to be growing in some areas, then totally screws up in others. I would remind him that if he is saved, he is NO LONGER in the flesh. THAT flesh was crucified, and if he sins, it is the NEW MAN sinning. God forbid.


  12. Amy, honestly, to me at least, Driscoll is a cipher. God knows what is going on there, but he is one who projects wisdom and what is right in some areas while being totally driven by the flesh and preaching nonsense in others. I find that disturbing.


  13. I listened to one of his sermons awhile back where he was distancing himself from Emergents, and thought, at last! But you are right, he is STILL all over the map, and sometimes (after reading the text from his Song of Solomon messages) totally off road!


  14. Kinda reminds me of some so-called street preachers that walk around with huge bibles and say some things that are true and rant and rave about other inaudible things and then sit down behind a tree or sign and smoke a cigarette and drink from a brown paper sack…
    (some truth, a bible, preaching and praying in public doesn’t make one a ‘christian’)


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