Mortal and Venial Sin - 1 John 5:17



Not sure if this is the correct place to put this, but it seems to relate to confession. Please move to proper place, if not okay. Thanks!

I would like to know how best to understand what this Protestant Pastor is saying, especially in regards to 1 John 5:16. Thank you!

6. Some Catholic scholars point to 1 John 5:17 as a biblical basis for dividing sin into categories of mortal and venial. [1854] John writes, "All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death" (1 John 5:17). The "sin not leading to death," they say, is venial sin. The sin that leads to death is mortal sin.

This interpretation ignores the context of the passage. The epistle is written to Christians influenced by the heresy of Gnosticism. False prophets were teaching that only the spiritual realm mattered. One’s behavior in the flesh was irrelevant. They even denied that Jesus had come in the flesh.

John exhorts the Christians to hold fast to the truth. He assures them that they can pray with confidence that God will hear and answer their requests (1 John 5:14-15). John, however, does make one exception to this promise: "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" (1 John 5:16). The Christians were not to intercede in prayer for those who had renounced Christ and embraced Gnosticism. The reason for this restriction is that there is no forgiveness for those who reject God’s only provision for sin, Jesus Christ the Savior (Hebrews 6:4-8).

1 John 5:17, therefore, is not speaking about different punishments for sin, but rather, a special condition when intercessory prayer is inappropriate. If a person commits a "sin leading to death" (1 John 5:16), here the sin of apostasy, no intercession is to be made, for God is not willing to grant that request. -


In my opinion - the best way to understand this is the simple fact that he seems to see a difference where there really is none...

By this I mean that the Catholic Church teaches the same thing that he is expressing - that mortal sin is deadly and venial sin is not.

The particulars may vary...but every mortal sin - if it be truly mortal - will involve the rejection of Christ - of God and God's Lordship through deliberate disobedience.




Well with his last point, it is a cause of concern, as he claims we are not to pray for apostates. Which then calls into question the rest of his interpretation.

Timothy 1:18I am setting before you this instruction, Timothy my child, in accordance with the prophecies spoken long ago about you, in order that by them you may fight the good fight, 19having faith and a good conscience, which some, because they* have rejected these, have suffered shipwreck concerning their faith, 20*among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, in order that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

Instructions to Pray for All People
2:1 Therefore, I urge first of all that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all people, 2on behalf of kings and all those who are in authority, in order that we may live a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable before God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, the man Christ Jesus, 6*who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony at the proper time,

As we can see St. Paul also speaks of apostates whom he handed over to satan, this means he is no longer trying to convince them to return to the true faith, and then shortly after he asks timothy to pray for all people.

Anyway to his writings, here is what he had to say about sin.

All Sin Is Mortal

Just how serious is sin? The Bible teaches that the spiritual consequence of every sin is the death penalty, eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15); “The soul who sins will die,” (Ezekiel 18:4); “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Ok, first of all I think it’s important to clarify what sin is.

1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight."122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods,"123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God."124 In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125

Catechism of the Catholic Church

So there is no disagreement from what I can tell between what Sin is.

This is not to say that every sin is equally wicked or abhorrent to God. Scripture teaches that some sins are more evil than others and will be judged accordingly (John 19:11; Matthew 10:15). Jesus taught that there will be degrees of eternal punishment in hell (Luke 12:47-48).

Again this does not go against Catholic teaching

“The Union Councils of Lyons and of Florence declared that the souls of the damned are punished with unequal punishments (poenis tamen disparibus puniendas). D 464, 693. This is probably intended to assert not merely a specific difference in the punishment of original sin (poena damni) and of personal sins (poena damni and poena sensus), but also a difference in the degree of punishment for personal sins.”

Ott, L. (1957). Fundamentals of Catholic dogma (482). St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company.


Nonetheless, the Lord never distinguished between sins in terms of their ultimate penalty. 6 Jesus taught that every sin warrants eternal punishment in hell. He taught that the sin of anger brings the same punishment as the sin of murder (Matthew 5:21-22), and the sin of lust the same penalty as the sin of adultery (Matthew 5:27-30).

Perhaps this can help shed some light.

The justified person is not able for his whole life long to avoid all sins, even venial sins, without the special privilege of the grace of God. (De fide.)

The Council of Trent declared against the teaching of the Pelagians, according to which man, of his own natural powers, can avoid all sins his whole life long, that for this a special privilege of grace is necessary: Si quis hominem semel iustificatum dixerit … posse in tota vita peccata omnia, etiam venialia vitare, nisi ex speciali Dei privilegio, quemadmodum de beata Virgine tenet Ecclesia, A.S. (D 833); cf. D 107 et seq.; 804.

For the proper understanding of the dogma, the following must be observed: By “peccata venialia” are to be understood chiefly peccata semideliberata. “Omnia” is not to be conceived collectively, but distributively, that is, individual venial sins can be avoided with the help of ordinary grace, but not all venial sin, together. “Tota vita” means a long space of time. The “non posse” designates a moral impossibility. The “speciale privilegium” referred to embraces a total of actual graces, which form an exception to the usual order of grace, and indeed a very rare (speciale) exception.

According to Holy Writ, nobody is entirely free from all sin. James 3:2: “For in many things we all offend.” Our Lord teaches the just also to pray: “forgive us our trespasses” (Mt. 6:12). The Council of Carthage (418) rejected the Pelagian interpretation, according to which the saints ask for forgiveness, not for themselves but for others, or not according to the truth but only out of humility (humiliter, non veraciter) (D 107 et seq.; cf. 804).

St. Augustine makes this charge against the Pelagians: If all the saints could be assembled on earth and asked if they were without sin, they would, with one voice, answer with the Apostle St. John (1 John 1:8): “If we were to say that we were without sin, then we would deceive ourselves, and the truth would not be in us” (De nat. et grat. 36, 42).

The intrinsic reason lies in the weakness of man’s fallen will in face of his disordered motions, and in the wise ordinance of Divine providence, which permits lesser faults, in order to preserve the just man in humility and in the consciousness of his entire dependence on God. Cf. S. th. 1 II 109, 8.

Ott, L. (1957). Fundamentals of Catholic dogma (232–233). St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company.

Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that some sins are “light sins,”[1863] minor infractions of the moral laws of God [1862-1863]. Telling a small lie or stealing something inexpensive is somehow different from telling a big lie or committing grand theft. Small sins, venial sins, do not bring eternal punishment.

This seems like a contradiction of what he has said before:
“This is not to say that every sin is equally wicked or abhorrent to God. Scripture teaches that some sins are more evil than others and will be judged accordingly (John 19:11; Matthew 10:15).”

Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that, though venial sins may incline a person toward later committing a mortal sin, not even the regular practice of venial sins warrants eternal punishment. A baptized Catholic who does not commit a mortal sin remains in a state of grace even if he is habitually guilty of a multitude of venial sins. [1863]

This is true

The Scriptures, on the other hand, teach that if a person’s life is characterized by sin, he should not consider himself a born-again Christian:

Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil… No one who is born of God practices sin… 1 John 3:7-9

Again, there is no disagreement, I think their is a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching.

1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."134

While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession.135

Catechism of the Catholic Church

By looking at this we can see that Venial Sins are commited mostly by a lack of understanding, or through ignorance, and because of this, it can lead to more harm such as mortal sin, unless we educate ourselves in the faith we are at serious risk.


No, the pastor is just plain wrong.

**But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22)

Jesus himself tells us that some sins leave us open to God's judgement (liable to judgement) and that judgement for some of those might even lead to death (liable to the Sanhedrin/council) but that there are sins which are immediately punishable by eternity in the fires of hell.

Jesus was not talking to gnostics. Jesus was talking to Jews.

The only thing the pastor misundersands is scripture.



Roman Catholic theology, on the other hand, consistently undermines the seriousness of sin and its consequences, most notably by teaching that most sins are not punishable by death.

Just this line goes to show the immaturity of the author and his understanding of Catholic teaching.

This same lie has deceived countless Roman Catholics. As a result, most go through life unaware of the magnitude of their guilt before God. Underestimating their problem, they readily embrace an inadequate and faulty solution: the gospel according to Rome.

The only thing to do here with people like this author who are clearly hardend of heart is to pray for them.

closed #7

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