John is clear here that sin is associated with a certain behavior - namely lawlessness. And as Jesus appeared to take away our sins, those who live in him purify themselves from sin. If a person does continue to sin, that indicates they had never come to know Christ. This is an indicator of whether one has been born of God.
But realize also that the sense in which John is speaking is that
of overall lifestyle or the general characteristic of the person.
He's using the Greek Present Tense here, which as I mentioned at
the beginning of this study he uses in this sense. He's not
speaking of what a person might do uncharacteristically from time
to time. He's not speaking of sinless perfection here.
Nonetheless, as we will see throughout this chapter, this
characteristic is measurable. It is something which can be seen
and determined to a relative degree.
Now while those of an Antinomian theology assert there being a
category of people who have come to know Christ and yet continue
to live a lifestyle of sin, verse 6 eliminates that possibility.
For no one who characteristically sins has come to know Christ. The
perfect tense indicates that John is not speaking only of a
person's status at this moment, but rather of their status from
the past up to the present.
To dwell in Him is equated here with having come to know Him.
Those who have come to know Christ abide in Him. And again as I
noted in a previous lesson, what does the Bible say concerning
those who don't abide in Him? "If anyone
does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is
withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and
they are burned." John
15:6 Thus abiding is associated with one's salvation status.
And this is also confirmed by the use of "abide" ("meno") in 1John
2:19 and 1John 3:9
"In Him there is no sin" is not to
say that He had not suffered the same temptations as we all do,
which is just human nature. "For we do not
have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."
Heb 4:15 Christ came in the flesh. (By the way , the word
"flesh" is the Greek word "sarx" which the NIV often translates
"sinful nature".) By taking on a human nature Jesus
experienced temptations as we experience them, and yet did not
give into such temptations. In this way He was without sin. Jesus'
human nature becomes more of an issue in chapter 4.
vs 7 Little children, let no
one be deceiving you. He who characteristically does
righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
vs 8 He who characteristically sins is of the devil, for the devil characteristically sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that at a point in time He might destroy the works of the devil.
Just to reiterate a previous lesson, there are many warnings in the New Testament concerning being led astray in this matter. Both in the early church and today many Christians are led astray to believe that there is not necessarily any correlation between one's behavior and one's salvation status. The Bible warns:
1Cor 6:9,10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.To the unbelievers Jesus said, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your fatherís desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Ephesians 5:5,6 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy personó such a man is an idolateró has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things Godís wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
Those who are children of God reflect the character of their
Father, and likewise the children of the devil theirs as will
further be elaborated upon in the next verses.
But first I also want to point out that as you go through 1John,
you can correlate verses that characterize those who don't know God versus those who characteristically live a sinful
In this case notice:
1John 3:6 "Whoever
characteristically sins has neither seen Him nor known Him."
1John 3:8 "He who characteristically sins is of the devil"
Thus we can conclusively say that "know Him" in verse 6 is not referring to some degree of fellowship genuine believers experience with God, as if there existed genuine believers who have not come to know Him, but rather it refers to whether or not one has been born of God.
The devil's work is also that taken up by his children.
vs 9 Whoever has been born of God does not live a lifestyle of sin, for His seed characteristically dwells in him; indeed he doesn't have the ability in himself to live a lifestyle of sin, because he has been born of God.
While there have been many different interpretations of this verse, only one is correct. In my analysis at http://www.bcbsr.com/books/1jn3_9.html I conclude that once again John is referring to one's overall lifestyle or that which generally characterizes one's attitudes and behaviors.
Those who have been born of God have lost the ability to
live a lifestyle of sin. The word "cannot" in "he cannot go on
sinning" (vs 9) is the greek word "dunamai", from which we
derive the English word "dynamite", and it refers to the person's
ability. This is the effect of being born of God. It affects the
person's free will such that it is inevitable that those born of
God will exhibit behavior characteristic of children of God. If a
child of God tries to live a lifestyle of sin, they find that they
cannot do it., just as those who have not been born of God find
they are incapable of living the Christian life. And from this
comes the principle by which we can distinguish between the two.
Furthermore, having the seed to remain in us is not a function of
personal effort or will. Consider the last phrase "he cannot
sin, because he is born of God". "is born" in
the Greek is perfect passive. More literally it should be
translated "has been born of God". Being born of God is a
passive event, not an active event. (John 1:13) One cannot
make oneself born of God. And it is because of this past event
that happened to a person that he presently is incapable of living
a lifestyle of sin. This is the explanation that the Apostle John
gives as to why no one born of God continues to sin. Obedience
is not a cause but an indication of whether one has been born of
Bible scholar Howard Marshall also comments on the meaning of the
perfect tense as it relates to the participle in 1 John 3:9: "The
perfect tense marks not only the single act of birth, but the
continuous presence of its efficacy" (Linguistic Key To
The Greek New Testament. By Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers,
pp. 790-791, Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, Michigan,
1980). And thus by using the perfect tense John is once
again assuming a doctrine of Eternal Security. For he's saying
something not simply about a person's status at the moment, but
rather their status at some point in the past all the way up to
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources