1 John Lessons


1John 3:4-9 Literalize

vs 4  Whoever characteristically commits sin also characteristically commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
vs 5  And you have perceived that He was revealed (the incarnation) to take away our sins at a point in time, and in Him there is no sin.
vs 6  Whoever characteristically dwells in Him characteristically does not sin. Whoever characteristically sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
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.
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.



Continuing to Sin?

vs 4  Whoever characteristically commits sin also characteristically commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
vs 5  And you have perceived that He was revealed (the incarnation) to take away our sins at a point in time, and in Him there is no sin.
vs 6  Whoever characteristically dwells in Him characteristically does not sin. Whoever characteristically sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

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 purifying 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 characateristic 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 noone 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 11:37 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.



Don't be Deceived

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.

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 person— such a man is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

To the unbelievers Jesus said, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s 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

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 live righteously versus those who characteristically live a sinful lifestyle.

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.



Why You Can't Sin

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 God.

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 present.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 29,2015