Thursday, 16 April 2020
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4
John just mentioned that everyone who has the hope of Christ purifies himself. He now brings in a thought which supports that thinking by saying, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness.” The Greek word, translated as “commit,” signifies “to do.” It says that whoever does the sin also does the lawlessness.
As Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “The phrase to do sin regards sin as something actually realized in its completeness. He that does sin realizes in action the sin (note the article τὴν) that which includes and represents the complete ideal of sin. Compare do righteousness, 1 John 2:29.”
The law gives precepts, commands, exhortations, and etc. These are given for right living and for holiness. To fail to be obedient to these things is sin. Speaking of the law, meaning whatever law is applicable, Paul says –
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19, 20
It is by law that we have a knowledge of sin. When under law, it is by that law that we are to conduct ourselves as people. In not being obedient to the expectations of the law, we fall into error. In the case of the Law of Moses, John then explains that error by saying, “and sin is lawlessness.” Again, there are articles used by John, so it more accurately reads, “and the sin is the lawlessness.” He is making declarations about the nature of what occurred and the result of it.
Understanding this, we can take 1 John 2:29 and place it side by side with this verse (in a literal translation) –
…everyone the doing the righteousness of Him has been begotten.
Everyone the doing the sin also the lawlessness does, and the sin is the lawlessness.
John is making a one-to-one comparison between being in Christ, and not being in Christ. This is certain because of what he will say in the coming verses. One is either in Christ and does what is righteous, or he is not in Christ and does what is lawless. Until the next two verses are evaluated, one cannot fully see what John is relaying. The context must be maintained.
Life application: The tense of the first half of this verse indicates the idea of someone committing sin continually and as much as possible. Think of it in this way, “Everyone who sins also practices lawlessness.” It is the state of all human beings born of Adam.
We are born in sin and our state is one of actively falling short of God’s standards and committing lawlessness in a continual fashion; it is our very nature. For someone to say, “I’ve never sinned,” is simply unimaginable when put in the context of our fallen nature. We sin, not just once or twice in a lifetime, but continually throughout our existence.
In the second half of the verse, we have an additional confirmation of this. Because of the use of an article with both words, the terms are interchangeable – sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is sin. Either way, this is an apt description of the state of sin and lawlessness. The word for “sin” is what most Christians would describe as “missing the mark.” It is as if one is shooting arrows and not hitting the target. The word for “lawlessness,” however, normally points to much deeper offenses which are the purposeful and intentional violation or neglect of God’s laws.
John may have added the second half of the verse to show the recipients (and we who still receive the letter today) that we simply cannot hide from the minor offenses as if they were unimportant. They carry the same mark of rebellion against God as do the weightier matters which we attempt to avoid committing. By doing so, we think we can stand and say, “See the good life I’ve been living. The bad things I’ve done aren’t really bad at all.”
Rather, the little offenses are lawlessness and rebellion just as are the big ones. They all put a wall between us and God and necessitate a sacrifice. Thank God for Jesus… our only hope from the life we have lived.
O God, it is hard to imagine the displeasing lives we have lived after seeing sin for what it truly is. When we recognize what it means in relation to You, we can look back on our lives and see that the little sinful things we have done are really much worse than we thought. And so, we look to the cross, we cling to the cross, and we thank YOU for the cross which takes away our sin… all of our sin. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.