1 John 3:9

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9

In the previous verse, John wrote concerning Christ’s manifestation and that it was “to destroy the works of the devil.” This is what Christ did. The devil uses the power of the law against man. It is not that there is anything wrong with the law, but it is man’s inability to keep it which keeps him in a state of bondage. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and when one is under law, sin is imputed. However, Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law for those who come to Him.

In coming to Christ, John says, “Whoever is born of God.” It is a perfect participle, “having been born.” The act is complete, and the new nature is assumed. Just as when a person is born into humanity, he remains a human, when one is born of God, he remains a child of God. The nature is changed, the action is complete, and it is ongoing from that point on.

For such a person, John says he “does not sin.” The word signifies to do, produce, make, or cause (etc.). It is used when a tree bears, or brings forth, fruit of one kind or another. The one who is born of God does not bring forth sin. John then says that the reason for this is because “His seed remains in him.”

It is the seed of God which remains in the believer. Jesus alluded to such a change in Matthew 7 when He said –

“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:17, 18 

Vincent’s Word Studies calls the seed, “the divine principle of life.” It is a correct analysis. Man begets human children, cows beget cows, mango seeds produce mangoes. It is theology 101 from page 1 of the Bible. All things reproduce after their own kind. When a person comes to Christ, a child of God is produced in that act. And just as God does not sin, so the one born of God does not sin because the change has taken place. The seed which brought forth the new life remains in that person.

With this change, John then says, “and he cannot sin.” This is reflected in 1 John 3:6, where John wrote, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” That is strengthened here with “he cannot sin.” Of this, Vincent’s Word Studies says this is, “Conceived as a perfect ideal.” That misrepresents the matter. It is not merely an ideal, but it is an absolute truth. But Vincent’s then rightly explains the thought by saying, “life in God excludes the possibility of sin.” It is more than an ideal, but an objective fact. This is then explained by the final words of the verse, which say, “because he has been born of God.”

As already noted, all things reproduce after their own kind. Being born of God moves a person from Adam to Christ. The believer is in Christ, and the change is complete. But how can this be? The answer takes one back to Abraham. He was declared righteous in Genesis 15. Many years later, he was given the sign of that righteousness – circumcision. A sign anticipates and speaks of something else. It is not a thing in and of itself.

In other words, one cannot point at a circumcised man and say, “He is righteous.” That is evident by Paul’s words of Romans 2:25. The sign anticipated and pictured the coming of Christ. The male sexual organ was cut in order to provide a picture of what Christ would do. The seed of man is transmitted through this organ. It is through the sexual act that sin is transferred from father to child when the child is conceived. As all humans have human fathers, then all are conceived in sin (see Psalm 51:5).

However, Christ was born of a woman, but His Father is God. Thus, he is fully human, but He is also fully God. As God is the Father, and as God has no sin, there was no transfer of sin to Christ Jesus. The picture of circumcision – the cutting of man’s sin nature – is complete. He is the sinless, perfect, Son of God. He was born under the law, He did not sin under the law, and He died in fulfillment of the law. Therefore, when one comes to Christ, he dies to the law. As he is no longer bound by law, he cannot sin.

Even if he does wrong, no sin is imputed to him (2 Corinthians 5:19). This is what John is saying. Sin is still possible (see John 1:8). However, without the imputation of that sin, then as Vincent’s rightly noted, “life in God excludes the possibility of sin.” It may be more precise to say, “life in Christ.” It is in Christ – the God/Man – that this is realized. His human nature bears as much weight in the redemptive process as does His divine nature.

This is the marvel and wonder of what God has done in and through the giving of His Son for fallen man. It is a glorious state in which we exist, and it is a state which should be treated in practice in the same manner as the person stands in position – to the glory of God.

Life application: Notice the pattern of John’s writing – he makes basically the same statement in both a favorable and an unfavorable light. “Whoever is…does not sin” and “he cannot…because he has been.” This particular statement is adamant about the expected life of holiness that the believer is to live in, and it therefore intimates the obvious state of those who don’t live as mentioned.

What he says here may seem contradictory to what he said in other verses, such as 1 John 1:8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” However, such a contradiction is only apparent in our English translation. First, the tense used in the verses is different. The example from 1:8 tells us that we can’t claim to be sinless because we all fall and sin from time to time (even if sin is not imputed). The verse here tells us that we “cannot sin and be born of God.” It speaks of our nature and position in Christ regardless of our human actions.

As we were told in verse 2 of this chapter, because of Jesus Christ we are now children of God. When a child is born, he naturally takes on the characteristics of his father. This is the genetic pattern of life. As we are sons of Adam through the physical world, we bear the image of Adam in the physical world. Likewise, we bear his image in the transmission of sin.

However, when we come to Jesus Christ, our spiritual nature takes on the nature of God. If the marks of the physical world are so obvious that we resemble Adam hundreds of generations and thousands of years after his life, how much more will our spiritual nature resemble that of God when we move from spiritual death to spiritual life through the regeneration by the Spirit?

Should we fall away and walk in a pattern of habitual sin, the circumstances will be the same as if we fail to drink water when we thirst; we will die because of our actions. One cannot live in sin without reaping the consequences of that sin. Physical death is sure to ensue and our rewards from God will be excluded. Only our spirit will be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5). But the imputation of sin no longer occurs because our nature is that of man in Christ and under grace, not law.

Thank God for Jesus Christ who has brought us to this state. Let us live out our lives in a manner which reflects our true and holy nature before God, to the praise of His glorious grace.

Lord God, as the psalmist said, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” And so, Lord, we ask that you look over us and keep us from the habitual sins which can only bring about sadness before You. Instead, strengthen us to live now in Your temple as living stones, holy and acceptable to You. May our walk in this life reflect the position we already hold because of the change brought about in us through Christ. Amen.









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