A BIBLE STUDY IN 1 JOHN 3:4-10
As the WORD DETECTIVE, as we all should be, and looking at the evidence in this passage, I’ve found VERSE 9 to be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand and explain. It is often quoted to teach a child of God that once you become a “born again believer,” you will never sin. And many honest and sincere people believe this, devoting themselves to the attainment of what is commonly called, “sinless perfection.”
1 John 3:9 (NIV) –
 No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.
But is this doctrine really taught in the Bible?
The ANSWER is “no” for two reasons:
#1. There is clear teaching in the Bible.
When you come to a difficult passage to understand and explain the meaning to others, we should seek to interpret it in context with clearer teachings offered in Scripture. To say this passage teaches a Christian never commits SIN contradicts clear teaching in this same book of the Bible:
#2. There is the common testimony of the Bible.
In the Bible, we are told of the great Saints, all of whom were imperfect! The Word of God doesn’t cover up their faults. It’s made very clear in Scripture that there’s only One spoken of who is SINLESS–Jesus Christ.
For these TWO REASONS, we should say that the Bible doesn’t teach sinless perfection. But if that is the case, what’s the deal with the words given in 1 John 3:9 mean then?
As a “Word detective” I, of course, wanted to look at this verse in an effort to find the answer to the questions that can and will arise.
GOD’S PROVISION – vs. 4-5 (Amplified Bible)
 Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and will).
 You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him, there is no sin [essentially and forever].
I love to use different Bible translations in studying Scripture, helping me answer questions that can arise. And it goes without saying, Holy Spirit always clarifies the answer.
When Jesus came into the world, He made a perfect provision for our salvation which makes it possible our DELIVERANCE from SIN’S PENALTY…SIN’S POWER, and eventually, SIN’S PRESENCE.
Therefore, Jesus’ SACRIFICE provided us with daily VICTORY over SIN in our life.
The Necessity of His Provision (v. 4).
HUMAN SIN made the CROSS necessary.
God is a JUST God, along with being a LOVING Heavenly Father. God wanted a restored relationship of His Creation that was lost in the Garden (Genesis Chapter 3).
But He also needed to see the JUSTICE carried out with respect to the violation of His law. How could these TWO attributes be satisfied simultaneously?
THE CROSS. It had to be!
God took on flesh in the person of Christ Jesus to do for mankind what we could never do for ourselves–pay the PENALTY for our SIN in such a way to make possible a personal relationship with Himself. NOW THAT’S REAL LOVE!
In searching the Scriptures, the PENALTY of our sin is so great, that left to pay it on our own, requires an eternity’s worth of suffering, meaning that we would never be able to be set free from sin’s penalty and have a RELATIONSHIP with Abba, Father.
God took on FLESH in the person of Jesus and lived a SINLESS life in order to QUALIFY and represent human race and pay the PENALTY of OUR SIN. And because He was God in the flesh, He could pay that infinite PENALTY in a finite period of time on the Cross.
He provided FORGIVENESS to the entire human race and proved that sin’s penalty was fully PAID by being raised from the dead, ascending back to heaven leaving an offering of the Holy Spirit to bind the relationship with Himself to all who choose to receive His GIFT of eternal life.
Romans 6:23 (Easy-to-read Version -ERV)
 When people sin, they earn what sin pays–death. But God gives his people a free gift–eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Nature of His Provision (vs. 5, 8) –
- He came to provide us VICTORY over sin (vs. 5).
- He came to provide us VICTORY over Satan (vs. 8).
ILLUSTRATION: The Dallas Texans, Not the Cowboys *[See Footnote [i] ]
The first NFL franchise in the state was in 1952–The Dallas Texans.
The Texans had a brief history and existing for only one year, posting a win/loss record of 1-11. A former member of the team, before he was cut, recalls a story of the team’s equipment manager, Willie Garcia, who had never seen a football game in his life. “Willie had one wooden leg. When they kicked the ball into the high grass during practice, no one wanted to go after it because of SNAKES. Willie would volunteer and said, ‘I’ve got a 50-50 chance the SNAKE will go for the wrong leg.'”
On our own, there’s always a chance of getting “bit” by the devil. But because of the CROSS, the FEAR of him should no longer be.
By the PROVISION of the Savior, our lives need not be dominated by SIN and SATAN!
The PRACTICE of the SAVED (vs. 6-7) –
John doesn’t say a SAVED PERSON won’t sin. What he does say is a Christian won’t “keep on sinning.”
The Amplified Bible reads “[deliberately, knowing, and habitually]” commits SIN.
So truly SAVED people DON’T live to do what God says is wrong!
They DO practice RIGHTEOUSNESS (Vs. 7) –
A truly Saved Person, a genuine Christian, lives to do what is right in God’s eyes and not their own. John says those who are born again DON’T PRACTICE SIN but practice RIGHTEOUSNESS.
SIN in the life of a true believer should be the exception and not the rule. If you are genuine in your belief, you don’t practice SIN.
So what does the word “PRACTICE” mean?
The English Oxford Dictionary, Item #3 reads “a Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”
SAVED people occasionally do wrong, just as the LOST occasionally do right.
The FACT that the SAVED occasionally does what is wrong doesn’t make him any less saved than the FACT that a LOST person who occasionally is found doing something right makes him any less lost.
In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says that a corrupt tree brings forth corrupt fruit and a good tree brings forth good fruit. Occasionally you might find a good apple off a bad tree, and occasionally you might get a bad apple off a good tree, but normally, the FRUIT of a good tree will be good.
So it is in the life of a child of God.
That’s what John is saying here. He’s not saying you will never sin if you’re a child of God. He’s saying that the direction you take should be pointed toward God–doing the things that please Him.
The POWER OF SALVATION (Vs. 9-10) –
 Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God’s very nature is in them; and because God is their Father, they cannot continue to sin.
 Here is the clear difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children; those who do not do what is right or do not love others are not God’s children. Good News Translation (GNT)
When one is BORN AGAIN…born of the Spirit (1 John 3:6-7), the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his/her life (Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13-14).
As a result of the Spirit’s presence, we should have…
A NEW DESIRE (V. 9 b ).
The phrase, “they cannot continue to sin” speaks of the NEW DESIRE on the part of those who are BORN AGAIN.
The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 7:22 (AMP):
For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self [with my new nature].
The Bible says that when a person is SAVED…BORN AGAIN, “God writes His law on their heart” (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).
The CHILD OF GOD has the DESIRE to do what God says is right. That doesn’t mean we always succeed, but it does mean that is what we want to do!
A Methodist Evangelist named Dr. Morrison taught the Doctrine of Holiness and it was said that he came closer to practicing it than most people do. Someone once asked Dr. Morrison jokingly, “Dr. Morrison, have you gotten to a place where you cannot sin?” Dr. Morrison answered, “No, my brother, I have not yet gotten to where I cannot sin, but I have gotten to where I cannot sin and enjoy it.”
That’s to be the testimony of every truly born again child of God.
Learning How To Live In GENUINENESS By Yielding to the Spirit –
“Yielding to” in Vine’s Greek New Testament Dictionary uses the Greek word “Peitho”; to PERSUADE BY, in contrast to “yielding” to one’s own SINFUL NATURE, something Paul had to grow to learn and as something every ‘GENUINE CHRISTIAN’ likewise needs to grow and learn.
2 Peter 1:3-4
An unbeliever has one nature, received a birth; a sinful nature.
But when we TRUST CHRIST, receiving a NEW nature with the Spirit’s presence in our life, a new power is provided for us. No longer do we need to surrender to our sinful nature, give into temptation and live for sin. Our DESIRE should be to surrender to the leading of Holy Spirit, resisting temptation and living for God! That my friends is GENUINENESS!!
A NEW BELIEVER asked a church small group how they were doing in their Christian walk, especially around others. They replied that it felt like they had a black dog and a white dog inside of them, constantly fighting with each other. They were asked which dog was winning. And their REPLY? “The one I feed the most.”
Looking at your lifestyle right now. Which one are you feeding the most?
FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –
Footnote [i] : Story printed in the Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1992.
Dictionary used: Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Words.
PHOTOS: Google Image Search, using Bible verses as a reference.
Bible Translations: Noted in the text.