April 21, 2024


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Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
1John 3:9

“No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterized by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him.”

John continues his teaching on the topic of those who continue in sin. This is most often interpreted as a warning that such people are not believers. While this seems to agree with the general sense of Scripture, John’s advice here is actually being targeted specifically at believers. In particular, that there is no excuse for sin in the life of a believer. Grace is not a license to sin. Those who sin without remorse, conviction, or change have no relationship with Christ whatsoever. But even a saved Christian has to choose good over evil.

In this verse, the emphasis is on the one “born of God.” God lives in the believer and the believer can therefore no longer live the same life as prior to becoming God’s child. Though believers continue to sin, they will be changed more into the likeness of Christ. God’s children are expected to reflect his characteristics to some degree. Again, the emphasis is not on perfection, but likeness. An unchanged person is not a true believer. A true believer cannot help but live differently because God lives within them.

Context Summary
First John 3:4–10 strongly condemns sin, and leaves no excuse for it. While this warning is often interpreted as a ”litmus test” for salvation, John’s specific audience is actually Christian believers. Salvation is no excuse for sin, because all sin is from the Devil, not God. Sin always disrupts our ”walk” with God. And, those who only walk in sin and darkness cannot claim to be children of God.

It is fairly obvious that some translations render the verse in such a way that one could conclude that the Christian can never sin, while other translations indicate that the Christian must not persist in sin habitually.

It is worthy of note that this same verse (1 John 3:9) says that the reason one cannot persist in habitual sin is that “God’s seed abides in him.” Both “practices/makes a practice of” and “abides” are in the present tense. God’s seed remains in the believer, and this is why sin must not be one’s habitual practice. If a person could sin and loses their salvation, how can it be said that God’s seed remains in that person?

So which of these seemingly contradictory views is correct? We must now turn to other texts of Scripture to confirm or clarify the meaning of 1 John 3:9. We will begin with what John himself says earlier in this very epistle:

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 1:8-2:1, NASB).

The one who is wrong is the one who denies that sin is an ongoing problem. Just as we need God’s initial forgiveness to be saved, we likewise need his ongoing cleansing and forgiveness, because sin is still an ongoing problem (as we see, for example, in Romans 7). Following up on this, I would suggest that you give thought to our Lord’s words to Peter:

5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:5-10, NASB).

Here, Jesus distinguishes between the one-time washing of salvation from the need for ongoing cleansing from sin.

In the end, salvation provides the forgiveness of sin, but it is not a license to sin. We will all sin, and for this we have the finished work of Christ on the cross and His ongoing advocacy/mediation for us in heaven. If we persist in our sin then our loving Father will discipline us as His children (see, for example, Hebrews 12).

A. This May be a Shocking Claim to Many People.

  1. Jeremiah wrote that the heart is “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:8).
  2. Paul wrote that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

a. “All have sinned” is in the past tense.
b “Come short” is in the present tense.

  1. John says that if we say he have no sin we make God a liar, 1:8, 10.
  2. This seems to stand in sharp contrast to the statement made in 2:10. We have already seen in the first chapter of this epistle that anyone who denies that there is a sin principle that is alive and active in the heart of believers is ignorant of the truth. Because of the sin principle – the sinful nature – people will commit acts of sin, obviously some more than others. If you say that you never commit any sins at all you are a liar, and you are making God out to be a liar.

What we need to do every day is to confess the sins of which we are convicted, and God will “forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Sin grieves the Holy Spirit, blocks prayer, and hinders our comprehension of Scripture. Obviously, sin is serious.

Then, how can John, after all that, turn around and state here that “Whoever has been born of God does not sin”? And there is no getting around it; that is exactly what he is saying. First, he says that if we say we have not sin we are a liar; and then he says that if we are Christians we “cannot sin.” If there was ever a contradiction, this sounds like one.

Actually, there is no contradiction at all, and the sooner we understand what he is saying the sooner we will understand the doctrine of sin and sanctification – and the sooner we will be blessed with greater victories in our walk with the Lord..

The Believer Does Not Habitually Sin (see also, 2:6-8).
The believer has a sinful nature.

The believer will commit acts of sin.

The born again believer will not habitually sin so as to make it his lifestyle.

You cannot live in Christ and live in sin at the same time.

The Reason We Cannot Practice Sin Is That His Seed Remains in Us.
This applies only to those who are born of God.

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (NASB).

Habitual actions indicate one’s character.

You cannot habitually practice sin and habitually practice righteousness.

His “seed” denote the divine nature He gives us when we are born again.

This is the result of spiritual regeneration. “This life is vitalized by the Spirit and removes an individual from the dominion of Satan” (BSB). This nature prevents the Christian from habitually sinning. In the Fourth Gospel, John writes of those who are born, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

This testifies to the supernatural nature of the new life in Christ.

This cannot be said of one who just knows about God.
This cannot be said of every church member.
This cannot be said of everyone who has been baptized
This cannot be said of one who subscribes to a system of ethics.
This cannot be said of one who embraces New Age religions.
This is true only of those who are born of God.

We cannot habitually sin because His seed “remains” us.

“Remains” implies permanent residence.

Paul writes of those who are “in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi (Phil. 1:1).

One who is born of God “cannot sin.”

One who “remains” (abides) in Christ cannot remain habitually in sin. This does not say that the believer should not sin – though he shouldn’t. In 2:1, John tells he is writing this that we sin not. It is God’s desire that we do not sin. It is also His desire that when we do commit acts of sin, we confess those sins and receive His forgiveness. However, that is not what this verse is saying. This verse says that the Christian cannot sin. This is the Word of God – God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant Word. It is also consistent with everything else we read in this epistle. The sin principle, or the sin nature, is still operating in the believer’s heart, and he will commit acts of sin, but he cannot habitually sin if he has taken up residence in Christ Jesus.

“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

The Children of God Practice Righteousness.
This does not say you get to be children of God by doing good things.

“The righteous man shall live by faith,” (Rom. 1:17.
No one is justified by good works (Eph. 2L9; Gal. 2:16).

What it says is that children of God practice righteousness.

We practice righteousness because of our new nature in Christ.
“In Christ” are the operative words.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

The highest attempt of the lost person is as filthy rags.

Let Me Stress This One Thing: Christianity Is Not Morality.
Morality is better than immorality.

Morality cannot produce Christianity.

Christianity will manifest morality.

Now Look With Me at Some Principles of Morality.
Christianity is much more than a system of ethics.

Religion has to do with people seeking God.
Christianity is about God seeking people.

The Christian is moral because he is “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Morality is a product of a relationship with a Holy God.
Christianity is a higher morality than the world can produce.

Morality has no spiritual dynamic.
Human good is better than human evil.
Society benefits from human good.
Morality will never produce the power promised in Acts 1:8.
Morality cannot produce Justification.
Morality cannot produce Sanctification.

The filling by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) produces a spiritual dynamic.
Morality is absolutely necessary.
It is necessary for the preservation of the human race.
It is necessary for the orderly function of the human race.

Morality, though essential to an orderly society, cannot produce salvation.

Morality cannot produce spirituality. Morality without spirituality can produce legalism (see Galatians).
Salvation is by grace through faith, not works or a combination of grace and works.
Sanctification is by grace through faith, not of works.

The Children of the Devil Practice Sin.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

The habitual practice of sin identifies one as a child of the devil.

The Children of God are Contrasted With the Children of the Devil.

The children of the devil do not practice righteousness.

The children of the devil do not love one another.

The children of God love Him and loathe sin.

You are either a child of God, or you are a child of the devil. And guess what? God does not keep you guessing! You can know to whom you belong. If you practice righteousness – if you are committed to righteousness – you are a child of God. If not, you are a child of the devil. That does not mean that if you subscribe to a high ethical code you are a child of God. What it means is that if you “remain” (or “abide”) in Jesus Christ you cannot “remain” in sin; that is, you cannot continue practice of unrighteousness. If you are a child of God you practice righteousness, not in order to maintain a relationship with Him, but because you have received a new nature from Him.

One final comment. In truth, every Christian is sinless in God’s eyes, because He sees us in Christ, the only sinless One, who died and was raised from the dead so that we could be accepted as righteous in God’s sight (See John 8:46;




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