1 John 3:9 "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."
1 John 3:10 "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God"
What do these verses mean? How are we to understand them in the light of not only a multitude of other Scriptures, but also our own Christian experience?
In this little study, I would like to offer another way of looking at several passages in the book of First John. It is my belief that most commentators have completely missed the point about what several critical verses in this book really mean. The explanations most often given end up contradicting many other portions of Scripture, and cause many of God's people to doubt their own salvation, thus robbing them of the peace Christ obtained for us at the cross of Calvary.
You may not agree with my views. I only ask that you take the time to consider them. We will be focusing primarily on 1 John 3:6-10 and 1 John 5:16-18.
"Whosoever abideth in him SINNETH NOT; whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: HE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RIGHTEOUS, even as he is righteous. HE THAT COMMITETH SIN IS OF THE DEVIL; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 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. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: WHOSOEVER DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT OF GOD, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, AND HIS BROTHER'S RIGHTEOUS. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." 1 John 3:6-13.
"If any man see his brother SIN A SIN which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that SIN NOT UNTO DEATH. There IS A SIN UNTO DEATH: I do not say that he shall pray for it. ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS IS SIN: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that WHOSOEVER IS BORN OF GOD SINNETH NOT; but he that is begotten of God keepth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." 1 John 5:16-18.
The usual explanations given for the phrases "doth not commit sin" and "he cannot sin" are that the Christian does not HABITUALLY practice or engage in sin. However I believe this explanation contradicts a multitude of other Scriptures, including First John itself.
Do Christians continue to sin? Of course we do. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we constantly sin every day of our lives. We sin in our attitudes, omissions of duty, lack of love, pride, self-righteousness, ingratitude for God's many blessings, unkind or lustful thoughts, complaining, selfishness, and by many of our actions every day. If we all sin several times every single day of our lives, is this not a pattern and a practice of sin?
"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22.
"Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." Luke 17:3-4.
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do....Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do...I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Romans 7:14-25
"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Galatians 5:17
"Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. THEM THAT SIN rebuke before all, that others also may fear." 1 Timothy 5:19-20. These verses speak of elders in the church who are continually in a state of significant sin worthy of open rebuke. The verb is in the present continuous tense.
"For IN MANY THINGS WE OFFEND ALL." James 3:2. Again, the verb is in the present continuous tense, and James tells us that WE ALL continue to offend in many things.
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover THE MULTITUDE OF SINS." 1 Peter 4:8. Peter is writing to fellow Christians, and among the assembly of the saints, there is a multitude of sins that need to be covered by brotherly love.
"For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled: I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh." Psalm 38:4-7.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9.
"If any man see HIS BROTHER SIN A SIN which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that SIN NOT UNTO DEATH. There is A SIN UNTO DEATH; I do not say that he shall pray for it." 1 John 5:16. Again, the verb used here for a brother sinning sin is in a present continuous tense, meaning that this Christian brother is practicing a particular type of sin which can be seen by others, and from which he needs to be restored.
So how do we properly understand what the apostle John is talking about when he refers to what he calls "a sin unto death", and "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin"?
The epistle of First John was written to confirm the sound doctrine which they had heard from the beginning, and to warn against false spirits, false prophets and antichrists. He tells us: "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for it they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 1 John 2:22, 19.
The apostle John is clearly telling us that there are TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF SIN that he refers to in his inspired letter. There is the "garden variety" type of sins that are our "thorns in the flesh", the "sin that dwelleth in me", and the "law of sin which is in my members"; and then there is the sin unto death, which is the final and total apostasy from the faith - the denial of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. It is this second type of sin that the true born again child of God CANNOT DO, "because His seed (the ingrafted word of God) remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." 1 John 3:9.
What then does God mean when He says through John: "he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous"? I believe the answer is found right there in the CONTEXT, but first, let's take a look at what the phrase cannot mean. The usual explanation is that a person who practices works of righteousness and does not habitually sin is shown to be a child of God and not of the devil.
Following the logic of this premise, we would then have to conclude that every person who does not commit adultery, does not murder, or steal, or get drunk, beat up on his wife, take the name of God in vain, or "smoke, chew, or goes with girls that do" is then righteous. Hopefully, we all know enough about our Bible to see that this is not true. If ever there were a righteous man in this moral sense, it would have been Saul before he got soundly converted and became the apostle Paul.
After his conversion the apostle Paul wrote these beautiful words: "Yea doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." Philippians 3:9.
Well, what about that "agape" love for one another? Nope. The Lord Jesus tells us in Luke 6:32: "for sinners also love those that love them", and the word used there for sinners loving one another is agape.
I believe the proper explanation of what the verses mean when they differentiate between the children of God and the children of the devil, and "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" is found right there in the context. Just read the following verses.
"Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's RIGHTEOUS."
What was so evil about Cain's works, and what was so righteous about those of his brother Abel? The only difference between these two brothers recorded in Scripture, is in their very different ways of approaching a holy God in order to be accepted of Him. Cain "brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." Genesis 4:3-5
Cain brought the fruit of the labor of his own hands, and Abel brought a sacrificial lamb. Cain presented his own works, while Abel acknowledged himself to be a sinner worthy of death, who could only approach a holy God by means of an blood sacrifice which typified the Lamb of God who by His blood purchased His unworthy and sinful people.
It was in their manner of approaching the only true God that distinguished the one's works as being righteous and the other's as evil. To "do righteousness" is to approach God through the sacrifice of His Son who gave Himself for ours sins and clothed us in His own perfect righteousness. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ THE RIGHTEOUS: And he is the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 2:1-2
Throughout his epistle, the apostle John makes it clear that faith in Jesus as both the Christ and the Son of God is the evidence that we are born again. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." 1 John 4:15
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him...For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?...These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life..." 1 John 5:1, 4, 5, 13.
There are only two spiritual families on this earth - the children of God and the children of the devil. Muslims love other Muslims; Hindus love other Hindus, Mormons love other Mormons, and sinners love other sinners, but they all look down on others who are not of their faiths. Every Christian also loves and cares about other Christians, even when we disagree with each other about some of the less important doctrinal issues. God Himself has given the true child of God a love for other members of His family, even though we may have some squabbles among ourselves like all earthly families do among brothers and sisters.
Every born again child of God will continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Likewise every born again child of God will continue to sin in manifold ways every day of his life until the Lord finally changes "this vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:21), but he CANNOT commit the sin unto death, but will instead "do righteousness" by approaching our God and Father through the only Advocate we have - Jesus Christ the righteous.
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." 1 John 2:12.
1 John 3:9 "he CANNOT sin"
John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.