Saturday, July 14, 2012
1st John Chapter 3 Part 7
3:8-9 (cont.) He that committeth 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.
Verse 9 is one of those “problem passages” like Hebrews 6:4-8. If you allow the verse, its context and the Bible speak for itself however I really don’t believe this is a difficult verse at all. The verse plainly states that a Christian cannot sin because God’s seed remains in him. Now we must at once rule out a Christian’s inability to sin as far as capacity is concerned. I know in myself that I am more than capable of sin, and can still be led away by my lusts and enticed, James 1:13-15. Many verses in the New Testament agree with this notion, including several verses in this very epistle. John wrote more than once already that Christians can and do still sin after they are born again, 1st John 1:8, 10; 2:1.
What does this verse mean then? Simply that a Christian cannot have sin legally imputed to him any longer after he is saved. In simpler terms: when you have been born again sin no longer can separate you from God in a judicial sense; you will never go to Hell because you sin as a Christian. The dynamics of the relationship one has with the Father alter once one is saved. You are now a child of God and inherit His amazing promises about the believer’s security in Christ, John 6:37; Romans 8:38-39; 1st Corinthians 3:15; 2nd Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; 2nd Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 13:5; 1st Peter 1:5; Jude 1:1, etc.
When we sin the Holy Spirit is grieved, and if we sin enough we can silence Him and dull our conscience, Ephesians 4:30. We may suffer the loss of all of our works, 1st Corinthians 3:11-15; 9:25-27; Hebrews 6:4-8; John 15:1-8. We may be called the least in Heaven and given a less honorable place, Matthew 5:19; Luke 14:10-11.
We must focus on the word “seed” used in verse 9. We find in a parable given by our Lord that Jesus states, “the seed is the word of God,” Luke 8:11. James uses similar terminology when regarding the gospel of our salvation when he writes, “receive with meekness the implanted word (the gospel), which is able to save your souls,” James 1:21. The result of hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ is our immediate salvation and the reception of God’s Holy Spirit. “In [Jesus] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” Ephesians 1:13. The Greek word for “sealed” is “sphragizo” and means “to stamp for security and preservation.” It also indicates a state of permanency. It is used thrice of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of New Testament believers after Pentecost, Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2nd Corinthians 1:22. The Holy Spirit of “promise” indicates that the promise of our redemption in Christ (see 2nd Corinthians 1:22; 5:4-5) will be faithfully and fully realized in His time.
The idea of God’s seed remaining in us is one of permanency. We cannot sin and provoke God in the sense that a penal action will occur (i.e., we will forfeit our salvation and go the Hell) since His seed (His promise that what He began He will finish, Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 12:2) remains in us. To further clarify and remove confusion John adds that such a one cannot sin since he is born of God. The usage of the word “cannot” is interesting, since this suggests that Christians after all, cannot commit sin. At least a superficial reading of the passage would suggest this. But we have already sufficiently shown that Christians can sin after being born again. How then does one reconcile this passage? Earlier John says Christians can sin (1st John 2:1) and now he says anyone born again cannot sin! If you believe in falling away this is a very hard passage to reconcile. But it is easy to comprehend if you accept the Biblical teaching that Jesus died for the sin of the world, and if God punished Christ in your stead to satisfy His justice then He cannot punish the believer too. The issue of sin determining one’s eternal destination was settled at the cross for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t die for our sins, He died to put sin (sin itself; the totality of all sin ever to be committed) away by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.
We are then left with the plausible and entirely Biblical concept that believers cannot commit a sin that separates them eternally from God ever again; though Christians can commit sin leading to the penalty of physical death, James 5:20; 1st John 5:16; 1st Corinthians 11:30. Here is the meaning of John’s statement that we do not sin because God’s seed remains in us, and we cannot sin because we are born of God. The simplicity of grace astounds us and is often resisted for fear of its implications. But the text, left in its context, reveals the simple and wonderful truth that we are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1st Peter 1:5.