I would like us to take a look at the following chapter of the Bible found in 1 John:
1 John 3 (NIV)
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
I wanted us to read this whole chapter so we could look at the context of what John was saying surrounding the verse that I want to focus on in this blog, which is 1 John 3:9
1 John 3:9 (NIV)
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
I find this verse to be very confusing. I thought we were all born of God and created in His image. At the same time, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we are all born with a sin nature and no one lives a sinless life. This verse seems to be saying that anyone who is born of God will not continue to sin. I think we need to look a little deeper into this.
Without getting into a language study here, there are difficulties in conveying the idea that was trying to be conveyed here in the original language into the English that we can understand. As a result some readers may feel that this passage indicates that God doesn’t recognize our struggle with sin. They might think that committing one sin causes them to lose their place in heaven.
In reality God sees our struggle with sin all too well. He does not expect any new Christian to mature and bear fruit over night. What I think John is emphasizing here is an increasing conformity of a person’s will to the will of God. To put this in simpler terms, when a person grows closer in their relationship with God, they gain a stronger desire to do what God would want them to do. If, however, a person shows no sign of change in how they live their life after stepping over the faith line and trusting God. If, in fact, a person steps over the faith line and continues to live a life filled with sin, John is saying that the person has not been born of God. The question has to be asked if this person has really given their life to God at all.
Let’s look a little closer at one other verse from this chapter.
1 John 3:6 (NIV)
6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
The key word in this verse is the word “continues.” This would mean that we continue to sin like we did before being born again or after stepping over the faith line. In other words, if someone’s life does not change, it is doubtful that a person really was born again at all.
We all have a sin nature and we will all continue to sin throughout our whole lives. What we are talking about here is the decision that is made to try to avoid sinning because you have been born again. As your relationship with Jesus grows, a person will naturally try to avoid sinning more and more. Sinning will not disappear from someone’s life, but if they are born again, you will see a drastic reduction in the amount of sinning they do. Giving your life to the Lord changes people from the inside out. I think if you ask just about anyone who has given their life to the Lord, they will say that the change has been for the better.
I think when we look back at 1 John 3:9 through this lens, the verse makes a lot more sense. As long as we have God inside of us and we have a relationship with Him, we will work to try to avoid sin to please Him and only Him. We change for the better and it is usually noticeable to those around us. We also call this “growing up.”
We can be a testimony of God and His greatness through how we live our lives. Others, who don’t know God, might see God inside of us and want to know God too. That is when God is really working His magic.