Monday, July 15, 2013

He Cannot Sin

He Cannot Sin. What on earth is 1John 3:9 talking about?

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.”

I recently listened to a message where the speaker said that 1 John 3:9 is about habitual sin and an exhortation to not sin. He completely missed the point of the verse. So do a number of other Christians who think the verse is saying that a Christian will never commit habitual sin.

1 John 3:9 is NOT a direct exhortation to stay away from sin (although 1 John was written for that purpose -- see 1 John 2:1), which is a good thing to do but it is not what the verse actually says. It specifically says "he cannot sin", which seems directly contradictory to 1 John 1:8 that says we are lying if we say we have no sin. The verse does not say "don't sin", it says "he cannot sin". So how does a Christian understand the difference between 1 John 1:8 that says I sin and 1 John 3:9 that says I cannot sin?

The answer is clear in the first part of the verse "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin". It is my SPIRIT that is born of God (John 3:6), not my flesh. Get that. Very important to understanding the passage. My flesh is where I sin (Rom. 6:6, "body of sin"; Rom. 7:17-18,23) but my new man CANNOT sin because it is born by incorruptible seed - the word of God, 1 Peter 1:23. A Christian is 2 people - a new man trapped in an old man's body, but the "new creature" is regenerated/quickened by the Holy Spirit and cannot sin. The new man (Eph. 4:24), new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), spiritual mind (Romans 7-8), and living in the spirit (Romans 8:9) are all different terms and phrases describing the same thing: my spirit that is born again (John 3), regenerated (Titus 3:5), and quickened (Eph. 2:1-6; Col. 2:13) by the Holy Spirit of God. All of this is possible because I am in Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), who died for my sins, condemned sins in His flesh (Rom. 8:3), and conquered death by rising from the dead. I am no longer guilty or under condemnation of the law. But while trapped in this body of sin and death, I can live the resurrected life of Jesus Christ right now (Gal. 2:20) and I don’t need to wait for “the redemption of our body” which is still future (Rom. 8:23 - the rapture, see 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4). I have the not yet, now, in Christ.

1 John 3:6 says "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not". Although spiritually I am always in Christ and that cannot change (Eph. 1:4; Col. 2:7), 1 John 3:6 is a practical command and application that I must abide in Christ to stay away from sin (see John 15 for a similar passage). But the practical command in verse 6 should not take away from the doctrinal truth of verse 9 that my new man is born of God and cannot sin.

1 John 3:9 seems contradictory to a verse like 1 John 1:8, but it is because I'm a new man that cannot sin temporarily trapped in an old man's “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6). The thing is that the new man has been spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11) and is not "in the flesh" (Rom 8:9). This separation between my flesh (old man) and my spirit (new man) is where the victory comes from when I yield unto the righteousness of God in my spirit. See Romans 6:12-18 on the yielding, which describes 2 kingdoms warring inside of me wanting to reign, but Christ has already given me the victory.

1 John 3:9 explains WHY I can obey 1 John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not”, because I have a new nature that CANNOT sin created by God to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10). The key then is to “yield” to (Rom. 6) and “abide” in (1 John 3:6) Christ who not only intercedes on high (1 John 2:1) but also lives within me (Col. 1:27).

Christian, remind yourself every day that Christ has given you a new nature in Him that cannot sin.

Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

UPDATE 7/16/13

Please note that Christians will bring up 2 arguments against my teaching: (1) the wording in other versions, and (2) the tense of the Greek verb. I'm not an expert in #2. However, please reference this article -- -- which gives a decent summary of those 2 issues and teaches the verse similar to what I have done. (I don't know anything else about that other website or even if the Greek explanation is good, but include the link for added benefit and reference.)

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