No one who remains in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or known Him.
I. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE HOLY LAW OF GOD. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness."
1. Sin in its abstract nature. "Sin is the transgression of the Law," or "lawlessness." This is said of sin in general: it is true of every sin, that it is a violation of the Law of God. This is opposed to several modern theories concerning sin. Some say that sin is a natural imperfection of the creature - the crude effort of untrained man for right conduct. Our text says that it is not imperfection, but transgression of a holy Law. And others charge all sin upon defective social arrangements: human society is not rightly organized, and because of this men err. But St. John charges sin upon the individual, and charges it as a disregard or a breach of Divine Law. And others apply the word "misdirection" to what the Bible calls sin, and thus endeavour to get rid of guilt. But misdirection implies a misdirector; that misdirector is man. And sin is more than misdirection; it is the infraction of the holy Law and beautiful order of the Supreme. The sacred Scriptures everywhere assert this. The cherubim and the flaming sword of Eden (Genesis 3:24), the awful voices of Sinai (Exodus 20), and the mournful but glorious sacrifice of Calvary unite in. declaring that sin is the transgression of the Law of God. And the voice of conscience confirms this testimony of Holy Writ. The unsophisticated and awakened conscience cries, "I acknowledge my transgression," etc. (Psalm 2:3, 4).
2. Sin in its actual commission. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness." The expression seems to indicate the practice of sin - voluntariness, deliberateness, and activity in wrong-doing. It is the antithesis of the conduct of the child of God in purifying himself. It is not sin as an occasional or exceptional thing, but as a general thing. Persistent activity in doing evil is suggested by the form of expression. We are reminded by it of the expression of the royal and inspired poet, "the workers of iniquity" - persons who habitually practice sin, who work wickedness as though it were their business. Here, then, are reasons why we should not sin.
(1) Sin is a violation of the Law of God; it is a rebellion against his will - the wise, the good, the Holy One. Therefore in itself it is an evil thing, a thing of great enormity.
(2) Law carries with it the idea of penalty. It has its rewards for those who observe it; its punishments for those who transgress it. Hence our interests plead with us against the practice of sin.
II. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. The holy will of God the Father and the redemptive work of God the Son are both essentially antagonistic to iniquity. "Ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin."
1. The end of Christ's mission was the abolition of sin. "He was manifested to take away sins. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." The bearing of our sins in his own body on the tree is not the fact here mentioned. It is involved; for "once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26); but it is not brought out in this place. The manifestation denotes his incarnation, and his life and work in the flesh. His entire mission was opposed to sin. He became incarnate, he prayed and preached, he wrestled with temptation, and wrought mighty and gracious works, he suffered and died, he arose from the dead, and he ever lives, to take away sins. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
2. A great characteristic of Christ's Person was his freedom from sin. "In him is no sin." He asserted his own sinlessness: "Which of you convicteth me of sin?... The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." And this claim he consistently maintained. His enemies tacitly or openly confessed that they could find no sin in him. The Pharisees keenly watched him to discover some matter of accusation against him, but their watching was vain. And when they had preferred a false charge against him before Pilate, the Roman judge said, "I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse him;" "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous Man." Judas Iscariot had known Jesus intimately for three years, and after he had traitorously betrayed him, in intolerable anguish he cried, "I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood." And his friends, who had been closely and constantly associated with him for three years, invariably asserted the perfect moral purity of his character and conduct. The sinlessness of our Lord should check every inclination to sin in his disciples, and stimulate them to the pursuit of holiness. To commit sin is to run counter to our Saviour's personal character, and to the gracious spirit and grand aim of the redemption which he has wrought.
III. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE DIVINE LIFE IN MAN. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him."
1. Participation in the Divine life precludes the practice of sin. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." We abide in Christ by believing on him, loving him, communing with him, drawing our life from him (cf. John 15:1-7). That this part of our text cannot mean that sin is impossible to a Christian is evident from 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1,
2. But in so far as the child of God abides in Christ he is separated from sin. In the degree in which the Divine life is realized by him, in that degree he is unable to sin (cf. verse 9).
2. The practice of sin proves the absence of a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. "Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him." The sight and knowledge here spoken of are not merely intellectual, but spiritual; not theoretical, but experimental. And the "sinneth" does not denote sin as an occasional and exceptional thing, but as general and habitual. He who lives in the practice of sin thereby proclaims that he does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. By all these reasons let Christians watch and pray that they sin not, and "follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord." - W.J.
Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth notI. These texts (vers. 6 and 9) do not teach either the doctrine of perfection or that other doctrine which is apt to usurp its place — the doctrine that God sees no sin in His people, or that what would be sin in others is not sin in them.
II. There is another mode of dealing with the statements before us which I cannot feel to be satisfactory. It is to limit their comprehensiveness, and to understand the apostle as speaking, not of sin universally, but of sin more or less voluntary and presumptuous. According to this view, one abiding in Christ cannot sin deliberately, intentionally, knowingly. Is that true? Was it true of David? Or of the man in Corinth who was excommunicated for incest, and, upon repentance, restored?
III. It may help us out of the difficulty if we first look at the statements before us in the light, not of what we are now by grace, but of what we are to be in the future state of glory. It will be true then that we sin not; it will be impossible for us then to sin. What will make it impossible for us to sin? Simply our abiding in Christ, our being born of God, His seed abiding in us. Let me remind you that this impeccability lies in the will — the seat of it is the will. It is because, in the state of glory, my will is made "perfectly and immutably free to do good alone," that my will is, or that I myself am, incapable of doing evil. And if it is your will that is to be thus free — free, as His will is free, to do good alone, and therefore incapable of an evil choice, then your impeccability must be, if I may say so, itself voluntary; voluntarily accepted and realised.
IV. Let me try to bring out more clearly this principle as one that must connect the future with the present. Why is it that in heaven, my will being free as God's will is free, I can no more sin than He can sin? What answer would John give to that question if you could put it to him now? As thus: "In whatever sense, and with whatever modifications, thou didst, in thy experience when here, find that to be true which thou hast so emphatically put — as the test, apparently, of real Christianity — it is all true of thee there, where thou art now! How is it so? Why is it so?" "Because I abide in the Son of God, and God's own seed abides in me, as being born of God" — is not that his reply? What other reply can he give? Then, does it not follow that it is an impeccability that may be realised on earth? For the causes of it are realised on earth; first, your abiding in the Son of God; secondly, your being born of God so as to have His seed abiding in you.
V. Viewed thus in the light of "what we shall be," and of the bearing of what we shall be on what we are, John's statements assume a somewhat different aspect from what they are apt to wear when taken by themselves. They become not one whit less solemn, but greatly more encouraging. For one thing, you may now regard them as describing a precious privilege, as well as imposing a searching test. They show you the way of perfect holiness; how you are to be righteous even as Christ is righteous; even as God is righteous.
VI. Taking this view, I confess I do not feel so much concern as otherwise I might feel about reconciling such strong statements as that one abiding in Christ sinneth not, or that one born of God cannot sin, with the acknowledged and lamented fact that he does sin. John has dealt with that fact already, and told us how to deal with it. It is not his business here to be making allowance for it. For indeed it is most dangerous to be considering the matter in that light or on that side at all. It is almost sure to lead, first to calculations, and then to compromises fatal to singleness of eye and the holy ambition that ought to fire the breast — calculations first about the quantity and quality of the residuum of old corruption which we must lay our account with finding in the purest God-born soul, and then compromises under the sort of feeling that, as the proverb says, what cannot be cured must be endured. Let a few practical inferences be suggested.
1. I think the texts teach, or imply, the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, the impossibility of their either wholly or permanently falling away from a state of grace.
2. The texts teach very plainly that this doctrine, whatever may be its practical use and value in its right place, and when turned to legitimate account, cannot give to any man security in sin, cannot make him safe when he is sinning, when he is committing sin or transgressing the law.
3. John's true design and purpose is to put you in the way of not sinning, of its being impossible for you to sin.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
I. First he makes out, in vers. 2 and 3, that ON PURITY DEPENDS OUR FUTURE GLORY. This is the starting point of his denunciation of sin. John and his readers are "now," in this present life, the "children of God." The manner of their future existence is not revealed. One thing "we know," that it will be a God-like state. We want to see God, for we are His children. And we are told that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Then we must be holy. Now the pattern of God-likeness for us is Jesus the Son of God. We will, therefore, conform ourselves to Him. Everyone who longs to see God, and has seen Jesus Christ, knows now what he must be like in order to attain the vision. So he "purifies himself, as He is pure." The apostle does not tell us here how this purity is to be gained. He says one thing at a time. He wants to convince us that such purity is indispensable. Observe, by the way, the word which John uses here for pure. It is hagnos, which elsewhere and commonly means chaste (2 Corinthians 11:2; Titus 2:5). It signifies the delicate purity of virgin thoughts and an uncontaminated mind (comp. Revelation 14:4), the opposite of sensuality and carnality; the purity of one in whom the animal and earthly are refined and transformed by the spiritual — as in Jesus.
II. Now St. John proceeds from the positive to the negative, from enjoining holiness to denouncing sin. And of his prohibitions this is the first: SIN IS ILLEGAL. So he puts it, with concise energy, in ver. 4. This seems to you, perhaps, a commonplace; because you have behind you many ages of Christian teaching. Not so with John's readers. Most of them had been Pagans, taught to think that if they kept the ceremonial rules of religion, and the laws of the state as sanctioned by religion, the gods were satisfied with them, troubling themselves no further about men's conduct or the condition of their souls — that, in fact, private morals are one thing, law and religion quite another. Some of them had, probably, been Pharisaic Jews, accustomed to observe strictly the letter of their sacred law, while they found means, by all manner of evasions, to indulge in gross wickedness. Now the apostle traverses this position in ver. 4. He deepens our conception of sin and broadens our conception of law, while he makes them coincide and cover the same ground, when he says, "Sin is lawlessness." The law of God is all-embracing, all-penetrating; it touches every part of human nature and conduct. We have no business to do anything or think anything that is in the least degree ungodly. Every sinner is a rebel and an outlaw in God's creation. This is the first and fundamental condemnation — the constitutional objection to sin, as we may call it.
III. In the next place, SIN IS UNCHRISTIAN. Here again we must put ourselves in the position of the readers, who had to learn things of God that He has been teaching us and our fathers for centuries. "He was manifested that He might take away sins" — not "our sins," but "sins" in the most unlimited sense (compare 1 John 2:2). This our apostle had learnt from his first master, the Baptist, who pointed him to Jesus with the words, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!" That great manifestation, the appearance of the Son of God in human flesh, was God's demonstration against sin. Christ's one object was to destroy it; and we can only "abide in Him" on the understanding that we have done with it too. Nor must we deceive ourselves by thinking that "righteousness" consists of good frames and feelings — we must "do righteousness" (ver. 7). This apostle had known his Master on earth more intimately than anyone besides. And in this one word he describes the character of Jesus, and says of Him what could be said of no other child of Adam: "In Him sin does not exist." Elsewhere he calls Him "Jesus Christ the righteous," "the pure," "the true." To "take away sins," to "cleanse us from all sin" (1 John 1:7), is with John a summary term for the abolition of moral evil. The Lord Jesus carries our sins right away and discharges us from them. Herein lies the glory and the fulness of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus — it destroys sin root and branch, in its guilt and power, its burden on the conscience, and its dominion over the heart. It is a hard saying, that of ver. 6: "Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him nor known Him!" The interpreter needs to walk warily, lest with this sentence he should break some bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax in the heart of one who loves the Lord and yet has to mourn his many failures and shortcomings. The apostle writes here, and in vers. 4 and 6, in the Greek present participle, which describes a continuous act or habit of sin: "everyone that sinneth" signifies everyone who lives in sin, or every sinner; and "everyone that doeth sin" means everyone whose life bears this fruit and yields sin for its product and result. The apostle is not thinking of the case of men weak in faith or "overtaken in some trespass." Once to have seen the Lord Jesus, as John had seen Him, is enough to make any other ideal of life impossible. If you have "seen Him," then you have fallen in love with holiness, once and forever. For you to put up with sin any more, or be at peace with it, is a thing impossible.
IV. Once more, St. John gives us to understand that sin IS DIABOLICAL (ver. 8). The righteous Son of God has come forth to be the leader of the sons of God, who are saved by His blood and abide in His righteousness. For the doers of sin there is another leader and pattern: "He that doeth sin is of the devil." Every act of wrong-doing is an act of assistance to the enemy of God and man; it is an act of treason, therefore, in the professed servant of God, the soldier of Christ Jesus. Every such act helps in its degree to prop and maintain the great fortress of evil, the huge rampart raised in this world against the holy and almighty will of God, which Scripture calls sin.
V. Finally, St. John comes round again to what he had said at the outset: SIN IS UNNATURAL IN A CHILD OF GOD (ver. 9). The two sentences of ver. 9 amount to saying: First, as a matter of fact, the child of God does not sin; secondly, as a matter of principle, he cannot sin. Concerning "everyone that is begotten of God," the apostle asserts, "sin he does not commit." There is a master influence, a principle of Divine life and sonship, which produces the opposite effect, a "seed" that bears good fruit of righteousness instead of the old evil fruit of unrighteousness. This "seed of God abiding" in the believer is surely, according to John's way of thinking, the presence of the Holy Spirit, that which he called in 1 John 2:27 "an anointing from the Holy One dwelling in you," the chrism (anointing) which makes men Christians. Of the same grace he writes in 1 John 3:24: "In this we know that He dwells in us, from the Spirit which He gave us." And St. Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit, given to believers in Christ, is at once the seal of their sonship to God and the seed of moral goodness; for he speaks of the manifold forms of Christian virtue as "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23), that excludes "the works of the flesh." For "these are contrary one to the other, so that you may not do the things you would; the Spirit lusts against the flesh" — it desires and effects what the flesh most disliked. Sin is done away not by mere negation and repression, but by the counterworking of a positive and stronger principle. The ground is so filled with the good seed that weeds have no room to grow. To a child of God, to the new nature, the new tastes and dispositions of the man "born of the Spirit," sin becomes a moral impossibility. It is wholly repugnant to that "Divine nature" of which he now partakes (2 Peter 1:4). What shall we say, then, to the notorious fact of sin in believers? Some have shamelessly declared that their sin is no sin, for they are "born of God," and therefore "cannot sin" 1 St. John would infallibly draw, for such men, the opposite conclusion — that, seeing they thus sin, they are not born of God, they "lie and do not the truth." The fact must be admitted, but not for a moment allowed. Sin is an alien and monstrous thing to the regenerate; its detection in the heart must cause to a child of God the deepest pain and shame. Its actual commission, even for a moment, is a fall from grace, a loss of the seal of sonship, only to be retrieved by prompt repentance and recourse to the all-cleansing blood. Christianity can make no concession to sin, no compromise with it in any shape or form, without stultifying itself and denying its sinless, suffering Lord.
(G. G. Findlay, B. A.)
(J. A. Beet, D. D.)
(J. A. Beet, D. D.)
(J. A. Beet, D. D.)
TopicsAbides, Abideth, Anyone, Continues, Doesn't, Either, Hasn't, Knoweth, Remaining, Remains, Sin, Sinner, Sinneth, Sinning, Sins, Union
Outline1. He declares the singular love of God toward us, in making us his sons;
3. who therefore ought obediently to keep his commandments;
11. as also to love one another as brothers.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 John 3:6
6030 sin, avoidance
LibraryThe Purifying Hope
Eversley, 1869. Windsor Castle, 1869. 1 John iii. 2. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." Let us consider this noble text, and see something, at least, of what it has to tell us. It is, like all God's messages, all God's laws, ay, like God's world in which we live and breathe, …
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons
Second Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to Brotherly Love.
The Growth and Power of Sin
The Love that Calls us Sons
The Unrevealed Future of the Sons of God
The Purifying Influence of Hope
The Meaning of Sin, and the Revelation of the True Self
How to Fertilize Love
Vanity of Human Glory.
The First Fruits of the Spirit
The End of Christ's Coming
The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God
The Beatific vision
A Present Religion
The Death of Christ for his People
The Warrant of Faith
The Way of Life.
"But Ye have Received the Spirit of Adoption, Whereby we Cry, Abba, Father. "
"Whereby we Cry, Abba, Father. "
"And for Sin Condemned Sin in the Flesh. "
What is Sanctification?
The Sinner Arraigned and Convicted.
The Solidarity of the Human Family
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