1 John 3:9

Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the Law, etc. The apostle, having stated that the influence of the hope of the Christian stimulates him to seek for moral purity, proceeds to present forcible reasons against the commission of sin. Of these reasons we have three chief ones in the text, and these are repeated, with some additional particulars, in verses 7-9.

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 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. THE IMPORTANT DOCTRINE HERE ASSERTED. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin."

1. This doctrine is implied in all the precepts of the law of God, whether they relate to evils prohibited or to duties enjoined.

2. This doctrine is implied in all the injunctions of the New Testament, which are expressly enjoined on those who profess the religion of Christ.

3. This doctrine is implied in all those Scriptures which speak of holiness as the privilege of the people of God, and as indispensable to all men.

4. This doctrine is, if possible, still more plain from a consideration of what the Scriptures say concerning those who live in the practice of sin.

II. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THIS DOCTRINE IS ESTABLISHED. "For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin: because he is born of God."

1. The practice of sin is contrary to the nature of the man who is born of God.

2. The practice of sin is contrary to the impulse of that Divine principle which is deposited in the heart of the man who is born of God.From this subject we learn —

1. What is the nature of the true religion.

2. What is the unfailing conduct of all those who are truly religions.

3. What is the lamentable condition of all who live in the practice of sin.

(W. Lupton.)


1. "Born of God." (See John 1:12, 13) As water cannot rise above its fountain, so can no change in man be better or greater than its cause. If it come from the flesh it must be like it, earthly and sinful. When it comes from the Spirit, then it must be like Him, spiritual, holy, and heavenly.

2. "His seed remaineth in him." It is immaterial whether "his" seed be understood of God or of the believer. It is that seed which God has sown in his heart. It is God's as the author of it. It is the believer's as the subject of it. How is this figure calculated to supplement and illustrate the former one. First, the sinner is born of God by means of the truth. He is left no longer ignorant of sin, but is taught to know its vileness and evil consequences. He is no longer ignorant of himself, but has been enlightened to see the depravity of his heart. Second, it is in the same way the life of faith and holiness thus begun is maintained in him. The idea is specially noticed in the text, "His seed remaineth in Him." It is in its own nature imperishable. The truth ever abides the same. The believer ever sees sin as he saw it at the first, vile and ruinous. He ever sees himself as he did at the beginning, exposed to ruin if he indulges it. He ever sees the Saviour as gracious and glorious as He appeared at the first. His claims do not diminish in his view, nor does he ever find reason to change his conclusions respecting this world and the next, time and eternity.

II. THE EFFECTS THAT ARE DECLARED TO RESULT FROM IT. "He doth not commit sin, and he cannot sin." As two figures were used to describe the change, so are there two assertions to declare the results. The one is the assertion of a fact, and the other is an argument to explain and confirm it.

1. The fact — "He doth not commit sin." Let it be observed this is said of every converted man. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." He does not sin knowingly, wilfully, and habitually. We say of a man versed in literature, he is learned, although he is ignorant of many things. In like manner we speak of men, and say they are strong, although in some respects they may be weak. We judge of them by that which is prominent and paramount in them.

2. The second expression, explanatory and confirmatory of this fact, is still stronger, "He cannot sin, because tie is born of God." To live in sin is contrary to the new nature of which he has been made a partaker. The nature cannot and does not sin. Had he no other nature he would never sin. And there are many reasons why he cannot.(1) It is contrary to his views. He sees sin to be the greatest of all evils, and holiness to be the highest of all good.(2) It is contrary to his tastes; he dislikes sin and he loves holiness.(3) It is contrary to his most determined purposes. The language of David is not strange to him (Psalm 17:3). It were unreasonable to suppose such a man could live in sin.(4) It is contrary to his habits. He has served God and found His service to be liberty.(5) It is contrary to his interests. He knows that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to conic." He is not the fool to "sin against his own soul."

(J. Morgan, D. D.)

Various expositions are given of this.

1. He ought not to sire Cannot indeed is sometimes taken for ought not (Acts 4:20). But this is not the meaning of cannot here, ought not; for an unrenewed man ought not to sin any more than a regenerate man. But the apostle attributes here something peculiar to the regenerate, addling the reason, "because he is born of God."

2. He cannot sin so easily. He may sin easily in respect of the frailty of the flesh, but not so easily in regard of the abiding of the seed in him, which helps him to bewarere of sin. Grace being a Divine habit, hath the nature of a habit, which is to incline the person to acts proper to that habit, and facilitate those acts, as a man that hath the habit of an art or trade can with more ease work in it than any other.

3. He cannot sin, as he is regenerate. A gracious man, as a gracious man, cannot sin; for grace, being a good habit, is not capable of producing acts contrary to its nature. Sin in a regenerate man proceeds not from his grace, but from his corruption.

4. He cannot sin as long as he is regenerate, as long as the seed remains in him, as long as he follows the motions of the Spirit "rod grace, which are able to overcome the motions of concupiscence, but he may give up the grace: as an impregnable tower cannot be taken as long as it is defended by those within, but they may fling away their arms and deliver it up.Sin may be considered in two ways, viz., as to —

1. The act of sin. Thus a believer sins.

2. The habit of sin, or custom in it, when a man runs to sin freely, willingly, and is not displeased with it.Thus a believer does not commit sin. Being God's son, he cannot be sin's servant; he cannot sin in such a manner and so absolutely as one of the devil's children, one born of the devil. Doctrine: There is a mighty difference between the sinning of a regenerate and a natural man. A regenerate man doth not, neither can, commit sin in the same manner as an unregenerate man doth. The sense of this "cannot" I shall lay down in several propositions.

1. It is not meant exclusively of lesser sins, or sins of infirmity.

2. A regenerate man cannot live in the customary practice of any known sin, either of omission or commission.

(1)Not in a constant omission of known duties.

(2)Not in a customary commission of any known sin.I shall confirm this by some reasons, because upon this proposition depend all the following.

1. Regeneration gives not a man a dispensation from the law of God.

2. It is not for the honour of God to suffer a custom and course of sin in a renewed man.

3. It is against the nature of the covenant. In the covenant we are to take God for our God, i.e., for our chief good and last end.

4. It is against the nature of our first repentance and conversion to God. True repentance is "a breaking off iniquity by righteousness" (Daniel 4:27).

5. It is against the nature of habitual grace, which is the principle and form of our regeneration.

6. A regenerate man cannot have a fixed resolution to walk in such a way of sin, were the impediments to it removed.

7. A regenerate man cannot walk in a way doubtful to him, without inquiries whether it be a way of sin or a way of duty, and without admitting of reproofs and admonitions, according to his circumstances.

8. A regenerate man cannot have a settled, deliberate love to any one act of sin, though he may fall into it.

9. A regenerate man cannot commit any sin with a full consent and bent of will.

(S. Charnock.)

The apostle having exhorted the saints to whom he writes in the former chapter to abide in Christ and to do righteousness (vers. 28, 29), follows on this exhortation with several arguments that a true Christian is not only bound to do so, but that he indeed doth so.

1. From that hope which hath eternal happiness for its object (vers. 2, 3). Where this hope is truly founded it will inflame us with a desire after holiness.

2. From the contrariety of sin to the law of God. A Christian who is guided by this law will not transgress it.

3. From the end of Christ's coming, which was to take away sin (ver. 5).

4. From the communion they have with Christ; abiding in Him.

5. From the first author of sin, the devil; he that sins hath a communion with the devil (ver. 8), as he that doth righteousness hath a communion with Christ.

6. From the new nature of a Christian, which hinders him from sin (ver. 9).

(Bp. Hackett.)

He cannot sin any more than a good mother can kill her child. She might be able in a thousand ways to kill the child, but her heart would forbid it and make the impossibility absolute.

(J. B. Figgis, M. A.)

The ideas of Divine sonship and sin are mutually exclusive. As long as the relationship with God is real, sinful acts are but accidents; they do not touch the essence of the man's being. The impossibility of sinning in such a case lies in the moral nature of things.

(Bp. Westcott.)

Some of you are men in business. I go into your shop or warehouse, and I ask you the price of a certain article. You say it is so much. I offer you one half or two thirds of what you have said is the price. You say, "I cannot take it." Now, why cannot you take what I offer you? It is not the want of freedom in your will to decide on accepting my proposal; nor is it the want of physical power in your arm to accept my offer. You have both the one and the other, and yet you repeat your former statement, "I cannot take it"; and you speak truly. You cannot take it, because it would be unjust, because it would tend to bring ruin on your business, and to reduce yourself and family to beggary. You cannot take it consistent with your safety and happiness. Just so he that is born of God cannot commit sin consistent with his well-being. It would be rebellion against God, and would bring injury, if not ruin, upon his soul.

(J. Seymour.)

With true insight into the case, quaint Thomas Fuller alleges that "the failings of Christians be rather in the branches and leaves than in the roots of their performances."

"It would," says Thomas Manton, "be monstrous for the eggs of one creature to bring forth a brood of another kind, for a crow or a kite to come from the egg of a hen. It is as unnatural a production for a new creature to sin." Each creature brings forth after its own kind. Out of a dove's nest we expect only doves to fly. The heavenly life breeds birds of paradise, such as holy thoughts, desires, and acts; and it cannot bring forth such unclean birds as lust, and envy, and malice. The life of God infused in regeneration is as pure as the Lord by whom it was begotten, and can never be otherwise.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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