1 John 5:18
We know that anyone born of God does not keep on sinning; the One who was born of God protects him, and the evil one cannot touch him.
Sermons
The KeepingJ. B. Figgis.1 John 5:18
Three Views of the Truly Regenerate ManA. S. Patterson, D. D.1 John 5:18
Whosoever is Born of God Sinneth NotA. Maclaren, D. D.1 John 5:18
The Sublimest KnowledgeW. Jones 1 John 5:18-20
The Three Certainties of the EpistleR. Finlayson 1 John 5:18-21


We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not, etc. There are certain things of which St. John writes without even the faintest tone of hesitation or doubt, with the calmest and firmest assurance, and with the accent of deep conviction. And the things of which he writes with so much certainty are of the greatest and most important. So in the paragraph before us he utters his triple "we know" concerning some of the most vital and weighty questions. Let us notice each of these in the order in which they here stand.

I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE CHARACTER AND CONDITION OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. "We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not." Here are three points for consideration concerning true Christians.

1. Their origination from God. They are "begotten of God?' They are "called children of God," and are such.

2. Their abstention from sin. "Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not." He will not commit the "sin unto death;" and in proportion as he participates in the Divine life he will shun sin in any form (cf. 1 John 3:6-9; and see our remarks on 1 John 3:6).

3. Their preservation from the evil one. "He that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not." Danger is clearly implied here. "Be sober, be vigilant; your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith." "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil," etc. (Ephesians 6:11-18). "Satan transformeth himself into an angel of light." Hence the danger. But notice:

(1) The means of preservation. "He that was begotten of God keepeth himself." He is sober and watchful and prayerful in order that he may not be surprised by temptation and seduced into sin. It has been well said by John Howe, "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself from those deadly mortal touches which would endanger his precious life; that is, he is his own underkeeper. We are every one to be our brother's keeper, much more our own; but still in a subordinate sense, subservient to, and dependent upon, the Supreme One. Indeed, it were a kind of monstrous thing in the creation, that there should be so noble a life planted in us, but destitute of the self-preserving faculty or disposition; whereas every life, how mean soever, even that of a worm, a gnat, or a fly, hath a disposition to preserve itself." Christians are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

(2) The nature of the preservation. "The wicked one toucheth him not." This does not signify exemption from temptation, but victory over it. The great adversary shall not touch" the true-born child of God" so as to destroy his spiritual life or effect his overthrow.

II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF PERSONAL FILIAL RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one." The assurance with which the apostle writes is remarkable. Not, "we are probably of God;' not," we hope we are of God," etc.; but "we know that we are of God," etc. We may know this:

1. By our consciousness of our Christian character. The genuine Christian can say of his spiritual condition, "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." He is conscious of his faith in Christ. "I know whom I have believed," etc. (2 Timothy 1:12). He feels that the Saviour is precious unto him (1 Peter 2:7). He knows that he loves the Christian brotherhood; and "we know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." He is conscious of his sincere desire and endeavour to follow Christ as his great Exemplar, and to obey him as his Divine Lord.

2. By our consciousness of our filial disposition toward God. We have "received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Our own hearts assure us that we trust and love and reverence our heavenly Father. Thus "we know that we are of God?

3. By the contrast between ourselves and the unchristian world. "The whole world lieth in the wicked one." We have already endeavoured to indicate the character of" the world" of which St. John writes. "Concerning the world, he says, not merely that it is of the wicked one, or has him for a father, and bears his nature, but also that it 'lies in him,' that is, lies in his bosom,... like an infant on the bosom of a mother or a father, which is absolutely given up to its parent's power" (Ebrard). The true Christian knows that he is not in such a condition, but in a decidedly opposite one - that he "abides in the Son, and in the Father" (chapter 2:24).

III. THE KNOWLEDGE OF A TRANSCENDENT FACT, AND OF GREAT PERSONAL BENEFITS DERIVED THROUGH THAT FACT. "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true," etc. Here are four points which require our attention.

1. That the Son of God came into our world. "We know that the Son of God is come." (This great fact has already engaged our attention in our homily on 1 John 4:9-11, and the apostle's assurance of it in that on 1 John 4:14.)

2. That the Son of God hath given to us spiritual discernment that we might know God. "And hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true." This does not mean that he has given to us any new faculty, but that he has brought our spiritual faculties into a right condition for the apprehension of the Divine Being. "As Christ has come (in the sense of 1 John 4:9)," says Ebrard, "and through this act of love has kindled love in us (1 John 4:10), thus communicating his nature to us, he has furnished us with the understanding necessary in order that we may know God. For God is, according to 1 John 1:5 and 1 John 4:8, Light and Love; and only he who is penetrated by his light, and kindled by his love, can know him." God was not the Unknowable to St. John. He knew him through the revelation of Jesus Christ, by the conscious realization of his presence with his Spirit, and by hallowed communion with him.

3. That we are in vital union with God and with his Son Jesus Christ. "We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." (We have already considered what it is to be in God, in our homily on 1 John 2:6.) The true Christian is in God the Father through being in Christ the Son. He is in the Father through the mediation of the Son.

4. That the Son of God is truly and properly Divine. "This is the true God, and eternal life" (cf. verses 11-13). Let us seek to realize the exalted and blessed knowledge which we have been considering. And if it be already ours, let us endeavour to possess it in clearer light and fuller measure. "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." - W.J.









We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not
1. He "sinneth not." As regenerate, he has a new nature. The power of sin is broken in his soul, and therefore its influence over his character and conduct is subdued.

2. He "keepeth himself." The Holy Spirit, indeed, regulates his mind. But still, his own faculties and affections are in exercise; he voluntarily and earnestly endeavours to avoid sin and to practise righteousness; he steadily and energetically sets himself in opposition to the temptations by which he is beset, and, by the grace of God, he is successful.

3. The "wicked one toucheth him not." The devil may stand up against him; he may even sometimes gain an advantage over him. But to overpower — to conquer — him, is beyond the utmost of Satan's arts and efforts.

(A. S. Patterson, D. D.)

John closes his letter with a series of triumphant certainties, which he considers as certified to every Christian by his own experience. "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not...we know that we are of God...and we know that the Son of God is come."

I. WHO IS THE APOSTLE TALKING ABOUT HERE? "We know that whosoever is born of God" — or, as the Revised Version reads it, "begotten of God" — "sinneth not." This new birth, and the new Divine life which is its result, co-exists along with the old nature in which it is planted, and which it has to coerce and subdue, sometimes to crucify, and always to govern. This apostle puts great emphasis upon that idea of advancement in the Divine life. So the new life has to grow — grow in its own strength, grow in its own sphere of influence, grow in the power with which it purges and hallows the old nature in the midst of which it is implanted. And growth is not the only word for its development. That new life has to fight for its life. There must be effort, in order that it may rule. Thus we have the necessary foundation laid for that which characterises the Christian life, from the beginning to the end, that it is a working out of that which is implanted, a working out, with ever-widening area of influence, and a working in with ever deeper and more thorough power of transforming the character. There may be indefinite approximation to the entire suppression and sanctification of the old man; and whatsoever is born of God manifests its Divine kindred in this, that sooner or later it overcomes the world. Now if all this is true, I come to a very plain answer to the first question that I raised: Who is it that John is speaking about? "Whosoever is born of God" is the Christian man, in so far as the Divine life which he has from God by fellowship with His Son, through his own personal faith, has attained the supremacy in him. The Divine nature that is in a man is that which is born of God. And that the apostle does not mean the man in whom that nature is implanted, whether he is true to the nature or no, is obvious from the fact that in another pal! of this same chapter he substitutes "whatsoever" for "whosoever," as if he would have us mark that the thing which he declares to be victorious and sinless is not so much the person as the power that is lodged in the person. That is my answer to the first question.

II. WHAT IS ASSERTED ABOUT THIS DIVINE LIFE? "Whosoever is born of God sinneth not." That is by no means a unique expression in this letter. For, to say nothing about the general drift of it, we have precisely similar statements in a previous chapter, twice uttered. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not"; "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." Nothing can be stronger than that. Yes, and nothing can be more obvious. I think, then, that the apostle does not thereby mean to declare that unless a man is absolutely sinless in regard of his individual acts he has not that Divine life in him. For look at what precedes our text. Just before he has said, and it is the saying which leads him to my text, "If any man seeth his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life." And do you suppose that any man, in the very same breath in which he thus declared that brotherhood was to be manifested by the way in which we help a brother to get rid of his sins, would have stultified himself by a blank, staring contradiction such as has been extracted from the words of my text? I take the text to mean — not that a Christian is, or must be, in order to vindicate his right to be called a Christian, sinless, but that there is a power in him, a life principle in him which is sinless, and whatsoever in him is born of God, overcometh the world and "sinneth not." Now, then, that seems to me to be the extent of the apostle's affirmation here; and I desire to draw two plain, practical conclusions. One is, that this notion of a Divine life power, lodged in, and growing through, and fighting with the old nature, makes the hideousness and the criminality of a Christian man's transgressions more hideous and more criminal. The teaching of my text has sometimes been used in the very opposite direction. There have been people that have said, "It is no more I, but sin, that dwelleth in me; I am not responsible." The opposite inference is what I urge now. In addition to all the other foulnesses which attach to any man's lust, or drunkenness, or ambition, or covetousness, this super-eminent brand and stigma is burned in upon yours and mine, Christian men and women, that it is dead against, absolutely inconsistent with, the principle of life that is bedded within us. "To whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." Another consideration may fairly be urged, as drawn from this text, and that is that the one task of Christians ought to be to deepen and to strengthen the life of God, which is in their souls, by faith. There is no limit, except one of my own making, to the extent to which my whole being may be penetrated through and through and ruled absolutely by that new life which God has given. It is all very well to cultivate specific and sporadic virtues and graces. Get a firmer hold and a fuller possession of the life of Christ in your own souls, and all the graces and virtues will come.

III. WHAT IS THE GROUND OF JOHN'S ASSERTION ABOUT HIM "THAT IS BORN OF GOD"? My text runs on, "But he that is begotten of God keepeth himself." If any of you are using the Revised Version, you will see a change there, small in extent, but large in significance, It reads, "He that is begotten of God keepeth him." Let me just say in a sentence that the original has considerable variation in expression in these two clauses, which variation makes it impossible, I think, to adopt the idea contained in the Authorised Version, that the same person is referred to in both clauses. The difference is this. In the first clause, "He that is begotten of God" is the Christian man; in the second, "He that is begotten of God" is Christ the Saviour. There is the guarantee that "Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not," because round his weakness is cast the strong defence of the Elder Brother's hand; and the Son of God keeps all the sons who, through Him, have derived into their natures the life of God. If, then, they are kept by the only-begotten Son of the Father, then the one thing for us to do, in order to strengthen our poor natures, is to take care that we do not run away from the keeping hand nor wander far from the only safety. When a little child is sent out for a walk by the parent with an elder brother, if it goes staring into shop windows and gaping at anything that it sees upon the road, and loses hold of the brother's hand, it is lost, and breaks into tears, and can only be consoled and secured by being brought back. Then the little fingers clasp round the larger hand, and there is a sense of relief and of safety. If we stray away from Christ we lose ourselves in muddy ways.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A lady was leaving home, and was concerned for the safety of a jewel box too precious to be left in an empty house. Asking a friend to undertake the charge, responsible as it was, and receiving a promise that she would do so, she left it with her. But, reflecting that in her absence she might wish to wear some of her trinkets, the lady took three of them with her. On her return home, her first concern was with the box which contained so many precious things. It was safe. Yes, there it was; and one by one the jewels were examined and found all there. The friend had been faithful; she had kept them all in safety. But of the three which had been taken with her, one had been dropped somewhere on the journey and could not be found! Who was to blame? Was it the fault of the friend who took charge of the box? Nay, she could only keep "that which had been committed" to her. She would, no doubt, have kept this other also, had it been left in her care. That which you have not committed to Christ you cannot expect Him to keep.

(J. B. Figgis.)

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