1 John 3:6
Whoever stays in him sins not: whoever sins has not seen him, neither known him.
This paragraph goes to show that the practice of sin is out of the question for a believer in Christ. Sin has no place whatever in the Christian life, according to the proper view and conception of it. We observe five distinct reasons alleged by the apostle for this conclusion.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
WEB: Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him.