We tend to abandon uncomfortable truths. If a passage makes us cringe we rush along to fairer fields.
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin". How is that for a scriptural statement to make one cringe. The whole passage, like that in James 2, is uncomfortable because too many have embraced an unsound position related to grace.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Jude 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lasciviousness is a big fancy word that simply means wantonness. Wantonness is being without check or limitation.
A grace that does no change the life does not save the soul! In the scripture these two things go together. A saved soul results in a changed life because it is change at the most fundamental level of human existence. The very seat of our feelings, intellect, and will has been saved.
Reminds me of the old negro spiritual, "everybody talkin' 'bout heaven ain't goin' there".
It also reminds me of an account I read once about D. L. Moody. He once disembarked from a train in a northern city and as he made his way to the gate a drunk stumbled up and said, "Mr. Moody, I'm one of your converts." To which Mr. Moody retorted, "You look like it". Implying, of course, he did not look like one of the Lord's converts.
Baptist take a beating at times over the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer. It is a doctrine for which I am more than willing to take a beating. But some of it is unnecessary. Someone makes a profession of faith, agrees to some statements made my a soul winner, repeats a prayer and is pronounced saved. Their life doesn't change. They don't hate sin and love righteousness. The don't loath their own sin and love the Savior. And we still keep insisting that they have been redeemed, washed in the blood, had their sins forgiven. And a lot of the religious world takes such opportunities to poke fun at our eternal security of the believer. While they would likely explain such a phenomenon as a person losing their salvation I would contend they never had it.
Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Luke 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
It is not that we hold fast to the end to be saved. We hold fast to the end because we are saved. This is a critical distinction. It is the fruit of salvation. We love to talk about the preservation of the saints but get cold feet when it comes to the perseverance of the saints. The saints that don't persevere it will be discovered in the end were not preserved either, because they were not saints but sinners.
This uncomfortable passage in 1 John strikes at the very foundation of this issue.
Sin and the Savior
1 John 3:4 defines sin. Sin is the transgression of the law. Sin is not what we believe it to be. Sin is not determined by what we think. Sin is not defined by cultural norms. Sin is the transgressing of the law.
1 John 3:5 makes two points related to the defeating of sin.
"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins" This as the context actually bears out is in reference not to the penalty of sin but to the power of sin. This passage we are dealing with was prefaced in verse 3 with the words, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure". You will notice the word is plural, "sins". He did not come only to forgive sin but also to take away sins. The Lord intends to change our relationship to sin.
"and in him is no sin" This is why he can! He can take our sin away because he has none of his own. He can forgive our sin thus addressing the penalty of sin. He can conquer our sin thus addressing the power of sin. He can banish our sin thus addressing the presence of sin. The Lord came to deal with, not just the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin in our lives. He who removes the penalty of sin also removes the power of sin!
1 John 3:6 makes a two points related to the deleting of sin.
"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not" This is a startling declaration! It is important to note what he is not saying. And we can determine this from the context of the book.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
So, before he gets to chapter three and verse six has already told us that we cannot say we have not sin without deceiving ourselves and if we say we have not sinned we make God a liar and don't sin, but if you do. It is with this background that he says "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not". We are clearly not talking about sinless perfection. However:
One who is born again does not sin habitually, or is not an habitual sinner.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
One who is born again does not sin deliberately and of design.
Romans 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
One who is born again does not sin finally or fall away.
Colossians 1:21-23 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
"Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him" The point is one does not meet Jesus and stay the same, or get worse. The Holy Ghost does not come into the soul and leave things as they are! Men sin habitually because they have not seen him, nor known him. Men sin deliberately and by design because they have not seen him, nor known him. Men sin finally and fall away because they have not seen him, nor known him.
They don't lose their salvation. They never had salvation!
The Son of God and Satan
The first part of verse seven, "Little children, let no man deceive you" indicates that already there was deception afoot on this point. People are deceived about this very thing. There are three point where we are potentially deceived.
1. They who have been made righteous live righteously. The second part of verse seven says, "He that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous". Perfect, sinless righteousness? No. They are righteous in the sense that they do not sin habitually, deliberately, or finally. It is not perfect living, but perfected living! Those who are born again reflect the image of the sinless one. They do so increasingly. It is not that there is no ebb and flow in our spiritual development but the direction is toward Christlikeness.
2. They who commit sin are of the devil. The first part of verse eight says, "He that committeth is is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning". Don't be deceived about this! One who is living in habitual sin is of the devil. Just because they said a prayer at some point and say they believe in Jesus does not mean they are saved. James two that other passage with some uncomfortable truths clearly states that "faith without works is dead". A faith that does not produce a different kind of life in relation to sin is not a saving faith. Just because we want to believe something does not mean it is right to believe it. There is a great disconnect when one is living on the devil's side claiming to be on the Lord's side! It is the devil's nature to sin and if it is your nature to sin deliberately, habitually, and/or finally you have the nature of the devil and have not been made a partaker of the divine nature.
3. The purpose of the son of God. The last part of verse eight says, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil". What was the purpose of the Son of God being manifested. You could probably make an argument for several purposes but one of them which is often over-looked was that he might destroy the works of the devil. What are the works of the devil? Sin! "the devil sinneth from the beginning". If sin is not being destroyed in someone it is because Christ is not living in them. The minute Christ moves in he begins to fight sin. And he fights it continually.
The Children of God and the Children of the Devil
The children of God cannot sin. Again, in verse nine, we are confronted with a very shocking declaration, especially for our generation. The argument runs thus: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin". That is, one born of God does not commit sin habitually, does not commit sin deliberately, does not commit sin finally. Yes, the children of God can backslide but there are at least a couple of things to keep in mind about that.
Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
The true child of God is never comfortable in sin! If you can get comfortable you need to get saved!
Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
When a child of God begins to live in disobedience he is corrected by his heavenly Father. God's children are promised the corrective hand of the Lord if they stray. If you do not receive this correction then the scripture says you are bastards and not sons.
Can a Christian backslide? Yes. But, they will never be comfortable and they will always be corrected!
The argument continues in verse 9, "for his seed remaineth in him". He has been made a partaker of the divine nature and he has the seed of the word of God in him. The word and Spirit of God is constantly present reproving and rebuking. Guilt is no longer simply the product of a violated conscience but it is now the product of the violation of God's word. Guilt is now produced by living at odds with the Spirit of God within you.
And then at the end of verse nine, "and he cannot sin, because he is born of God". Salvation changes your life! Where is the consistency in claiming you have been born of God and yet you continue to cuss, drink, do drugs, carousing, immorality and have no true genuine interest in the bible, or church, or the people of God? These things cannot be scripturally reconciled! There are a lot of people out there that think they are OK because they have prayed the prayer, they have asked Jesus into their heart but they are as lost as they ever were and even more so because now they are deceived as well and are made two-fold more the child of hell than before.
Lastly, in the first part of verse 10 we are reminded there is not great secret here. It is laid bare with two thoughts.
"In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil". People, say, "Well, we can't know who is saved and who isn't". The word "manifest" here has the meaning of shining, apparent, known. I'm just defining words. People say we can't know, the bible says they are made manifest!? I will leave you to wrestle with that one! You said a prayer when you were five, or eight, or twelve but your whole adult life has been spent out of church and in the world? You asked Jesus into your heart twenty years ago but you continue to curse, drink, never go to church, never read your bible, and only pray when you want something?? This is going to take some explaining and I would hate to have to be the one doing the explaining.
And then the bible says, "whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God" It is not only what you are doing (sin of commission) but also what you are not doing (sins of omission) that manifest that you are not a child of God but a child of the devil. John pens some other words that serve to bolster the contention he makes here.
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Even Jesus touched on this very touchy subject when he walked the earth, Matthew 7:20-21 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
It is not by what they say but by what they do that we know the children of God and the children of the devil.
This is a hard passage because it confronts us with some unpleasant realities. It is not about getting people to agree with us about a few verses and having them pray a prayer. It is about bringing the law to the proud and grace to the humble. A proud man is not a good candidate for the gospel. He must first be humbled by the law. His mouth must be stopped. He must feel the weight and burden of his sin. Asking people if they want to go to hell is like asking them if they want to get caught in a house fire. Of course they don’t! Asking people if they want to go to heaven is like asking them if they want to go on an all-expense paid vacation. Of course they do! Asking them if they believe in Jesus is like asking them if they believe in George Washington. Of course they do! Salvation is not a simple mental assent to a set of facts. It is a presentation of the word of God related to sin, judgment, and righteousness that affords the Holy Ghost the opportunity to convict men in these three areas. We have a whole generation of people who have said the prayer and gone on living like they always have and have basically been immunized against the gospel.