1 John 3:1–9 (NKJV)
John has just finished a discussion of the shortness of time until the coming of Jesus. In light of that, he encouraged believers to abide in Him, being mindful to be ever closer to Christ as His return approaches. That instruction is here followed up by another admonition to reflect the nature of Christ shown in the Father’s love. He finally speaks of the need to avoid sinfulness at all costs. Let’s look at verse one as John begins today’s writing:
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.1 John 3:1-3
John praises the depth and grace of God’s love that is lavished upon His children. God allows us to be called His children because of this powerful love. However, in the process of being hidden in His love and becoming part of His family, the world, John warns, will not know us. The world did not know Christ, but rejected Him, therefore they will not know us either. We are the children of God and the amazing plan of God and the end result of His love living in us is not even knowable yet. However, when He is revealed at His coming, we will know Him, and we will be like Him. We shall see Him clearly for Who He is, and will be astounded at His greatness toward us and His greatness in us as we take on His nature. Therefore, this hope should drive the Christian to purify himself or herself. We should desire to be ready for Him when He appears, longing to be changed into His image for eternity.
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.1 John 3:4-9
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
The converse of the love of God living in the children of God is the soul who commits sin and lives in lawlessness. Jesus was manifested to provide a way to take away the sins of those who will believe. He has no sin, but He makes a way for us to be forgiven for our sins. John then says that whoever abides in Him does not sin. He further says that anyone who sins does not know God. Whether the reader takes this literally or subjectively, the truth conveyed is that sin separates one from the fellowship of God. To sin habitually and claim relationship with God is contradictory. This passage makes a clear line between those who practice sin and those who practice righteousness. Those who practice sin are of the devil, and those who practice righteousness are of God. The Son of God came to destroy sin and its acts. The believer has the seed of God within him and does not sin. John even goes so far as to say that the saved soul cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
While Paul’s writings make it clear that souls, even the redeemed, will still struggle with temptation occasionally and sometimes commit sin, John’s writing attempts to insinuate that the redeemed soul “cannot” sin. Perhaps this is a discussion about the utter paradox of the redeemed, delivered, save soul committing sin. While it should be inconceivable, and John’s writing gives us a target at which to aim, the reality is that the struggle is real. Don’t live under constant condemnation if you struggle with perfection. However, know that God’s will is that believers live above sin and do not allow habitual evil to reside in their lives. Strive for perfection, and get up quickly when you miss the mark. The soul that is redeemed has power over sin. Use it!