“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”
This verse says that an abiding Christian “does not sin.” Verse nine says that he “cannot sin.” Previous statements in 1 John say that Christians do sin (1:6,8,10; 2:1,2). These contrasting statements are difficult to resolve no matter what doctrinal position one holds.
Note 3 three difficult statements to interpret:
- Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (3:6)
- “He who sins is of the devil” (3:8)
- “Whoever has been born of God does not sin” (3:9)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin.
Some people believe that the phrase “does not sin” refers to habitually sin as a way of life. The Greek present tense does not support this interpretation without the backing of other words that may convey that meaning. John’s point is simply that sin and God are incompatible. The believer who “abides in Him” is a Christian in fellowship or filled with the Spirit.
The phrases “whoever commits sin” (3:4) and “whoever abides in Him” are in sharp contrast. There is a clear difference in opponents. There are those who are morally indifferent and those who recognize the impact of sin on their fellowship with the Lord.
The believer cannot sin while the Holy Spirit controls him.
As long as the Holy Spirit controls us, we cannot sin. The only way we can sin is to grab the reigns of our lives away from the Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the line we chose to go independent from God. Depending on the Holy Spirit is dependency on God.
Some Christians believe that if they sin they are not genuine believers. Everyone discovers after they receive Christ that they are not perfect. Some attempt to become Christians over and over only to find they still sin. Some give up on the Christian life.
The Bible does not teach that a Christian can reach a state of sinless perfection on earth. Christians are not sinless but they sin less. The new nature goes to war against the old nature. The new nature is completely free of sin while the old nature is nothing but sinful. The key to victory in the Christian life is to establish momentum where the new nature rises in ascendancy and the old nature falls in “descendancy”.