“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.”
We come today to one of the most challenging verses in the Bible to interpret, no matter what theological viewpoint one may approach it. The problem phrase is, “and he cannot sin.”
Some teach that a Christian can reach a point of sinless perfection where he does not sin again. It is possible from this view not to commit even one act of sin. John already argued against this view in 1:6,8,10; 2:1-2.
Others teach that this verse refers to only willful sins. A Christian cannot commit deliberate sins. He might slide into sin unintentionally, but he cannot go into sin deliberately. Neither of these two interpretations is true to this text.
Whoever has been born of God
John uses the term “born” metaphorically of God conferring His own nature upon believers. He imparts spiritual life at the point of conversion (Jn 3:3, 5-7; 1 Jn 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18). We can translate “has been born” to beget, engender, bring forth, produce.
1 Jn 5:1, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
The words “has been born” are in the Greek perfect tense and indicate that spiritual birth occurred in the past, with the results continuing. We receive a divine nature at the point of salvation that continues with us until we go to glory.
God imparts the principle of eternal life to us at the point of salvation.
Christians are the spiritual offspring of God (Ro 4:16,18; 9:8) by promise (Ga 3:29). The principle of spiritual life imparted to the believer abides in him forever, without the possibility of extinction. God’s “seed” is God’s nature or capacity implanted into the believer at salvation (2:29; 4:7; 5:1,4,18). It is the principle of life that God imparted at salvation.
Jn 1:12-13, 12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
1 Pe 1:23, “…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because
‘All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.’
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”
2 Pe 1:4, “…by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”