WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXIII) 08/27/21

3:6 So if we stay close to Him, obedient to Him, we won’t be sinning either; but as for those who keep on sinning, they should realize this: They sin because they have never really met Him or become His.

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) accepts what the Apostle John said about those in union with God and do not sin. Because those who practice sin have never met Him and certainly have gotten to know Him, this verse contrasts the true believer with one who has never been born again. The subject here is not isolated acts of sin, but rather its practice. Christians do sin – this breaks our fellowship, but not our relationship. But if we earnestly confess that sin, God is more than happy to forgive us and reconnect us with Him.[1]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) states that since there is no sin in Jesus the Anointed One, it is the basis for the assertion in verse six. The Apostle John uses the present tense forms of the verbs “to remain” and “to sin,” indicating that we can view both the “remaining” and the “sinning” in this statement as ongoing acts. Where John speaks of believers ‘remaining’ in someone, as he does here and in eight other places in this letter, mostly he means staying ‘in God.[2] In one place, John explicitly speaks of remaining “in the Son and the Father,[3] and in two locations, we can infer from the context that remaining “in the Son” is intended.[4] The context of verse six seems to indicate that remaining “in the Son” is proposed. But remember, you can’t be in one without being in the other.

The problem is further compounded, says Kruse, by the following statement in verse six: “No one who continues to sin has either met Him or gotten to know Him.” There are no indications that those who left the church would claim that they saw and knew Jesus the Anointed One, for they denied that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God come in the flesh. Yet, as reflected throughout this epistle, they claimed that they knew God, and perhaps this is what John indirectly denies by this statement. Therefore, to interpret verses five and six as saying that in John’s mind, the sinlessness of Jesus the Anointed One (emphasized in verse five) reflects the sinlessness of God. So, their ongoing sinful behavior diminishes any claims by the agitators who left the congregation they are living in or remain in God. On the other hand, for John, staying in God is synonymous with remaining in the Anointed One. John does not always specify one or the other, even when disproving the renegades’ claims because the distinction would have been significant.[5] [6]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) says that the Apostle John argued that those joined in union with the Anointed One should live as He lived – pure, without sin. The Greek word menon in “lives in Him” indicates “abiding” and “remaining.” In his Gospel, John used this same verb about the branches abiding in the vine.[7] So, since a branch is attached to the vine to sustain its life, believers must live in union with the Anointed One to be free from the power of sin. This complete union with the Anointed One and separation from sin portray the ideal Christian. Living in sin and living in God are mutually exclusive, like darkness and light. The sinful deeds that believers commit[8] do not come from or belong to their lives in the Anointed One.

The statement “Christians don’t sin,” notes Barton, presents the ideal lifestyle. In this verse, John purposely used the present-tense verb to denote sin as an ongoing action. He was not saying that one who sins once has never known God, but he insisted that people who continue to sin do not know God. In other words, they do not know God’s character. God’s desire for all believers is that one day they will be completely sinless, even if they cannot attain that perfection here on earth. Then, during their pilgrimage on earth, they can claim God’s power and the help of the Holy Spirit to stay away from sin as they prepare for what God has in store for them.[9]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes that verse six logically and necessarily flows from verse five. Because there is no sin in Jesus, no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning. In fact, if one does continue in a pattern or practice of sin, another logical and necessary conclusion must be drawn: “everyone who sins [keeps on sinning] has not met Him or gotten to know Him” in a personal, saving relationship. If the sinless Son of God appeared in history to take away sin, how is it possible to remain in union with Him and live in sin simultaneously? The answer is, you can’t. It is impossible.

Some have understood verses six and nine to affirm sinless perfection in this life, says Akin. Would it, however, contradict what the Apostle John said earlier?[10] No! Using the present tense verb in verses six and nine gives us clarity in what John is saying. Because of the new birth, we have a unique nature. Since the Anointed One took away our sins, we have new liberty and freedom. Sin no longer dominates us or enslaves us. Sin is no longer the character and conduct of our lives. Because we now abide in the Anointed One and the power of His person and work in the Gospel, we may stumble into sin, but we will not go on walking in sin. Breaking God’s law will not become a habit; it will not be our regular practice. We no longer love sin; we hate sin. We no longer delight in sin; we despise sin.[11]

David Guzik (1961) cautions us that it is crucial to understand what the Bible means when it says, “does not sin.” According to the verb tense the Apostle John uses, “does not sin” means does not live a lifestyle of habitual sin. John has already told us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[12] The grammar indicates John is speaking about occasional acts of sin. The grammar of verse six suggests that John is speaking of a settled, continued lifestyle of sin. However, John is not teaching the possibility of sinless perfection.[13]

Peter Pett (1966) hears the Apostle John tell us that to continue sinning without regard for staying faithful to God is lawlessness. It is to reject God’s will and refuse to live according to His teachings.  It is to reject His authority. Therefore, sinning without regard to God’s commandments (whether old or new) is lawlessness. For sin is anarchy. And those who live that way are rejecting God, however religious they may be. And the one who receives such a gift of grace and forgiveness cannot be like that. It is impossible.

One reason for this contrast between believers who go on sinning and those who do not, says Pett, is the false teaching of their opponents. Some of them taught that sin was not a problem; it was simply a weakness of the flesh, and they believed the physical acts of a believer were insignificant. One day, the soul would discard the body. That means you can live any way you want. So, you are not doing anything wrong at all. So, they could go on “sinning” as much as they liked.

On the other hand, notes Pett, some sought to deal with the flesh by punishing it, by extreme self-discipline such as flagellation. What mattered was to purify the soul by obtaining mysterious knowledge. Some even taught, “let us continue in sin that grace may abound.”[14] No, says John, those who practice sin and go on sinning without conviction are not of God and directly opposite those who recognize that understanding evil is essential. It is because, although weak and failing, [15] they have done away with sin in union with the Anointed One[16] and seek to do away with rebellion in their lives.[17]

Peter Legge (1969) finds the positive thing here for us in verse six is that there is victory over sin in communion with the Lord Jesus. This is the source, if we abide, have fellowship with Him if we’re in perfect harmony with Him, and there’s nothing between our soul and His heart, we can have victory over sin! Now sonship escorts us into union with the Anointed One, but fellowship brings us into communion with the Lord. So, a Christian who has “union” in sweet communion with their Lord will constantly gain victory over sin.[18]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) observes that the Apostle John initially makes a negative point. Then, in verse six, he writes, “People who stay one in their hearts with Him won’t keep on sinning. If they do keep on sinning, they don’t know the Anointed One very well because they have never met Him.” Then in verse eight, John adds: “Anyone who keeps on sinning belongs to the devil. He has sinned from the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy all that he has done.” Finally, in verse ten, John summarizes the negative with a positive: “You can tell God’s children from the devil’s children because those who belong to the devil refuse to do right or to love each other.”[19]

What this tells us is that you can’t turn anything into something just by using words. It takes a transformation. We live in an age when a man says he’s a woman, it’s accepted, or when a white woman claims she is black, people treat her as such. But that does not work when it comes to identifying oneself as a Christian. To achieve that, you must be born all over again to become the creation God wants you to be. So, just by claiming to be a Christian does not make it so.


[1] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] 1 John 3:24; 4:12, 13, 15, 16

[3] Ibid. 2:24

[4] Ibid. 2:6, 28

[5] These rebels already believed that the Messiah was two people: Jesus of Nazareth (the man) and Jesus the Anointed One, where as John believed they were two in one – the son of man and the Son of God.

[6] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[7] John 15:1-8

[8] 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2

[9] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 66-67

[10] 1 John 1:8, 10

[11] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[12] 1 John 1:8

[13] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 53

[14] Romans 6:1, 15

[15] 1 John 1:8-10

[16] Ibid. 1:7, 9; 2:1-2

[17] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[18] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., Part 9

[19] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1–3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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