WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLVII) 09/16/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

A. M. Hills (1848-1931) talks about people’s doubts and opposing views concerning the doctrine of sanctification. These need to be reviewed and thoroughly investigated. Hills calls them “soothing syrup” for babies in the Anointed One. Some critics even accuse the Apostle John of writing contradictory statements in which he says in one place, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,[1] then here in verse nine, John states that “whoever is born of God does not sin.”

A clear understanding, notes Hills, comes from the fact that a group of false teachers had come to town who were leading church members astray. They were liars and antichrists. The Apostle Jude tells us they were “using the grace of God to cover lewd conduct,[2] and the Apostle Peter[3] warned, “many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality.” These people professed to have fellowship with God and yet led the most scandalous lives. Satan quickly persuaded them to develop another myth, namely, that their souls, being immaterial, had no sin, whatever their bodies might do, it did not need atonement. Sin could only defile their physical bodies, but could not affect their souls.

Such a philosophy inspired their listeners, says Hills. So, they plunged into all types of beastly excesses – gluttony, drunkenness, and immortality, still insisting that their souls remained untarnished amidst all this sensual sin, like a jewel in a pile of manure. When these people were turned toward the Anointed One and urged to believe, repent, and be saved, they sarcastically replied that they were not sinners – “had no sin” and “had not sinned.” Therefore, they had nothing to repent of, and, besides, the real Anointed One only appeared to be human, and the atonement was an illusion. As such, it was of no use to them. Yet, it was the very reason the Apostle John wrote this epistle, to save the churches from the assault of this seductive and Satanic error.

Hills goes on to say that John makes it clear if we say we have fellowship with Him [God] and “walk in the darkness of untruth” (as these vile seducers and their followers were doing), we cannot be serious.[4]But if we walk in the light – the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”[5] So also, if we say “we have no sin[6] or if we say “we have not sinned” (as these despicable, false teachers are saying while living in their shameless sins), “we deceive ourselves and make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”[7] In other words, John is saying, “We cannot practice injustice and have fellowship with God.” And if we say that we have never sinned and have no need of an atoning Savior and His forgiveness and cleansing, we are only fooling ourselves and imply that God is a liar. But if we humble ourselves in repentance and confess and forsake our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all our wrongdoings.”[8] [9]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) points out that the Apostle John clearly states that those born again by God’s grace do not sin, namely, do not practice sin. He next proceeds to unfold the cause of this fact, which is, “God’s seed remains in them.” The allusion here is not to seed scattered as in farming, but human reproduction. The same suggestion occurs in John’s Gospel: “They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”[10] The seed of God is the divine life derived from Him and imparted by the Holy Spirit and awakened by the Word of God.

Cocke tells us to listen to what the Apostle Peter had to say: “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. On the contrary, your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living Word of God.[11]In regeneration, that radical spiritual change in which God brings an individual from a condition of spiritual defeat and death to a renewed state of holiness and life, God’s seed, the life communicated to the dormant spirit, is infused through His Word. This Word is a living document that inspires holiness. So, life, then, not only continues and never dies entirely, but its nature is such that it is ever at war with sin. Sin cannot permanently triumph in the soul in which this living holy seed abides and exercises its sanctifying energies. Born of God, this life is in direct contradiction to sin.[12]

James Morgan (1859-1942) says that the effects that are declared to result from this new life are that a believer “does not sin” because they “cannot sin.” And, just as two illustrations were used to describe the change from human life into divine life, there are two assertions to declare the results. The one is the declaration of a fact, and the other is an argument to explain and confirm it. Thus, we observe here in verse nine what applies to every converted individual. “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning.” Immediately we wonder how any of this makes any logical sense while simultaneously detecting a blessed truth to be found here.

Morgan agrees that we cannot apply this as a literal or universal reality. It is not true that every converted person never sins. We see people, whose conversion we do not doubt, do sinful things. And no converted individual will say they do not sin. It is of such people the Apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and are not telling the truth.”[13] But there is an essential sense in which this saying is true of every converted child of God. They want to avoid sinning knowingly, willfully, or habitually. Remember, King David, sinned. The same is true of the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. Every one of them was ready to admit they sinned, but not one of them lived in sin. It was not their lifestyle. We know that temptation may surprise and overcome the believer, but they will not stay on such an evil course. They will not continue to do what they know to be contrary to God’s will.[14]

Christian lawyer Philip Mauro (1859-1952) taught on “Life in the Word” and says that we all know that it is of the first importance that a baby should have appropriate nourishment to grow. The same is true of spiritual nutrition. Other Scriptures testify with equal clearness to the great and glorious truth that those born of the Spirit, through the incorruptible seed of God’s Word, receive a similar nature to that of the Divine source of their spiritual life.

We find that in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman believers, notes Mauro, there is a section devoted to the “sons of God,” in whom the Spirit dwells.[15] There Paul declares that God predestined them “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”[16] Here the truth of likeness with the Son of God is broadly stated. Other passages declare specific features included in this general likeness. Thus, the Apostle John states here in verse nine that “everyone born of God does not commit [or practice] sin; for His [God’s] seed remains in them, and they cannot sin because they are born [birthed] of God. We see this manifested in God’s children.”[17]

Robert Law (1860-1919) says that it is quite apparent that the doctrine of sin in the Apostle John’s First Epistle may be summarized as follows: Sin involves the person’s guilt. There are many ways to sin, but they all include breaking God’s Law by deviating from what is right. And all wrong, in its fundamental character, is a repudiation of the supremacy of moral obligation and a revolt against God’s holy will.[18]

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) states that long before the Apostle Paul wrote: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”[19] he repented of his sins. The Anointed One met him on the road to Damascus, struck him down under a mighty load of conviction, and shortly after that, he was a gloriously saved man. Every sin he ever committed was erased, never to be brought up and used against him. Now, the question arises, if he were the chief of sinners[20] at the time he wrote this text, did God give him a license to go back into his dreadful way of living, or did he deliberately take things into his hands and continue sinning? Neither one! He continued on the highway of holiness to its eternal exit.

Now notice, carefully, says Shepard, what the Apostle John says about sin: “No one who lives in Him [the Anointed One] keeps on sinning. Anyone who continues to sin has neither met Him nor gotten to know Him.”[21] If the Apostle Paul was the chief of sinners at the time of that writing, then, according to the Apostle John, he was not abiding in the Anointed One, had not seen Him, nor knew Him. But Paul declares that all these things were in the past. The same is true of us today. What is past has passed, and hopefully, we will never pass that way again.


[1] 1 John 1:8

[2] Jude 1:4

[3] 2 Peter 2:2

[4] 1 John 1:5-6

[5] Ibid. 1:7

[6] Ibid. 1:8

[7] Ibid. 1:10

[8] Ibid. 1:6-7

[9] Hills, A. M.: Holiness and Power, Ch. 10, pp. 141-143

[10] John 1:13

[11] 1 Peter 1:23

[12] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 77-78

[13] 1 John 1:8

[14] Morgan, James (1865), An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 206-207

[15] Romans 8:9-16

[16] Ibid. 8:30

[17] The Fundamentals: R. A. Torrey, Editor, Vol. 2, Ch. 7, p. 163

[18] Law, Robert, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 135

[19] Romans 6:1-2

[20] 1 Timothy 1:15

[21] 1 John 3:6; cf. 1 John 3:7-9

About drbob76

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