1 John 3:9 (KJV) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

The following is in response to the question of “What does this Scripture mean?” 

One of the main “Rules for Reading” and studying Scripture is – Keep every verse in its contextJohn is addressing division in the church relative to the concept of sin.

One faction believed that Jesus was not the Incarnate Son of God.  This means they believed that Jesus was NOT “God in the Flesh” but rather solely a Spiritual Being.

Another faction took on earlier beliefs that produced what became known as Gnosticism – a system of belief in which salvation is based in knowledge or enlightenment and in which the physical world is deprecated, while the spiritual world is held in high esteem.

With respect to sin, there are two directions that Gnosticism took. One direction was to deny the existence of, or the power of sin. Based on ascetic practices and inner enlightenment the Gnostics believed that they were beyond sin. Naturally such beliefs were underpinned by a good dose of denial. John addresses such people in 1 John 1:7-9. Rather than think that we are beyond sin and deny that what we do is sinful, Christians should confess their sin and get it removed.

Another direction that Gnosticism took with respect to sin was to claim that sin was irrelevant. They believed that sin was something done in the body, and the body, in their view, was simply the outside shell of a person. The real person was the spiritual being who through enlightenment was living in communion with God. So, a person’s body might be sleeping with a prostitute, but a person’s spirit was not involved in the act. In this passage John is addressing such people in no uncertain terms.

So, what is John saying?  He is saying…

  1. 1 John 3:6 (KJV) Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (Emphasis Added).  If believers remain intimately connected to Christ they will not sin. Christ is not the One producing the carelessness about sin they are evidencing. Quite the contrary, the person who continues sinning does so to the extent he or she does not know Christ.
  1. 1 John 3:7-8 (KJV) “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (Emphasis Added).  Righteousness can only be produced by, in, and through Jesus Christ.  Jesus IS our “Righteousness.”  1 Corinthians 1:30 (KJV) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (Emphasis Added).  If a person really knows Christ, they will live like him. On the other hand, sin shows a person’s inheritance in the devil, so acceptance of sinful living shows where such people are from. It was these very works of the devil that Christ came to destroy.
  1. 1 John 3:9 (KJV) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  Being born of God puts a new nature in a person and that new nature will not sin. John made it clear that Christians do not continue in sin.  1 John 1:7-9 (KJV) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  But he also made it clear that a Christian’s sin in NOT due to the new nature!  When John said, “for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God,” he was saying just as the sperm of the earthly father determines what his children will be like, the seed (spiritual sperm) of God will determine what His children will be like.  God’s children have a “non-sinning” nature.  This is a far cry from the teaching of indifference to sin that was taking place in John’s day.  I might add, this tendency of indifference to sin is becoming prevalent in our day as well!
  1. There is hope! Is John saying that a true Christian will never sin? No, for he has already admitted that true Christians do sin and will be liars if they deny this truth (1 John 1:7-9). What he is saying is that a true Christian has within him or her by virtue of their new birth a power not to sin.  God within them is causing righteous living. God is not causing sin. In fact, the secret to not sinning is intimate fellowship with Christ, or “abideth in him,” as John puts it.  If a person does not experience this new life in them, if they can be indifferent to sin, then they are likely not born of God. Paul also says this (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).

If a person is struggling with temptation, and at times falls prey to it, he can still have the assurance that he is in fact one of God’s children and God’s new life in him will win out in the end. This is because he knows the power of God within himself impelling him away from sin and toward the love of his fellow believers. The real proof is because he is struggling and cannot be content with simply sinning.