Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1 John 3:7-10; Can Christians NOT sin?

I know it’s been a long time since I posted something, but I’ve been very busy.  

Those who read modern translations of the Bible will just about have no need of this blog as modern translations do a pretty good job with this passage.  But for those who don’t, here is some help with what can be seen as a difficult passage from 1 John.

3:7 Children, let no one lead you astray.  The one who continually performs righteousness is just, just as that one (Jesus) is just.  8 The one who continually sins is from the devil, because from the beginning, the devil continually sins.  The Son of God was revealed (incarnated) for this so that he may loose (destroy) the works of the devil.  9 Everyone who has been born from God doesn’t continually sin, because his (Jesus’) seed continually remains in him, and he is not able to sin, because he has been born from God.  10 In this it is evident who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are.  Everyone who doesn’t continually perform righteousness and doesn’t continually love his brother (and sister) is not from God. (My Translation)

The difficultly of the passage can be explained by the aspect of Greek verbs or participles in the present tense.  Although it may be strange in English, I’ve added “continually” to the main present tense verbs.  That should shed some light on the passage.  Present tense verbs carry a continual aspect.  For verse 9 in particular, some modern translations will say something like: “Everyone who has been born from God doesn't keep on sinning”, or “doesn’t continue to sin…” “…because his seed keeps on remaining in him, and he is not able to sin, because he/she has been born from God.”

So, the aspect of the verbs tells the story.  It is the continual or habitual sinning that John is addressing.  Note in verse 8 where John uses the present tense to describe the devil continually sinning from the beginning of his existence.  That really drives the point home.  

John can’t be saying that christians don’t ever sin because that would go against what he says at the beginning of the letter in 1:8-10:

8 If we say that we don’t have sin, we lead ourselves astray and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say that we have not sinned, we have made him a liar, and his word (message) is not in us. (My Translation)

…and also in 2:1:

2:1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you won’t sin.  Even if someone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus the Anointed the just, 2 and he himself is the sin-offering concerning our sins, but not for ours only, but concerning the whole world. (My Translation)

So, I hope that clears up some of this.

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