“Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in Him; and he cannot sin”. I John 3:9
There are a number of verses like this in First John that appear cut and dry. For that reason I shied away from reading it. I know I sin. Some say that it just refers to habitual sin which could be based on the Greek tense. In other words a ‘true’ believer cannot practice sin. If you do,then you are not saved, according to them. Listening to this teaching made me fear and caused me to lack assurance. It’s the opposite of the very thing John wants his readers to have; “Beloved, we are children of God…” (I John 3:2). He assures them here and in chapter five as well. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (I John 5:13).
Well, my first question is always; what is the context? Does the interpretation fit the context of the passage, the book, and the entire Bible? Secondly, who is the epistle written to? Thirdly, what is the purpose of the letter?
Fellowship vs. Relationship
The apostle John is writing to fellow believers so that they could have fellowship with him, with other believers, and with the Lord (I John 1:3). Fellowship is only available to believers, not unbelievers. All believers are in relationship with God, but not all are in fellowship. Chapter three is about abiding in Christ. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (I John 3:6). Abiding is the same as fellowship. It’s walking in the light as He is in the light (I John 1:7). It is living life out of the new nature. When you live out of the resource and power of the Spirit, it is impossible to sin. The new nature is born of God and cannot sin.
Practice vs. Do
Now I readily admit I’m not a Greek scholar. But I can look things up in Greek concordances and dictionaries. In my humble opinion, this argument for ‘practicing’ doesn’t fit. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for practice is ‘prasso’. The word used in I John 3:9 is the Greek word, ‘poieo’. Strong’s states that; ‘poieo’ refers to a single act. That makes sense because you cannot do one single act of sin when living out of the resources of the new nature. The new nature is what is born of God and cannot sin.
Sinners by nature and by practice
If you are honest with yourself, you will readily admit that you sin regularly even if it’s only one time a day in thought, word, or deed. Additionally, not doing what you should is a sin of omission. One sin a day for a month certainly would be a practice, wouldn’t it? The truth is we are sinners by nature and by practice. John made it clear in chapter one that all sin – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).
Some sinners are worse than others
In comparison to one another, certainly some are worse sinners than others. You can look at the Bible and see that some believers were more faithful than others. But even the best in the Bible sinned is some significant ways. Often they suffered the results of their sin, but it didn’t keep them from entering the kingdom of heaven.
The way you live matters!
God’s will for us is our sanctification (I Thess. 4:3). Sanctification is living a life that is set apart unto God. He gave us a new nature and the Spirit to give us the power to do the things He wants us to do. His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and that we should live godly and soberly (Titus 2:11). I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t matter how you live. It does matter. It just impossible to determine how much sinning proves that you’re not saved.
Those who teach that practicing sinners are not saved should look at themselves. They are laying heavy burdens on people, which they themselves cannot do (Matt. 23:4). John has written this epistle to believers, encouraging them to walk in the light so that they would remain in fellowship with the Lord; not so they could go to heaven. As a believer, abiding in Christ is the only way to live a purposeful, functional, and fruitful life. When abiding in Him you cannot sin, because you are living out of the new nature that is born of God. But no one abides in Him 100% of the time.