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1 John 3:7–10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed remains in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

3:7–10 This paragraph reiterates three points made in verses 4–6. This reiteration is set out skillfully in John Stott’s commentary, The Epistles of John (121):

 

Verses 4–7

Verses 8–10

The introductory phrase:

whosoever committeth sin (v. 4)

he that committeth sin (v. 8)

The theme:

The nature of sin is lawlessness (v. 4)

The origin of sin is the devil (v. 8)

The purpose of Christ’s appearing:

he was manifested to take away our sins (v. 5)

the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil (v. 8)

The logical conclusion:

“no one who abides in him sins” (v. 6, RSV)

“no one born of God commits sin” (v. 9, RSV).

Seeing this chart will not only help us understand the chapter, but it will also keep us from repeating ourselves excessively in explaining it.

Verse 7 warns us not to be led astray. This is probably a warning against the false teachers and antichrists who apparently felt free to sin, while denying that they were doing anything wrong. They could assert their own righteousness in the face of the facts.

Our text counters with the bold assertion that the person who does what is right is righteous. This revisits the problem answered in 2:29. Doing what is right does not make a person righteous. But the false teachers must recognize that if a person is righteous, he or she will do what is right. You cannot claim to be righteous, as did the antichrists, while living in open sin. It might be amplified to read, “It is the person who does what is right who is righteous, not the antichrists who claim to be righteous but do what is wrong.”

REASONING WITH OTHER RELIGIONS APOLOGETICS

He who does what is sinful is of the devil makes it clear that the sinning antichrists were not righteous, but were of the devil. This does not mean that when a Christian sins, he suddenly loses his place as a child of God and takes his place as a child of the devil. Rather, it means that the antichrists—since they claim righteousness while living in sin—are children of the devil.

Christians, who are assured of their salvation throughout the letter, need to hear the parallel implication here. When Christians sin, we are, for the moment, siding with the devil’s cause and ought not to do so. All sin ultimately is satanic in nature because sin originated with the devil. Sin is his consistent practice, and he has been sinning “from the beginning” (John 8:44). To sin is to take part in the devil’s plan, which automatically sets a person in opposition to God. The reason Jesus came was to destroy the work of the devil. When we cooperate with the devil by sinning, we are opposing Jesus.

Verse 9 reiterates the idea first stated in verse 6 that the person who is born of God will not sin, and then the verse goes beyond that. A person who experiences the new birth cannot sin. The options that applied to verse 6 also apply to verse 9. (The translators of the NIV have decided that it should be interpreted as keeps on sinning in verse 6, and cannot go on sinning in verse 9, and have translated it accordingly. Not all translators and Bible teachers agree with this translation.)

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

Sinning is impossible because of God’s indwelling seed. The seed refers to one of three options: (1) the Word of God, (2) the Holy Spirit, or (3) the regenerate spirit when one is born again. We cannot be sure which of these three possibilities is meant. All three could be true and are taught elsewhere in Scripture. Scripture takes seriously the nature of believers as born-again, Spirit-filled, new creatures in Christ. It will not tolerate any casual attitude toward sin. Sin and salvation are opposites. Wanting to sin is not part of being led by the Spirit or having Christ in us. Refusal to take this warning seriously should call us to reexamine our commitment to Christ.

Christians make themselves known as children of God by doing what is right and by loving their brothers. People prove themselves to be children of the devil when they refuse to do what is right and refuse to love their brothers.

By David Walls and Max Anders

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