December 30, 2011

Hard Sayings XXVIII: Habitual Sin & Seeds

“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:8-10 (NIV)

There it is right there in the text…”no one who is born of God will continue to sin”. Christians can no longer sin right? Bzzzzzzzzz! Wrong. Let’s look closely at the Greek in this one for clarity. The NASB and ESV capture the intent and meaning in the first clause here pretty well.

(v.8) They essentially state that “the one who practices sin” not “does sin”. The practices portion correctly captures the word ποιῶν / poion is a present active participle. It means one that consistently sins and is still currently doing so. It is a prolonged or elongated form or something that is done. In other words: a person who habitually sins. This clue should immediately begin to point us in to where this passage is going. When we read this in direct correlation and comparison to the Devil himself there is an implied intent being compared to Satan. Satan does sin by his nature and by habit in a very deliberate manner. A person that does the same has taken up the same tasks as the Devil. He is the Devil’s coworker and Satan is his “pusher”. This type of sinner has literally made sin his job- a professional or vocational sinner. Sinning is his business and when associated to Satan, business is good (or lousy depending on how you look at it).

This statement isn’t necessarily being directed at the Christian. It is creating a demarcation point to show that a person who sins habitually is most likely…not in the faith at all.

We see the same type of pattern attributed to the Devil. He has sinned since the beginning and continues to sin in the present time. There is a consistency and endurance of pattern for the Devil and the habitual sinner that is like his father the Devil. Regularity of sin like a person that goes to work every day knowingly goes and punches the clock. He goes and does what he does for a reason…premeditated.

The most literal understanding of verse 8 is then, “The one who is habitually doing sin is from the devil as a source [for his deeds], because from the beginning the devil has been sinning [as a template and role model].

God sends his Son Jesus then to break the bond and slavery sin has over the sinner, Jesus severs our servitude to the bonds of Satan.

“For this purpose there was manifested the Son of God, in order that He might bring to naught the works of the devil.”

(v.9) The words "is born" is γεγεννημένος / gegennemenos in Greek which is a perfect participle and therefore denotes a completed action that has already happened in the past and continues to have effect into the present. A completed act of rebirth and we have received a deposit on eternal life in the form of the Holy Spirit.

So if everyone who has been born out of God does not habitually do sin the “seed" refers to the principle of divine/eternal life in the believer who is being made more holy and sanctified. It is this principle of divine life that makes it impossible. This holiness or nature imparted to us by the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ makes it harder for true Christians to sin. A true Christian will end up hating sin and embracing righteousness. As Christ-likeness grows in us like a seed / σπέρμα /sperma it pushes out the remaining desire to do sin and replaces it with righteousness. The spark of what we will become, the very spark of what we will be in eternity is implanted in us at conversion like a seed. Just like an apple seed cannot produce an orange tree, neither can the seed of God bring a harvest of sin. The seed will germinate and grow and the growth may slow to a crawl but it will not stop if it is in Christ. It may be retarded by sin or stunted but it will not stop. If it stops it is dead faith.

Just as “the one who practices sin” is present active, so too the “cannot sin” is infinitive in the present tense so it is referring to continuous action: habitual action. The person is not able to habitually sin. This is not an injunction for being sinless, for a human being this is quite impossible.

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 1 John 3:10

(v.10) So how do we know God’s seed is in us and we abide in God? The manifest a divine type of self-sacrificial love to their brother and sister in the Faith or ἀγαπῶν/agapon. It is the love we should expect as a fruit of the Spirit.

The bottom-line is this…if we are not habitually doing things in righteousness we are doing them in sin. We either serve sin or we serve Jesus. Man cannot be a slave to two masters. If we are serving Christ there will not be habitual sin in our lives without remorse and repentance. This doesn’t mean we will not slip-up but what we should see is a definitive pattern of righteousness from a true Christian, not a pattern of habitual sin.

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