Sunday, August 09, 2009

1 John 3v9

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."
Cannot?

Does this verse not fly in the face of almost all Christian experience?

I know I should probably go and read a few commentaries here, but I don't have any for the letters of John, so I'll just ask you lot. How do people reconcile this verse? Everyone sins, right? So nobody is 'born of God'...

Confused.

5 comments:

Marcus Green said...

Taking sin and righteousness to be polar opposites, which St Paul does in Romans, you either live in broken relationship to God (the natural human condition) or in right relationship with God (the gift).

The mistake we make is to presume sin = morally bad acts. Sin results in morally bad acts. That's quite a different thing. And living in a broken world, even when we live in righteousness, the right relationship, the brokenness of the world tries to sully us - though the New Testament writers exhort us to live in the truth of the right relationship and not in the lie of brokenness.

Is this making any sense? I'm afraid I'm compacting a very long argument...

But the long and the short of it is:

Though you may do morally questionable things as a result of living in a broken world, either you live in righteousness or in sin; if you have been "born of God" (John's version of St Paul's righteousness language) you cannot go on sinning/living in sin, because they are incompatible theological states.

The confusion is popular culture (and bad theology) calls "a bad moral act" (which can be the result of broken relationship with God directly or indeirectly) "a sin".

Everyone sins? Everyone who lives in the right relationship within a broken world is tempted and sullied and needs cleansing and re-directing; we are not perfect. Call that sin if it helps - but it's a misleading shorthand in that it is not the same as St Paul or St John's alternative to the gift of being in the right relationship with God.

Dan said...

I'm not sure I totally agree with Marcus about this, but I did find the answer stimulating, and furthermore, I loved the question you posed.

In essence, we find ourselves as believers to be covered, past, present, and future, by the blood of Christ. No sin can permanently separate us. Therefore, we cannot "sin."

Remember that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life through Christ. We believers have the gift of life, and the wages of sin can no longer affect us.

This is my thought, and you are free to condemn.

Disciple said...

First, the divine life is the means for us to abide in the Triune God. If we did not have the human life, we could not abide in humanity. Likewise, if we did not have the divine life, we could not abide in the Triune God. But because we have the divine life, by this life we can abide in the Triune God.

By the divine life as the means we can also live this life in our human living. This means that we can live a life that practices the divine righteousness, loves the brothers, and overcomes all negative things.

Disciple said...

You have a second life implanted into your human life. It is a divine life, an incorruptable seed. By abiding in the divine life, this seed grows. As the hull ofour outer human life (like a seed sown into the earth) is terminated through the cross the inner light shines, and the love (divine nature) is imparted into our being. This divine nature is expressed through our humanity...

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

walk in the the anointing (light of the spirit) you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh...this will issue into His presence where his divine nature is mingled and made one with your Spirit to live and express Him..
this seed can be dormant in many, may we not neglect our spirit where the seed of God's Spirit abides"

Chris HH said...

Hi, Sorry for coming late to the party on this one...

I think it's good to start with what John himself says on the subject:

If we say 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. (1Jn 1:8-9)

So John is clearly not saying that we will never sin. Quite the opposite. But he is saying that when we do sin, there is always a path back to righteousness, through confession and repentance - and of course only possible because of the grace extended to us in the cross of Christ.

So, I believe, what he is addressing in chapter 3, is what we do when we become conscious of sin in our lives. Whether we repent and turn to God, even if it is the umpteenth time we have failed in the same area, or whether we are happy to continue to sin. As the ESV renders it - making a practice of sinning.

What John is saying is the latter is not an option for a believer if he is still alive to the seed of God, the Holy Spirit, who is actively at work in us.