Reflections on the believer and his relationship to sin: Introduction
1 John 3:7-15 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
As I have worked verse by verse through 1 John with our church family, I have encounter passages that are not only hard hitting and practical, but also worthy of significant reflection and explanation. 1 John 3:7-15 is one of those many texts. Over the next several weeks, as time permits, I would like to share in blog format the content of our Sunday sermons on this passage. I hope that these posts will be an encouragement to you in your walk with the Lord, and a tool to help you better understand a critically important theological and practical concept namely the believer’s relationship to sin.
Let’s begin our study by focusing on John’s words in verse 5: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil…”
When you read this text, what questions immediately come to mind? Here are some that came to mine: Is it possible for a Christian to sin? How many sins should bring one’s profession of faith into question? Are all sins on the table, or just significantly repulsive sins? What about sins of the heart like lust or hatred versus sins of the body like fornication or murder? How does this passage harmonize with John’s early statements in chapter 1 or Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone? Let’s not be afraid to ask these questions nor be too lazy to study the scriptures diligently to understand the doctrines and practical implications packaged in this passage. Articulating Christian doctrine is no small task. It involves labor and precision. Let’s summarize the passage and then dig into explanation and application. Here is our summary: If I can hate another Christian, made in the image of God and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and refuse to repent of this evil disposition and thinking as sin, I should have no confidence that I am a Christian. By implication, God wants us to know that this kind of hatred is such a serious sin, that it calls into question our profession of faith. Maybe you do not like the strength of those two statements, but I challenge you to take the passage literally and explain it any other way. Before we get into John’s point, let’s begin by reflecting on seven non-negotiable statements of truth regarding all people in Christ. By reminding ourselves of these seven truths, I think we will be better positioned to articulate John’s point correctly.