IS IT TRUE THAT A BELIEVER CANNOT SIN, A LOOK AT 1 JOHN 3:9


There are those object the gospel of grace because their concept of certain verses in the scriptures. One of such is 1 John 3:9

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”

A better translation of 1 John 3:9,  1 John 5:8 and 1 John 3:8 would be ‘practice sin’ as translated in the ASV. This is because the tense of the verb ‘sin’ is not ‘aorist’ (sinning in a moment of time, even once, but ‘present active’ or sinning continually.

He also talks about practicing righteousness in the following scriptures:
1 John 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of him”
1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous even as he is righteous”
1 John 3:10 “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious, anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God”
 The Apostle John is describing who we are in the spirit. In other words our spirit man (Christ in us) practices righteousness and cannot sin.

If he was saying that it is impossible for a believer to sin then why did he say;
My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one,

The believer has born of the incorruptible seed that cannot sin. His Spirit is same with Christ in nature. That is why he says that “his seed remains in him”. The question many cannot answer is if we have Christ in us and we have a brand new nature inside of us as believers, why do we still want to sin?

That is why some believe that we have two natures now, a sinful nature and a Christ like nature that are locked in the same vessel involved in some sort of tug of war?

The truth is that we don’t have two natures. A believer only has one new nature. However, the scripture does tell us that there are two opposing forces – the flesh and the spirit at war inside you.

Gal 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Paul narrated a similar conflict of desire which many Christians can relate to in Romans 7:

Romans 7:15 “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the thing I hate. 

Romans 7:16 “But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do I agree with the Law confessing that its is good.”

The summary: Even though he doesn’t want to do bad things, he has no power to actually stop doing bad things – even if he wants to. Hiding away from all temptation to sin will not change the fact.

Why is this so?
When you got born again, your Spirit was born out of the very nature of Christ. The issue is that you have the same mortal flesh and soul that has “cased” your memories, will, sexual drive and so on. It already runs on a program that is contrary to that of the Spirit.
Romans 7:23 “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members”
It takes feeding on the word for the nature of Christ in you to gain the ascendancy over the soul and body. This is why renewing the mind is essential as it reprograms your mind to the grace of God which is your victory over bad habits and addictions.
Paul made some important realizations which is good for us to consider;
Firstly, there is no good in his sinful flesh (note he is intentionally says in his flesh because he knows that his spirit man is good and desires good)
Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
Also he points out that if he doesn’t want to do it, then it’s not really him doing it. In other words, it’s sin in the flesh. His true identity therefore, is not in the sinful behaviour but in the new man.
Romans 7:17 “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Romans 7:20“But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”
This doesn’t not mean that he has a sinful nature in him. He is saying that the flesh that responds to sin is the one responsible. He also links the response based on being subject to the law.
It will only be normal for people to turn to religious standards in their bid to curb the voice of the flesh in them. The only problem is that the law will only point out the problem to you and bring you to condemnation for not living up to expected standards. Legalistic performance will end up sniffing life out of you.

The Solution?
Paul states in Romans 8 that being in Christ is the foundation for victory. Grace at work through the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which is in US. This is the revelation of the identity of the believer which frees from any form of condemnation. Paul has a clear revelation of who he is in Christ (I MYSELF). He understands now beyond a doubt, that his sinful flesh is not his identity even though its his responsibility.
Romans 7:25 “So, then, on the one hand I MYSELF with the mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, WITH MY FLESH, the law of sin.
So the question again, “Can a believer sin? and why does he sin? We still sin because we have the sinful flesh!
The sacrifice of Jesus has taken care of it. There is no single reason why any believer should live under condemnation for it. He should look to his true identity in Him. He should let that life find expression through his decisions.

Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I (the old identity) . but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (the physical existence)  I live by faith in the Son of God; who loved me, and gave himself for me”
If Christ is indeed in you, then outwardly you may not look like Jesus but your spirit is identical. You are like Christ! His seed in you cannot sin.

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