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Claiming Sin's Absence is Deceiving
by Gregory John Monroe
3/19/2013 / Education
1 John 3: 6 No one who abides in Him [Jesus] sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
Because of this verse, some well-intentioned souls believe that if one sins, one is no longer in Jesus. They also think of themselves, in keeping with the verse, to be perfect, without sin. If one is in Jesus, he or she is unable to sin because it's impossible to do so, they say.
Unfortunately, although their intentions are commendable, it appears to me that they have taken the verse out of context. By insisting on being a doer of what they think the above verse is saying, two other of John's verses are completely ignored.
Those two verses 8 and 9 are in chapter 1. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar and His word is not in us."
So, then, what is 1 John 3: 6 saying? Taken by itself, one can see how the perfectionists come to their conclusion and how one might even agree with it. However, if the verses preceding and succeeding it are taken into consideration, the context becomes clearer and a different meaning emerges.
Beginning with verse 4 and continuing in 7-10, the writer defines what he means. When speaking of "sin" and "righteousness," he uses the keyword "practice" in relation to those two acts. To practice something is to do it over and over again. In doing so, it becomes a habit in character and lifestyle..
It is true that we can refrain from sinning by God's empowering grace. Taking hold of that divine power means we don't have to sin. However, we are sinful by birth. It's our nature to naturally sin, and we all have; physically, verbally, and through thoughts.
In this world, there will be unintentional slipups and mistakes. Perfection would keep those things from happening. We know that because perfect Jesus was able to do that. We are imperfect, though. That's why God places us inside Jesus to be saved by His imputed and imparted perfect righteousness.
So, because we're not perfect in and of ourselves, what 1 John 3: 6 is saying is this: No one who abides in Jesus practices sin, making sin a lifestyle within Him. For (according to 1 John 1: 6) to practice that way of life would have one walking in darkness; unable to have fellowship with Him.
As said, we live under the grace of God, and by that empowering grace we have the ability to not sin. The Apostle knows this and doesn't want us to sin. And by no means does he endorse or give license to sin.
John simply wants us to know that should we stumble in our humanity, that if we commit a sinful act, it is not the end of the world. He wants us to remember that we have an Advocate in heaven that is sympathetic to our weaknesses.
John's intent is to encourage us to not wallow in regret concerning a sinful act. He doesn't want us to linger in remorse to the extent that Satan can attack our conscience and possibly defeat us.
Instead, the Apostle reminds us that through confession of a sinful act, God will forgive and cleanse us from that sinful act (1 John 1: 9). In this way, we remain in the sinless One.
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