1 John 3:9 is a difficult passage of Scripture and many haven fallen for false cults that use this to tell people that if you sin after Salvation, that you are not saved. There are a few of interpretations of this passage but only one is correct.
Some believe that just one sin after Salvation and a person loses their Salvation. That is the most obvious one that is false because Salvation is ETERNAL and this view is not found anywhere in the New Testament.
Context Matters; What Is Being Addressed In John?
It is important to understand that the context of John’s letter is to thwart a heresy that false teachers were trying to get true believers to accept. This heresy is called Gnosticism. This is the sin that John is referring too in his letter. Those believing this heresy.
Gnosticism in incompatible with Biblical Christianity because Gnostics do not believe that a person can be born again through Christ. They deny that we are saved because Christ died in our place and took on the punishment for our sins but instead rely on extra Biblical ‘secret knowledge’ they say has been imparted to them as if they are special somehow. This was a big heresy in the early church and is being shown as false.
The Gnostics teachings were causing fear in some of the believers and had them questioning their faith on Christ alone for Salvation. John is exposing this false heresy to believers who he is addressing.
Is John Writing About Habitual Sin or Practicing sin?
Some think this is talking about habitual sin or practicing sin. But that is because newer Bibles translations are corrupted and this verse is completely differently than the King James Version or the Geneva Bible which are the earliest and most reliable Bibles. This is yet another good example of why not to use modern day Bible translations, and at the very least to always fall back on the KJV for the truth in Scripture regarding foundations of the Gospel and faith in Jesus Christ for our justification.
Let’s compare shall we?
“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.” (1 John 3:9 KJV)
“Whosoever is born of God sinneth not: for his seed remaineth in him, neither can he sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9 GNV)
“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.” (1 John 3:9 NIV)
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9 NASB)
“Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” (1 John 3:9 NLT)
Keep in mind that the Bible does not contradict itself. And in this example, John himself is not contradicting himself either. Why do I say that? Because earlier in 1 John 1 (the same John that wrote 1 John 3:9) we read:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 KJV)
So the modern day translations have it all wrong. John is not talking about practicing sin or sinning habitually . Of course, it subtly is similar in that our new Spirit wants to not sin and a believer will feel that war going on. It is a true sign you are a believer actually.
A person who does not believe on Christ has not received the new inner man, that is the newly created Spirit of God where all things have become new.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)
An unbeliever just does want they feel like doing, without regard for their performing acts of the sin nature. It is their very nature to sin. You see we do not sin and thus have a sin nature. People sin because they have a sin nature as their inner man. But when a person believes on Christ and receives the free gift of Salvation, we are made as a new creature and receive a new Spirit who is the new us.
This is what 1 John 3:9 is all about. John is talking about the NEW CREATION we received at the moment of our Salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). The new spirit nature we now have which is the “seed of God”. The Holy Spirit indwells believers and our new spirit CANNOT SIN and NEVER DOES SIN. Is this hard for you to grasp still? I know it was for me and it took quite a while before I seen the truth of 1 John 3:9.
The Newly Created Spirit At Salvation Is The New Us
In Romans 7, an often overlooked truth comes to light. And it is this truth that sheds a blinding light on 1 John 3:9. Paul is teaching the Doctrine of the Two Natures of a Believer. Think Paul had sinless perfection? Think again. Let us have a look at what Paul wrote for us to read:
“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
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.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
(Romans 7: 12-25 KJV)
The Doctrine Of The Two Natures Of A Believer
Paul is showing us a doctrinal truth here. You see after our Salvation we have two natures. We still have the ADAM nature which is called The Flesh and The New Eternal Spirit Nature (which Paul here calls the “inner man”) we received at our moment of Salvation. The truth is that the real us now, is the New Eternal Spirit Nature. This Spirit of God within us NEVER SINS nor wants to sin but our Flesh in Adam does. That is why Paul shows us clearly that there is a constant battle going on in the believer, a sure sign you are saved. The new us, the newly created Spirit from the moment of our Salvation, wants to do only what is right Holy and good. It does not want to sin, nor does it sin.
We are told in that when Christ died on the cross, we died WITH HIM. When He rose from the dead, we rose with Him in newness of life. Now what does that mean? We are still here on Earth are we not? This is talking about our Spirit.
“Knowing this, that our OLD MAN is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not SERVE sin. For he that is dead is FREED FROM SIN. Now if we be DEAD WITH CHRIST, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin ONCE: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:6-11 KJV)
Our old ‘self’, that is our ‘old man’, died on that cross and we were given the newly created Spirit of God which is from the seed of God Himself. We have a NEW self. And it wants to please God. Yet our flesh still remains within us. Our new spirit wars with our flesh. The battle is real. If a person does not feel this battle over temptations and sins then they are not saved.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:50 KJV)
One day each of us will die (unless Raptured first). Does the body of a believer go to be with the Lord in heaven at our physical death? No. Why? Because it is corrupted by this disease passed down from Adam called SIN. What about our new spirit? Well Paul tells us that our New Eternal Spirit Nature goes to be with the Lord because it is perfect (the seed of God within us). Nothing less than sinless perfection can enter Heaven because Heaven is a perfect place.
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV)
And then ONE DAY Jesus will return and our body will be resurrected into the perfect incorruptible body like Jesus now has. A new body WITHOUT the SIN NATURE which is identified in Scripture as ‘The Flesh’. We will be Raptured (snatched us up with force) in the twinkling of an eye and be changed and will finally be perfect and whole as our Lord is perfect. Sinning will become an impossibility for us. Think about that a moment… it is so hard to believe while we are living here on Earth with our Flesh still affecting us! Yet, it is going to happen!
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52 KJV)
This is what 1 John 3:9 is talking about. It is the New Eternal Nature given to us from God that NEVER SINS and cannot sin because it is the nature of God; Holy and Righteous perfectly. John is telling us that this is the true reality we are currently in and so why not work toward living in the New Spirit Nature we really are (that God has MADE US to be through Salvation in Christ) and cast off living by what the old man, The Flesh, tempts us with. Stop sinning as a normal thing to do that comes so easily for a non believer. Paul says to WALK BY THE SPIRIT TO AVOID THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH. This is what he meant by that.
Strive to be who God actually MADE US until our resurrection. We will not do it perfectly and we will fall into sin at times, willful or not! The Apostle Paul struggled with sin just as you or I do!
Yet remember this truth as fact. Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Though we still fall at times and sin. The Holy Spirit of God is always within us. As 1 John 4 later reads ,
“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17 KJV)