What is the meaning of 1 John 3:4-10?
Is it true that real Christians are sinless? Some think that is true. They believe 1 John 3:4-10 teaches that real Christians are sinless. So, let us discover the answer to what is the meaning of 1 John 3:4-10?
1 John Teaches Christians Sin
In order to understand the meaning of 1 John 3:4-10, we must understand 1 John 1:6-10. This is the introduction to 1 John. These verses describe three types of people.
The first person is described in 1 John 1:6-7. The verses are about a person who believes they are a Christian even though they are indulging in sin. That is, they believe they are free to willfully and unrepentantly sin and still be able to go to heaven. Then John says this person is a liar.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7 (NASB)
The second person is described in 1 John 1:8, 10. This person believes they are sinless Christians. That is, they believe they do not sin. They think real Christians do not sin. But then the verses teach that this person is also a liar. They have deceived themselves.
If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 (NASB)
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:10 (NASB)
The third person is described in 1 John 1:9; 2:1. The apostle John teaches that this is the true Christian. Real Christians still sin.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8 (NASB)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 1 John 2:1 (NASB)
The Meaning of 1 John 3:4-10
The apostle Paul also taught that Christians still sin in Romans 7:14-25. But he also taught that real Christians will be sinning less and less in Romans 8:13-14. So, we have a biblical principle that Christians still sin, but real Christians will be sinning less and less. That is, also the message of 1 John 3:4-10. Here is verse 4.
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (NASB)
Verse 4 informs us that anyone who is sinning is lawless. They are breaking any one of God’s law. Sin is breaking God’s laws. Verse 6 is very important because it seems to imply that Christians are sinless. if so, this would conflict with 1 John 1:8, 10.
No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 1 John 3:6 (NASB)
Unfortunately, the English reader does not know that the tense of the verbs “abides” and “sins” are present particles. That means “abides” and “sins” refer to habitual behavior. The verse means that real Christians are those who are continuing to abide in Christ, and they do not habitually continue sinning.
It is important to note the verb tenses in 1 John 3:7-10 teach the same point. Real Christians do not habitually sin. They confess their sins, repent of their sin, and seek God’s help to stop sinning. This means the apostle is talking about a person’s pattern of life. He is not talking about sinless perfection. No one in this life is sinless, including Christians. But Christians will be sinning less and less. If that is not true, then the person is most likely not a real Christian.
1 John 3:4-10 does not teach sinless perfection of believers. The Holy Spirit wrote all of Scripture and not just 1 John 3:4-10.
The sad part is that those who think they are sinless will tend to not confess their sins. As a result, they will be constantly grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:28-32), and the Holy Spirit’s ministry will be blunted in their lives. Anyone who teaches that a believer can be sinless is teaching heresy. The apostle John repudiated that idea in 1 John 1:8, 10. Believers must not ignore the fact that believers such as the apostle Paul still sinned (Romans 7:14-25), Peter (Cephas) still sinned (Galatians 2:11-14), and Euodia and Syntyche sinned (Philippians 4:2-3). 1 John 3:4-10 does not teach that Christians must be sinless.
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