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1 John 3:9 PDF Print E-mail
Written by W.M. Mitchell   
The Gospel Messenger-September 1882


Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God.—1 John 3:9

Little as may be thought upon the subject of being born of God, and as lightly as the great mass of men and women treat it, yet there is no subject of greater importance, nor one in which fallen sinners should feel a deeper concern, than to know or have some infallible assurance that the are begotten and born of God. If destitute of this heavenly birth we must forever remain under the dominion of sin, with the wrath of God abiding upon us. But if we be the happy subjects of this wonderful birth, then the text at the head of this article affirms that we “can not sin, because we are born of God.” We see, therefore, that the Spiritual Birth is indeed a most wonderful work of God,—a work in many respects far greater and of more permanent duration, than the creation of the natural heavens and earth, and all that in them is. These shall all wax old and vanish away,—but this work of God, by which a poor sinner is delivered from the reigning power and dominion of his sins, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, is a work that will endure forever, and abide the general conflagration of all, things, when the heavens shall be on fire, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.

Any person who knows, or has even had one sober, solemn thought about the nature and horrid effects and consequences of sin, must see and feel at once that it is a most blessed announcement from God himself that “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.” Could any blessing be greater than to be placed in such a state of security that one can not sin? Whosever, therefore, is born of God, hath this blessing.

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. v. 12. We see by this and other texts, that sin, with all its deadly consequences, is man’s work, and not the work of God. “By one man sin entered into the world,” and not (as some would have us believe) by one devil. Man is the sinner, and he can not throw the horrid responsibility off upon Satan. By man came sin, and by sin comes death, and every evil, pain, sorrow, and anguish of body or mind, that shall ever afflict the fallen sons and daughters of Adam.

Seeing, then, that sin is such a horrid thing, some one might ask, “What is it?” The word of the Lord answers that “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Man was created subject to law, and a law was given him by his Creator and the penalty fixed by the Lawgiver for its transgression. Man transgressed it, and sin entered the world by man’s work— vitiating and polluting every power of body or mind. “Every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil continually.”—Gen. vi. There is no hope of any improvement for the better by any work of righteousness that man shall manufacture, or put his polluted hand to. “The earth is filled with violence;” and man’s “heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.” “His mind and conscience is defiled.”

There is nothing worse than man’s sin. All who have ever been truly convicted of sin before God, and been made to mourn over it, and pray God to be delivered from its reigning power and dominion, know what a horrid thing it is to feel the sting and guilt of sin. They have felt that the just judgment and wrath of God were upon them. But we must not dwell upon this point too lengthily, lest the reader should be weary with anxiety to know how he is to be delivered from the wrath to come, and made so free from sin that he cannot come any more under its reigning power. This blessed state of freedom belongs to all those who are born of God. “They can not sin,” as the text avers, “because they are born of God.”

However strange and paradoxical it may appear, we will here remark that, though there is a certain qualified and scriptural sense in which those who are born of God do not, or cannot sin, yet none others in this life have ever truly known what sin is,—nor do any others, even during their whole pilgrimage in this world, mourn over and feel the pollution of sin as they do. They sensibly feel every day that “when they would do good, evil is present with them.” And to show that they can, and do sin in some sense, and feel their need of forgiveness, they are taught by the word of the Lord, and by their own daily experience, to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that trespass against us.” And this same apostle, John, writing by the same inspiration to the same characters, says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And to show that those who are born of God are liable to sin, and in some sense do sin, he cautions them in the most tender and affectionate manner against it by saying: “My little children, I write unto you, that ye sin not; but if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If, therefore, the subjects of the new and spiritual birth can not sin in any sense after they are born of God, why should they be cautioned to “sin not?”

We will now briefly consider in what sense “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin,” or “can not sin.” We have already quoted several texts showing that sin is the transgression of the law of God, by man, and that he is the guilty one; and whatever the penalty be for the violation of God’s law, man is the sinner upon whom the just judgment of God falls, and this righteous judgment has come “upon all men to condemnation.” —Rom. 5:18. All men—all the race and posterity of Adam—have already sinned, as the sovereign Judge “of  the quick and dead” has proclaimed the eternal death penalty of His holy law against them all. No works of righteousness of guilty man, already under sentence of “eternal damnation” (Mark 3:29), can ever fulfill the just requirements of that holy law which he has transgressed, nor remove the death penalty which is upon him, so that he shall be acquitted from guilt and adjudged as innocent. There have been other laws given to man since his original transgression, but no law has ever been given, the observance of which could give life to him who is already “dead in trespasses and in sins.” And it may be proper here to remark, that of all the laws which God has ever given to man, there is but one law that has a bearing directly upon his future and eternal destiny; and this law, all men have transgressed, when “by one man sin entered into the world; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”—Romans 5:12. All men were embodied in Adam, and represented in that one sin; and neither this law, nor any other that ever has been given, could remove the great sin of man, which relates to his future and eternal destiny.

But hear, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! for the great God has revealed a system of grace, by which sin can be put away, his holy lawful in all its rigorous demands, having its death penalty removed forever, the sinner justified freely by his grace, and the prisoner goes free. He has laid help upon One that is mighty; he has exalted One chosen from among his people; and “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:3.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the God Man, and Mediator between God and man, has fully met the righteous and penal demands of the law of God for all whose sins he bore in his own body on the tree of the cross. He has made a full, a free, and satisfactory atonement for sin, for every one that he represented in his death. They are so identified with him, and he with them, that “in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”—Heb. 2:17.

Christ died for the sins of his people; he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; he died, and he was buried, and rose again; was quickened and raised from the dead by the exceeding greatness of the mighty power of the Almighty God; and was set at the right hand of God, far above all the rigorous and penal demands of the law, whose curse he had borne and fulfilled; and also was set “far above all principality and power, might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.”—Eph.1:21.

We see, therefore, that in the resurrection life of Christ he is freed from the power and dominion of sin, and from the curse of the law, and highly exalted above every possible dominion either for time or for eternity.

Now, dear reader, if you are at all seriously concerned about the Spiritual Birth, there is consolation to you in all this; for the very resurrection life that has raised Christ from the dead, and brought him up above the curse and dominion of sin and death, is the life that is imparted to all who are born of God. They are quickened by the Spirit and power of God, and brought into manifest spiritual existence by the “exceeding greatness” of the same mighty power of God which brought again our Lord Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd of the sheep, from the dead. Hence they are said to be “dead with Christ,” “buried with Christ,” “quickened together with him,” and “risen with him;” and as living, risen subjects, who have been experimentally raised above the penal demands of the law, which had consigned them to eternal death, they are now to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”—Col. 3:1. They are now “born of God” of an “incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth for ever,” and never more can they commit sin in the eye of that law from the death curse of which they are now born. They have “passed from death to life.” They are risen with Christ above the penal demands of the law; and “sin,” in the eye of this law, “shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.” As a subject of a new birth, you are in a new world,—a new kingdom,—and to you there is already a “new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away.”—Rev. 21:1. Your faith and hope, your joys and comforts, are all new. And thus you have experimentally felt that “if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, and behold! (yes, behold!) all things have become new, and all things are of God.”—2 Cor. 5:17.

Every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12. His faith in Christ is not the cause of his spiritual birth, but the result and fruit of it, as the Scriptures clearly teach. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.”—l John 5:1. They are dead to the law, by which they were condemned; and it is written, “He that is dead, is freed from sin.” They can no more commit sin under that law, which has already received its full satisfaction; neither can they ever again, in time or eternity, come into condemnation under its sentence. The declaration of Jesus Christ himself puts this point beyond all cavil: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, arid shall not come into condemnation; but is assed from death unto life.”—John 5:24.

This last quoted text, as well as a number of others, shows clearly in what sense “Whosoever is born of God, do not commit sin.” They are raised up to a higher standing than man ever was as a mere creature of God, even in his original state of perfect innocence. That was an earthly state of purity and innocence, and man in that condition was adapted to the blessings of it,—but no promise that by his obedience or innocence he should eventually be rewarded with the heaven of glory, or any higher state of bliss than his present earthly state and earthly nature capacitated him to enjoy. But, alas! he forfeited even all that this earth could yield him, and forfeited his life, also; and since that one offense, of that one man, Adam, “death hath reigned” and sin has had the dominion over man, until he receives the “divine nature” and is born into the kingdom of Christ. Then, “Christ is to him the end of the law for righteousness,” as He is “to every one that beliveth. He is crucified with Christ, and Christ lives in him, and the life that he now lives in the flesh he lives by the faith of the Son of God. This divine nature, this principle of eternal life,—the resurrection life of Christ,—is the reigning power within the believer, and it can not sin; neither does the man who is under its governing power ever again come into condemnation under the law from which he is delivered. “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 6:2.

He that lives this life of Christ, lives not unto sin, but unto God. He hates sin, and mourns over it, and is continually repenting and praying to God for deliverance from the evil of it. This shows that he lives unto God, and not unto sinful, lusts. He can not sin any more as a mere creature of God, as Adam did—neither can he die any more, as Adam died,—because he is now born into the kingdom of Christ, and is manifestly brought into the relation of an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. He is under law  to Christ, and the principles of this law are written in his mind and heart by the same Spirit of which he is born,—imparting an active desire of obedience that the child of God is commanded only to do that which he already greatly desires to do. He can and does sin as a child against a father, and the Lord deals with him as a child, saying: “son, despise not the chastenings of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Though we have used too many words, yet we trust our brethren will understand in what sense we apply the text, “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin.”—M.

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