1John 3:9 Why You Can't Sin

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  • 1John 3:9 Why You Can't Sin

    Why You Can't Sin

    1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

    While there have been many different interpretations of this verse, only one is correct. In my analysis at 1John Notes I conclude that once again John is referring to one's overall lifestyle or that which generally characterizes one's attitudes and behaviors.

    Those who have been born of God have lost the ability to live a lifestyle of sin. The word "cannot" in "he cannot go on sinning" (vs 9) is the greek word "dunamai", from which we derive the English word "dynamite", and it refers to the person's ability. This is the effect of being born of God. It affects the person's free will such that it is inevitable that those born of God will exhibit behavior characteristic of children of God. If a child of God tries to live a lifestyle of sin, they find that they cannot do it., just as those who have not been born of God find they are incapable of living the Christian life.

    Furthermore, having the seed to remain in us is not a function of personal effort or will. Consider the last phrase "he cannot sin, because he is born of God". "is born" in the Greek is perfect passive. More literally it should be translated "has been born of God". Being born of God is a passive event, not an active event. (John 1:13) One cannot make oneself born of God. And it is because of this past event that happened to a person that he presently is incapable of living a lifestyle of sin. This is the explanation that the Apostle John gives as to why no one born of God continues to sin. Obedience is not a cause but an indication of whether one has been born of God. Bible scholar Howard Marshall also comments on the meaning of the perfect tense as it relates to the participle in 1 John 3:9: "The perfect tense marks not only the single act of birth, but the continuous presence of its efficacy" (Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament. By Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, pp. 790-791, Zondervan Corporation Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980).
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