1 John 3:4
Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law - The law of God given to man as a rule of life. The object of the apostle here is to excite them to holiness, and to deter them from committing sin, perhaps in view of the fact stated in 1 John 3:3, that everyone who has the hope of heaven will aim to be holy like the Saviour. To confirm this, he shows them that, as a matter of fact, those who are born of God do lead lives of obedience, 1 John 3:5-10; and this he introduces by showing what is the nature of sin, in the verse before us. The considerations by which he would deter them from indulging in sin are the following:

(a) all sin is a violation of the law of God, 1 John 3:4;

(b) the very object of the coming of Christ was to deliver people from sin, 1 John 3:5;

(c) those who are true Christians do not habitually sin, 1 John 3:6;

(d) those who sin cannot be true Christians, but are of the devil, 1 John 3:8; and,

(e) he who is born of God has a germ or principle of true piety in him, and cannot sin, 1 John 3:9.

It seems evident that the apostle is here combating an opinion which then existed that people might sin, and yet be true Christians, 1 John 3:7; and he apprehended that there was danger that this opinion would become prevalent. On what ground this opinion was held is unknown. Perhaps it was held that all that was necessary to constitute religion was to embrace the doctrines of Christianity, or to be orthodox in the faith; perhaps that it was not expected that people would become holy in this life, and therefore they might indulge in acts of sin; perhaps that Christ came to modify and relax the law, and that the freedoM which he procured for them was freedom to indulge in whatever people chose; perhaps that, since Christians were heirs of all things, they had a right to enjoy all things; perhaps that the passions of people were so strong that they could not be restrained, and that therefore it was not wrong to give indulgence to the propensities with which our Creator has formed us. All these opinions have been held under various forms of Antinomianism, and it is not at all improbable that some or all of them prevailed in the time of John. The argument which he urges would be applicable to any of them. The consideration which he here states is, that all sin is a transgression of law, and that he who commits it, under whatever pretence, is to be held as a transgressor of the law. The literal rendering of this passage is, "He who doeth sin (ἁμαρτίαν hamartian ) doeth also transgression" - ἀνομίαν anomian. Sin is the generic term embracing all that would be wrong. The word transgression (ἀνομία anomia) is a specific term, showing where the wrong lay, to wit, in violating the law.

For sin is the transgression of the law - That is, all sin involves this as a consequence that it is a violation of the law. The object of the apostle is not so much to define sin, as to deter from its commission by stating what is its essential nature - though he has in fact given the best definition of it that could be given. The essential idea is, that God has given a law to people to regulate their conduct, and that whatever is a departure from that law in any way is held to be sin. The law measures our duty, and measures therefore the degree of guilt when it is not obeyed. The law determines what is right in all cases, and, of course, what is wrong when it is not complied with. The law is the expression of what is the will of God as to what we shall do; and when that is not done, there is sin. The law determines what we shall love or not love; when our passions and appetites shall be bounded and restrained, and to what extent they may be indulged; what shall be our motives and aims in living; how we shall act toward God and toward people; and whenever, in any of these respects, its requirements are not complied with, there is sin.

This will include everything in relation to which the law is given, and will embrace what we "omit" to do when the law has commanded a thing to be done, as well as a "positive" act of transgression where the law has forbidden a thing. This idea is properly found in the original word rendered "transgression of the law" - ἀνομία anomia. This word occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: Matthew 7:23; Matthew 13:41; Matthew 23:28; Matthew 24:12; Romans 4:7; Romans 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 1:9; Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17, in all which places it is rendered "iniquity" and "iniquities;" in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where it is rendered "unrighteousness;" and in the verse before us twice. It properly means lawlessness, in the sense that the requirements of the law are not conformed to, or complied with; that is, either by not obeying it, or by positively violating it. When a parent commands a child to do a thing, and he does not do it, he is as really guilty of violating the law as when he does a thing which is positively forbidden. This important verse, therefore, may be considered in two aspects - as a definition of the nature of sin, and as an argument against indulgence in it, or against committing it.

I. As a definition of the nature of sin. It teaches.

(a) that there is a rule of law by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated and governed, and to which it is to be conformed.

(b) That there is sin in all cases where that law is not complied with; and that all who do not comply with it are guilty before God.

(c) That the particular thing which determines the guilt of sin, and which measures it, is that it is a departure from law, and consequently that there is no sin where there is no departure from law.

The essential thing is, that the law has not been respected and obeyed, and sin derives its character and aggravation from that fact. No one can reasonably doubt as to the accuracy of this definition of sin. It is founded on the fact:

continued...

Sin is the transgression of the law - The spirit of the law as well as of the Gospel is, that "we should love God with all our powers, and our neighbor as ourselves." All disobedience is contrary to love; therefore sin is the transgression of the law, whether the act refers immediately to God or to our neighbor. Whosoever committeth sin,.... This, in connection with what follows, is true of any sin, great or small, but here designs a course of sinning, a wilful, obstinate, persisting in sin:

transgresseth also the law; not of man, unless the law of men is founded on, and agrees with the law of God, for sometimes to transgress the laws of men is no sin, and to obey them would be criminal; but the law of God, and that not the ceremonial law, which was now abolished, and therefore to neglect it, or go contrary to it, was not sinful; but the moral law, and every precept of it, which regards love to God or to our neighbour, and which may be transgressed in thought, word, and deed; and he that committeth sin transgresses it in one or all of these ways, of which the law accuses and convicts, and for it pronounces guilty before God, and curses and condemns; and this therefore is an argument against sinning, because it is against the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, and contains the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God, which is agreeable to his nature and perfections; so that sin is ultimately against God himself:

for sin is a transgression of the law; and whatever is a transgression of the law is sin; the law requires a conformity of nature and actions to it, and where there is a want of either, it is a breach of it; it is concerned with the will and affections, the inclinations and desires of the mind, as well as the outward actions of life; concupiscence or lust is a violation of the law, as well as actual sin; and especially a course of sinning both in heart, lip, and life, is a continued transgression of it, and exposes to its curse and condemnation, and to the wrath of God; and is inconsistent with a true hope of being the sons and heirs of God: but then the transgression of what is not the law of God, whether the traditions of the elders among the Jews, or the ordinances of men among Papists, Pagans, and Turks, or any other, is no sin, nor should affect the consciences of men.

{5} Whosoever {f} committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for {g} sin is the transgression of the law.

(5) The rule of this purity can from no where else be taken but from the law of God, the transgression of which is called sin.

(f) Does not give himself to pureness.

(g) A short definition of sin.

4. Sin is incompatible with birth from God (1Jo 3:1-3). John often sets forth the same truth negatively, which he had before set forth positively. He had shown, birth from God involves self-purification; he now shows where sin, that is, the want of self-purification, is, there is no birth from God.

Whosoever—Greek, "Every one who."

committeth sin—in contrast to 1Jo 3:3, "Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself"; and 1Jo 3:7, "He that doeth righteousness."

transgresseth … the law—Greek, "committeth transgression of law." God's law of purity; and so shows he has no such hope of being hereafter pure as God is pure, and, therefore, that he is not born of God.

for—Greek, "and."

sin is … transgression of … law—definition of sin in general. The Greek having the article to both, implies that they are convertible terms. The Greek "sin" (hamartia) is literally, "a missing of the mark." God's will being that mark to be ever aimed at. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." The crookedness of a line is shown by being brought into juxtaposition with a straight ruler.

3:3-10 The sons of God know that their Lord is of purer eyes than to allow any thing unholy and impure to dwell with him. It is the hope of hypocrites, not of the sons of God, that makes allowance for gratifying impure desires and lusts. May we be followers of him as his dear children, thus show our sense of his unspeakable mercy, and express that obedient, grateful, humble mind which becomes us. Sin is the rejecting the Divine law. In him, that is, in Christ, was no sin. All the sinless weaknesses that were consequences of the fall, he took; that is, all those infirmities of mind or body which subject man to suffering, and expose him to temptation. But our moral infirmities, our proneness to sin, he had not. He that abides in Christ, continues not in the practice of sin. Renouncing sin is the great proof of spiritual union with, continuance in, and saving knowledge of the Lord Christ. Beware of self-deceit. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, and to be a follower of Christ, shows an interest by faith in his obedience and sufferings. But a man cannot act like the devil, and at the same time be a disciple of Christ Jesus. Let us not serve or indulge what the Son of God came to destroy. To be born of God is to be inwardly renewed by the power of the Spirit of God. Renewing grace is an abiding principle. Religion is not an art, a matter of dexterity and skill, but a new nature. And the regenerate person cannot sin as he did before he was born of God, and as others do who are not born again. There is that light in his mind, which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart, which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual principle that opposes sinful acts. And there is repentance for sin, if committed. It goes against him to sin with forethought. The children of God and the children of the devil have their distinct characters. The seed of the serpent are known by neglect of religion, and by their hating real Christians. He only is righteous before God, as a justified believer, who is taught and disposed to righteousness by the Holy Spirit. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. May all professors of the gospel lay these truths to heart, and try themselves by them. 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law. The very act of sinning is a breaking of law.

Sin is the transgression of the law. Sin is lawlessness (Revised Version).

Verses 4-12. - Sin is absolutely incompatible with Christ's work of redemption and our union with him (verses 4-8), and also with being born of God, as is shown by the presence or absence of brotherly love (verses 9-12). Verse 4. - Once more the apostle turns from the positive to the negative. Having shown what birth from God involves, he goes on to show what it excludes. "Every one that doeth sin" evidently balances "every one that hath this hope" (verse 3), and "to do sin" is the exact opposite of "to do righteousness" (chapter 2:29). Sin is lawlessness ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. Both words having the article, the two terms are exactly equivalent - all sin is lawlessness, and all lawlessness is sin. Ανομία, like "lawlessness," expresses the ignoring of the law rather than the absence of it. "The law" means the law of God in the fullest sense, not the Mosaic Law. In short, sin is defined as the transgression of God's will. Margin committeth sin

practiseth sin practiseth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Margin sin

Sin. See Scofield Note: "Rom 3:23"

committeth.

1 John 3:8,9 He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the …

1 Kings 8:47 Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land where they were …

1 Chronicles 10:13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the …

2 Corinthians 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and …

James 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise …

transgresseth.

Numbers 15:31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken his …

1 Samuel 15:24 And Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the …

2 Chronicles 24:20 And the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, …

Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare …

Daniel 9:11 Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that …

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified …

Romans 4:15 Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

James 2:9-11 But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced …

for.

1 John 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not to death.

Romans 7:7-13 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not …

Whosoever committeth sin (πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν)

Rev., better, every one that doeth sin. See on 1 John 3:3, every man that hath, and note the frequent repetition of this form of expression in the present chapter. Compare πᾶς ὁ ἁμαρτάνων whosoever sinneth (1 John 3:6). The phrase to do sin regards sin as something actually realized in its completeness. He that does sin realizes in action the sin (note the article τὴν) that which includes and represents the complete ideal of sin. Compare do righteousness, 1 John 2:29.

Transgresseth also the law (καὶ τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ)

Rev., more accurately, doeth also lawlessness. Compare Matthew 13:41, and the phrase οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:23).

For (καὶ)

Rev., correctly, and. This and the preceding clause are coordinated after John's manner.

Is the transgression of the law (ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία)

Rev., correctly, is lawlessness. Sin is the violation of the law of our being, the law which includes our threefold relation to God, to the men and things around us, and to ourselves. Compare James 1:14; James 4:17.

3:4 Whosoever committeth sin - Thereby transgresseth the holy, just, and good law of God, and so sets his authority at nought; for this is implied in the very nature of sin.
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