1 John 3:9
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.
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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.Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin - This passage must either mean that they who are born of God, that is, who are true Christians, do not sin habitually and characteristically, or that everyone who is a true Christian is absolutely perfect, and never commits any sin. If it can be used as referring to the doctrine of absolute perfection at all, it proves, not that Christians may be perfect, or that a "portion" of them are, but that all are. But who can maintain this? Who can believe that John meant to affirm this? Nothing can be clearer than that the passage has not this meaning, and that John did not teach a doctrine so contrary to the current strain of the Scriptures, and to fact; and if he did not teach this, then in this whole passage he refers to those who are habitually and characteristically righteous.

For his seed remaineth in him - There is much obscurity in this expression, though the general sense is clear, which is, that there is something abiding in the heart of the true Christian which the apostle here calls "seed," which will prevent his sinning. The word "his" in this phrase, "his seed," may refer either to the individual himself - in the sense that this can now be properly called "his," inasmuch as it is a part of himself, or a principle abiding in him; or it may refer to God - in the sense that what is here called "seed" is "his," that is, he has implanted it, or it is a germ of divine origin. Robinson (Lex.) understands it in the latter sense, and so also do Macknight, Doddridge, Lucke, and others, and this is probably the true interpretation. The word "seed" (σπέρμα sperma) means properly seed sown, as of grain, plants, trees; then anything that resembles it, anything which germinates, or which springs up, or is produced.

It is applied in the New Testament to the word of God, or the gospel, as that which produces effects in the heart and life similar to what seed that is sown does. Compare Matthew 13:26, Matthew 13:37-38. Augustin, Clemens, (Alex.,) Grotius, Rosenmuller, Benson, and Bloomfield, suppose that this is the signification of the word here. The proper idea, according to this, is that the seed referred to is truth, which God has implanted or sown in the heart, from which it may be expected that the fruits of righteousness will grow. But that which abides in the heart of a Christian is not the naked word of God; the mere gospel, or mere truth; it is rather that word as made vital and efficacious by the influence of his Spirit; the germ of the divine life; the principles of true piety in the soul. Compare the words of Virgil: Igneus est illi vigor et coelestis origo semini. The exact idea here, as it seems to me, is not that the "seed" refers to "the word of God," as Augustin and others suppose, or to "the Spirit of God," but to the germ of piety which has been produced in the heart "by" the word and Spirit of God, and which may be regarded as having been implanted there by God himself, and which may be expected to produce holiness in the life. There is, probably, as Lucke supposes, an allusion in the word to the fact that we are begotten (Ὁ γεγεννημένος Ho gegennēmenos of God. The word "remaineth" - μένει menei, compare the notes at 1 John 3:6 - is a favorite expression of John. The expression here used by John, thus explained, would seem to imply two things:

(1) that the germ or seed of religion implanted in the soul abides there as a constant, vital principle, so that he who is born of God cannot become habitually a sinner; and,

(2) that it will so continue to live there that he will not fall away and perish. The idea is clearly that the germ or principle of piety so permanently abides in the soul, that he who is renewed never can become again characteristically a sinner.

And he cannot sin - Not merely he will not, but he cannot; that is, in the sense referred to. This cannot mean that one who is renewed has not physical ability to do wrong, for every moral agent has; nor can it mean that no one who is a true Christian never does, in fact, do wrong in thought, word, or deed, for no one could seriously maintain that: but it must mean that there is somehow a certainty as absolute "as if" it were physically impossible, that those who are born of God will not be characteristically and habitually sinners; that they will not sin in such a sense as to lose all true religion and be numbered with transgressors; that they will not fall away and perish. Unless this passage teaches that no one who is renewed ever can sin in any sense; or that everyone who becomes a Christian is, and must be, absolutely and always perfect, no words could more clearly prove that true Christians will never fall from grace and perish. How can what the apostle here says be true, if a real Christian can fall away and become again a sinner?

Because he is born of God - Or begotten of God. God has given him, by the new birth, real, spiritual life, and that life can never become extinct.

9. Whosoever is born of God—literally, "Everyone that is begotten of God."

doth not commit sin—His higher nature, as one born or begotten of God, doth not sin. To be begotten of God and to sin, are states mutually excluding one another. In so far as one sins, he makes it doubtful whether he be born of God.

his seed—the living word of God, made by the Holy Spirit the seed in us of a new life and the continual mean of sanctification.

remaineth—abideth in him (compare Note, see on [2642]1Jo 3:6; Joh 5:38). This does not contradict 1Jo 1:8, 9; the regenerate show the utter incompatibility of sin with regeneration, by cleansing away every sin into which they may be betrayed by the old nature, at once in the blood of Christ.

cannot sin, because he is born of God—"because it is of God that he is born" (so the Greek order, as compared with the order of the same words in the beginning of the verse); not "because he was born of God" (the Greek is perfect tense, which is present in meaning, not aorist); it is not said, Because a man was once for all born of God he never afterwards can sin; but, Because he is born of God, the seed abiding now in Him, he cannot sin; so long as it energetically abides, sin can have no place. Compare Ge 39:9, Joseph, "How CAN I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" The principle within me is at utter variance with it. The regenerate life is incompatible with sin, and gives the believer a hatred for sin in every shape, and an unceasing desire to resist it. "The child of God in this conflict receives indeed wounds daily, but never throws away his arms or makes peace with his deadly foe" [Luther]. The exceptional sins into which the regenerate are surprised, are owing to the new life principle being for a time suffered to lie dormant, and to the sword of the Spirit not being drawn instantly. Sin is ever active, but no longer reigns. The normal direction of the believer's energies is against sin; the law of God after the inward man is the ruling principle of his true self though the old nature, not yet fully deadened, rebels and sins. Contrast 1Jo 5:18 with Joh 8:34; compare Ps 18:22, 23; 32:2, 3; 119:113, 176. The magnetic needle, the nature of which is always to point to the pole, is easily turned aside, but always reseeks the pole.

To be born of God, is, (in the words of a very learned annotator, Dr. Hammond), "to have received some special influence from God, and by the help and power of that, to be raised to a pious life. Agreeably, gegennhmenov ek tou yeou, he that hath been born of God, is literally, he that hath had such a blessed change wrought in him, by the operation of God’s Spirit in his heart, as to be translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his own dear Son; transformed in the spirit of his mind, i.e. sincerely changed from all evil to all good; from an obedience to the flesh, &c., to an obedience to God. Only it is here to be noted, that the phrase is not so to be taken, as to denote only the act of this change; the first impression of this virtue on the patient, the single transient act of regeneration; or reformation; and that, as in the preter tense, now past, but rather a continued course, a permanent state: so as a regenerate man and a child of God are all one, and signify him that lives a pious and godly life, and continues to do so," &c. To the same purpose this author also speaks, note on John 1:13, and in his paraphrase on that verse: "Those which live according to the will of God, and neither the natural, nor carnal, nor bare moral principle." This change, introducing the consequent course, divers texts of Scripture explain, John 3:3,5,6 2 Corinthians 5:17 Ephesians 2:10 4:24 Jam 1:18, &c. Now of one thus born of God, it is said, he

doth not commit sin, as 1Jo 3:8, and for the reason here alleged.

His seed; the principles of enlivened holy truth, as 1 Peter 1:23 Jam 1:8.

And he cannot sin: which is not to be understood simply, as if he could not sin at all, which were to contradict what he had said before, 1Jo 1:8, and supposed, 1Jo 2:1; but he cannot commit sin, as 1Jo 3:8. And it is plain the apostle intends by these two expressions the same thing. He cannot sin, i.e. do an act of known, gross sin, deliberately, easily, remorselessly, maliciously, as Cain, 1Jo 3:12, out of a hatred of goodness: or, do not such acts customarily, or not so unto death, ,{ as 1Jo 5:16} but that through the advantage of inlaid principles, or the remaining seed, by dependence upon the grace, Spirit, and covenant of God in Christ, he may timously recover.

Because he is born of God; i.e. inasmuch as it belongs to his temper and inclination, in respect of the holy new nature received in regeneration, to abhor from the grosser acts, much more from a course of sin; see Genesis 39:9 Acts 4:20 2 Corinthians 13:8 Galatians 5:17: and to his state, as he is a child of God, to have that interest in the grace of Christ, that he may implore, trust, obtain, and improve it, to his being kept from such destructive sinning. And it being evident, by his deep and thorough change, that he is born of God, and chosen to be an heir of eternal life, (as his children are heirs), he may and ought (not in a way of presumptuous negligence, but of vigilance and humble dependence) certainly to expect being so kept. Nor is it strange so much should be affirmed, upon so unspeakably better grounds, of the Christian state, when such boasts are to be read concerning some among the pagans, that one might as soon divert the sun from its course, as turn such a one from the course of righteousness. Though we may also suppose this form of speech might be intended by the apostle to be understood by the more superficial professors of Christianity, (who might be generally apt enough to look upon themselves as born of God, and his children), as parenetical, and more enforcingly hortatory, in pursuance of his former scope, to keep them off from the licentious courses of their seducers; q.d. It cannot be, that you, who avow yourselves born of God, should do like them. So we usually say, that cannot but be, or cannot be, which we apprehend more highly and clearly reasonable should be, or not be. Non potes avelli, & c. Such rhetoric the apostle uses with Agrippa, I know that thou believest, as if it were impossible he should not.

Whosoever is born of God,.... In a figurative and spiritual sense; who are regenerated, or born from above; who are quickened by the grace of God, and have Christ formed in them; who are made partakers of the divine nature, and new creatures in Christ; which spiritual birth is not owing to men, to the power and will of men, but to the grace of God; and is sometimes ascribed to the Father, who of his own will and abundant mercy begets souls again to a lively hope, and saves them by the washing of regeneration; and sometimes to Christ, who quickens whom he will, whose grace is implanted, and image stamped in it, and by whose resurrection from the dead men are begotten again; and chiefly, to the Spirit of God, who is the author of regeneration, and of the whole of sanctification: and such as are born of him are alive through him, the spirit of life entering into them, and live to God and upon Christ, and breathe after divine and spiritual things, and have their senses to discern them; they see, hear, feel, taste, and savour them; and desire the sincere milk of the word, for their nourishment and growth; and have every grace implanted in them, as faith, hope, and love: and of every such an one it is said, he

doth not commit sin; does not make it his trade and business; it is not the constant course of his life; he does not live and walk in sin, or give up himself to it; he is not without the being of it in him, or free from acts of sin in his life and conversation, but he does not so commit it as to be the servant of it, a slave unto it, or to continue in it; and that for this reason:

for his seed remaineth in him; not the word of God, or the Gospel, though that is a seed which is sown by the ministers of it, and blessed by God, and by which he regenerates his people; and which having a place in their hearts, becomes the ingrafted word, and there abides, nor can it be rooted out; where it powerfully teaches to avoid sin, is an antidote against it, and a preservative from it: nor the Holy Spirit of God, though he is the author of the new birth, and the principle of all grace; and where he once is, he always abides; and through the power of his grace believers prevail against sin, and mortify the deeds of the body, and live: but rather the grace of the Spirit, the internal principle of grace in the soul, the new nature, or new man formed in the soul, is meant; which seminally contains all grace in it, and which, like seed, springs up and gradually increases, and always abides; and is pure and incorruptible, and neither sins itself, nor encourages sin, but opposes, checks, and prevents it:

and he cannot sin; not that it is impossible for such a man to do acts of sin, or that it is possible for him to live without sin; for the words are not to be understood in the sense of those who plead for perfection in this life; for though the saints have perfection in Christ, yet not in themselves; they are not impeccable, they are not free from sin, neither from the being nor actings of it; sin is in them, lives in them, dwells in them, hinders all the good, and does all the mischief it can: or in such sense, as if the sins of believers were not sins; for though they are pardoned and expiated, and they are justified from them, yet they do not cease to be sins; they are equally contrary to the nature, will, and law of God, as well as the sins of others; and are oftentimes attended with more aggravated circumstances, and which God in a fatherly way takes notice of, and chastises for, and on the account of which he hides his face from them: nor does the phrase intend any particular single sin, which cannot be committed; though there are such, as sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, or denying Christ to be the Saviour of sinners, and a sacrifice for sin, and hatred of a Christian brother as such, and sinning the sin unto death, or the unpardonable sin; neither of which can be committed by a regenerate man: nor is the meaning only, though it is a sense that will very well bear, and agrees with the context, that such persons cannot sin as unregenerate men do; that is, live in a continued course of sinning, and with pleasure, and without reluctance, and so as to lie in it, as the whole world does: but rather the meaning is, he that is born of God, as he is born of God, or that which is born of God in him, the new man, or new creature, cannot sin; for that is pure and holy; there is nothing sinful in it, nor can anything that is sinful come out of it, or be done by it; it is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God; it is a good work, and well pleasing: in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin with delight; and an incorruptible seed, which neither corrupts nor is corrupted; and though it is as yet an imperfect work, it is not impure: the reason of the impeccability of the regenerate man, as such, is

because he is born of God: for that which is born of God in him, does, under the influence of the Spirit, power, and grace of God, preserve him from the temptations of Satan, the pollutions of the world, and the corruptions of his own heart; see 1 John 5:18; which the Vulgate Latin version there renders, "the generation of God", meaning regeneration, or that which is born of God, "preserveth him": this furnishes out a considerable argument for the perseverance of the saints.

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his {m} seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

(m) The Holy Spirit is so called by the effect he works, because by his power and mighty working, as it were by seed, we are made new men.

1 John 3:9. Antithesis of the preceding verse; yet what was there the subject is here—in its opposite—the predicate, and what was there the predicate is here the subject.

πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ] Antithesis to him who is ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:8); “by πᾶς the general signification of the clause is indicated” (Braune); ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ] is used in the same sense as οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, 1 John 3:6. To be born of God and to commit sin are mutually exclusive contraries; for ὁ Θεὸς φῶς ἐστι, καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία, chap. 1 John 1:5; comp. also chap. 1 John 2:29; the child is of the same nature with him of whom he is born. For confirmation of the thought, John adds: ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. Both the deeper context and the expression itself are opposed to the interpretation of these words, according to which σπέρμα is explained = τέκνον, and ἐν αὐτῷ = ἐν Θεῷ (Bengel, Lauge, Sander, Steinhofer); for if the apostle meant to say that “a child of God remains in God,” he would certainly not have exchanged the word τέκνον, which so naturally would suggest itself just here, for another word, unusual in this sense. By σπέρμα Θεοῦ is rather to be understood the divine element of which the new man is produced[212] (comp. Gospel of John 1:13), and which, as the essence of his being, keeps him from sin. According to many commentators (Clemens Al., Augustin, Bede, Luther I.,[213] Spener, Grotius, Besser, Weiss, Ewald, etc.), this is the word of God, in favour of which appeal is made not only to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), but also to 1 Peter 1:23 and Jam 1:18. But that parable can here so much the less be adduced, as in it the reference is to the seed of plants; but here, as the allusion to the idea γεγεννημένος shows, “the comparison is made to the seed of human birth, as in John 1:13” (Neander); and in the two other passages the word is not represented so much as the seed, but as the means of producing the new life.[214] It is scarcely to be doubted that the apostle was here thinking of the Holy Spirit; the only question is whether he means the Spirit Himself, the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ἍΓΙΟΝ in His divine personality (so Beza: sic vocatur Spiritus sanctus, quod ejus virtute tanquam ex semine quodam novi homines efficiamur; Düsterdieck, and Myrberg; also, perhaps, Lücke and de Wette), or the Spirit infused by Him into the heart of man, the germ of life communicated to his nature (Hornejus: nativitatis novae indoles; Semler: nova quaedam et sanctior natura; so also Ebrard, Braune, and others). The figurative expression is more in favour of the second view than of the first, only this germ of life must not, on the one hand, be regarded as something separate from the Holy Spirit Himself,[215] nor, on the other hand, as love (a Lapide, Lorinus), for this is the life which has proceeded from the σπέρμα, but not the ΣΠΈΡΜΑ itself.

The thought that he who is born of God does not commit sin is still further emphasized by the words ΚΑῚ Οὐ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ ἉΜΑΡΤΆΝΕΙΝ, whereby, of course, not the physical, but no doubt the moral impossibility of sinning is described; both ideas, ἉΜΑΡΤΆΝΕΙΝ as well as Οὐ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ, are to be retained in their proper meaning, and not to be arbitrarily perverted; ἉΜΑΡΤΆΝΕΙΝ must here, just as little as in 1 John 3:6, be restricted to mortal sins (a Lapide, Gagnejus), or to “sinning in the way in which they who are of the devil sin” (Besser), or “to sinning knowingly and wilfully” (Ebrard), or even merely to the violatio charitatis (Augustin, Bede); but just as little is the pointedness and definiteness of Οὐ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ to be weakened and to be explained = aegre, difficulter potest, or similarly,[216] for the apostle here wants to bring out the absolute antagonism which exists in general between being born of God and committing sin (so also Braune); comp. on 1 John 3:6. With regard to the question as to the relationship of the thought expressed here to Hebrews 6:4 ff., comp. the remark on chap. 1 John 2:19.

As in the case of the first thought of this verse, so here to this second one a confirmatory clause is added, namely: ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ΓΕΓΈΝΝΗΤΑΙ; it is true, the idea of the subject seems to be here repeated (similarly John 3:31 : Ὃ ὪΝ ἘΚ Τῆς Γῆς, ἘΚ Τῆς Γῆς ἘΣΤΙ), but here ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ is put first, whereas in the subject it follows ΓΕΓΕΝΝΗΜΈΝΟς, by which that idea is strongly accentuated; Bengel: priora verba: ex Deo, majorem habent in pronunciando accentum, quod ubi observatur, patet, non idem per idem probari, collato initio verso. The sense therefore is: Because he is born of God (comp. chap. 1 John 1:5), he who is born of God, i.e. the believer, cannot sin.

[212] Frommann (p. 170) incorrectly interprets σπέρμα of the divine light originally dwelling in man, by which he is distinguished from the rest of creation; for the subject here is not men as such, but the τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ.

[213] In his 2d edition Luther says: “He calls the cause of our change a seed, not a full car of corn, but what is cast into the ground, and must first die there; from thence there now results true repentance, so that it is accordingly said: he cannot sin.”

[214] Weiss appeals to chap. 1 John 2:14; but from the fact that John there says: ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν μένει, it does not follow that σπέρμα is here = ὁ λόγος τ. Θ.; so much the less as there is no reference there to being born of God. It is more appropriate in connection with σπέρμα to refer to chap. 1 John 2:27.

[215] Brückner inversely first interprets σπέρμα as the πνιῦμα τ. Θ., but then adds: “and, indeed, in this way, that the principle of life which operates on man is at the same time regarded as the germ of life planted in man.”

[216] Grotius explains: res de qua agitur aliena est ab ejusmodi ingenio; Paulus: “not absolutely impossible, but: his whole spirituality and habit (!) are opposed to it.”

1 John 3:9. The Reason of the Impossibility of a Child of God continuing in Sin. The germ of the divine life has been implanted in our souls, and it grows—a gradual process and subject to occasional retardations, yet sure, attaining at length to full fruition. The believer’s lapses into sin are like the mischances of the weather which hinder the seed’s growth. The growth of a living seed may be checked temporarily; if there be no growth, there is no life. This is the distinction between ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ and ὁ ἁμαρτάνων. Alexander in Speaker’s Comm. understands: “His seed,” i.e., whosoever is born of God (cf. Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 66:22), “abideth in Him,” i.e., in God. This is Pauline but not Johannine. “He cannot keep sinning,” as the seed cannot cease growing.

9. This is the opposite of 1 John 3:8, as 1 John 3:8 of 1 John 3:7; but, as usual, not the plain opposite, but something deduced from it, is stated.

Whosoever is born of God] Or, Every one that (see on 1 John 3:6) is begotten of God. Note the perfect tense; ‘every one that has been made and that remains a child of God’. The expression is very frequent throughout the Epistle (1 John 2:29, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18) and the rendering should be uniform; all the more so, because the phrase is characteristic. The A. V. wavers between ‘born’ and ‘begotten’, even in the same verse (1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:18). The R. V. rightly prefers ‘begotten’ throughout: ‘born’ throughout is impossible, for in 1 John 5:1 we have the active, ‘begat’. The expression ‘to be begotten of God’ is found only in S. John; once in the Gospel (John 1:13) and eight or nine times in the Epistle: comp. John 3:3; John 3:5-8.

doth not commit sin] Better, as R. V., doeth no sin (see on 1 John 3:4): the opposition between ‘doing sin’ and ‘doing righteousness’ must be carefully marked. This strong statement is exactly parallel to 1 John 3:6 and is to be understood in a similar sense. It is literally true of the Divine nature imparted to the believer. That does not sin and cannot sin. A child of the God who is Light can have nothing to do with sin which is darkness: the two are morally incompatible.

for his seed remaineth in him] Better, as R. V., because his seed abideth in him: see on 1 John 2:24. This may mean either (1) ‘His seed’, the new birth given by God, ‘abideth in him’; or (2) ‘his seed’, the new birth received by him, ‘abideth in him’; or (3) ‘His seed’, God’s child, ‘abideth in Him’. The first is probably right. The third is possible, but improbable: ‘seed’ is sometimes used for ‘child’ or ‘descendant’; but would not S. John have written ‘child’ as in 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:10, 1 John 5:2? To resort to the parable of the sower for an explanation, and to interpret ‘seed’ as ‘the word of God’ is scarcely legitimate. The whole analogy refers to human generation, not to the germination of plants; but comp. 1 Peter 1:23. John 3:5-8 would lead us to interpret seed as meaning the Holy Spirit.

he cannot sin] It is a moral impossibility for a child of God to sin. It is because of the imperfection of our sonship that sin is possible, an imperfection to be remedied and gradually reduced by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7) and self-purification (1 John 3:3). ‘Cannot’ of what is morally impossible is frequent in S. John’s Gospel (John 5:30, John 6:44; John 6:65, John 7:7, John 8:43, John 12:39, John 14:17); comp. 1 John 4:20.

1 John 3:9. Ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, doth not commit sin) The sentiment is immediately increased in weight: and he cannot sin. To each proposition its own because is added: to the one, in respect to the seed, or the regenerate man; to the other, on the part of God Himself.—σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, his seed remaineth in him) In him who is born of God, there remaineth the seed of God, that is, the word, with its peculiar efficacy, 1 Peter 1:23; Jam 1:18; although sin often endeavours, by a furious attack, to overthrow the regenerate. Or rather, it may be taken in this sense: the seed of God, that is, he who is born of God, abideth in God. Σπέρμα, born. Such persons are truly זרע אלהים, the seed of God, Malachi 2:15.—οὐ δύναται, he cannot) The possibility of his sinning is not absolutely denied; but this is affirmed, that the new birth and sin cannot exist together. Thus, how can he, Acts 4:20, compared with Revelation 2:2; Acts 4:20. The matter is, as in the case of an abstemious man, who cannot drink wine, and in various kinds of antipathy (i.e. natural aversion). Gataker has made this elegant paraphrase: The regenerate man does not sin: he proposes to himself, as far as possible, a life free from sin; nor does he ever spontaneously give himself up to sin. And if at any time, contrary to the purpose of his mind, he shall have offended, he neither rushes headlong into sin, nor does he continue in it; but having acknowledged his error, he immediately returns in haste to his former course as soon as, and as far as, he is able.—Posth., ch. 33; where he adds the similitude of the magnetic needle, which always points to the pole, is easily turned aside from this direction, but always reseeks the pole.—ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ γεγέννηται, is born of God) The former words, of God, have greater emphasis in the pronunciation; and this being observed, it is plain that the same thing is not proved by the same, the beginning of the verse being compared with the words here at the end of it.

Verses 9-12. - Sin is absolutely incompatible with being born of God, as is shown by the presence or absence of brotherly love. Verse 9. - Having stated that every one that doeth sin is of the devil, St. John now states the opposite truth, but from the other side; not "every one that doeth no sin is of God," which hardly needs to be stated; but every one that is begotten of God doeth no sin, which is startling. Who, then, can be begotten of God? But the statement is similar to that in verse 6, and is to be similarly understood. So far as any man sins, his regeneration is incomplete. If the new birth from God were perfect, sin would be morally impossible οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτεῖν. The new principle of life abides and grows in him, and, under perfect conditions, it entirely prevents the old unregenerate nature from rebelling. Note that St. John does not say οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτεῖν," cannot commit a sin," but οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, "cannot be a sinner." An act is different from a state of sin. This is an ideal to which every Christian is bound to aspire - inability to sin. But to some extent this ideal is a fact in the case of every true Christian. There are sins which to a good man are by God's grace quite impossible. The meaning of σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει is uncertain: either

(1) "His seed abideth in Him," i.e., those who are born of God abide in God; or

(2) "his seed abideth in him," i.e., the new principle which he has received continues to operate in the man; or

(3) "His seed abideth in him," i.e., God's quickening Gift continues to operate in the man. (For σπέρμα αὐτοῦ, in the sense of "those born of God," comp. Isaiah 53:10.) But this is the least probable of the three interpretations; in this sense St. John would probably have written τέκνον. Note the tense of the concluding verb, γεγέννηται, not ἐγεννήθη: his birth from God is a fact which still continues, not one that is past and gone. 1 John 3:9Whosoever is born (πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος)

On the form of expression, see on 1 John 3:4. Rev., begotten. The perfect participle indicates a condition remaining from the first: he who hath been begotten and remains God's child.

His seed

The divine principle of life.


See on 1 John 3:6. Conceived as a perfect ideal, life in God excludes the possibility of sin. Compare Romans 4 throughout.

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