Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous.
I. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE HOLY LAW OF GOD. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness."
1. Sin in its abstract nature. "Sin is the transgression of the Law," or "lawlessness." This is said of sin in general: it is true of every sin, that it is a violation of the Law of God. This is opposed to several modern theories concerning sin. Some say that sin is a natural imperfection of the creature - the crude effort of untrained man for right conduct. Our text says that it is not imperfection, but transgression of a holy Law. And others charge all sin upon defective social arrangements: human society is not rightly organized, and because of this men err. But St. John charges sin upon the individual, and charges it as a disregard or a breach of Divine Law. And others apply the word "misdirection" to what the Bible calls sin, and thus endeavour to get rid of guilt. But misdirection implies a misdirector; that misdirector is man. And sin is more than misdirection; it is the infraction of the holy Law and beautiful order of the Supreme. The sacred Scriptures everywhere assert this. The cherubim and the flaming sword of Eden (Genesis 3:24), the awful voices of Sinai (Exodus 20), and the mournful but glorious sacrifice of Calvary unite in. declaring that sin is the transgression of the Law of God. And the voice of conscience confirms this testimony of Holy Writ. The unsophisticated and awakened conscience cries, "I acknowledge my transgression," etc. (Psalm 2:3, 4).
2. Sin in its actual commission. "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness." The expression seems to indicate the practice of sin - voluntariness, deliberateness, and activity in wrong-doing. It is the antithesis of the conduct of the child of God in purifying himself. It is not sin as an occasional or exceptional thing, but as a general thing. Persistent activity in doing evil is suggested by the form of expression. We are reminded by it of the expression of the royal and inspired poet, "the workers of iniquity" - persons who habitually practice sin, who work wickedness as though it were their business. Here, then, are reasons why we should not sin.
(1) Sin is a violation of the Law of God; it is a rebellion against his will - the wise, the good, the Holy One. Therefore in itself it is an evil thing, a thing of great enormity.
(2) Law carries with it the idea of penalty. It has its rewards for those who observe it; its punishments for those who transgress it. Hence our interests plead with us against the practice of sin.
II. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. The holy will of God the Father and the redemptive work of God the Son are both essentially antagonistic to iniquity. "Ye know that he was manifested to take away sins; and in him is no sin."
1. The end of Christ's mission was the abolition of sin. "He was manifested to take away sins. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." The bearing of our sins in his own body on the tree is not the fact here mentioned. It is involved; for "once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26); but it is not brought out in this place. The manifestation denotes his incarnation, and his life and work in the flesh. His entire mission was opposed to sin. He became incarnate, he prayed and preached, he wrestled with temptation, and wrought mighty and gracious works, he suffered and died, he arose from the dead, and he ever lives, to take away sins. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
2. A great characteristic of Christ's Person was his freedom from sin. "In him is no sin." He asserted his own sinlessness: "Which of you convicteth me of sin?... The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." And this claim he consistently maintained. His enemies tacitly or openly confessed that they could find no sin in him. The Pharisees keenly watched him to discover some matter of accusation against him, but their watching was vain. And when they had preferred a false charge against him before Pilate, the Roman judge said, "I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse him;" "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous Man." Judas Iscariot had known Jesus intimately for three years, and after he had traitorously betrayed him, in intolerable anguish he cried, "I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood." And his friends, who had been closely and constantly associated with him for three years, invariably asserted the perfect moral purity of his character and conduct. The sinlessness of our Lord should check every inclination to sin in his disciples, and stimulate them to the pursuit of holiness. To commit sin is to run counter to our Saviour's personal character, and to the gracious spirit and grand aim of the redemption which he has wrought.
III. SIN IS OPPOSED TO THE DIVINE LIFE IN MAN. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him."
1. Participation in the Divine life precludes the practice of sin. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." We abide in Christ by believing on him, loving him, communing with him, drawing our life from him (cf. John 15:1-7). That this part of our text cannot mean that sin is impossible to a Christian is evident from 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1,
2. But in so far as the child of God abides in Christ he is separated from sin. In the degree in which the Divine life is realized by him, in that degree he is unable to sin (cf. verse 9).
2. The practice of sin proves the absence of a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. "Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him." The sight and knowledge here spoken of are not merely intellectual, but spiritual; not theoretical, but experimental. And the "sinneth" does not denote sin as an occasional and exceptional thing, but as general and habitual. He who lives in the practice of sin thereby proclaims that he does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. By all these reasons let Christians watch and pray that they sin not, and "follow after sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord." - W.J.
Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous
I. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as Christ is righteous." It is clearly moral character that is here in question, not legal standing. The precise lesson taught, the great principle asserted, is that righteousness, moral righteousness, cannot possibly exist in a quiescent or inactive state; that it never can be a latent power or undeveloped quality; that wherever it is it must be operative. It must be working, and working according to its own essential nature. Moreover, it must be working, not partially, but universally; working everywhere and always; working in and upon whatever it comes in contact with, in the mind within and the world without. Otherwise, it is not righteousness at all; certainly not such as we see in Jesus; it is not "being righteous as He is righteous."
II. As "doing righteousness," through its being thus associated or identified with "being righteous as the Son is righteous," proves our being "born of God"; so "doing sin" proves a very different relationship, a very different paternity. "He that committeth" or doeth "sin is of the devil"; for, by doing sin, he shows his identity of nature with him who is a sinner from the beginning. And it is upon identity of nature, proved practically, that the question of moral and spiritual parentage must ultimately turn. This phrase, "being of the devil," as used here and elsewhere in Scripture, does not imply what in human opinion would be accounted great criminality or gross immorality. The sin which lost Satan heaven was neither lust nor murder. It was not carnal at all, but merely spiritual. It was not even lying — at least, not at first — though "he is a liar, and the father of it." It was pure and simple insubordination and rebellion; the setting of his will against God's; the proud refusal, at the Father's bidding, to worship the Son. So "the devil sinneth from the beginning." And when you so sin, you are of your father the devil. In order, then, to enter into the full meaning of John's solemn testimony, it is not needful to wait till some horrid access of diabolic fury or frenzy seizes us. It is enough if "the tongue speaketh proud things," or the heart conceives them. "Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" Or, why are they not our own? May they not at least occasionally be our own — this once; for singing one vain song, or uttering one idle word, or joining in an hour's not very profitable, but not yet very objectionable, talk? Is there any rising up in us of such a feeling as this, as if it were hard that we may not occasionally take our own way and be our own masters? It is the devil's seed abiding in us; the seed of the devil's sin, and of his sinful nature.
III. "But for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil."
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST.
1. He was preeminently righteous in His moral sentiments. His mind was entirely free from pollution, and no unrighteous or unholy affection ever harboured there. He had the law of God in His heart, and it was His meal and His drink to do the will of His heavenly Father. By the original constitution of His nature, and the plenary inspiration of the Spirit, He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His love to God was intense, rational, and pure, and His benevolence to man was without the slightest ingredient that could sully the purity and heavenliness of His motives.
2. He was righteous, not only in His moral sentiments, but also preeminently righteous as it regarded His moral actions. From the perfection of His knowledge He knew intuitively both what was good and what was evil; but His heart never consented to what was evil, and His will led him invariably to choose the good and reject the evil. He endured a severer series of temptation than any other human being that ever appeared in the world. He had no other motive to direct His moral conduct but the glory of God, and the desire of advantage to the bodies and the souls of men. The only ambition by which He was actuated was the noble, the generous, the Godlike ambition of doing good.
II. WE CAN ONLY LAY CLAIM TO THAT DESIGNATION IN SO FAR AS OUR SENTIMENTS AND ACTIONS CORRESPOND WITH HIS. In one very important respect there is certainly a vast difference between even the holiest of men and our Lord Jesus Christ. From the native rectitude of His will He could do nothing that was evil; but, alas! we are naturally prone to evil; and how, then, it may be asked, can we be righteous, even as He was righteous? But we ought ever to recollect theft this is not a natural, but a moral inability; it is not so much the want of power as the want of inclination, and this will never excuse us before the tribunal of Almighty God. We know what is good, and what the Lord requires of us; but we too often voluntarily follow after, and do that which is evil.
(D. Stevenson.)Psalm 14:1, 3; Romans 3:10). The righteousness, in the sense of which none are righteous, is either a natural righteousness, we all, by nature, being inclined to evil, or it is an independent righteousness, or it is a meritorious righteousness, or else it is the legal righteousness, the righteousness of perfect obedience, and "in many things we offend all." But the righteousness which we can do is very extensive and precious. We can be so far righteous as to render to God, according to the best of our poor abilities, the honour and worship due to Him; we can believe in Him, fear Him, pray to Him, give Him thanks, honour Him with our substance, delight in His ordinances and commandments; we can avoid the wilful commission of sin, we can cause our light so to shine before men that seeing it they may be led to glorify our heavenly Father. Now our text affirms of those who practise such righteousness — first, that they are righteous; and, secondly, that they are righteous as Christ is righteous.
I. HE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS IS RIGHTEOUS. Some would object to the use of this language in reference to any human being. They think that human nature is so inevitably depraved that no terms except those of the most debasing import are applicable to any works which proceed from it, even in its regenerate state. But however partial some may be to such distressing views of human nature, the Scriptures do not authorise them. They unequivocally state the fact of man's depravity, but they confine themselves to general declarations of the same, such as "the whole world lieth in wickedness," "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," without attempting to fix the degree of our common corruption — a forbearance which it would be wise in all to imitate.
II. HE IS RIGHTEOUS EVEN AS CHRIST IS RIGHTEOUS. The apostle appears to mean that, as Christ's righteousness was His own personal righteousness, and not by imputation, so that righteousness which is by faith shall be accounted the believer's personal, which, through the meritorious obedience of Christ, shall avail to final justification.
(A. Williams, M. A.)I. "HE THAT COMMITTETH SIN IS OF THE DEVIL." The word rendered "committeth," implies continued action. It is expressive of a habit rather than of an act. It assumes that the sinner is under the influence of Satan. His power over the body and the physical faculties of the mind is fearfully exposed in the history of demoniacal possessions in the gospel narrative. There is evidence no less clear and irresistible of his influence over moral principles. "The lusts of your father ye will do," "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience." There is, more, however, in the expression of the text. It implies that not only are sinners subject to Satan, but that they are employed by him to aid him in influencing others to evil.
II. THE DEVIL SINNETH FROM THE BEGINNING. "From the beginning" must be explained of a limited period, and refers probably to the commencement of the present dispensation. His conduct toward our first parents is the model of what he has ever done toward their descendants. And it is deserving of notice how those whom he does succeed to influence are made to resemble him. As he does to them, so do they to others. They are seduced by Satan and they become seducers. They are deceived by him, and they try to deceive others. Such is the progress of sin. It knows no limit. Once set in motion, it continues with accelerated pace to pursue its course. At the same time we are reminded by the view of sin and Satan now before us, that there is no effectual restraint put upon iniquity, nor any reformation produced by all the sorrow and suffering which it entails. True, the opportunity of indulgence may be withdrawn, and then the sin is not committed, or a partial and temporary change may be produced. But mere suffering can effect no more. The Spirit of God alone can heal the malady.
III. "FOR THIS PURPOSE THE SON OF GOD WAS MANIFESTED, THAT HE MIGHT DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL." The work of Christ is a full counterpart to that of Satan.
(J. Morgan, D. D.)
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