One of the primary evidences to the believer concerning the assurance that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16), is our desire to please God. This reveals that God is “working in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
The intention of the believer is the commendable, but yet impracticable (incapable of being performed or accomplished) desire not to sin, thus all unfolds down to the inquiry of intentional and unintentional sin, both of which are obvious to the individual. It should be easily agreed that one who is a Christian never desires to displease God, and this is what He regards, not the sin itself. For example, the issue is not the sin but the origin of its intention, in which for the believer, sin is never intentional.
This does not mean that the unintentional sin is insignificant to God or us, concerning its presence, but He does not regard the believer concerning sin’s guilt and even ensures we are no longer controlled by it (Rom 6:12, 14). Due to the Father’s work (Phil 2:13) and the Spirit’s work (Gal 5:17) within, there will never be a sin that is approved by the believer, but rather hated (Psa 97:10; Pro 8:13; 1Pe 3:11). This also means that obstinate and habitual sin will inevitably be desisted (unless God is absent), for the significance concerning the intention of sin in God’s people has always been an issue in both dispensations (Num 15:22-30; Heb 10:26).
Due to the wording, Scripture often presents passages that are somewhat obscure, resulting with difficulty in understanding, and which requires the collation of the entirety of Scripture (hermeneutics) for its intended meaning. Concerning the often phrasing of Scripture that appears to present the concept of the believer not sinning, there must be consistency with the remnant of Scripture.
For example, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin . . . and he cannot sin” (1 John 3:9). I find no confliction with Scripture when interpreting this to intend that believers do not sin willfully, e.g. whosoever is born of God does not sin willfully and cannot sin willfully. Why? “For His seed (Christ’s nature – Col 3:10; 2 Pet 1:4) remains in him . . . because he has been born of God.”
“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, new nature 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.” John Gill
This answers to the reason why Scripture never refers to the people of God as “sinners.” A sinner isn’t just one who sins, but one who sins willfully. The Christian is no longer considered to be of the old nature, but of the new nature (Rom 8:9), and so everything within the Christian’s life is considered after that which is of the new nature; which answers to Paul’s awareness in Romans 7:17, 20, and gives clear view to the intention of, “bringing me into captivity” (v 23). The sins of the Christian are unintentionally committed against his will, same as one who is held captive against his will (saint), unlike when we were captive with consent (sinner).