No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9 NASB
How many Christians do you know who have never sinned? Personally, I do not know of a single one that would fit the description in this verse. Here are a couple more verses where the Apostle John further stresses this point.
No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 1 John 3:6 NASB
We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18 NASB
Have these verses ever brought condemnation and guilt leading you to question your salvation? In the past, they have led me to question mine. They left me confused since myself and every Christian I knew still sinned at times, or so I thought.
There are only two possible interpretations I have been able to conclude for these verses:
A) If a person sins in thought word or deed, they cannot possibly be born of God. This disqualifies even the best law keepers. No one is born of God.
B) These verses are widely misunderstood and God has protected believers so those born of God literally cannot sin.
To understand which interpretation is true, we simply need to know what constitutes sin. This knowledge will clearly reveal what the apostle John meant when he boldly states that “no one who is born of God sins.”
1) Sin is the transgression/violation of the law. Therefore a sinner is a lawbreaker.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.1 John 3:4 KJV
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 NASB
The New Testament uses the Greek word translated sinner 47 times. Not one time does it refer to a believer. The title of sinner is exclusively reserved for the unbeliever. See 47 verses here.
2) By itself, sin is powerless to judge and condemn a person. Sin needs the law to judge and condemn.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1 Cor 15:56 ESV
…For apart from the law, sin lies dead. Rom 7:8b ESV
3) Those who sin under the law, are judged and condemned by the law.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. Rom 2:12 ESV
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. Rom 3:19 ESV
4) Sin is powerless to judge and condemn those not under the law. Where there is no law, there can be no law breaking.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law 1 Cor 9:20 ESV
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression (violation, law-breaking). Rom 4:15 ESV (emphasis mine from Greek definition)
5) Christians are under grace and not under the dominion/authority of the law.
For sin will have no dominion (authority, rule) over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 ESV (emphasis mine from Greek definition)
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal 5:18 ESV
6) Sin cannot be imputed to Christians because they are not under the law. No law means lawbreaking is impossible, no sin.
for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Rom 5:13 NASB
for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Rom 5:13 ESV
Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Acts 13:39 NIV
For I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more." Heb 8:12 BSB
Think of a highway where there is no speed limit. Since there is no speed limit, a person cannot possibly violate a speed limit law. Therefore the law has no authority to judge and arrest a person for speeding.
7) Now let’s see if these verses make sense with the firm understanding that lawbreaking (sin) cannot happen when a person is not under the law. Christians are under grace and not under the law (Rom 6:14). These verses simply support other verses that tell us those who are not under the law, cannot break the law.
8)The truth is a Christian cannot sin just as the apostle John states. Not because they are now perfect like Jesus, but because they cannot break a law they are not under, they are under grace.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 1 Cor 9 20
Ask your self this question: Can Jesus sin?
Then meditate on this verse: By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:17
9) Now, do you fear this truth will give people a license to sin? The Apostle Paul’s detractors attempted to use the truth of grace against him several times in scripture. Here is Paul’s answer.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? Rom 6:15-16 ESV
If you read Pauls answer closely, "Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?" he is again verifying that Christians are not under the law, telling us that grace is apart from the law. He goes on to say that while we are not under the law, this does not mean we should willingly break what we know the law condemns. His words tell us, as other verses do, that sin is not imputed where there is no law to break.
Under the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul never calls a believer a sinner. Even in dealing with the Corinthian so filled with sin, he calls them Saints.
Now we are all aware that we do the wrong thing at times and we still call it sin as some in the Bible do too. So if we cannot sin why do we see it still called sin at times? I believe it has to do with the core truth in this verse:
for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Rom 5:13 NASB.
While we can still commit actions that are seen as sins, the Bible is very clear that sin is not imputed to a person who is not under the law.
What I believe we are seeing here is the fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah.
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." Isaiah 43:25 ESV
then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Heb 10:17 ESV
10) As a Christian, does the great truth that one born of God literally cannot sin, make you want to go out and do the wrong thing? Or does it fill you with more gratitude and love for your Savior? When I consider all of the Christians I know, I realize that they are not looking for an excuse to sin, they are looking for a way out of sin. If the truth in this study leads you to want to go out and sin, I would suggest you are not born of God.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Rom 8:36
The primary reason God placed us in a position where we cannot break the law (sin) was to protect us from Satan, the accuser of the brethren. As noted above, the only thing that gave sin, and thus Satan the power to condemn us, was the law.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15 NIV
Learn how God uses grace to protect believers from the evil one while they complete their diplomatic mission for his kingdom, read this study next: A Christian has Diplomatic Immunity.
God has led me to write many studies on the New Covenant. These next studies will lead to more understanding of this subject.
A Christians Sins are NOT Counted Against Them
Sins Are NOT Counted Under Grace
Christians Are Not Under the Law of Moses, Our Standard is Much Higher
What is the One Unforgivable Sin?
Can We Lose Our Salvation For Not Confessing Our Sin 1 John
Only Way to be Righteous
Many more New Covenant Bible Studies HERE. Jesus poured out His blood for the New Covenant of grace and truth, replacing the Old Covenant law of Moses. Believers are exclusively under the New Covenant, the last will and testament of Jesus that began after the cross.
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20