Belivers do not commit sin

Hi everyone,
I believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ that is not based on works and the transformation of heart towards His purpose (being mature per se) and that this is progressive . However, I’ve found this scripture quite challenging:
1 John 3:4-10
[4]Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
[5]And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
[6]Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
[7]Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
[8]He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
[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.
[10]In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
My questions are

  1. Does it mean anybody ‘doing’ good/righteously is righteous, considering that umbeliers ‘can do good’

  2. As a Christian, I’ve committed sins, not necessarily mistakes because I knew they were not just correct but I did them anyways. Unfortunately though…and I repented of them. But does those event make me an unbeliever as those I knew but didn’t respect the work of Christ for me as those moments?

  3. When John said a believer doth not commit sin because the seed of God is in him, what does he really mean?

I hope I’ll be helped. God bless


I don’t know if this is exactly what you mean in the question, but here’s a thought that you may find useful:

From the context of the Gospels, I read this as saying that believers/children of God (whatever your phrasing) are covered by the grace of God.

And yet,

(I can’t remember exactly but it’s somewhere in Romans.)

From that, I believe that there are three possibilities.
a) When a Christian commits a sinful act, the act is not counted against them.

b) If you commit sin, you are no longer a true Christian.

c) As a Christian, you do not have the ability to sin. It is physically impossible.

Note, “Whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life.” To believe in Jesus as Saviour, the Resurruction, etc. is the only qualifying factor to be a Christian as put in this post.

We can obviously rule out option c. It is very possible to commit sin even as a Christian, as your post affirms.

That brings us nicely to option b: If you commit sin, you are no longer a true Christian.

This worldview says that the two requirements of salvation are to believe in Jesus, the Resurruction, etc.; and to not commit any sinful acts after repentance and conversion (ie, works.)

Since, as you stated, salvation is not based on works, but rather grace, this eliminates option b.

This leaves only one option; option a.
“When a Christian commits a sinful act, the act is not counted against them.”

1 John 3:9, as quoted, further elaborates on this.

To expand:
In the context of free will, Christians (those “born of God”) certainly have the ability to commit sinful acts. Look at any Christian—even the most influential and righteous of all of them. It’s not an instantaneous conversion: one day you are a sinful being, and the next, you don’t even have the ability to be sinful? It’s obvious that it doesn’t work like that.

I believe that in this context, the “seed of God” refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer. That, taken in context with our earlier conclusions, means that the presence of the Holy Spirit excludes the possibility of a believer being condemned because of sin.

To summarise:

  • As humans with free will, Christians can commit acts of sin.
  • Christians (or, children of God) “doth not commit sin”.
  • Therefore, Christians can commit acts of sin, but they are not counted against them.
  • In this context, the “seed of God” refers to the Living God/Holy Spirit (dependent on your phrasing) in the hearts of Christians.

I hope this helps! And feel free to ask me to elaborate on anything—I know I’m not great at clarity sometimes haha!

Edit: Looking back, this was quite more than just a “thought”… whoops. I hope it was helpful anyways!

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I found another thread related to this topic as well— 1 John 3:9 - Does this passage really support Holiness Doctrine?


@Nedu Good question :slight_smile: I think the key to understanding 1 John is to understand that John was refuting opponents who were threatening the Christians in that community with false doctrine. That is why John drew such a clear distinction between believers (who do not sin) and those who continue in sin - because he was contrasting true Christian doctrine with the false doctrine of these opponents. If we understand that John’s purpose was to refute false doctrine and protect God’s children, then we can better understand why he made statements that seem so extreme to us.

I highly recommend reading the below article on I John, or purchasing a good commentary. What I took away from the NET Bible note is that some people argue John is only talking about habitual sin because of the tense of the verb, but that would be a very indirect way for John to make such an important point. Rather, it is more likely John is simply making such a clear contrast to refute his opponents.

Regarding your question regarding sin in the believer’s life, I think the following verse makes it clear that John at least believes it is possible and that, as you shared, the best way to handle it is to repent.

1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins to God He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

Even Paul admitted imperfection, but his attitude was not one of defeat. He was not there yet, but he was running hard after the prize!

Philippians 3:12 - Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Hope that helps :slight_smile:

Who Were John’s Opponents?

The following article discusses the book of 1 John and would be a helpful read. It identifies some of the characteristics of the people John was refuting.

What did the heretics in John’s community teach?45 We have none of their
writings (if there were any to begin with),
and the information about them that we
do have is from reading John’s rebuttal of
their teachings, the specifics of which are
the subject of some debate. Yet by utilizing
John’s affirmations and denials, we see
that the opponents denied that Jesus was
the Christ (2:22), the Son of God who came
in the flesh as God’s Son (2:23; 4:2, 15) by
means of water and blood (5:6). They also
apparently downplayed the magnitude
of sin, did not keep the commandments
themselves, and argued that they were
not subject to sin (1:6-10). Their own conduct lacked love and was schismatic, and
was therefore a denial of the gospel they
claimed to believe.

NET Bible

Does not sin . It is best to view the distinction between “everyone who practices sin” in 3:4 and “everyone who resides in him” in 3:6 as absolute and sharply in contrast. The author is here making a clear distinction between the opponents, who as moral indifferentists downplay the significance of sin in the life of the Christian, and the readers, who as true Christians recognize the significance of sin because Jesus came to take it away (3:5) and to destroy it as a work of the devil (3:8). This argument is developed more fully by S. Kubo (“[I John 3:9](javascript:{}): Absolute or Habitual?” AUSS 7 [1969]: 47-56), who takes the opponents as Gnostics who define sin as ignorance. The opponents were probably not adherents of fully developed gnosticism, but Kubo is right that the distinction between their position and that of the true Christian is intentionally portrayed by the author here as a sharp antithesis . This explanation still has to deal with the contradiction between 2:1-2 and 3:6-9, but this does not present an insuperable difficulty. The author of 1 John has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to present his ideas antithetically, in “either/or” terms, in order to bring out for the readers the drastic contrast between themselves as true believers and the opponents as false believers. In 2:1-2 the author can acknowledge the possibility that a true Christian might on occasion sin, because in this context he wishes to reassure his readers that the statements he has made about the opponents in the preceding context do not apply to them. But in 3:4-10, his concern is to bring out the absolute difference between the opponents and his readers, so he speaks in theoretical rather than practical terms which do not discuss the possible occasional exception, because to do so would weaken his argument.

tn The interpretive problem raised by the use of the present tense ἁμαρτάνει ( hamartanei ) in this verse (and ποιεῖ [ poiei ] in 3:9 as well) is that (a) it appears to teach a sinless state of perfection for the true Christian, and (b) it appears to contradict the author’s own statements in 2:1-2 where he acknowledged that Christians do indeed sin. (1) One widely used method of reconciling the acknowledgment in 2:1-2 that Christians do sin with the statements in 3:6 and 3:9 that they do not is expressed by M. Zerwick ( Biblical Greek §251). He understands the aorist to mean “commit sin in the concrete, commit some sin or other” while the present means “be a sinner, as a characteristic «state».” N. Turner ( Grammatical Insights , 151) argues essentially the same as Zerwick, stating that the present tense ἁμαρτάνει is stative (be a sinner) while the aorist is ingressive (begin to be a sinner, as the initial step of committing this or that sin). Similar interpretations can be found in a number of grammatical works and commentaries. (2) Others, however, have questioned the view that the distinction in tenses alone can convey a “habitual” meaning without further contextual clarification, including C. H. Dodd ( The Johannine Epistles [MNTC], 79) and Z. C. Hodges (“1 John,” BKCNT , 894). B. Fanning ( Verbal Aspect [OTM], 215-17) has concluded that the habitual meaning for the present tense cannot be ruled out, because there are clear instances of habitual presents in the NT where other clarifying words are not present and the habitual sense is derived from the context alone. This means that from a grammatical standpoint alone, the habitual present cannot be ruled out in [1 John 3:6](javascript:{}) and 9. It is still true, however, that it would have been much clearer if the author had reinforced the habitual sense with clarifying words or phrases in [1 John 3:6](javascript:{}) and 9 if that is what he had intended. Dodd’s point, that reliance on the distinction in tenses alone is quite a subtle way of communicating such a vital point in the author’s argument, is still valid. It may also be added that the author of 1 John has demonstrated a propensity for alternating between present and aorist tenses for purely stylistic reasons (see 2:12).

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Oh my! At clarity, u’re sure great!
Thanks for sharing😊


Thanks @SeanO …t’was really helpful.

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Morning. I think my only concern with a topic like this is that believing one way or the other is a matter of doctrine, not salvation. Doctrine has it’s place but beyond the unification of a group of people, it has no saving properties. It is not false doctrine because it is different doctrine. Scripture is very clear in describing false doctrine.

But JESUS tells us while in conversation with the disciples, “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.”
“But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”
“For he that is not against us is on our part.” Mark 9:38-40

Honestly, I would have never commented in this thread but because someone sent it to me. Possibly to convince me that I was incorrect in my understanding of sinless living. But in the course of holy living, I don’t have a problem with anyone believing one way or the other. These different doctrines do not hold the problem of condemnation unto sin. And I think that in the striving and determination to be more like JESUS. Where there might be error, the Lord is able and will dwell and work with each of us.

Our desire for properness ie control. Our drive to be better than each other. Our determination to be more right, more holy, or more comfortable can be a misdirection from what is important. That we will love the Lord our GOD with all our heart, mind, and soul; and our neighbor as ourselves. On these two commandments rest every commandment and law, and might I add, every true doctrine.