Wondering about I John 5:18—“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin…”

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin…” Isn’t this contradicted by Paul in Romans where he talks about doing the things he does’t want to do? Is this referring to a specific personal sin or the daily sins we all commit? I am confused. I know I sin every day even though I try hard not to, so I am not sure what this means.

1 Like

@plantaseed 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.

The bottom line is that John admits Christians do sin and still receive God’s forgiveness through repentance, but that they are on the journey towards holiness through the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit. The false teachers, in contrast, apparently encouraged sinful living through their teaching, which John was condemning.

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.


Thank you. I definitely am not reading the Bible with an eye to ferret out issues, but for greater understanding. Knowing the cultural context is so important.

1 Like

@plantaseed Indeed - it was a good question :slight_smile: