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1 John 3:9 (NASB):

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.

I am particularly intrigued by the 2nd half of the verse where (NAS) it says “and he cannot sin…” In chapter one, John makes a strong case that claiming not to sin makes me a liar, God a liar, etc. So, of course I CAN sin, which means there has to be another way to look at this.

It seems to me that there is something I am misunderstanding about ου δυναται, which I’m reading as “not empowered” or something along that line. Then I thought that perhaps there is something about αμαρτανειν … that maybe it does not mean sin in some specific instance, but that it means to continue over time, perhaps carrying forward the idea in the first half of the verse that I don’t “practice” sin any longer.

Am I reading this correctly? How do I harmonize it with Chapter 1? Thank you in advance for your replies. There are minds here much stronger than my own.

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  • See also: In 1 John 3:6, is "keeps on sinning" a good translation of αμαρτανει?. It's sort of the same question approached from the other direction (NIV: "go on sinning" in 3:9), but I'm not sure if it's exactly a duplicate.
    – Susan
    Oct 17 '14 at 10:39
  • No, it is not a duplicate. I am focused like a laser-beam on verse nine. Verse six helps set context, and may shed light on it, but I really want to wrap my mind around the "cannot" in verse nine. As for "raw," in the original question, I mean free of interpretive bias inasmuch as that is possible. Every translation is, by nature, also an interpretation. I'm not a Greek scholar, but know there are many here. I'm hopeful that I can get an unbiased read on this that will allow it to harmonize with earlier verses/chapters.
    – DJGray
    Oct 17 '14 at 15:02
  • Vanquishing sin, and never having sinned, are two different concepts.
    – Lucian
    Aug 1 '17 at 15:56
  • 1 John 3:9 could very well be a key verse in the bible. Dec 8 '18 at 10:50
  • @djgray IMHO, I believe the second part of 1 John 3:9 (NASB) “and he cannot sin…” could be viewed as being rhetorical like "Good boys do Not cry". In other words, it's like meant more for affect-- just to make a point.
    – crazyTech
    May 1 '20 at 1:04

13 Answers 13

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The Idea in Brief

The present active indicative of the main verb points toward habitual sinning with specific emphasis on those unloving behaviors toward ones fellow believers and leaders. In other words, loving behaviors toward fellow believers and leaders are the actual "practice" of those born from God, not vice-versa.

Discussion

The verse in question appears a second time in the text (fifth chapter) with slight variation of syntax, but the meaning remains the same. This variation provides important nuance for understanding the text.

1 John 5:18 (NASB)
18 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. (emphasis added)

Like the main verb of 1 John 3:9, which was ποιέω, the main verb in the verse above is ἁμαρτάνω, which also occurs in the present active indicative. This tense and mood indicate that the action of the verb is actual and continual; that is, the believer "practices" sin (1 John 3:9) or "continues to sin" (1 John 5:18). Both verses --and both verbs-- indicate that the behavior is habitual.

The particular nuance we find in 1 John 5:18 is that the believer is "kept" (an apparent reference to John 10:29-29 and/or John 17:12) and the Evil One does not touch him (an apparent reference to John 17:15). In other words, the believer known by God does not commit habitual and continual sins with particular emphasis on behaviors toward ones fellow believers and leaders, because that believer is "kept" and the Evil One does not touch him.

What are habitual sins? The following verses from the Apostle Paul provide examples of habitual sins in the present active indicative.

Romans 16:17 (NASB)
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.

1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB)
11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 (NASB)
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 (NASB)
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Titus 3:10-11 (NASB)
10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NASB)
3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

Conclusion

The context of the epistle of First John is very similar to the verses cited from the Apostle Paul, above. That is, the believer who practices sin is one whose continual and habitual behaviors are in the present active indicative. The Apostle John does not intend to convey that the believer is not a sinner (cf. 1 John 1:8), but that such a believer should have no chronic, persistent tendencies toward those behaviors inconsistent with the teachings from Jesus and his Apostles. In summary, when any so-called believer commits persistent sins with specific emphasis against other believers and/or Christian leaders, then that believer is committing "sin leading to death."

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THE APPARENT CONTRADICTION

John does indeed make "a strong case" when he says that for believers to claim that they do not sin is tantamount to self-deception (1 John 1:8). So, what does he mean when he, later, informs the same believers that they actually "cannot sin" if they are "born of God" (3:9)?

A PROFOUND TRUTH

I believe that John is saying something a little more profound here than simply: “you know you are bound to sin occasionally, but don't make a habit of it.” We are helped in our understanding of John’s seemingly conflicting statements by Paul, who introduces precisely the same apparent dissonance into his own teaching concerning Christian living.

TWO COMPETING REALITIES

For Paul there are two competing realities which the Christian must acknowledge. There is the physical reality of ‘life in the flesh’ (Gal 2:20) and there is the truer reality of ‘life in the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25). As Paul points out, the one is completely incompatible with the other (Gal 5:17), so that, by faith, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4) by putting off, as it were, 'the old man' (Eph 4:24).
It is this new ‘life of the Spirit’, springing from the ‘new birth’ (John 3:3; 2 Cor 5:17; Col 3:3) of which the apostle speaks in 1 John 3:9, and as this life is the very life of the Son of God dwelling within the believer, it is both perfect and sinless.

THE PERFECT NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

Simply put, the new life in Christ is incapable of sin. Our trouble is that we Christian believers don’t always walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16), but sometimes continue to walk in the flesh, contrary to the new life we have been given which is "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3).

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  • So if someone could live 100% of time in Spirit, this person would never sin?
    – Yuuza
    Jul 19 '15 at 20:33
  • 1
    Speaking of the flesh, the apostle has already stated that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves..." (1 John 1:8). Sin is inevitable while we are in the flesh. That's the old life. The point he goes on to make in (1 John 3:9) concerns our new life in the Spirit (which cannot sin). So in fact, as Paul tells us: "if we live in the Spirit (yes this we do 100% of the time); let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal 5:25). Unfortunately, this we do not do 100% of the time, due to the condition of the flesh, in which we remain until our new body is revealed (1 Cor 15:49).
    – Richard
    Jul 20 '15 at 7:48
  • (-1) 1 John 1:8 is not speaking of believers. He is relating the "message that brings life". One must confess and forsake sin rather than hide it in order to join the fellowship of the saints. Nor does he suggest that the saints ("holy ones") suggest that when one walks after the flesh the rules are different.
    – user10231
    Jul 24 '16 at 12:14
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    It is not that "the rules are different" when one walks according to the flesh. It is the life that is different. To walk according to the flesh is to walk according to the old life, now considered crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). However, to walk in the Spirit, is to walk according to the new sinless life that is ours in Christ and is, as Paul reminds us, nothing less than: "...Christ in you..." (Colossians 1:27).
    – Richard
    Aug 4 '16 at 8:10
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I believe the NT makes it clear that Christians have two natures simultaneously. One from Adam , one from Christ. Since the nature from Christ "cannot sin" , and that nature "overrules" the one from Adam ,it is impossible for Christians to "sin".A Christian may "feel" he is sinning , or "think" he is sinning , but in reality he is not. It is not possible for a Christian to sin. Nor is it possible for a Christian to be punished for his "sins" , because he has non.

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Although they were attributed to the apostle John later in the second century, the author of the three 'Johannine' epistles only refers to himself as the 'elder' or 'presbyter'. This epistle was not intended as an encyclical to the church as a whole, but was addressed by the elder to members of his community, to solve a problem that threatened its continuance.

W. Hall Harris III ('3. The Author’s Opponents and Their Teaching in 1 John') says 1 John 2:19 provides good reason for thinking that a split has taken place in the Johannine community and the author’s opponents now constitute a community of their own, just as thoroughly committed as the author’s to spreading their understanding of who Jesus is.

Throughout this epistle, the elder speaks pejoratively of the attempts of the other group to convert the members who remained loyal to the community. To this end, he repeatedly associates the others with sin and says the very reason he writes this epistle is so that his followers do not sin:

1 John 2:1: My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not ...

Of course, the community members can sin, and the elder recognises this in 1 John 1:8, where he says if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves. No one says the author has to be consistent, so 1 John 3:8-9 contrasts the former members of the community, sinners in league with the devil, with the elder's followers, who can not continue sinning (ἁμαρτάνειν):

1 John 3:8: 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.
1 John 3:9: 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.

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The Apostle John refers to the behaviour of someone who has been born of God that results from that new birth, that is a consequence of that new birth, i.e. the behaviour consequent to the "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17 & Gal 6:15). To the extent that someone who has been born of God behaves as such, he does not practice sin.

This is clear in Rom 8:5-14 and Gal 5:16-25. If someone has been born of God, is inhabited and guided by the Spirit of God. To the extent that he acts in line with that guidance, i.e. to the extent that he lives as someone born of God, he is not able to continue sinning.

Which does not imply the absolute impossibility to sin, because the inhabitation by the Holy Spirit does not make you a puppet. That's why Paul says: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:25), as the exhortation would not be necessary if walking by the Holy Spirit were an automatic and unavoidable consequence of having received the Holy Spirit.

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The point is that one cannot be simultaneously justified and sinning:

1Jn_1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

The author is calling Luther's paradigm of simul iustus et peccator a lie and those who embrace his teaching as "out of step" with "the truth":

In describing the new birth Jesus indicated that to be "born of" something is to acquire the character of it:

Joh 3:8 The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

There are many metaphors for this but in the current passage it is described as "God's seed remains in him". The "seed of God" is "the scriptures":

Luk_8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word [message] of God.

1Pe 1:23 For you have been born again, not by a seed that perishes but by one that cannot perish—by the living and everlasting word of God. 1Pe 1:24 For "All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off, 1Pe 1:25 but the word of the Lord lasts forever." Now this word is the good news that was announced to you.

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The meanings of these two passages are quite clear in the Berean Study Bible.

1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us.

we have not sinned,
ἡμαρτήκαμεν (hēmartēkamen)
Verb - Perfect Indicative Active - 1st Person Plural

John was saying that if we claim we habitually have not committed acts of sin, perfect tense, indicative. So, we are capable of committing acts of sin.

1 John 3:9 Anyone born of God refuses to practice sin, because God’s seed abides in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

he cannot
δύναται (dynatai)
Verb - Present Indicative Middle or Passive - 3rd Person Singular

go on sinning,
ἁμαρτάνειν (hamartanein)
Verb - Present Infinitive Active
Strong's Greek 264: Perhaps from a and the base of meros; properly, to miss the mark, i.e. to err, especially to sin.

He cannot habitually missing the mark.

The key to resolve this confusion is the perfect tense used in John 1:10. Every believer is capable of and has committed acts of sin but we do not and cannot accept the habitual practice of sinning by not aiming for the mark.

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I posted this under a previous user name. I have since come to another level of understanding which I am posting below in the Update section. Here's the original interpretation:

The point is that one cannot be simultaneously justified and sinning:

> 1Jn_1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in
> darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 

The author is calling Luther's paradigm of *simul iustus et peccator* a lie and those who embrace his teaching as "out of step" with "the truth":

In describing the new birth Jesus indicated that to be "born of" something is to acquire the character of it:

> Joh 3:8 The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you
> don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it
> is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 

There are many metaphors for this but in the current passage it is described as "God's seed remains in him". The "seed of God" is "the scriptures":

> Luk_8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word [message] of
> God.
> 
> 1Pe 1:23 For you have been born again, not by a seed that perishes but
> by one that cannot perish—by the living and everlasting word of God.
> 1Pe 1:24 For "All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like
> a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off,
> 1Pe 1:25 but the word of the Lord lasts forever." Now this word is the
> good news that was announced to you.

Update

While my assessment of the text was correct, I did not understand the context in which it was written to see how it related to certain realities in my own experience and that of others and many scriptures.

The reason why 1 John assumes that his audience was free from sin was because they were new covenant Jews. Please let me explain...

Screenwriters or really any writers like to say that in Act I you get your hero up a tree. In Act II you throw rocks at him. In Act III you get him down again, in better shape than he started.

Well Jewish history (IE: the OT) goes like this:

  • Israel displeases God

As early as Deuteronomy 32, Israel is a persistent frustration to God.

  • God throws rocks at Israel

God destroys the temple, Jerusalem and a large percentage of the Jews. This happens in 70ad, 40 years AFTER the resurrection, when Christ returned.

  • Israel, in the last days, the time of the messiah, is final made glorious beginning with the outpouring of the spirit on all flesh.

In the third act, in the time of the messiah (the first century) God ratified a new covenant with Israel through the blood of his son, raised his son from the dead, poured out his spirit on all flesh and the world of the Roman empire was filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

So the magnificent in-gathering in Jerusalem in Acts is a prophetic time, a time of glory for Israel. And per the new covenant terms he forgives all their transgressions and writes his Torah upon their hearts. So this band, the holy elect remnant of Israel are filled with the spirit of God, the love of God and the knowledge of God. No one need teach them anything "because they all know".

This is their experience and not ours: [Heb 10:14 KJV] 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

But don't try this at home. The new covenant, like the Sinai covenant ended in 70ad when the temple was destroyed.

These are the 144,000:

[Rev 14:1-5 KJV] 1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty [and] four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, [being] the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

UPDATE 2

I have, since update 1, come to realize that the whole of the body of Christ aka the kingdom of God aka the new Jerusalem and new creation are also all in the new covenant. So my current take is that the holiness and freedom from sin promised n the gospel is overstated or under-experienced. IE: Either the dichotomy of behavior of "sinners and saints" is presented too black and white and overly simplistically or, no one I know of your know actually is living the Christian life. Simply put, I think the teaching that one can't sin if they are in Christ, while not our experience, is what is being taught in scripture. Maybe the apostles and the early believers were so aflush with living water that their experience was as described and ours is to be the same but for some reason we are not, or, we simply are not worthy of the name "saint".

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Accepting the sonship of God through Jesus does not deprive anybody of freedom, and anybody, of course, can sin even after having accepted the mentioned sonship. Only Jesus cannot sin in virtue of ontological impossibility, for He is God-Incarnate, just like God-the Father cannot sin in virtue of ontological impossibility. That is why Paul says: "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13), thus if even apostles can fall into error, sin, unfaithfulness, what can be said of other Christians? That's why Paul also speaks about utter caution Christian should adhere to: "Those who stand, let them be careful, lest they fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

In this light 1 John 3:9 should not be understood in the sense that a Christian, that is to say, a bearer of the divine seed in himself, cannot sin, but if and when a Christian acts according to the impulse and logic of this divine seed, i.e. of the sonship of God, he cannot sin.

Just like when Socrates says in Plato's "Apology" that "a good man cannot in principle be harmed by a bad man", he means that until good man remains good, that is to say, good in his character, bad man cannot harm him, for maximum harm a bad man can inflict upon a good man is to torture and kill him, but this will not really harm a good man, if he, i.e. his soul/character, remains good. But, of course a good man is not automatically good, but can lose this status by indulging into sin and degrade.

Similarly, a Christian not following a logic of the sonship of God and the logic of the divine seed in himself, sins, and this is a real possibility. Otherwise, in the same letter John would not have warned Christians to avoid sin of idolatry (1 John 5:21), for he would have said instead: "care not about avoiding idols, for you cannot but avoid them due to your sonship of God!", which is absurd.

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  • if Jesus is God, how then can he be tempted? as God cannot be. If he could not sin, how was death master over him? Rom 6:9 Why is he praying to be saved from death? Heb 5:7
    – steveowen
    Aug 8 '20 at 12:04
  • @user48152 Good and pertinent questions. I hope they are not just rhetorical, with an aim to add rhetorical power to your already firmly established assumptions, but you are really interested in the Godhead of Jesus Christ. I will answer on my return home, hopefully until tomorrow. Aug 8 '20 at 12:29
  • @user48152 1. He was tempted by Satan's side but was not tempted Himself, like, if you are drunk, and pray; "God, I am drunk, but still will drive car, so protect me in my disobedience of law!" - by this idiocy y o u will indeed tempt God, but He is not tempted; 2. Death is separation of soul from body, and if body is too damaged, then soul cannot be held by it, and since Jesus' body was no different from any other human's body, it could be separated from Jesus' soul, as Adam could be killed - i.e. his body separated from his soul - even in paradise. But Jesus was nod a subject to sin. Aug 8 '20 at 20:28
  • @user48152 3. Hebrews 5:7 :Jesus prayed, yes, and even was fortified by angels, but it was Him who created those angels (cf. Col. 1:16), but this only with regard of His human nature, but as God He cast out demons without praying to God, but Himself, authoritatively, and similarly forgave sins and rose the dead, or healed people without medicines and without even touching them, without even prayers, but authoritatively, as God. Aug 8 '20 at 20:36
  • @user48152 Jesus is man, what is a problem? But He is also God, for He was with God Father, sharing full divine glory with Him even before the creation of the world (John 17:5) and the world was made by Father and His Logos-Son (John 1:1-3), According to John, this Logos became man, so Jesus is God-man. There are but two options: either one is God or creature, tertium non datur, and Logos is not creature, therefore Logos is God, as John says plainly. "eisegesis" on my part? I guess, your take on the Gospel is a definition of eisegesis, and none of the quotes you bring denies Logos' divinity. Aug 8 '20 at 23:21
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The context of 1 John 1 is absolutely clear that it refers to hiding your sins, as opposed to the heretic Gnostic idea of being in a perpetual & permanent condition of sinfulness, as Augustine may have taught. God requires confession and repentance, he never says that humans are in a permanent condition of sinfulness. God is eager to forgive our sins (See Ezekiel 18 or 33).

[ESV 1John 1:8-10] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

ου δύναται (not able or cannot) does not necessarily imply absolute impossibility, but also weakness, frailty, uncertainty and imperative sense.

Rom 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak G102 ἀδύνατος (opposed to δυνατός), and not to please ourselves.

The same figurative sense of certainty applies to other verses about not being capable of sinning, or the impossibility of apostates to repent back to God. Misunderstanding the sense of the inability to sin is the problem, rather than the word for "sin".

  • 1 John 3:9: “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin (ού δύναται not able to) , because he is born of God.” (NHEB)

  • Luke 17:1: “He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no occasions of stumbling should come, but woe to him through whom they come.”

  • Matthew 7:18: “A good tree cannot produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.”

  • Hebrews 6:4: ἀδύνατον (impossible): “For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit,” NET

There is no sin that God would not forgive. The blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven, is said in a rhetorical sense (Matt 12:31-32). We see that all hermeneutical misunderstandings arise from not seeing the figurative language.

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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

We'll be 'locked in' to holiness because of God's seed in us. End of story.

When reading a text within the constraints of a theology, it isn't going to show the truth prepared for the humble reader. When people encounter a contradiction, they think the bible must be wrong. Sadly, sometimes it is, but only because it has been translated with a bias - usually a trinitarian bias to throw us off. Once we remove the bias, it speaks as intended.

John doesn't say what we might 'want' him to say... such as, we will not be inclined to sin. He says we will not sin! Indeed, we "CANNOT" sin!

When we correctly understand being 'born of God', born from above (as Jesus put it) - or born again, this apparent contradiction goes away. If we think 'born of God' happens at baptism it makes 1 John 3:9 very puzzling so let's start from the beginning.

Specifically, when is one born of God? When is God's seed in us?

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit

John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born from above, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

1 Cor 15:50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

We are not born from above if we are still flesh. We only have God's spirit as a gift, a deposit, a pledge.

who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge - (deposit etc) 2 Cor 1:22 (Acts 2:38 also)

When Christ returns, he will gather all the saints (dead and alive) and grant them a new spirit life - this is being "born from above". We will have a flesh life no more, we can enter the Kingdom, we will not sin anymore because we will be filled with God's spirit and not just the small deposit.

Jesus followed this pattern too. He was 'born again' at his resurrection. He was born once of the flesh, through Mary, BY the spirit, and again, at the resurrection, OF the spirit.

He is the 'firstborn of many brethren' Rom 8:29 - believers are the brethren to follow him into eternity. This is not his 'flesh' (or first) birth.

Jesus did not begin with eternal life - he came to die in the flesh.

After his resurrection, THEN he was 'raised imperishable.

Rom 6:9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.

He was born once in the flesh and once in the spirit. Just the same as us.

We are now born in the flesh, and will be born in spirit when we are raised/transformed. Born again does not happen at baptism. Jesus life 'form' did not change at baptism - he received the spirit as we do now. This is not being born again.

When we ARE 'born from above' (born again), we will not sin because we will be as he is - Holy! Not because of Jesus and the Father in us, like now, but because we are like Him in spirit.

1 John 3:2 it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

THEN we are spirit, with bodies as Jesus has. Not living by breath but spirit - as he now does with life everlasting.

With this understanding, 1 John 3:9 makes perfect sense. God isn't going to go to all this trouble to have sin get into the kingdom!

We'll be 'locked in' to holiness because of God's divine seed in us and we will sin no more!

Summary

When we are born from above with a new spirit life and not a physical life as we now have, we will not be able to sin - we will not sin. There is no need to fudge God's word to fit a dogma by making it say things it doesn't. When our rebirth timing is understood correctly, then this verse of 1 John 3:9 makes perfect sense just as it is.

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No one who is born of God practices (ποιεῖ) sin … (3:9)1

9 Πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται. (NA28)

ποιεῖ is translated "practice." That is a meaning which leads to the understanding as Joseph shows: the person born of God does not engage in the habitual practice of sin.

There is another meaning for the verb ποιεῖ. It can mean to produce or to create as causing to something to happen:

He exercises (ποιεῖ) all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes (ποιεῖ) the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. (Revelation 13:12)

12 καὶ τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πρώτου θηρίου πᾶσαν ποιεῖ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ποιεῖ τὴν γῆν καὶ τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ κατοικοῦντας ἵνα προσκυνήσουσιν τὸ θηρίον τὸ πρῶτον, οὗ ἐθεραπεύθη ἡ πληγὴ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ. (NA28)

The beast from the earth made the earth worship the first beast.

There are two ways a person can sin. They can sin; they can make someone else to sin. For example, they can sin by hating their brother; they can also sin by doing things that gets someone else to hate their brother. The person who hates their brother, sins; the person who succeeds in getting another to hate, ποιεῖ sin and is guilty of the greater wrong:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Matthew 18:6-7 NKJV)

The one who ποιεῖ sin is of the devil:

the one who practices (ποιεῖ) sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (3:8)

Chapter 1 can be harmonized as it speaks about sin (not ποιεῖ sin) and it speaks about a different ποιεῖ:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice (ποιεῖ) the truth; (1:6)

If we say that we have not sinned, we make (ποιεῖ) Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1:10)

The one born of God does and will sin:

  • If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1:10) because the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (3:8)
  • If we have fellowship with Him (1:6), we will confess our sins and He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1:9) because the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (3:8).

1. Unless noted all Scripture New American Standard Bible

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  • (-1) To imply causing someone else to sin one would need nominative+accusative+infinitive so your [creative] idea won't work.
    – user10231
    Jul 24 '16 at 11:51
-4

Analyzing the Greek

  • οὐ (G3756) not Adv
  • δύναται (G1410) he is able V-PIM/P-3S
  • ἁμαρτάνειν (G264)to continue sinning, V-PNA

Some Translation Options

  • he is not able to continue sinning
  • he cannot continue sinning
  • he cannot sin

But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. (Job 32:8 NKJV)

An Introduction to how the Hebrews Defined 'Breath' In the Hebrew mind we are composed of three entities; body, breath and mind. The body is the flesh, bones and blood, the vessel. The mind is ones thoughts and emotions. The breath is ones character, what makes a person who they are. (source)

So you can see why it is translated as Spirit. However the word spirit lacks the meaning of the breath. This missing English attribute can cause some confusion if not specified in the correct context.

Breath is sometimes a better translation for the word then Spirit here are a few examples

All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. (Genesis 7:22 NKJV)

But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. (Judges 6:34 NKJV)

What it means to be 'Born of the Breath'

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NKJV)

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. (John 3:6 NKJV)

What we Hear and See we do not receive

Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. (John 3:11 NKJV)

Forgiveness is Decided by how we Hear and See

so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven. (Mark 4:12 NKJV)

The Command to Listen

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:9 NKJV) (equivalent to Mark 4:9), 43; Mark 4:23; Luke 14:35 (comp. Mark 8:18; Luke 9:44; Revelation 2. and 3; 13:9).

Parables about Listening
New cloth, New wine. Lamp on a stand. Moneylender forgives unequal debts. Lamp on a stand (2nd time). Rich man builds bigger barns. Servants must remain watchful. Wise and foolish servants. Sower of seeds into four types of soil. Weeds among good plants. Growing seed. Mustard seed. Yeast. Hidden treasure. Pearl. Fishing net. Owner of a house. Lost sheep. The sheep, gate, and shepherd. Master and his servant. Unmerciful servant. Friend in need. Lowest seat at the feast. Invitation to a great banquet. Cost of discipleship. Shrewd manager. Workers in the vineyard, early and late. Persistent widow and crooked judge. Pharisee and tax collector. King's servants given minas. Wicked tenants. Invitation to a wedding banquet. Signs from a fig tree. Wise and foolish servants. Wise and foolish virgins. Servants must remain watchful. Three servants given talents. Sheep and goats will be separated.

Harmonize it with Chapter 1
To understand 1 John one must understand what the Light is.

What is the Light? He is Understanding

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. (Proverbs 8:14 NKJV)

Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly. (Proverbs 16:22 NKJV)

The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. (Psalms 119:130 NKJV)

“I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. (Daniel 5:14 NKJV)

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4 NKJV)

How Understanding Resists Error
When a person is listening that person is not sinning because he is gaining the understanding of men. If it is only heard and not understood, then that person is still in the dark. For understanding is Light, and people understand by learning. Those however that are not listening do not receive the truth.

Try Reading 1 John this way

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is Understanding and in Him is no confusion at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in confusion, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the understanding as He is in the understanding, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)

To Understand Sin Source
In this issue, we will focus on the Hebrew word חטאה(hhatah, Strong's #2403), which is usually translated with abstract word “sin.” To understand the Hebraic meaning of this word, we will need to look at the verbal root of this noun, which is the word חטא(Hh-Th-A, Strong's #2398).

Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss. (Judges 20:16 ASV)

The word “miss” in this passage is the Hebrew verb חטא and literally means, to “miss the mark,” to miss what you are aiming at. Yahweh gave his Torah (teachings) to his people and Torah was their mark, their target. The noun חטאה(hhatah, Strong's #2403), derived from the verb חטא(Hh-Th-A, Strong's #2398) is an error. When you shoot your arrow at the target and miss, you have made an error. When we aim to hit the target of God’s teachings, but miss that target, we make an error.

To understand sin as error we have another reference

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6 NKJV)

So How do we not 'Error'
Those that are "In the Conversation" and have been "Listening" gain "Understanding" so what "They Say" will not be in error. This does not mean that they have never been in error.

An Example from James

And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: (Acts 15:13 NKJV)

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  • 4
    Could I convince you to stick with published translations? Although I'm on record saying that it's OK to translate yourself if you know the language well, you frequently make unorthodox leaps without clear justification. Here, translating φῶς as "understanding" seems like a stretch, and your recurrent use of "breath" for πνεῦμα (despite the fact that this use is not attested in the NT in conventional translations) requires justification.
    – Susan
    Oct 19 '14 at 1:19
  • I'm also not sure how this addresses the phrase "he cannot sin" (in Greek) as requested by the OP.
    – Susan
    Oct 19 '14 at 1:20
  • @Susan OK, how is this?
    – Decrypted
    Oct 19 '14 at 13:59

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