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1 John 5:18 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.” ‭‭

What is the meaning of “the evil one does not touch him”? In another BHSE question, someone mentioned that “touch” means to “successfully tempt,” but John also talks about believers falling into sin. What is this full sentence saying, then?

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    Does this answer your question? How should we understand "he cannot sin" in 1 John 3:9?
    – Michael16
    Sep 30, 2023 at 5:28
  • @Michael16 - The link you have pointed to is beneficial, particularly the Q. and best A. I have not however taken the time to read through the other answers, there being too many, but I suspect the OP's question will be answered in no uncertain terms. I may well give an answer to this Q., but for the time being, at least, one can see my comments below. It's an upvote from me and I have even upvoted the other answers here, excepting for one. And, thank you Lilias for your recent "bounty" award, even if it was only half of that on offer. Oct 5, 2023 at 17:30

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"The evil one" here is understood (without contest) to mean Satan the devil. Three times in that epistle, John refers to Satan as (variously) 'the evil one' or 'the wicked one'.

His first mention is to assure Christians that they have overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13-14) through faith in Christ who overcame sin, death and the devil. His second mention is to contrast the power of Christians against Satan with how Cain succumbed to evil temptation and murdered his brother (3:12) because his works were evil, while Abel's were righteous. Note how Cain is said to have been "of that wicked one"? Christians, on the other hand, are of God, the Righteous One. Thirdly is the verse in question, where Christians are assured that the wicked one "cannot touch them" (5:18).

John's argument moves from making a claim (as a statement of fact), to a real-life example that contrasts the difference between those who are under Satan's control, being of him, and Christians who are not controlled by Satan, being of God. Finally, John clinches his point by saying that faith in Jesus as the Son of God overcomes the world! (1 John 5:4-5) Satan doesn't stand a chance with those genuine believers. He can't even lay a finger on them because they are kept in the Father's love, the Spirit being with them.

This is the assurance John wishes to convey to his brothers and sisters in Christ. If a believer does sin, he has already assured them that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). If they do sin, they will know it wasn't because Satan had any grip or hold on them. As far as Christians are concerned, Satan is a dead demon walking. He cannot touch them.

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    Encouraging comment, great reminder to get behind the "Large shiels of faith" and its complete protection from satan's burning darts.
    – ACME
    Oct 4, 2023 at 19:46
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What do we know? We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, this according to 1 John 3:9, "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."

Christians are guarded from the "wicked one." The Son of God guards the believer so Satan cannot take hold of him to drag him into sin. If a Christian does not HATE sin, then there is something wrong with your Christianity.

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1 John is concerned with false teachings about who Jesus is and what it means to be a believer. In 1 John 5:18-20 John comes to the end of his letter with three things a believer can know for sure.
A believer is:

  1. Free from sin v18
  2. Under God's control while the world is in the power of the evil one v19
  3. Jesus has come and given us understanding "so that we may know him who is true" v20

Using the ESV

1 John 5

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Who are those who have been "born of God"?
from 1 John 5:1

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

"does not keep on sinning" ESV or "no one who is born of God sins" NASB

Not that one who is born of God never sins but that one who is born of God is no longer the helpless slave of sin. They do not continue deliberately in sinful patterns. When those who are born of God do sin they can repent and ask forgiveness.

"but He who was born of God protects him" Jesus is a watchful guardian protecting the believer.

"the evil one does not touch him" because Jesus is a watchful guardian. Satan no longer has control and Satan can no longer gain control.

The believer has submitted to God's control and God will not let Satan regain control - or even "touch" the believer.
As pointed out in the question, John talks about believers sinning:

1 John 5

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

A sin not leading to death is a general sin from which a believer must repent.
A sin leading to death is described in 1 John 4

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Rejecting Jesus as Lord, intentionally and permanently rejecting Jesus as Lord is a sin that leads to death.

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The Greek phrase "οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ" in 1 John 5:18 and its occurrences in Genesis 20:4 and Psalms of Solomon 15:4 have similar meanings, although they may have slightly different nuances in each context.

But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Genesis 20:4-6 KJV

He that offers these things will never be shaken by evil. The flame of fire and the wrath against the unrighteous will not touch him, Psalms of Solomon 15:4

Let's analyze the expression "οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ" in terms of grammar and meaning:

  1. "Οὐχ" (Ouch): Means "not" or "is not."

  2. "ἅπτεται" (haptetai): Is a conjugated form of the Greek verb "ἅπτω" (haptō), which can have various meanings including "to touch," "to grasp," "to hold," "to reach," or "to contaminate."

  3. "αὐτοῦ" (autou): Means "him" or "to him."

The commonly accepted translation of "οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ" in 1 John 5:18 is "the evil one does not touch him" or "the evil one does not harm him." This translation implies that the evil one does not succeed in harming or negatively affecting the individual in question.

In the context of Genesis 20:4 (KJV) - the narrative of Abimelech and Sarah - the translation "did not touch her" or "did not have relations with her" makes sense. Abimelech was defending himself, saying that he had not "touched" Sarah in the sense of having an intimate relationship with her, as he believed she was Abraham's sister.

In the context of Psalms of Solomon 15:4, the translation "will not touch" or "will not harm" is appropriate, suggesting that the fire of divine wrath will not affect or harm the one offering these things.

Regarding the apparent contradiction with 1 John 5:18, where it speaks of believers falling into sin, it's important to consider that "οὐχ ἅπτεται" may imply that the evil one cannot touch permanently or irreversibly the one who is of God. Believers may face temptations and even fall into sin, but that does not mean that the evil one has them permanently or has total control over them. God has the power to restore and protect His children even in the face of human weaknesses.

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1 John 5:18 “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.” ‭‭NASB

What is the meaning of “the evil one does not touch him”?

We must include all available context to understand this correctly. Let's notice v11

And this is the testimony: that God has given to us eternal life...

"has given" This is a case of speaking of that which will be as if it already is. Does anyone have eternal life now? No one except Jesus who is the firstborn of the dead and of creation (same event).

And we see the same approach to the earlier verse 1, with 'has been'.

Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God

We understand from several other passages that being born again refers to the return of Jesus, the first resurrection and transformation of the living saints into ever-living humans. It is at this time that evil will not touch or affect the 'born from above' saints who will rule with Christ on earth.

We know from Rom 6:9 that Jesus was 'mastered by death' while he was in the flesh. Being able to be tempted, he could have sinned and failed in his mission to be the Lamb without blemish.

Now of course, Jesus is master OF death and can no longer sin or be tempted or die. It is in this state that evil will have no effect on the risen, exalted and reborn saints - evil will not touch them and they will never sin again. (2 Cor 5:16 we regard Jesus by the flesh no longer, for he has spirit life 1 Pet 3:18)

We know that everyone having been born of God does not continue to sin... v18

There is no need to twist the scriptures to fit popular theology by changing the words to say, as another answer surmises...

Not that one who is born of God never sins but that one who is born of God is no longer the helpless slave of sin

That is not what John is saying. He says - for good reason, that the reborn person will not sin again. God has not gone to all this trouble to make a new Kingdom which will have the problem of sin again. Jesus has dealt with the problem and for those in the Kingdom, sin will cease.

Certainly, in this age, believers will still sin and may still receive gracious repentance until the day of Jesus' return. But this passage is not talking about this age, but the one to come. If we take the scripture as not contradicting itself when translated and read correctly, this passage affirms the reality of the end of this age and the beginning of the new one explained at length in Rev. and other places.

This is repeated by John in

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.

When resurrected, saints will be filled with the goodness of God and will not sin anymore. Only those who have proved their faith by the lives they live will be granted immortality and they will be like Jesus.

1 John 3:2 we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

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