[This is one of the better, if not best, comprehensive exegetical analysis that I have seen on 1st John. It was written by Matt Slick, who is President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Matt earned his Bachelors in Social Science from Concordia University, Irvine, CA in 1988. He earned his Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, in Escondido, CA, in 1991. He now resides in the Boise, Idaho area with his family. He is ordained. Matt started CARM in October of 1995 to respond to the many false teachings of the cults on the Internet. –MWP]
- Yes, he can sin.
- 1 John 1:8-10
- “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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.” (NASB)
- “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.” (NKJV)
- 1 John 1:8-10
- No, he cannot sin.
- 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.” (NASB)
- “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (NKJV)
- 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)
- “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (NKJV)
- 1 John 3:9,
Is John contradicting himself when he says in one verse that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8); and yet he also says the one who is a Christian cannot sin (1 John 3:9; 5:18 NKJV)? There is no contradiction, but to see why we will need to look at the original Greek language.
|All||the||one having been born||from||the||God||sin||not||does||because||seed||of him|
|in||him||stays||and||not||he is able||to sin||because||from||the||God||he has been born|
|We know||that||all||the one||having been born||from||the||God||not||sins||but t||he|
|one having been born||from||the||God||keeps||him||and||the||evil||not||touches||him|
I have bolded the words above that I would like to focus on. In 1 John 3:9, the greek word ποιεῖ (poiei) means to do, to practice. The V3SPAI is shorthand for Verb, 3rd Person Singular, Present, Active, Indicative. Likewise, VPAN means Verb, Present, Active, Indicative.
ποιέωa: a marker of an agent relation with a numerable event–to do, to perform, to practice, to make.’ διδάσκων καὶ πορείαν ποιούμενος εἰς Ιεροσόλυμα ‘teaching as he made a journey to Jerusalem’ Lk 13:22; οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰ καὶ δεήσεις ποιοῦνται ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray’ Lk 5:33; τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν ‘in your name we did many miracles’ Mt 7:22; πίστει πεποίηκεν τὸ πάσχα ‘by faith he performed the Passover’ Heb 11:28.3
So we see that the word means to do, to practice. But that isn’t all. In Greek, like English, there are verb tenses: past, present, future. But in Greek, the present tense is not quite the same as the English. Instead, it is more a continuous action.
Present tense: “The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion.”4
Finally, in 1 John 3:9 we see an infinitive form of a verb. The infinitive is “to go,” “to see,” “to eat,” etc. This is important.
“And he cannot sin (και οὐ δυναται ἁμαρτανειν [kai ou dunatai hamartanein]). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means “and he cannot commit sin” as if it were και οὐ δυναται ἁμαρτειν [kai ou dunatai hamartein] or ἁμαρτησαι [hamartēsai] (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive ἁμαρτανειν [hamartanein] can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning,” as is true of ἁμαρτανει [hamartanei] in verse 8 and ἁμαρτανων [hamartanōn] in verse 6.5
There is no contradiction. What is happening is that John is saying that the one who is born again does not habitually abide in sin. He may fall into it, but he does not practice it as a lifestyle. The nuances of the Greek language are not carried over to the English; but when we understand what is happening, we then see there is no problem.
Finally, any Christian who would say that he does not sin anymore fails to agree with 1 John 1:8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” He would then be self-deceived.