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What does it mean that whoever is born of God does not sin (1 John 3:9)?

does not sin

All human beings are born with a sin nature. The Bible teaches that, while we are living in the flesh, we will always struggle with sin (Romans 7:14–24; 1 John 1:8). This applies to unbelievers as well as believers. The difference is that at salvation believers receive the Holy Spirit and become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of this, they are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6–7). The Holy Spirit empowers believers to live for righteousness. While sinless perfection is unattainable in this life, 1 John 3:9 tells us that “whoever has been born of God does not sin” (NKJV).

All people inherit Adam’s sin nature, and no matter how hard we try not to, we will still sin. Sin is described in the Bible as transgressing God’s law (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Through Adam, sin entered the world, and death came to all because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Being powerless against sin on our own, we needed a way to conquer sin and death. Thankfully, Jesus Christ accomplished this when He died on the cross and rose again. All who trust in Him for salvation receive forgiveness for their sins (Acts 13:38). Yet, on a practical level, sin will be a reality of life until we reach heaven (Isaiah 35:8–9; 1 John 3:2, Revelation 21:27). How, then, can the Bible say that whoever is born of God does not sin (1 John 3:9)?

All sin is from the devil, not God. First John 3:4–10 strongly condemns sin and warns believers that neither salvation nor grace is an excuse to sin. John had previously warned believers that anyone who claims to have no sin is lying (1 John 1:8). Therefore, 1 John 3:9 cannot mean that whoever is born of God will be perfectly sinless. It means that whoever is born of God will no longer continue to sin willfully or habitually. Those who are born again will desire to live for God, not for the flesh. The NIV translates 1 John 3:9 this way: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” The Amplified Bible also brings out this meaning: “No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin.”

Believers have a different attitude toward sin than unbelievers. Those who have come to Christ for salvation have repented, realizing the grievous nature of their sin and recognizing that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Believers have a new desire for the good and righteous things of God. Whoever is born of God does not desire to live in sin.

Giving in to sin is no longer normal for the child of God, and the rest of 1 John 3:9 gives the reason: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” A genuine Christian has God’s “seed” and will not “deliberately, knowingly, and habitually” sin. It’s just not in his “spiritual DNA.”

Believers have the power to overcome temptation because of the Holy Spirit living within them (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 John 3:9). Children of God growing to maturity will increasingly reflect God and His character as He sanctifies them. If a person claims to be a Christian but lives in rebellion against God’s Word, pursuing a lifestyle of willful sin, that person shows that he or she is not saved.

Believers are born of God and have become new creations at salvation: “The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 3:17). No longer slaves to sin, believers are continually transformed into the image of Christ. Yes, sin still impacts believers, but whoever is born of God does not sin in that they do not knowingly, deliberately, or habitually sin. They live for the things of God, and by God’s grace, “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).

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Questions about 1 John

What does it mean that whoever is born of God does not sin (1 John 3:9)?
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This page last updated: August 1, 2023