Who is Born of God? 1st John 3:9

Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.

John unapologetically repeats his assertion that the nature of God is the foundation of Christian life and experience.  We display the nature of our father, whether God or the Devil, by the way we live life.    

This sentence is composed of two propositions that are justified by their corresponding “ὅτι” clause (“because”), which explains why each proposition is true.  This means that there are two conclusions that John wants us to pay attention to in this clause.

“Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him”: The children of God cannot live in sin because Christ remains in them.  Jesus is the fundamental reason why the children of God will cease to live in sin because he is diametrically opposed to sin in both his nature and mission.  

This does not suggest that the believer is immune to sin, for John has already stated that individual acts of sin are still part of our human experience because we remain in the flesh (1:8), but rather, that Christ sanctifies the believer through the washing of the water of his word in order to cleanse her and make her holy and blameless in his sight:

Ephesians 5:25b–27 (NIV) — 25b …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

“He is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God”: The children of God share in the nature of their Father and are, therefore, incapable of living in a state of sin. 

While it is evidently true in John’s epistle that the children of God still carry the defeated remnants of sin in their flesh so that we cannot claim to be without sin, it is equally true that the children of God cannot claim to live in sin! 

In identifying God as the source of our spiritual birth, John is looking back to his opening propositions:

1 John 1:5 (CSB) — 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.

1 John 3:1 (CSB) — 1 See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.

The believer addresses the presence of sin in one’s life according to the power and ministry of Christ:

1 John 1:7–2:2 (CSB) — 7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “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, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

The believer will actively walk in the light and confess all known sin in a state of personal humility towards Christ as their heavenly Advocate with the Father.  They experience the cleansing of their sin as they walk in fellowship with one another in the light with faith towards the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 

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