“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (I John 3:4-6)
As the storm clouds of World War II were approaching, German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on November 26, 1939 entitled “Death is Swallowed Up in Victory.” He concluded his message with these words: “And when the darkest hour comes over us, then we want to hear the voice of Jesus Christ calling in our ear: Victory is won. Death is swallowed up in victory. Take comfort. And may God grant that then we will be able to say: I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. It is in this faith that we want to live and die.”
One of the characteristics of John’s First Epistle is his tendency to review in a circular manner the same themes that he wrote in an earlier portion of his epistle. John wrote that true and genuine love for God is proven by a consistent keeping and obeying of God’s commandments (I John 2:3-5).
He restates that same theme another way in today’s text: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. Every person, it does not matter who they are, who makes it a present and active practice to sin practices lawlessness. Lawlessness, within this context, is a complete disregard for the law of God. It is displayed by lawless living and lawless attitudes. In fact, John defines sin (ἁμαρτίαν; hamartian) as nothing short of lawlessness.
A pastor explains that the apostle had four types of people in mind when he wrote this epistle. They were (1) Fully assured Christians; (2) Christians struggling with assurance; (3) Falsely assured non-Christians; and (4) Known Non-Christians. Today’s text applies to all of us but the Apostle John especially had false-assured non-Christians in mind.
John affirms the sinlessness of Christ and His substitutionary atonement when he wrote, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” John’s point is that being a disciple of Jesus is not only freedom from the penalty of sin, which is hell, but also freedom from power of sin in our present day lives.
The apostle’s conclusion in this section is found in 3:6: “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” Again, obedience to God and His commandments is the very best way to show that you believe.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The primary aim of this section is to combat false teachers who are corrupting the fundamentals of the faith. These verses further amplify, reiterate, and emphasize the moral test already presented by John (see 2:3–6, 7–11).”
As one commentator of today’s text shares, “In union with Christ, which is another way of saying abiding in Christ, I have experienced a definite and decisive break with sin. It no longer rules me. Christ does! A life of living in sin and living in the Savior is an oxymoron! It does not make sense. It is spiritually crazy.”
Strive today, by God’s strength, to live obediently to the Lord’s commandments. Remember, Jesus came to deliver us from our sin: its penalty and power.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!