As we move further into chapter 3 we encounter some difficult sayings. Hard truths that can lead us to doubt our conversion. At the same time John wrote these hard truths to be clear that the Gnostic position that what we did with our bodies did not matter was untenable. He wanted his readers to know that our lifestyle as a believer is critical in demonstrating our faith. To help clarify this section I have included the same few verses from the Amplified translation as it captures some of the tense in the Greek.
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 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. 1 John 3:4-9 (NKJV)
4 Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will). 5 You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [essentially and forever]. 6 No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him]. 7 Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous. 8 [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done]. 9 No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:4-9 (AMP)
Two key verses in the passage above are 6 and 9.
6 No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].
9 No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. 1 John 3:4-9 (AMP)
What John says in chapter 3 needs to be consistent with what he wrote in chapter 1, and it is. There John wrote the following.
8 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. 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)
John cannot on the one hand tell us that if we sin after conversion we can repent and receive forgiveness and on the other hand tell us that if we sin after conversion we are not a Christian. His point is brought out in the Amplified. If we deliberately and intentionally sin, without any sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit we should in fact question the validity of our conversion. There is a great difference between struggling against sin and pursuing it.
If we have been converted we can lean into 3:9. The word translated as ‘seed’ in the NKJV is sperma.
σπέρμα sperma noun Seed, offspring, posterity.
The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.
When we turn to Jesus in repentance we can trust in the accomplished fact of Jesus carrying away our sins at the cross. The implication of this is that because He has carried away our sins we will obviously not continually practice sin because we have a continuing relationship with Him instead of sin. It brings home the truth Paul taught that when we were born again our spirit received a new nature “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is where the ‘sperma’ comes in. A seed carries within it the DNA that will be reproduced in the person or plant. In our case we received a spiritual seed, Jesus DNA in our spirits. So to paraphrase what John is saying. If we continually, deliberately, and habitually sin it shows that we have never really come into a relationship with Him. We have never been born again. The ‘sperma,’ the nature of Jesus is not in us. Again, this is not referring to someone who is striving against sin but rather someone who habitually sins without concern for the consequences. That is, sin is their habit or practice. It is in fact their nature. For those of us who have His ‘sperma’ within us let us cooperate with His Spirit to see this nature manifest in our daily lives.