1 John 3:4-6
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
This passage poses some interpretative challenges for us, and we need to be sure we understand just what John is telling us so we aren’t misled. First, there are some truths expressed here that we know are clearly taught throughout the New Testament. For instance, Jesus came to “take away our sins.” We know that’s why Jesus died on the cross. He paid the price for our sins so we can be completely forgiven. John also implies here that all of us are sinners. Why else would we need Jesus to take away our sins? We also read here that in Jesus there is no sin. He lived a perfectly sinless life while on earth, and those who have found new life in him are now covered by his redeeming blood that washes away our sin. Therefore, if we are “in him,” God declares us righteous, as though we have not sinned. Then we come to the challenging part: what does John mean by saying that we won’t keep on sinning and that if someone continues to sin, that person doesn’t know Jesus?
We find the key to understanding this passage in the words “keeps on” and “continues.” John is telling us two important truths about faith in Jesus. First, when we find new life in Jesus, our sins are washed away, completely removed. It’s not that God will later render a judgment about us or that some of our sins may be forgiven. No, Jesus has already died for, paid for, made atonement for and forever taken away our sins. I am a sinner who has been forgiven, and so are you, if Jesus is your Savior. The other truth John wants us to grasp is that following Jesus means turning away from sinful habits. We will still commit sins, for which we repent and have the assurance of forgiveness, but we must not “keep on sinning,” behaving in ways we know are sinful and yet continuing in them unrepentantly. To do so would be to take God’s grace for granted.
These are hard and important theological ideas. They also challenge us to examine our behavior and attitudes. Knowing that Jesus has already paid for our sins may tempt us to think we can live however we want. Why not keep on sinning if it’s already paid for? Paul dealt with this exact issue in Romans 6:1-14 and reminds us that as followers of Jesus we have died to sin so we can now live a new life in Christ. That is our spiritual reality, and it’s also the commitment of faith we have made, a commitment we must work at and grow in through obedience. In other words, we must do our best to stop sinning, even as we hold fast to the assurance that all our sins are forgiven.Thank You, Jesus, for dying to take away my sins. Forgive me, and help me to live with the assurance of Your grace. Help me also to turn away from sin so I can become more like You in all I do, say and think. I ask this in Your mighty name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian