Let’s read this very important passage. It says, “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (NASB).

This portion is contrasting the “children of the God” and the “children of the devil.” There is a marked difference between these two “families,” for those in the family of God will NOT “practice sin” and the children of the devil will. The word “practice” is the key word in interpreting these verses, for it means “continuous behavior.” When a person is born of God, they possess a new nature and they will no longer live a life where they are “habitually sinning.” This does NOT mean a child of God will never commit a sin, for that would contradict what the apostle John taught earlier in 1st John 1:10, “If we say that we have not SINNED, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Even though the child of God has a new nature, he still has the old nature he inherited from Adam and thus the potential to sin is always there. Some go so far as to teach that the believer in Christ no longer possesses the old nature, but this would contradict 1st John 1:8, “If we say that we have no SIN, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The word “sin” in this verse refers to the “old nature.”

We need to stress the fact that a child of God will NOT go on living in sin. We saw in 1st John 3:8 that “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Before one is saved they are in bondage to the devil, but Jesus went to the cross to set us free from being slaves to sin and to the devil. In John 8:32-44 Jesus had a conversation with the religious leaders of that day on this very subject. In verse 32 He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (NASB). Their reply to Him betrayed their ignorance of what He meant, for verse 33 reads, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” In verse 34 Jesus makes it clear that He is speaking of being slaves of sin, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”  Later, in verses 41 and 44 He tells them that their living in habitual sin is due to the fact that they are imitating their father, the devil. Those verses read, “You are doing the deeds of your father….You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” But once a sinner owns and confesses that he is indeed a slave to sin, he can turn to Christ, the “Savior of sinners,” and BE SET FREE! Jesus said in verse 36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Praise be to God for His grace which sets us free!

We could end our short meditation here, but one more point should be made. We said earlier that we still have the potential to sin because we still have the old nature. What happens when we do sin? Do we lose our salvation? 1st John 2:1 provides the answer to both questions. It says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (NASB). We learn here that if we sin, God is still our Father, and that Jesus Christ immediately acts as our Advocate to restore our fellowship with Him and the Father. The word “Advocate” means “one who comes to our side,” and thus the moment we sin the Lord Jesus “comes to our side to convict us of our sin and to bring us to a confession of that sin.” As soon as we confess our sin the joy of our salvation and our communion with God are restored.  (196.1)  (DO)