1 John 3 – Sin and Perfection

Last week we only progressed through 1 John 2:17, and did not have the opportunity to discuss the antichrist. Therefore, for this week please read 1 John 2:18-3:10. The discussion of 1 John 2:18-29 is HERE.


In 1 John 3:1-3, the writer proclaims that all who abide in Christ become the children of God, and we, as his children, progressively become to resemble our Father. For John, the world does not recognize us as God’s children because the world does not know the God that we resemble. This is the same message in the Prologue to John’s Gospel as well. There, he writes: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13. (This is similar to Paul’s statement in Gal. 4:1-7, that through the Son we are also sons of God.”)


John began his letter by reminding his audience that we have all sin, and that when we deny our sin we live in deception. 1 John 1:8.  In 1 John 3:4-10, he appears to take the exact opposing position. He writes that “no one who abides in Jesus sins” (v.6), the “he who commits sin is of the devil” (v.8), and that “no one born of God commits sin.” (v.9). Compare 1 John 1:5-10 and 1 John 3:4-10 and see the contrast between John’s two trains of thought. The question that confronts us, is how do we reconcile these verses.

There are different views on how to resolve the conflict. (1) Heinous Sins: In this view, John speaks about all sin generally in chapter 1 but only atrocious sins in chapter 3. 1 John 1 speaks of all us whereas 1 John 3 speaks of Hitler. (2) Intentional Sins: We all sin (1 John 1), because that is our human condition, but those that abide in Christ do not habitually, recklessly, or intentionally sin.  (3) The Ideal: Those in Christ do sin, but ideally we should not. Rather, we should be progressing towards a sinless perfection (1 John 3) that we will never reach (1 John 1). (4) Causation: In so far as we live in Christ, we do his work, and we are righteousness and insofar as we do not, we sin. The line separating good and evil runs through every human heart, and that part of heart on one side abides in Christ and does not sin and that part that lies on the other side does sin belongs to the devil. 1 John 1 reminds us that part of us belongs to the devil and 1 John 3 draws the distinction.

Looking at this passage as a whole, however, may be the better way of resolving the apparent conflict. Yes, we all sin, but Christ is sufficient to overcome those sins. Therefore, the identity of those who abide in him are not “sinners,” even though we may sin, for sin is not our chief end, Rather, our identity is as “children of God,” for that is who we are.

Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is a burger bar. Discussion about 7:30 followed by Compline. Hope to see you here!

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.

1 John 3:1

1 thought on “1 John 3 – Sin and Perfection”

  1. Pingback: 1 John 3 – To Whom do we Belong? – Ancient Anglican

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