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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 3:9



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.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Whosoever is born of God - Γεγεννημενος, Begotten of God, doth not commit sin: "that is," say some, "as he used to do, he does not sin habitually as he formerly did." This is bringing the influence and privileges of the heavenly birth very low indeed. We have the most indubitable evidence that many of the heathen philosophers had acquired, by mental discipline and cultivation, an entire ascendency over all their wonted vicious habits. Perhaps my reader will recollect the story of the physiognomist, who, coming into the place where Socrates was delivering a lecture, his pupils, wishing to put the principles of the man's science to proof, desired him to examine the face of their master, and say what his moral character was. After a full contemplation of the philosopher's visage, he pronounced him "the most gluttonous, drunken, brutal, and libidinous old man that he had ever met." As the character of Socrates was the reverse of all this, his disciples began to insult the physiognomist. Socrates interfered, and said, "The principles of his science may he very correct, for such I was, but I have conquered it by my philosophy." O ye Christian divines! ye real or pretended Gospel ministers! will ye allow the influence of the grace of Christ a sway not even so extensive as that of the philosophy of a heathen who never heard of the true God?

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin - This passage must either mean that they who are born of God, that is, who are true Christians, do not sin habitually and characteristically, or that everyone who is a true Christian is absolutely perfect, and never commits any sin. If it can be used as referring to the doctrine of absolute perfection at all, it proves, not that Christians may be perfect, or that a “portion” of them are, but that all are. But who can maintain this? Who can believe that John meant to affirm this? Nothing can be clearer than that the passage has not this meaning, and that John did not teach a doctrine so contrary to the current strain of the Scriptures, and to fact; and if he did not teach this, then in this whole passage he refers to those who are habitually and characteristically righteous.

For his seed remaineth in him - There is much obscurity in this expression, though the general sense is clear, which is, that there is something abiding in the heart of the true Christian which the apostle here calls “seed,” which will prevent his sinning. The word “his” in this phrase, “his seed,” may refer either to the individual himself - in the sense that this can now be properly called “his,” inasmuch as it is a part of himself, or a principle abiding in him; or it may refer to God - in the sense that what is here called “seed” is “his,” that is, he has implanted it, or it is a germ of divine origin. Robinson (Lex.) understands it in the latter sense, and so also do Macknight, Doddridge, Lucke, and others, and this is probably the true interpretation. The word “seed” ( σπέρμα sperma) means properly seed sown, as of grain, plants, trees; then anything that resembles it, anything which germinates, or which springs up, or is produced.

It is applied in the New Testament to the word of God, or the gospel, as that which produces effects in the heart and life similar to what seed that is sown does. Compare Matthew 13:26, Matthew 13:37-38. Augustin, Clemens, (Alex.,) Grotius, Rosenmuller, Benson, and Bloomfield, suppose that this is the signification of the word here. The proper idea, according to this, is that the seed referred to is truth, which God has implanted or sown in the heart, from which it may be expected that the fruits of righteousness will grow. But that which abides in the heart of a Christian is not the naked word of God; the mere gospel, or mere truth; it is rather that word as made vital and efficacious by the influence of his Spirit; the germ of the divine life; the principles of true piety in the soul. Compare the words of Virgil: Igneus est illi vigor et coelestis origo semini. The exact idea here, as it seems to me, is not that the “seed” refers to “the word of God,” as Augustin and others suppose, or to “the Spirit of God,” but to the germ of piety which has been produced in the heart “by” the word and Spirit of God, and which may be regarded as having been implanted there by God himself, and which may be expected to produce holiness in the life. There is, probably, as Lucke supposes, an allusion in the word to the fact that we are begotten ( Ὁ γεγεννημένος Ho gegennēmenosof God. The word “remaineth” - μένει , compare the notes at 1 John 3:6 - is a favorite expression of John. The expression here used by John, thus explained, would seem to imply two things:

(1)that the germ or seed of religion implanted in the soul abides there as a constant, vital principle, so that he who is born of God cannot become habitually a sinner; and,

(2)that it will so continue to live there that he will not fall away and perish. The idea is clearly that the germ or principle of piety so permanently abides in the soul, that he who is renewed never can become again characteristically a sinner.

And he cannot sin - Not merely he will not, but he cannot; that is, in the sense referred to. This cannot mean that one who is renewed has not physical ability to do wrong, for every moral agent has; nor can it mean that no one who is a true Christian never does, in fact, do wrong in thought, word, or deed, for no one could seriously maintain that: but it must mean that there is somehow a certainty as absolute “as if” it were physically impossible, that those who are born of God will not be characteristically and habitually sinners; that they will not sin in such a sense as to lose all true religion and be numbered with transgressors; that they will not fall away and perish. Unless this passage teaches that no one who is renewed ever can sin in any sense; or that everyone who becomes a Christian is, and must be, absolutely and always perfect, no words could more clearly prove that true Christians will never fall from grace and perish. How can what the apostle here says be true, if a real Christian can fall away and become again a sinner?

Because he is born of God - Or begotten of God. God has given him, by the new birth, real, spiritual life, and that life can never become extinct.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 John 3:9

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God

The usurper deposed and the conqueror vanquished

The important doctrine here asserted. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”

1. This doctrine is implied in all the precepts of the law of God, whether they relate to evils prohibited or to duties enjoined.

2. This doctrine is implied in all the injunctions of the New Testament, which are expressly enjoined on those who profess the religion of Christ.

3. This doctrine is implied in all those Scriptures which speak of holiness as the privilege of the people of God, and as indispensable to all men.

4. This doctrine is, if possible, still more plain from a consideration of what the Scriptures say concerning those who live in the practice of sin.

II. The argument by which this doctrine is established. “For his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin: because he is born of God.”

1. The practice of sin is contrary to the nature of the man who is born of God.

2. The practice of sin is contrary to the impulse of that Divine principle which is deposited in the heart of the man who is born of God.

From this subject we learn--

1. What is the nature of the true religion.

2. What is the unfailing conduct of all those who are truly religions.

3. What is the lamentable condition of all who live in the practice of sin. (W. Lupton.)

Sonship exclusive of sin

I. The change, or the work of grace in the sinner.

1. “Born of God.” (See John 1:12-13) As water cannot rise above its fountain, so can no change in man be better or greater than its cause. If it come from the flesh it must be like it, earthly and sinful. When it comes from the Spirit, then it must be like Him, spiritual, holy, and heavenly.

2. “His seed remaineth in him.” It is immaterial whether “his” seed be understood of God or of the believer. It is that seed which God has sown in his heart. It is God’s as the author of it. It is the believer’s as the subject of it. How is this figure calculated to supplement and illustrate the former one. First, the sinner is born of God by means of the truth. He is left no longer ignorant of sin, but is taught to know its vileness and evil consequences. He is no longer ignorant of himself, but has been enlightened to see the depravity of his heart. Second, it is in the same way the life of faith and holiness thus begun is maintained in him. The idea is specially noticed in the text, “His seed remaineth in Him.” It is in its own nature imperishable. The truth ever abides the same. The believer ever sees sin as he saw it at the first, vile and ruinous. He ever sees himself as he did at the beginning, exposed to ruin if he indulges it. He ever sees the Saviour as gracious and glorious as He appeared at the first. His claims do not diminish in his view, nor does he ever find reason to change his conclusions respecting this world and the next, time and eternity.

II. The effects that are declared to result from it. “He doth not commit sin, and he cannot sin.” As two figures were used to describe the change, so are there two assertions to declare the results. The one is the assertion of a fact, and the other is an argument to explain and confirm it.

1. The fact--“He doth not commit sin.” Let it be observed this is said of every converted man. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” He does not sin knowingly, wilfully, and habitually. We say of a man versed in literature, he is learned, although he is ignorant of many things. In like manner we speak of men, and say they are strong, although in some respects they may be weak. We judge of them by that which is prominent and paramount in them.

2. The second expression, explanatory and confirmatory of this fact, is still stronger, “He cannot sin, because tie is born of God.” To live in sin is contrary to the new nature of which he has been made a partaker. The nature cannot and does not sin. Had he no other nature he would never sin. And there are many reasons why he cannot.

Sins of the regenerate

Various expositions are given of this.

1. He ought not to sire Cannot indeed is sometimes taken for ought not (Acts 4:20). But this is not the meaning of cannot here, ought not; for an unrenewed man ought not to sin any more than a regenerate man. But the apostle attributes here something peculiar to the regenerate, addling the reason, “because he is born of God.”

2. He cannot sin so easily. He may sin easily in respect of the frailty of the flesh, but not so easily in regard of the abiding of the seed in him, which helps him to bewarere of sin. Grace being a Divine habit, hath the nature of a habit, which is to incline the person to acts proper to that habit, and facilitate those acts, as a man that hath the habit of an art or trade can with more ease work in it than any other.

3. He cannot sin, as he is regenerate. A gracious man, as a gracious man, cannot sin; for grace, being a good habit, is not capable of producing acts contrary to its nature. Sin in a regenerate man proceeds not from his grace, but from his corruption.

4. He cannot sin as long as he is regenerate, as long as the seed remains in him, as long as he follows the motions of the Spirit “rod grace, which are able to overcome the motions of concupiscence, but he may give up the grace: as an impregnable tower cannot be taken as long as it is defended by those within, but they may fling away their arms and deliver it up.

Sin may be considered in two ways, viz., as to--

1. The act of sin. Thus a believer sins.

2. The habit of sin, or custom in it, when a man runs to sin freely, willingly, and is not displeased with it.

Thus a believer does not commit sin. Being God’s son, he cannot be sin’s servant; he cannot sin in such a manner and so absolutely as one of the devil’s children, one born of the devil. Doctrine: There is a mighty difference between the sinning of a regenerate and a natural man. A regenerate man doth not, neither can, commit sin in the same manner as an unregenerate man doth. The sense of this “cannot” I shall lay down in several propositions.

1. It is not meant exclusively of lesser sins, or sins of infirmity.

2. A regenerate man cannot live in the customary practice of any known sin, either of omission or commission.

I shall confirm this by some reasons, because upon this proposition depend all the following.

1. Regeneration gives not a man a dispensation from the law of God.

2. It is not for the honour of God to suffer a custom and course of sin in a renewed man.

3. It is against the nature of the covenant. In the covenant we are to take God for our God, i.e., for our chief good and last end.

4. It is against the nature of our first repentance and conversion to God. True repentance is “a breaking off iniquity by righteousness” (Daniel 4:27).

5. It is against the nature of habitual grace, which is the principle and form of our regeneration.

6. A regenerate man cannot have a fixed resolution to walk in such a way of sin, were the impediments to it removed.

7. A regenerate man cannot walk in a way doubtful to him, without inquiries whether it be a way of sin or a way of duty, and without admitting of reproofs and admonitions, according to his circumstances.

8. A regenerate man cannot have a settled, deliberate love to any one act of sin, though he may fall into it.

9. A regenerate man cannot commit any sin with a full consent and bent of will. (S. Charnock.)

The sins of the regenerate

The apostle having exhorted the saints to whom he writes in the former chapter to abide in Christ and to do righteousness (verses 28, 29), follows on this exhortation with several arguments that a true Christian is not only bound to do so, but that he indeed doth so.

1. From that hope which hath eternal happiness for its object (1 John 3:2-3). Where this hope is truly founded it will inflame us with a desire after holiness.

2. From the contrariety of sin to the law of God. A Christian who is guided by this law will not transgress it.

3. From the end of Christ’s coming, which was to take away sin (1 John 3:5).

4. From the communion they have with Christ; abiding in Him.

5. From the first author of sin, the devil; he that sins hath a communion with the devil (1 John 3:8), as he that doth righteousness hath a communion with Christ.

6. From the new nature of a Christian, which hinders him from sin (1 John 3:9). (Bp. Hackett.)

“Cannot sin”

He cannot sin any more than a good mother can kill her child. She might be able in a thousand ways to kill the child, but her heart would forbid it and make the impossibility absolute. (J. B. Figgis, M. A.)

“Cannot sin”

The ideas of Divine sonship and sin are mutually exclusive. As long as the relationship with God is real, sinful acts are but accidents; they do not touch the essence of the man’s being. The impossibility of sinning in such a case lies in the moral nature of things. (Bp. Westcott.)


Some of you are men in business. I go into your shop or warehouse, and I ask you the price of a certain article. You say it is so much. I offer you one half or two thirds of what you have said is the price. You say, “I cannot take it.” Now, why cannot you take what I offer you? It is not the want of freedom in your will to decide on accepting my proposal; nor is it the want of physical power in your arm to accept my offer. You have both the one and the other, and yet you repeat your former statement, “I cannot take it”; and you speak truly. You cannot take it, because it would be unjust, because it would tend to bring ruin on your business, and to reduce yourself and family to beggary. You cannot take it consistent with your safety and happiness. Just so he that is born of God cannot commit sin consistent with his well-being. It would be rebellion against God, and would bring injury, if not ruin, upon his soul. (J. Seymour.)

The failings of Christians

With true insight into the case, quaint Thomas Fuller alleges that “the failings of Christians be rather in the branches and leaves than in the roots of their performances.”

Sin natural to the regenerate nature

“It would,” says Thomas Manton, “be monstrous for the eggs of one creature to bring forth a brood of another kind, for a crow or a kite to come from the egg of a hen. It is as unnatural a production for a new creature to sin.” Each creature brings forth after its own kind. Out of a dove’s nest we expect only doves to fly. The heavenly life breeds birds of paradise, such as holy thoughts, desires, and acts; and it cannot bring forth such unclean birds as lust, and envy, and malice. The life of God infused in regeneration is as pure as the Lord by whom it was begotten, and can never be otherwise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 John 3:9". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God.

Whosoever is begotten of God ... This is a reference to the new birth, as indicated in the KJV, "born of God," and as rendered in the New Catholic Bible and the New English Bible (1961).

Doeth no sin ... As long as one who has believed in Christ, repented of sin, and been baptized into Christ, and in consequence of such obedience has received the earnest of the Holy Spirit, - as long as such a person continues in that status, he will not sin. The evidence of this is visible in countless thousands of Christians in all ages who have turned their backs upon wicked conduct and have taken seriously the high claims of their holy religion, the same being exhibited for all people to see in the godliness of their new lives in Christ. What is the reason for such a change? John gave it in the next clause.

Because his seed abideth in him ... The New Testament supplies abundant proof of what the "seed" is which is mentioned here. It is the word of God. Paul instructed the Colossians to let "the word of Christ" dwell in them richly, etc. (Colossians 3:16), and John had in mind the same thing here. The Lord Jesus himself said of the kingdom of heaven, "the seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). In speaking of the new birth, Peter also mentioned the "incorruptible seed" which he promptly identified as "the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Peter 1:23). Therefore, it is the word of God which is eternal, incorruptible and continually abiding in Christian hearts. This word is no mere "dead letter," but "living, active ... and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12); and, with such a monitor of their conduct, Christians are strongly persuaded to continue in the path of honor. Indeed, if the child of God will walk fully in that holy light, he will be effectively restrained from all sin. God, however, has given people the freedom of their will; and a failure of the human will can always result in the commission of sin.

And he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God ... This statement has been alleged to teach a whole anthology of errors, such as:

(1) The meaning is restricted to what Roman Catholic writers call "mortal" sins, and does not apply to ordinary sins!

(2) What is sinful in unbelievers (as adultery, greed, theft, etc.) is not sinful to the Christian!

(3) It is only the "old nature that sins"; the new man in Christ cannot sin. The new man is not connected in any manner with the old man! ("My old nature did it; I didn't.")

(4) John is here only holding up the ideal, or goal of the Christian life, not really meaning that the Christian cannot sin.

(5) It means that Christians cannot "consent to sin," that is, deliberately and purposefully walk in forbidden paths.

(6) It means that Christians cannot continue in a life of sin. Illustrations: Once, when traveling, this writer stopped at the entrance of a city and asked a policeman a question; and he volunteered the information that, "you cannot turn right on a red light in this city," not meaning in any sense whatever that it was impossible to do so, but that it was illegal to do so. John's words here may be viewed as exactly the same kind of prohibition, meaning, "those who are begotten of God are forbidden to sin"; it is against God's law. In view of what John said in 1 John 2:1,2, there could hardly be any doubt that this is exactly what he meant. "He cannot sin" is not a statement of impossibility at all, but a declaration of what is forbidden. Those commentators who see "impossibility" affirmed here favor the interpretation that makes "CONTINUING in a life of sin" to be the impossibility.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Whosoever is born of God,.... In a figurative and spiritual sense; who are regenerated, or born from above; who are quickened by the grace of God, and have Christ formed in them; who are made partakers of the divine nature, and new creatures in Christ; which spiritual birth is not owing to men, to the power and will of men, but to the grace of God; and is sometimes ascribed to the Father, who of his own will and abundant mercy begets souls again to a lively hope, and saves them by the washing of regeneration; and sometimes to Christ, who quickens whom he will, whose grace is implanted, and image stamped in it, and by whose resurrection from the dead men are begotten again; and chiefly, to the Spirit of God, who is the author of regeneration, and of the whole of sanctification: and such as are born of him are alive through him, the spirit of life entering into them, and live to God and upon Christ, and breathe after divine and spiritual things, and have their senses to discern them; they see, hear, feel, taste, and savour them; and desire the sincere milk of the word, for their nourishment and growth; and have every grace implanted in them, as faith, hope, and love: and of every such an one it is said, he

doth not commit sin; does not make it his trade and business; it is not the constant course of his life; he does not live and walk in sin, or give up himself to it; he is not without the being of it in him, or free from acts of sin in his life and conversation, but he does not so commit it as to be the servant of it, a slave unto it, or to continue in it; and that for this reason:

for his seed remaineth in him; not the word of God, or the Gospel, though that is a seed which is sown by the ministers of it, and blessed by God, and by which he regenerates his people; and which having a place in their hearts, becomes the ingrafted word, and there abides, nor can it be rooted out; where it powerfully teaches to avoid sin, is an antidote against it, and a preservative from it: nor the Holy Spirit of God, though he is the author of the new birth, and the principle of all grace; and where he once is, he always abides; and through the power of his grace believers prevail against sin, and mortify the deeds of the body, and live: but rather the grace of the Spirit, the internal principle of grace in the soul, the new nature, or new man formed in the soul, is meant; which seminally contains all grace in it, and which, like seed, springs up and gradually increases, and always abides; and is pure and incorruptible, and neither sins itself, nor encourages sin, but opposes, checks, and prevents it:

and he cannot sin; not that it is impossible for such a man to do acts of sin, or that it is possible for him to live without sin; for the words are not to be understood in the sense of those who plead for perfection in this life; for though the saints have perfection in Christ, yet not in themselves; they are not impeccable, they are not free from sin, neither from the being nor actings of it; sin is in them, lives in them, dwells in them, hinders all the good, and does all the mischief it can: or in such sense, as if the sins of believers were not sins; for though they are pardoned and expiated, and they are justified from them, yet they do not cease to be sins; they are equally contrary to the nature, will, and law of God, as well as the sins of others; and are oftentimes attended with more aggravated circumstances, and which God in a fatherly way takes notice of, and chastises for, and on the account of which he hides his face from them: nor does the phrase intend any particular single sin, which cannot be committed; though there are such, as sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, or denying Christ to be the Saviour of sinners, and a sacrifice for sin, and hatred of a Christian brother as such, and sinning the sin unto death, or the unpardonable sin; neither of which can be committed by a regenerate man: nor is the meaning only, though it is a sense that will very well bear, and agrees with the context, that such persons cannot sin as unregenerate men do; that is, live in a continued course of sinning, and with pleasure, and without reluctance, and so as to lie in it, as the whole world does: but rather the meaning is, he that is born of God, as he is born of God, or that which is born of God in him, the new man, or new creature, cannot sin; for that is pure and holy; there is nothing sinful in it, nor can anything that is sinful come out of it, or be done by it; it is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit of God; it is a good work, and well pleasing: in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin with delight; and an incorruptible seed, which neither corrupts nor is corrupted; and though it is as yet an imperfect work, it is not impure: the reason of the impeccability of the regenerate man, as such, is

because he is born of God: for that which is born of God in him, does, under the influence of the Spirit, power, and grace of God, preserve him from the temptations of Satan, the pollutions of the world, and the corruptions of his own heart; see 1 John 5:18; which the Vulgate Latin version there renders, "the generation of God", meaning regeneration, or that which is born of God, "preserveth him": this furnishes out a considerable argument for the perseverance of the saints.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his m seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

(m) The Holy Spirit is so called by the effect he works, because by his power and mighty working, as it were by seed, we are made new men.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Whosoever is born of God — literally, “Everyone that is begotten of God.”

doth not commit sin — His higher nature, as one born or begotten of God, doth not sin. To be begotten of God and to sin, are states mutually excluding one another. In so far as one sins, he makes it doubtful whether he be born of God.

his seed — the living word of God, made by the Holy Spirit the seed in us of a new life and the continual mean of sanctification.

remaineth — abideth in him (compare Note, see on 1 John 3:6; John 5:38). This does not contradict 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:9; the regenerate show the utter incompatibility of sin with regeneration, by cleansing away every sin into which they may be betrayed by the old nature, at once in the blood of Christ.

cannot sin, because he is born of God — “because it is of God that he is born” (so the Greek order, as compared with the order of the same words in the beginning of the verse); not “because he was born of God” (the Greek is perfect tense, which is present in meaning, not aorist); it is not said, Because a man was once for all born of God he never afterwards can sin; but, Because he is born of God, the seed abiding now in Him, he cannot sin; so long as it energetically abides, sin can have no place. Compare Genesis 39:9, Joseph, “How CAN I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” The principle within me is at utter variance with it. The regenerate life is incompatible with sin, and gives the believer a hatred for sin in every shape, and an unceasing desire to resist it. “The child of God in this conflict receives indeed wounds daily, but never throws away his arms or makes peace with his deadly foe” [Luther]. The exceptional sins into which the regenerate are surprised, are owing to the new life principle being for a time suffered to lie dormant, and to the sword of the Spirit not being drawn instantly. Sin is ever active, but no longer reigns. The normal direction of the believer‘s energies is against sin; the law of God after the inward man is the ruling principle of his true self though the old nature, not yet fully deadened, rebels and sins. Contrast 1 John 5:18 with John 8:34; compare Psalm 18:22, Psalm 18:23; Psalm 32:2, Psalm 32:3; Psalm 119:113, Psalm 119:176. The magnetic needle, the nature of which is always to point to the pole, is easily turned aside, but always reseeks the pole.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Doeth no sin (αμαρτιαν ου ποιειhamartian ou poiei). Linear present active indicative as in 1 John 3:4 like αμαρτανειhamartanei in 1 John 3:8. The child of God does not have the habit of sin.

His seed (σπερμα αυτουsperma autou). God‘s seed, “the divine principle of life” (Vincent). Cf. John 1.

And he cannot sin (και ου δυναται αμαρτανεινkai ou dunatai hamartanein). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means “and he cannot commit sin” as if it were και ου δυναται αμαρτεινkai ou dunatai hamartein or αμαρτησαιhamartēsai (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive αμαρτανεινhamartanein can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning,” as is true of αμαρτανειhamartanei in 1 John 3:8 and αμαρτανωνhamartanōn in 1 John 3:6. For the aorist subjunctive to commit a sin see αμαρτητεhamartēte and αμαρτηιhamartēi in 1 John 2:1. A great deal of false theology has grown out of a misunderstanding of the tense of αμαρτανεινhamartanein here. Paul has precisely John‘s idea in Romans 6:1 επιμενωμεν τηι αμαρτιαιepimenōmen tēi hamartiāi (shall we continue in sin, present active linear subjunctive) in contrast with αμαρτησωμενhamartēsōmen in Romans 6:15 (shall we commit a sin, first aorist active subjunctive).

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Whosoever is born ( πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος )

On the form of expression, see on 1 John 3:4. Rev., begotten. The perfect participle indicates a condition remaining from the first: he who hath been begotten and remains God's child.

His seed

The divine principle of life.


See on 1 John 3:6. Conceived as a perfect ideal, life in God excludes the possibility of sin. Compare Romans 4 throughout.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Whosoever is born of God ā€” By living faith, whereby God is continually breathing spiritual life into his soul, and his soul is continually breathing out love and prayer to God, doth not commit sin. For the divine seed of loving faith abideth in him; and, so long as it doth, he cannot sin, because he is born of God - Is inwardly and universally changed.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

He says that they sin not who are born of God. Now, we must consider, whether God wholly regenerates us at once, or whether the remains of the old man continue in us until death. If regeneration is not as yet full and complete, it does not exempt us from the bondage of sin except in proportion to its own extent. It hence appears that it cannot be but that the children of God are not free from sins, and that they daily sin, that is, as far as they have still some remnants of their old nature. Nevertheless, what the Apostle contends for stands unalterable, that the design of regeneration is to destroy sin, and that all who are born of God lead a righteous and a holy life, because the Spirit of God restrains the lusting of sin.

The Apostle means the same thing by the seed of God; for God’s Spirit so forms the hearts of the godly for holy affections, that the flesh and its lusts do not prevail, but being subdued and put as it were under a yoke, they are checked and restrained. In short, the Apostle ascribes to the Spirit the sovereignty in the elect, who by his power represses sin and suffers it not to rule and reign.

And he cannot sin Here the Apostle ascends higher, for he plainly declares that the hearts of the godly are so effectually governed by the Spirit of God, that through an inflexible disposition they follow his guidance. This is indeed far removed from the doctrine of the Papists. The Sorbons, it is true, confess that the will of man, unless assisted by God’s Spirit, cannot desire what is right; but they imagine such a motion of the Spirit as leaves to us the free choice of good and evil. Hence they draw forth merits, because we willingly obey the influence of the Spirit, which it is in our power to resist. In short, they desire the grace of the Spirit to be only this, that we are thereby enabled to choose right if we will. John speaks here far otherwise; for he not only shews that we cannot sin, but also that the power of the Spirit is so effectual, that it necessarily retains us in continual obedience to righteousness. Nor is this the only passage of Scripture which teaches us that the will is so formed that it cannot be otherwise than right. For God testifies that he gives a new heart to his children, and promises to do this, that they may walk in his commandments. Besides, John not only shews how efficaciously God works once in man, but plainly declares that the Spirit continues his grace in us to the last, so that inflexible perseverance is added to newness of life. Let us not, then, imagine with the Sophists that it is some neutral movement, which leaves men free either to follow or to reject; but let us know that our own hearts are so ruled by God’s Spirit, that they constantly cleave to righteousness.

Moreover; what the Sophists absurdly object, may be easily refuted: they say that thus the will is taken away from man; but they say so falsely: for the will is a natural power; but, as nature is corrupted, it has only depraved inclinations. It is hence necessary that the Spirit of God should renew it, in order that it may begin to be good. And, then, as men would immediately fall away from what is good, it is necessary that the same Spirit should carry on what he has begun, to the end.

As to merit, the answer is obvious, for it cannot be deemed strange that men merit nothing; and yet good works, which flow from the grace of the Spirit, do not cease to be so deemed, because they are voluntary. They have also a reward, for they are by grace ascribed to men as though they were their own.

But here a question arises, Whether the fear and love of God can be extinguished in any one who has been regenerated by the Spirit of God? for that this cannot be, seems to be the import of the Apostle’s words. They who think otherwise refer to the example of David, who for a time labored under such a beastly stupor, that not a spark of grace appeared in him. Moreover, in Psalms 51:10, he prays for the restoration of the Spirit. It hence follows that he was deprived of him. I, however, doubt not but that the seed, communicated when God regenerates his elect, as it is incorruptible, retains its virtue perpetually. I, indeed, grant that it may sometimes be stifled, as in the case of David; but still, when all religion seemed to be extinct in him, a live coal was hid under the ashes. Satan, indeed, labors to root out whatever is from God in the elect; but when the utmost is permitted to him, there ever remains a hidden root, which afterwards springs up. But John does not speak of one act, as they say, but of the continued course of life.

Some fanatics dream of something I know not what, that is, of an eternal seed in the elect, which they always bring from their mother’s womb; but for this purpose they very outrageously pervert the words of John; for he does not speak of eternal election, but begins with regeneration.

There are also those who are doubly frantic, who hold, under this pretense, that, everything is lawful to the faithful, that is, because John says that they cannot sin. They then maintain that we may follow indiscriminately whatever our inclinations may lead us to. Thus they take the liberty to commit adultery, to steal, and to murder, because there can be no sin where God’s Spirit reigns. But far otherwise is the meaning of the Apostle; for he denies that the faithful sin for this reason, because God has engraven his law on their hearts, according to what the Prophet says (Jeremiah 31:33.)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Ver. 9. For his seed] The new nature, which causeth that sin cannot carry it away without some counter buffs. The Spirit quickens the word: as there is a spirit in the natural seed that maketh it prolific; so here.

He cannot sin] i.e. Sinningly, so as to be transformed into sin’s image: cannot do wickedly with both hands earnestly, Micah 7:7-9. He sinneth not totally and finally, he cannot so fall as apostates; for the seed of God ever abideth in him. Bellarmine is forced to confess that this is the hardest place in all the Bible, urged for proof of perseverance in grace.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 3:9. Whosoever is born of God, &c.— "Whoever he be that is a partaker of the divine nature by the regenerating Spirit,is no longer a doer or practiser of iniquity; for that divine principle of grace, which is infused into him, has an abiding root and residence in him, to rule and govern him; and he has such a thorough hatred of all iniquity, that he cannot love or live in sin; because he, as a child of God, and born of the Spirit, has received a principle of grace, which wills and works in direct opposition to all sin: much less can he sin, upon the score, or by virtue of his being born of God, as though his new birth were a licence for it, or had any tendency towards it." The phrase, He cannot sin, because he is born of God, cannot signify an impossibility to sin: for, in that case, St. John, and the other apostles, needed not to have taken so much pains to guard real Christians against sinning; to have condemned, forbidden, and threatened; or to have exhorted, commanded, and promised. These things plainly suppose not only the possibility, but the danger there was of true Christians falling away: by cannot, therefore, we may here understand, that he will not, he does not choose to live wickedly; it is contrary to his principles and the settled bent and habit of his temper and life. So we say, "A wise man cannot do such a foolish thing; a good man cannot act such a base and wicked part." Certain it is, that the words must be taken in same qualifiedsense, or they would prove the impeccability of every child of God, or the impossibility of his sinning; which scarcely any have been wild enough to assert. It is evident that there are many passages of scripture, in which the word cannot must be taken in such a latitude; see Luke 13:33. Hebrews 9:5. Nehemiah 6:3. Numbers 22:18. And this phraseology is also used by the best classic writers.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The character of a true Christian, he is born of God; he has in the work of regeneration passed under a blessed change by the operation of the Holy Spirit, renewing his nature, and reforming his life; yet this denotes not a single transient act of regeneration, but rather a continued course and permanent state; one that is born of God is the same with him that leads a pious and godly life, and continues so to do.

Observe, 2. What is here asserted concerning him that is born of God, namely, that he doth not commit sin, and that he cannot sin.

1. He doth not commit sin, he is no evil doer, no worker of iniquity, no habitual or customary sinner; he goes not on in any way or course of sin, as the wicked does, who makes a trade of it; yea, he doth not tolerate or allow himself in any single act of sin; not that he is absolutely free from all sin.

2. It is said, he cannot sin; but how? And why? How can he not sin? Has he not a natural power to sin? Has he not corruptions within, and temptations without, inclining and disposing him to sin, as well as other men? And has he not opportunity to sin; the same expectations of advantages by sin with other men? Yes, no doubt; but he has not a will bent for sin, or a heart and mind set upon sin, as the wicked have; nay, he has a heart and will opposite to sin, and set against all sin.

A gracious person then, though he hath not a natural impossibility, yet he has a moral impossibility to sin. He that is born of God hath a power to do that evil which he hath not a will to do; he hath always a natural power, and sometimes a civil power, as being in authority; but his blood and pedigree are so high, being born of God, that he disdains to meddle with, or to trade in so base a thing as sin is.

Note, That a child of God has a blessed impotency in the unregenerate part, that he cannot sin strongly, though as yet he has not that ability in the regenerate part, as not to sin at all.

Observe, 3. The reasons assigned why a regenerate person cannot sin as the wicked sin, because his seed remaineth in him, and because he is born of God; that is, he has an inward principle inclining and disposing him to hate and oppose all sin, to wit, the sanctifying grace of God; and he has that mortifying Spirit, which causes him daily more and more to die unto sin, amd enables him to mortify the deeds of the body.

Learn hence, That although sin remaineth in him that is born of God, yet he that is born of God doth not remain in sin, either as to a sinful state, or a sinful conversation; God's word and Spirit, by which he was regenerate, still remain in him; and so far as he is under the ruling power and governing influences of them, he cannot sin, much less live in wilful sin.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



1 John 3:9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

MANY mistakes in religion arise from not considering sufficiently the style and manner in which the inspired writers are wont to express themselves. They speak strongly on all subjects; and never contemplate, for a moment, the niceties of criticism; or dream of their words being weighed in a balance, so as that there shall be the minutest possible precision in their weight and import. They are content with speaking in popular language, and with conveying their sentiments in terms which every candid mind shall fully apprehend. St. Paul, speaking of the danger of persons who are once enlightened, falling away from the truth which they have received, says, “It is impossible to renew them again to repentance [Note: Hebrews 6:4-6.].” We are not to suppose, from this, that the restoration of such an apostate is a work which God is not able to effect; but only, that it is a work which we cannot reasonably hope to see effected by him. The same kind of interpretation must be given to the words which we have just read: we are not to suppose that a regenerate person is brought into such a state, that there is an absolute and physical impossibility for him to commit any the minutest sin: such an impossibility as that did not exist even in Paradise, when man was absolutely perfect; no, nor does it exist in heaven itself; since millions of once holy angels actually did fall, and were cast out of heaven for their transgression. Not intending his words to be strained to such an extent as that, the Apostle declares,

I. The state of the regenerate man—

To consider the Apostle as saying only that a regenerate man ought not to commit sin, would be to make him speak what is altogether foreign to the context; the whole of which evidently shews his meaning to be, that the regenerate man does not commit sin.

But, in what sense are we to understand this assertion?

[If taken in its utmost latitude, this assertion would contradict the whole Scriptures. “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:20 and 1 Kings 8:46.].” “In many things we all offend [Note: James 3:2.].” St. John himself declares, that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us [Note: 1 John 1:8-10.];” and then, intimating that the scope of his observations was to deter men from sin, he adds, “But if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, who is also the propitiation for our sins [Note: 1 John 2:1-2.].”

It is evident, therefore, that we cannot so construe his words, as to infer from them that a regenerate man has attained a state of sinless perfection. Nor, in reality, do his words properly admit of that sense: for the word which we translate “commit sin” must, of necessity, imply a continued act. In ver. 7, he says, “Let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteous-ness [Note: ποιῶν. See the same word used by St. John in his Gospel. John 8:34.] (it is the same word as is used in our text) is righteous, even as Christ is righteous.” This can never mean, that the person who performs one righteous act must necessarily “walk in all things as Christ walked:” it must import a habit, and not a mere insulated act: and that is its proper meaning in the text; ‘Whosoever is born of God, does not wilfully and habitually commit sin.’ The whole scope of the context, from the third verse, sanctions, and indeed requires, this interpretation. It is said, in ver. 3, that the person who has a scriptural hope of his adoption into God’s family, will “purify himself, even as Christ is pure:” and the person who does not labour to attain this purity, is declared, in ver. 8, to belong to a very different family, even that of Satan: “He that committeth sin, is of the devil.” And in the verse after the text, this contrast is brought to a point: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not ( μὴ ποιῶν) righteousness, is not of God.”]

The assertion, thus explained, is verified in every regenerate man—

[A man “born of God” does not commit sin in the way that he was wont to do in his unregenerate state. Previous to his conversion, sin was the element in which he lived. He might, in respect to an external conformity to the law, be blameless, even as the Apostle Paul was, before his heart was changed: but he never truly gave himself up to God, or took his perfect law as the rule of his conduct: he never lived for God, or made it the one object of his life to glorify God: self was the source and end of all his actions. But from the instant of his conversion, his one inquiry is, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do [Note: Acts 9:6.]?” Not that he then becomes perfect: for to his latest hour he will find, as the Apostle did, that “there is a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and occasionally bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his members:” yes, to his latest hour, there are things done by him which he would not, and things left undone by him, which he would gladly do: so that he is often constrained to cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:15; Romans 7:19; Romans 7:23-24.]?” But though, through the influence of his indwelling corruption, he may have occasion to mourn over many deviations from the perfect path of duty, he never does, nor ever will, return to the love and practice of sin: if he offend in any thing, he will lament it, and implore forgiveness for it, and labour with renewed diligence and circumspection to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”]

If such be the state of the regenerate man, it will be profitable to inquire into,

II. The means by which he has attained to it—

“He that is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him.”

Let us distinctly mark,

1. What seed this is—

[Many imagine that the “seed” here spoken of, is an imperishable spark of grace, which not all the floods of persecution or corruption can ever quench [Note: In this sense many understand John 4:14; as though the water given by our Lord must necessarily issue in everlasting life. But our Lord speaks, not of its issue, but its tendency.]. But it is not of grace that the Apostle speaks, but of the word of God. The word is that “seed” of which we are born: and that is incorruptible, as St. Peter has said: “We are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, of the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever [Note: 1 Peter 1:23.].”]

2. How it operates to its destined end—

[This seed “abides” in those who are born of God. Its operation, in the first instance, was to humble, quicken, and sanctify the soul. Being once implanted in the soul, it grows there, and continues to produce the very same effects which it put forth in the first instance. Did it come with power to convince of sin? it enlightens the mind progressively, and gives juster views to the conscience, and augmented sensibility to the soul. Did it lead to the Saviour, and inspire with a desire to serve and glorify him? it continues to give brighter discoveries of his love, and to impress the soul with a more fixed determination to live to his glory: and in this way it keeps the believer from ever returning to his former paths.

That this is the true import of the words, is manifest from what is spoken by St. John in the preceding chapter: “I have written unto you, young men; because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one [Note: 1 John 2:14.].” Here the same “seed” of which they were born, namely, the word of God, abideth in them; and, in consequence of that, their victories over sin and Satan are carried forward with increasing energy and effect. Such, at least, were David’s views of this matter; and therefore to all young men he gave this direction: “Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? even by taking heed thereto, according to thy word [Note: Psalms 119:9.].” And what he recommended to them, he practised also himself; as he himself immediately declares: “Thy word have I hid within my heart, that I might not sin against thee [Note: Psalms 119:11.].”

Thus then it is that the regenerate person is kept from committing sin, as he was wont to do in his unregenerate state: “The word of truth abideth in him,” both as an authoritative director, and an unerring rule; and “by it he is made free [Note: John 8:32.],” and “sanctified [Note: John 17:17.].”]

The blessedness of the believer’s state will yet further appear, whilst we consider,

III. His security for the continuance of it—

“He cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Now it is well known, that many identify the new birth with baptism, at least so far as to maintain, that if they be not actually the same thing, they are always simultaneous and inseparable. But let this sentiment be brought to the test: let it be seen, whether it can be said of every one that is baptized, that he does not commit sin, yea, and that he cannot commit sin, because he is baptized. I would ask, Is there a man in the universe that dares to make such an assertion as this? or, if there were, would not the experience of the whole world flatly contradict him? I will not say that God may not convert a person at the time of his baptism, as well as at any other time. God may make use of any rite, or any ordinance, or any occurrence whatever, to effect his own purposes: but to say that he always creates a man anew, in the way, and to the extent, that my text speaks of, under the ordinance of baptism, is as contrary to truth as any assertion that ever proceeded from the lips of man. And as long as these words remain in the Bible, that a man “cannot sin, because he is born of God,” so long it must be obvious to every dispassionate mind that there is a new birth perfectly distinct from baptism, and totally independent of it.

As for the idea, that sin, when committed by a regenerate person, is not sin, it is too wild, and too impious, to deserve a thought.

But it is a great and glorious truth, that a person truly born of God cannot sin, as he did before he experienced that change. If it be asked, Why he connot sin? I answer,

1. Because God has engaged he shall not—

[God has said, that “sin shall not have dominion over his people, because they are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].” And his faithfulness is pledged to “cleanse them from all unrighteousness [Note: 1 John 2:9.].” It is a part of his covenant; every iota of which he will assuredly fulfil. This, however, is not to be so understood, as if God would never permit his people to err in any respect: for the very best of men have erred, and grievously too, under the influence of strong temptation, and of the remaining corruptions of their own hearts. But God, under such circumstances, will chastise them, till they shall return to him with deep humiliation and contrition, and till they renew their application to the blood of that great Sacrifice which taketh away the sins of the world. “It is not his will that one of his little ones should perish;” “nor will he suffer anyone to pluck them out of his hands.”]

2. Because he will supply him with grace, that he may not—

[This, also, is a part of God’s covenant which he has made with us in the Son of his love. If this covenant were kept out of view, there are two things which we might justly apprehend: the one is, that God would depart from us; the other is, that we should depart from him. But on both parts God has undertaken for his people. He says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.].” It was not by a mere act of his power that he converted them at first: he enlightened their understanding, and renewed their heart, and “made them willing in the day of his power.” So will he even to the end deal with them as rational beings, and “draw them with the cords of a man.” “He will keep them, indeed, by his own power [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.]:” but it shall be through the instrumentality of their own exertions. He will keep them; but they shall alsokeep themselves; so that the wicked one shall not touch them [Note: 1 John 2:14. before cited.].” Thus secured by God’s engagement for them, on the one hand, and by the mighty working of his power in them, on the other hand, it may truly be said of them, “They cannot sin, because they are born of God.”]

Yet let me improve this subject,

1. In a word of caution to the secure—

[The doctrine of Final Perseverance, if unscripturally maintained, will be productive of the most fatal consequences to the soul. Shall any man say, ‘I am born of God: and therefore can never perish, though I live in sin?’ Let him rather say, ‘The sins which I commit, prove to demonstration, that I am not born of God. I may have been partially affected with the word, as the stony-ground hearers; and have produced some kind of fruit, like the thorny ground: but, inasmuch as I “bring forth no fruit to perfection,” I am at this very moment a child of Satan, and an heir of perdition.’ Would you have an evidence that you are born of God? Inquire whether you are delivered from the love and power of sin, and following after universal holiness. These are the marks whereby alone you can form any sound judgment: and if you will judge of yourselves by this test, you will remove from the doctrine of Final Perseverance the chief objection that is urged against it; and will render it a blessing, instead of a curse, to your own souls.]

2. In a word of encouragement to those who are writing bitter things against themselves—

[Some, because they feel in themselves remaining infirmities, will conclude that they cannot possibly have been born of God. But we must not so interpret the text, as to imagine that God’s people must be absolutely perfect. Were none but the perfect born of God, where should we find a child of God on earth? It is the wilful and deliberate habit of sinning, and not a mere infirmity, that is declared to be incompatible with a state of grace: and therefore let not a sense of weakness and infirmity cause any one to despond. Yet, on the other hand, it will be well to entertain a holy jealousy over ourselves; and to avoid too great a laxity in our interpretation of this passage, as well as too great strictness: for if there be in us, what is found in too many professors of religion, an habitual predominance of evil tempers or dispositions of any kind, we are certainly not born of God, but are children of the devil. At the same time, let it be remembered, that the word of inspiration is that great instrument whereby God effects his purposes on the souls of men. By that he begins, and carries on, and perfects, his work within us. Let that, therefore, be precious to us, yea, “more precious than thousands of gold and silver;” and “let it dwell richly in us, in all wisdom:” so shall we experience it to be “the rod of God’s strength,” and “have every thought of our hearts brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 3:9. Antithesis of the preceding verse; yet what was there the subject is here—in its opposite—the predicate, and what was there the predicate is here the subject.

πᾶς γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ] Antithesis to him who is ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:8); “by πᾶς the general signification of the clause is indicated” (Braune); ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ] is used in the same sense as οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, 1 John 3:6. To be born of God and to commit sin are mutually exclusive contraries; for θεὸς φῶς ἐστι, καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία, chap. 1 John 1:5; comp. also chap. 1 John 2:29; the child is of the same nature with him of whom he is born. For confirmation of the thought, John adds: ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει. Both the deeper context and the expression itself are opposed to the interpretation of these words, according to which σπέρμα is explained = τέκνον, and ἐν αὐτῷ = ἐν θεῷ (Bengel, Lauge, Sander, Steinhofer); for if the apostle meant to say that “a child of God remains in God,” he would certainly not have exchanged the word τέκνον, which so naturally would suggest itself just here, for another word, unusual in this sense. By σπέρμα θεοῦ is rather to be understood the divine element of which the new man is produced(212) (comp. Gospel of John 1:13), and which, as the essence of his being, keeps him from sin. According to many commentators (Clemens Al., Augustin, Bede, Luther I.,(213) Spener, Grotius, Besser, Weiss, Ewald, etc.), this is the word of God, in favour of which appeal is made not only to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), but also to 1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18. But that parable can here so much the less be adduced, as in it the reference is to the seed of plants; but here, as the allusion to the idea γεγεννημένος shows, “the comparison is made to the seed of human birth, as in John 1:13” (Neander); and in the two other passages the word is not represented so much as the seed, but as the means of producing the new life.(214) It is scarcely to be doubted that the apostle was here thinking of the Holy Spirit; the only question is whether he means the Spirit Himself, the πνεῦ΄α ἅγιον in His divine personality (so Beza: sic vocatur Spiritus sanctus, quod ejus virtute tanquam ex semine quodam novi homines efficiamur; Düsterdieck, and Myrberg; also, perhaps, Lücke and de Wette), or the Spirit infused by Him into the heart of man, the germ of life communicated to his nature (Hornejus: nativitatis novae indoles; Semler: nova quaedam et sanctior natura; so also Ebrard, Braune, and others). The figurative expression is more in favour of the second view than of the first, only this germ of life must not, on the one hand, be regarded as something separate from the Holy Spirit Himself,(215) nor, on the other hand, as love (a Lapide, Lorinus), for this is the life which has proceeded from the σπέρμα, but not the σπέρ΄α itself.

The thought that he who is born of God does not commit sin is still further emphasized by the words καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁ΄αρτάνειν, whereby, of course, not the physical, but no doubt the moral impossibility of sinning is described; both ideas, ἁ΄αρτάνειν as well as οὐ δύναται, are to be retained in their proper meaning, and not to be arbitrarily perverted; ἁ΄αρτάνειν must here, just as little as in 1 John 3:6, be restricted to mortal sins (a Lapide, Gagnejus), or to “sinning in the way in which they who are of the devil sin” (Besser), or “to sinning knowingly and wilfully” (Ebrard), or even merely to the violatio charitatis (Augustin, Bede); but just as little is the pointedness and definiteness of οὐ δύναται to be weakened and to be explained = aegre, difficulter potest, or similarly,(216) for the apostle here wants to bring out the absolute antagonism which exists in general between being born of God and committing sin (so also Braune); comp. on 1 John 3:6. With regard to the question as to the relationship of the thought expressed here to Hebrews 6:4 ff., comp. the remark on chap. 1 John 2:19.

As in the case of the first thought of this verse, so here to this second one a confirmatory clause is added, namely: ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται; it is true, the idea of the subject seems to be here repeated (similarly John 3:31 : ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς, ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστι), but here ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ is put first, whereas in the subject it follows γεγεννη΄ένος, by which that idea is strongly accentuated; Bengel: priora verba: ex Deo, majorem habent in pronunciando accentum, quod ubi observatur, patet, non idem per idem probari, collato initio verso. The sense therefore is: Because he is born of God (comp. chap. 1 John 1:5), he who is born of God, i.e. the believer, cannot sin.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 3:9. ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ, doth not commit sin) The sentiment is immediately increased in weight: and he cannot sin. To each proposition its own because is added: to the one, in respect to the seed, or the regenerate man; to the other, on the part of God Himself.— σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, his seed remaineth in him) In him who is born of God, there remaineth the seed of God, that is, the word, with its peculiar efficacy, 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18; although sin often endeavours, by a furious attack, to overthrow the regenerate. Or rather, it may be taken in this sense: the seed of God, that is, he who is born of God, abideth in God. σπέρμα, born. Such persons are truly זרע אלהים, the seed of God, Malachi 2:15.— οὐ δύναται, he cannot) The possibility of his sinning is not absolutely denied; but this is affirmed, that the new birth and sin cannot exist together. Thus, how can he, Acts 4:20, compared with Revelation 2:2; Acts 4:20. The matter is, as in the case of an abstemious man, who cannot drink wine, and in various kinds of antipathy (i.e. natural aversion). Gataker has made this elegant paraphrase: The regenerate man does not sin: he proposes to himself, as far as possible, a life free from sin; nor does he ever spontaneously give himself up to sin. And if at any time, contrary to the purpose of his mind, he shall have offended, he neither rushes headlong into sin, nor does he continue in it; but having acknowledged his error, he immediately returns in haste to his former course as soon as, and as far as, he is able.—Posth., ch. 33; where he adds the similitude of the magnetic needle, which always points to the pole, is easily turned aside from this direction, but always reseeks the pole.— ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται, is born of God) The former words, of God, have greater emphasis in the pronunciation; and this being observed, it is plain that the same thing is not proved by the same, the beginning of the verse being compared with the words here at the end of it.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

To be born of God, is, (in the words of a very learned annotator, Dr. Hammond), "to have received some special influence from God, and by the help and power of that, to be raised to a pious life. Agreeably, gegennhmenov ek tou yeou, he that hath been born of God, is literally, he that hath had such a blessed change wrought in him, by the operation of God’s Spirit in his heart, as to be translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his own dear Son; transformed in the spirit of his mind, i.e. sincerely changed from all evil to all good; from an obedience to the flesh, &c., to an obedience to God. Only it is here to be noted, that the phrase is not so to be taken, as to denote only the act of this change; the first impression of this virtue on the patient, the single transient act of regeneration; or reformation; and that, as in the preter tense, now past, but rather a continued course, a permanent state: so as a regenerate man and a child of God are all one, and signify him that lives a pious and godly life, and continues to do so," &c. To the same purpose this author also speaks, note on John 1:13, and in his paraphrase on that verse: "Those which live according to the will of God, and neither the natural, nor carnal, nor bare moral principle." This change, introducing the consequent course, divers texts of Scripture explain, John 3:3,5,6 2 Corinthians 5:17 Ephesians 2:10 4:24 James 1:18, &c. Now of one thus born of God, it is said, he

doth not commit sin, as 1 John 3:8, and for the reason here alleged.

His seed; the principles of enlivened holy truth, as 1 Peter 1:23 James 1:8.

And he cannot sin: which is not to be understood simply, as if he could not sin at all, which were to contradict what he had said before, 1 John 1:8, and supposed, 1 John 2:1; but he cannot commit sin, as 1 John 3:8. And it is plain the apostle intends by these two expressions the same thing. He cannot sin, i.e. do an act of known, gross sin, deliberately, easily, remorselessly, maliciously, as Cain, 1 John 3:12, out of a hatred of goodness: or, do not such acts customarily, or not so unto death, ,{as 1 John 5:16} but that through the advantage of inlaid principles, or the remaining seed, by dependence upon the grace, Spirit, and covenant of God in Christ, he may timously recover.

Because he is born of God; i.e. inasmuch as it belongs to his temper and inclination, in respect of the holy new nature received in regeneration, to abhor from the grosser acts, much more from a course of sin; see Genesis 39:9 Acts 4:20 2 Corinthians 13:8 Galatians 5:17: and to his state, as he is a child of God, to have that interest in the grace of Christ, that he may implore, trust, obtain, and improve it, to his being kept from such destructive sinning. And it being evident, by his deep and thorough change, that he is born of God, and chosen to be an heir of eternal life, (as his children are heirs), he may and ought (not in a way of presumptuous negligence, but of vigilance and humble dependence) certainly to expect being so kept. Nor is it strange so much should be affirmed, upon so unspeakably better grounds, of the Christian state, when such boasts are to be read concerning some among the pagans, that one might as soon divert the sun from its course, as turn such a one from the course of righteousness. Though we may also suppose this form of speech might be intended by the apostle to be understood by the more superficial professors of Christianity, (who might be generally apt enough to look upon themselves as born of God, and his children), as parenetical, and more enforcingly hortatory, in pursuance of his former scope, to keep them off from the licentious courses of their seducers; q.d. It cannot be, that you, who avow yourselves born of God, should do like them. So we usually say, that cannot but be, or cannot be, which we apprehend more highly and clearly reasonable should be, or not be. Non potes avelli, & c. Such rhetoric the apostle uses with Agrippa, I know that thou believest, as if it were impossible he should not.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

His seed; God’s seed; that is, the new moral nature which he has received from God, and which is maintained in his heart by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.

He cannot sin; not for want of power, but disposition; he does not desire or consent to live in sin. The reason is, he loves those things which please God, and hates those which displease him.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

9. This is the opposite of 1 John 3:8, as 1 John 3:8 of 1 John 3:7; but, as usual, not the plain opposite, but something deduced from it, is stated.

πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τ. Θ. Every one that (see on 1 John 3:6) is begotten of God. Note the perfect tense; ‘every one that has been made and that remains a child of God.’ The expression is very frequent throughout the Epistle (1 John 2:29; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18) and the rendering should be uniform; all the more so, because the phrase is characteristic. The A.V. wavers between ‘born’ and ‘begotten,’ even in the same verse (1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:18). The R.V. rightly prefers ‘begotten’ throughout: ‘born’ throughout is impossible, for in 1 John 5:1 we have the active, ‘begat.’ The expression ‘to be begotten of God’ is found only in S. John; once in the Gospel (John 1:13) and eight or nine times in the Epistle: comp. John 3:3; John 3:5-8.

ἁμαρτίαν οὐ ποιεῖ. As R.V. doeth no sin (see on 1 John 3:4): the opposition between ‘doing sin’ and ‘doing righteousness’ must be carefully marked. The strong statement is exactly parallel to 1 John 3:6 and is to be understood in a similar sense. It is literally true of the Divine nature imparted to the believer. That does not sin and cannot sin. A child of the God who is Light can have nothing to do with sin which is darkness: the two are morally incompatible.

ὅτι σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐ. μ. As R.V., because his seed abideth in him: see on 1 John 2:24. This may mean either [1] ‘His seed,’ the new birth given by God, ‘abideth in him;’ or [2] ‘his seed,’ the new birth received by him, ‘abideth in him;’ or [3] ‘His seed,’ God’s child, ‘abideth in Him.’ The first is probably right. The third is possible, but improbable: σπέρμα is sometimes used for ‘child’ or ‘descendant;’ but would not S. John have written τέκνον as in 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:10, 1 John 5:2? To resort to the parable of the sower for an explanation, and to interpret ‘seed’ as ‘the word of God’ is scarcely legitimate. The whole analogy refers to human generation, not to the germination of plants; but comp. 1 Peter 1:23. John 3:5-8 would lead us to interpret seed as meaning the Holy Spirit. Justin Martyr may have had this verse in his mind when he wrote οἱ πιστεύοντες αὐτῷ εἰσιν ἄνθρωποι ἐν οἶς οἰκεῖ τὸ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ σπέρμα ὁ λόγος (Apol. I. xxxii).

οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτ. It is a moral impossibility for a child of God to sin. It is because of the imperfection of our sonship that sin is possible, an imperfection to be remedied and gradually reduced by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7) and self-purification (1 John 3:3). In quantum in eo manet, in tantum non peccat (Bede). Οὐ δύναται of what is morally impossible is frequent in S. John’s Gospel (1n 5:30; John 6:44; John 6:65; John 7:7; John 8:43; John 12:39; John 14:17). Comp. 1 John 4:20. Augustine, followed by Bede, limits the impossibility in this case to the violation of the principle of love. That is the sin which is impossible to the true child of God.

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"Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9. His (God’s) seed—The regenerate vital principle divinely implanted remaineth as a permanent though not irremovable element in him. This definition of the seed accords essentially with the various definitions given by most commentators. So Luther, “natura spiritualis,” spiritual birth-nature; De Wette, “the power of the divine life;” Braune, “the spirit of God.” Alford less happily refers it to “the divine word of truth.” While the fixed purpose of faith abides he cannot sin, or be a regular sinner, any more than ice can bear caloric, for the two things are incompatible. The falsely regenerate Nicolaitan can grossly and continuously sin, and retain his pseudo-regeneration; but the truly regenerate cannot practise sin, because he is genuinely born of God; and while so, sin-practice is for him an incompatibility, not a volitional impossibility. Those who press the terms of this text to prove the infallible perseverance of all regenerate persons must accept them in their full literality: and then they will prove, not only certainty of not apostatizing, but an incapability to even sin, an impeccability in the regenerate. Nor can the text prove the sinlessness of merely the entirely sanctified, or the class of “perfect Christians,” for the predicates are affirmed of all that are born of God.

If the words prove that a regenerate person cannot become a sinner, then Romans 8:7 proves that no carnally minded man can ever become subject to the law of God; for the same word for cannot is there used. See our note.

Alford, Wordsworth, and others remark here again the import of the Greek perfect tense as having the force of a present; which, indeed, is well expressed in our English translation is born. The Greek aorist would be was born, and Alford remarks pointedly that in practice the force of the perfect in Christian life is sadly apt to degenerate from the is to the was; the former expressing present regenerate life, in which to practice sin is impossible; the latter the departed vitality, in which the impossible has become easy.

The verb sin, in Hebrews 10:26, clearly means to become a sinner, in opposition to being a Christian. In this chapter, (1 John 3:8,) sinneth is in the continuous present, and means permanently practises sin. See note on 1 John 5:18. But the true meaning is simply this: The Gnostic, in his false regeneration, can consistently live in the practice of sin; but a Christian cannot practice sin, for as a Christian he retains a regenerate principle incompatible with sin. He cannot practice sin and stay a Christian.

Wordsworth gives a pertinent passage from Ignatius, who was born before St. John’s death. “Let no one deceive you. They who are carnal cannot do the things that are spiritual; nor can they who are spiritual do the things that are carnal. Faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor can unbelief do the works of faith. The works which ye do in the flesh are spiritual, because ye work all your work in Jesus Christ.”—IGNATIUS, Ep. ad Ephesians 8.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Whoever is begotten of God does no sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God.’

For the plain fact is that if a man has been begotten of God, God’s seed is within him. Begetting involves the planting of seed. And he who has been planted with God’s seed has been made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The divine light and life is planted within, they are children of light (John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8). Thus there is that within them which militates against sin, and makes them abhor the thought of it. Such a person does not want to be a sinner. He cannot go on carelessly sinning, because he is begotten of God and has become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is against what he now is. Sin has become something that is contrary to what he is as a new man. Something new within him begins to say ‘no’ to sin.

‘His seed continues (abides) in Him.’ Peter describes God’s seed as incorruptible and lifegiving, and as related to His word, saying of Christians that they are, ‘begotten again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides for ever’ (1 Peter 1:23 compare James 1:18). For the seed is sown through His word of power and comes forth to do His will (Isaiah 55:11), and achieves His will and continues for ever. Nothing can prevent its progress and the completeness of its success. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit (John 3:6 compare John 1:12-13). Thus the seed is the result of the work of the Spirit through His word. It is a principle of divine life planted within by God.

In the same way Jesus told the parable of the sower. The seed was sown. In some cases the seed was lost, it did not abide. But in the case of the good seed it continued, it flourished, it produced a harvest, in some thirtyfold, in some sixtyfold, and in some a hundredfold. Not all the good seed flourished equally, but all produced a harvest. For the good seed grows in a way that is beyond man’s understanding and brings about God’s will (Mark 4:27).

The ancient mind did not separate man’s seed from wheat’s seed as strictly as we might. All seed was seed. Thus the further jump to God placing His life-producing seed within man was not difficult.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Many English translations interpret the Greek present tense as saying no Christian habitually sins, as in 1 John 3:6. For example, the NASB has, "practices sin;" the Living Bible, "does not make a practice of sinning;" the Amplified Bible, "[deliberately and knowingly] habitually practices sin;" and the NIV, "continues to sin." However the Greek present tense does not always indicate habitual action, as pointed out previously. [Note: Marshall, p180; Dodd, p79.] Frequently it describes absolute action. The New King James Version takes the Greek present tense this way and renders the clause, "Whoever had been born of God does not sin." The NET Bible is inconsistent: it translates 1 John 3:6, "does not sin," but 1 John 3:9, "does not practice sin." Since earlier John wrote that the Christian does sin habitually ( 1 John 1:6-10; cf. 1 John 2:1) the idea that the Christian does not sin habitually is unacceptable. [Note: See Robert N. Wilkin, "Do Born Again People Sin? 1 John 3:9 ," Grace Evangelical Society News5:3 (March1990):2-3.]

". . . the "tense solution" in 1 John 1:9 is in the process of imploding in the current literature. It was shrewdly questioned by C. H. Dodd in his commentary in1946 and dealt a major blow by S. Kubo in an article entitled, " 1 John 3:9 : Absolute or Habitual?" published in1969. [Note: Footnote16: Sakae Kubo, " 1 John 3:9: Absolute or Habitual?" Andrews University Seminary Studies7 (1969):47-56.] It has since been given up by the three major critical commentaries published since Kubo"s article; namely, I. Howard Marshall (1978), Raymond E. Brown (1982); and Stephen S. Smalley (1984). It seems quite clear that the "tense solution" as applied to 1 John 1:9 is an idea whose time has come-and gone!" [Note: Hodges, The Epistles . . ., p144.]

The reason one born of God does not sin is he has been born of God. John could say the Christian is sinless because a sinless Parent has begotten the Christian. The Christian becomes a partaker of God"s divine sinless nature when he or she experiences the new birth. The Christian sins because he also has a sinful human nature. However in this verse John was looking only at the sinless nature of the indwelling Christ that we possess. Jesus told Nicodemus that people need to experience a second birth ( John 3:5-7). Every Christian has been born twice, once physically and once spiritually. John was looking at the consequence of our second birth in 1 John 3:9.

"As a total person, we do sin and can never claim to be free of it, but our "inward self" that is regenerated does not sin....

"Sin does exist in the Christian, but it is foreign and extraneous to his regenerated inner self, where Christ dwells in perfect holiness. Put into Johannine terms, since Christ is eternal life ( 1 John 5:20), the one who possesses that life cannot sin because he is born of God." [Note: Ibid, p141.]

Again, if we were able to abide in Christ without interruption, we would never sin (cf. 1 John 3:6). The sinless nature of Christ controls the abiding Christian whereas the sinful human nature controls the non-abiding Christian (cf. Romans 6:16).

"That Isaiah , sin is never the product of our abiding experience. It is never the act of the regenerate self per se. On the contrary, sin is the product of ignorance and blindness toward God [cf. 1 John 3:6 b].

"To view sin as intrinsically foreign to what we are as regenerate people in Christ is to take the first step toward spiritual victory over it." [Note: Idem, The Gospel . . ., pp60 , 61.]

John was saying that when a Christian abides in God he will behave as his heavenly Father, and others will recognize that he is a child of God. [Note: See Harris, p221.]

"If someone says, "A priest cannot commit fornication," one cannot deny that as a man he can commit it; but priests, functioning as priests, do not do those things. The Bible uses language in a similar way, "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit" ( Matthew 7:18). Of course a good tree can produce bad fruit, but not as a result of what it really Isaiah , a good tree. Also Jesus said, men "cannot" fast while the bride groom is with them ( Mark 2:19). They can fast, but to do so is incongruous and unnatural.

"Similar notions are found in Pauline thought. Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me" ( Galatians 2:20). If a Christian sins, his sin cannot be expression [sic] of who he really Isaiah , because his true life is that of Christ in him [cf. Romans 7:20-25].

". . . when a Christian sins (and John believes he can and will, 1 John 2:1), in that act he is behaving like a child of Satan. Who he really is is not being made evident. To use Paul"s phrase, he is walking like a "mere man" ( 1 Corinthians 3:3)." [Note: Dillow, pp168 , 169 , 172.]

A different explanation and one that is commonly held, though it is inconsistent with both what John wrote earlier ( 1 John 1:6-10; 1 John 2:1) and with experience, is the following.

"Only the unconverted and the counterfeit will practice a self-seeking, self-asserting life of sin." [Note: Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p429.]

Note the chiastic structure of 1 John 3:9. 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9 also form an inclusio.

"A No one who abides in Him sins (6a)

B Everyone who sins . . . ( 1 John 3:6 b)

A The one who acts righteously ( 1 John 3:7)

B The one who commits sin ( 1 John 3:8)

A No one who is born of God sins ( 1 John 3:9)." [Note: Smalley, p171.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 John 3:9. The Reason of the Impossibility of a Child of God continuing in Sin. The germ of the divine life has been implanted in our souls, and it grows—a gradual process and subject to occasional retardations, yet sure, attaining at length to full fruition. The believer’s lapses into sin are like the mischances of the weather which hinder the seed’s growth. The growth of a living seed may be checked temporarily; if there be no growth, there is no life. This is the distinction between ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ and ἁμαρτάνων. Alexander in Speaker’s Comm. understands: “His seed,” i.e., whosoever is born of God (cf. Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 66:22), “abideth in Him,” i.e., in God. This is Pauline but not Johannine. “He cannot keep sinning,” as the seed cannot cease growing.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Doth not commit sin. That is, as long as he keepeth in himself this seed of grace, and this divine generation, by which he is born of God. But then he may fall from this happy state by the abuse of his free-will, as appears from Romans xi. 20. 21. 22.; 1 Corinthians ix. 27. and x. 12.; Philippians ii. 12.; Apocalypse iii. 11. (Challoner) --- He cannot sin, because he is born of God. The meaning of this can be no more, than that he cannot sin as long as the seed of grace remaineth in him, and as long as he is the adoptive son of God. But it is evident he may fall from this happy condition, and from the grace of God, otherwise St. John would not so often in this epistle have exhorted them not to sin. (Witham)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

born = begotten.

remaineth. The same as "abideth", 1 John 3:6.

cannot = is not (App-105) able to

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Whosoever is born of God - `everyone that is begotten of God.'

Doth not commit sin - his higher nature, as begotten of God, doth not sin. To be begotten of God, and to sin, are states mutually excluding each other. In so far as one sins, he makes it doubtful whether he be born of God. His seed - God's living Word, made by the Holy Spirit the seed in us of a new life: the continual mean of sanctification.

Remaineth - abideth in Him (note, 1 John 3:6; John 5:38). Not contradictory to 1 John 1:8-9 : The regenerate show the utter incompatibility of sin with regeneration, by at once cleansing away every sin into which their old nature betrays them, in the blood of Christ.

Cannot sin, because he is born of God - `because it is of God that he is born' (cf. the Greek order with that of the same words in the beginning of the verse): not 'because he was born of God' [ gegenneetai (Greek #1080), perfect; present in meaning, not aorist]: not, Because a man was once for all born of God he never afterward can sin; but, Because he is born of God, the seed abiding now an Him, he cannot sin; so long as it energetically abides, sin can have no place. Compare Genesis 39:9, Joseph, "How CAN I do this great ... sin against God?" The principle within is at utter variance with sin, and gives a hatred for all sin, and an unceasing desire to resist it. 'The child of God receives wounds daily, and never throws away his arms, or makes peace with his deadly foe' (Luther). The exceptional sins of the regenerate are owing to the new life being suffered to lie dormant, and to the sword of the Spirit not being drawn instantly. Sin is ever active, but no longer reigns. The believer's normal direction is against sin; the law of God after the inward man is the ruling principle of his true self, though the old nature, not yet fully deadened, rebels. Contrast 1 John 5:18 with John 8:34 : cf. Psalms 18:22-23; Psalms 32:2; Psalms 119:113; Psalms 119:176. The magnetic needle, the nature of which is always to point to the pole, is easily turned aside, but always re-seeks it.

Children of the devil - (note, 1 John 3:8; Acts 13:10.) There is no middle class between them and the children of God.

Doeth not righteousness. Contrast 1 John 2:29.

He that loveth not his brother (1 John 4:8) - a particular instance of love, which is the sum of all righteousness, and the token (not loud professions, and even seemingly good works) that distinguishes God's children from the devil's.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
2:29; 4:7; 5:1,4,18; John 1:13
Job 19:28; 1 Peter 1:23
and he
Matthew 7:18; Acts 4:20; Romans 6:2; Galatians 5:17; Titus 1:2

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

The Bible Study New Testament

Does not continue to sin. Again the present continuous. See note on 1 John 3:6. Because God's very nature. MacKnight thinks this is true of the word that lives in us (1 Peter 1:23). It is also true of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 8:15). He cannot continue to sin. "In becoming God's child, we have died to sin! Even though it is true that we do commit single acts of sin, we cannot continue to sin as a habit! God is our Father and we share his moral nature! His divine nature in us makes sin an impossible choice for us!" Compare 2 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 6:1-4.

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

The two key words in this verse are commit and cannot. Words,like people, "Are known by the company they keep," which is another way of saying that the meaning of words may be learned by their connection or by the use that is made of them. The ļ¬rst word is from POIEO and Thayer uses three pages of his lexiconā€˜ with deļ¬nitions and explanations, which indicates the wide scope of its meaning. Among his comments on the word are, "To follow some method in expressing by deeds the feelings and thoughts of the mind; carry on; describing a plan or course of action." Robinson gives as one explanation, "What one does repeatedly, continuedly, habitually." One of Webster"s deļ¬nitions Isaiah , "To pledge; to bind; as, to ommit oneself to a certain course." The Eng1ishman's Greek New Testament translates the word by "practice." All of these deļ¬nitions and translations show the word has no reference to what a man does occasionally or incidentally, but it means what he makes a practice of. The term "practicing physician" does not mean a man who occasionally gives a dose of medicine to a friend. If a man "retires" from the occupation of a carpenter he may occasionally drive a nail or saw a board, yet we would not say he ~has gone into the occupation again. Likewise a man who becomes a child of God ceases to commit sin as a "practice," but that does not mean he will never do anything that is wrong. (See the comments at 1 John 1:7-8.) We are certain an inspired man would not contradict himself, so John would not use the word commit in this verse to mean an occasional sin, when he taught in chapter1: 7 thateven a man who "walks in the light" needs to be cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ.

Cannot is from OUDUNAMAI, which means morally unable and not that it is physically impossible. We will consider some other passages where the same word is used. Matthew 5:14 says "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." Yet all of us know that during the war many cities and other important places were actually hid by camouļ¬‚age. In Mark 2:19 Jesus says of certain persons that "they cannot fast"; does this mean they actually could not refrain from eating? Luke 11:7 says the man who had retired but was asked to give a friend some bread replied, "I cannot rise and give thee." We know the man did not lack the physical ability of getting out of bed. And so the word in our verse does not mean that the child of God has come to the place where he is physically unable to do any wrong, but that he is morally restrained from it, just

as a good man who is asked to join another in some crime would reply, "O no, I couldn"t do anything like that." Besides, to say a man has reached a condition where it is impossible for him to do anything wrong, would be like taking. from him the necessity of watching his step, and would also make it unnecessary for him to seek the services of the Intercessor. The principle on which all these things are said of the child of God is the truth that he is born (begotten) of God. He has been conceived and born of a parentage that is spiritual and hence that holy characteristic is constantly in his spiritual person to urge him in the right course of life.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

The devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, and so those who reject the Saviour and follow the devil will manifest this by lives of sin.

The believer who is born of God is a new creation. This is stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The manner of this new birth is explained in John 1:12-13. This new creation is created in righteousness and true holiness according to Ephesians 4:24. This new creation which is born of God does not commit sin. It is born of God and God is righteous.

1 John 3:9. 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.

This is restated later in this same Epistle.

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" ( 1 John 5:18).

This new creation dwells in mortal, fleshly bodies, and so it is true that there are Christians who have been living somewhat in rebellion against God. This is a passing thing. If a person is really a child of God and is living in rebellion against God, then God will deal with him as with a son.

"Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" ( Hebrews 12:6).

Chastening is not a pleasant thing to experience ( Hebrews 12:11), but God uses it to keep His children from disobedience and to produce righteousness in character and in life.

God does not chasten those who are not His children. In fact, Hebrews 12:8 informs us that if we do not receive chastisement, the possibility is that we are not the children of God. I can remember that my mother did not chasten the neighbor's children, but she surely chastened us. Song of Solomon , whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.

If you really love the Lord, sin will not characterize your life. If you love to sin and love to rebel against the things of God, then you should examine your heart to find out if you are truly trusting the Saviour. A new creation, born of God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.

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Mitchell, John G. D.D. "Commentary on 1 John 3:9". "Mitchell's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books".

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